Target and Chipotle recently asked people to not openly carry guns in their stores, which I support. These announcements were met with a flurry of people wailing about how their rights were being stepped on, and people carrying their rifles grocery shopping. People slapped pro-gun stickers on their cars and took photos of themselves with their shotguns, proclaiming, “come and take it!”
I don’t want it.
Let me be very clear. Many members of my family are gun collectors and hunters, and I’m a decent shot myself. I do believe that the populace has a right to arms–responsibly. I also believe in gun control. How could that possibly be? Well, simply, I do believe in background checks. If you need a gun, plan accordingly and give yourself enough time to have one. I believe people should be required to have gun safety courses and a license before having a gun. We should ensure that the people carrying the weaponry are able to handle it safely and hit what they’re aiming for.
“Well, criminals will always carry guns! They don’t obey laws!” Yes, that is correct. It is true of a great many things.
“The good guys should carry guns to stop them!” How do I know you’re the good guy? What do I see when I see someone carry a rifle into a store? I see a person with a gun. Are you the “good guy?” Can you operate the safety on the gun? is it loaded correctly? Can you, in the heat of the moment, discharge it correctly and not blow the face off my toddler? If people were required to be trained, I’d actually be much more comfortable with people openly carrying. But they’re not, and I don’t know if you can handle that weapon or not, and therefore, I’d rather not be grocery shopping with a bunch of people carrying rifles. You don’t make me feel safe.
Let me tell you a story. When I was nineteen, I went to a drugstore to buy film. I was talking to my dad, when we looked over to see a man with a gun. I don’t remember the race or anything about the man holding it, but I can still picture that gun. I spent the better part of the time under a magazine rack planning my escape.
Americans have this vision of themselves as the hero. We think when we’re attacked, we’ll all be John McClane and wipe out the enemy in a blaze of glory. It doesn’t work that way. During the robbery, terror took over. Time slowed, and we could think clearly, but all focus becomes on our own survival, or our children. I wanted to run. My dad was muttering about lunging for the guy. The cashier was sobbing and dropping money on the floor. A man nearby was pinning down a shrieking toddler and begging him to be quiet. Others cowered, crawled around in the aisles, slipped on their sweaty palms and fell. I don’t trust that any of those terrified, crying people with their sweaty palms would have taken down the gunman and not blown the head off the wailing cashier. Panic causes pandemonium. Can you be sure that in an emergency, your head is cool enough to take down the bad guy, and not the scores of people fleeing in your wake?
There are people that can, of course. I’ve known some, mostly ex-military, that I’d be thrilled to have on my side in that situation. I know they could do it. I went to school on an Air Force base, and people carrying guns there did make me feel protected. But you all with your guns in Chipotle…I don’t know that about you. Maybe you are. Or maybe you’re going to be just as scared as I was. And if you fumble with your weapon, then what?
I can tell you this much. I still have some PTSD from that robbery. If I saw a person with a gun when I was out shopping, I’m not going to take the time to see if you’re the good guy or the bad guy. I’m going to drop my groceries, grab my kids and run like hell. And I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve to be afraid when I’m out shopping. And if you ARE a responsible gun owner, you should be pushing to make others responsible gun owners. I wish I could trust you all. Right now, I can’t.
I’m also a teacher. Lately, there’s a push for teachers to carry guns. Even though I can handle one, I will not carry at a school. I work with so many violent and damaged children, who I have to wrestle to the ground. The last thing they should get hold of is a loaded gun. The only place the gun would be safe is locked in a cabinet, when does me little good in the event of an emergency–I have 29 kids to get to safety, lock the doors, cover the windows, check the hallways (I’ve been in a lockdown under threat of a gunman at a school before, too–a story for another day). Though I admit, a gun in a locked cabinet is better than on my person. It might be useful. But let’s face it, everyone–there are teachers I wouldn’t trust with dry erase markers, much less guns. There are teachers who come to work on prescription pain killers, who drink, who have nasty tempers, who lose their cool and stomp out yelling. They SHOULD NOT have guns. It comes back to that whole cool under pressure thing I mentioned before. Is it right? No. However, we have to deal with the facts as they exist, and that’s how it is.
So there it is. I don’t want your guns; by all means, keep them. Train with them. Be responsible. But don’t expect me to feel safe when you walk by me with one. If you want that kind of respect, maybe you should be the ones pushing for training and safety, rather than just waving it around while I’m trying to buy a burrito.
As a side note, I have to address one other argument that makes me nuts: “Well people kill people with knives, but we don’t ban knives!” This is ridiculous. If you’re standing twenty feet away with a combat knife, and you drop that knife, you may lose a toe, but it has no chance of injuring me. The same is true of all other non-projectile weapons. That’s why we don’t want “knife control.”