Monday, November 10, 2008

The Gun Soap Box

Warning - this is a bit of a long-winded rant/soap box speech. Feel free to skip it.

So this article was in the local paper over the weekend and it kind of tweaked me as a gun owner/carrier. I've been told by many people that I was born for politics as I often sit on the fence or in the middle when it comes to arguments and hot topics.

But I think it's more my attempt at trying to compromise to make everyone as happy as possible. And one of those areas I'm willing to compromise in is gun control. Yes, I have a gun. Yes, I open-carry my gun (as allowed by state law). Yes, I conceal-carry my gun (as allowed by state law). Over the past few years that I've been open/conceal-carrying, I have been stopped by law enforcement officers.

One, a city officer, asked me if I was in law enforcement. Obviously I said no but stated I had a permit. From there the conversation went to what was the best model, caliber, etc. The second time was by a state trooper. Again, he asked the same "what department are you with" question. When I said none, he politely asked me for my ID and permit. Well within his rights and mine. Both times I was treated professionally and politely.

But it's the reaction from the general public that always amazes me. Most of the time, I'm completely ignored. I think most people assume the big blob of black on my waist is a PDA or something. For those that notice, there's generally some shock, maybe some pointing and whispered words, but usually that's the extent of it. Most do take a step back and leave me alone.

But more interesting is the more vocal reactions I've gotten. Like the young wanna-be thuggie that yelled "5-0!" when I walked out the hardware store. Or the grocery store clerk that said "see, they don't buy just donuts" after I bought some cookies. Or the clerk in Best Buy that said "I'm glad you carry that in here. I carry too and I know it irritates the security in our store." Or the people in Wal Mart that outright denied me access to the store, saying guns were banned (which they later apologized for and said they weren't). Or the Costco manager who said I needed to leave. Rudely. Even though I was in the process of paying for my shopping cart of stuff.

Where does sitting the fence come into this? I think we should be allowed to own guns. Even to carry them. But I think there needs to be limits on that. Criminals shouldn't be allowed to have them. You shouldn't be allowed to carry them in certain places. And I think Virginia has done a good job in balancing the right to carry and the right to prevent weapons from being on certain property. In fact, there's one place I think should be added to the list of no-carry sites, and that's a doctor's office. And I generally don't carry there. Something about making your doc nervous while he sticks a needle in your arm doesn't appeal to me.

Anyway, I think our new President may bring change to gun-ownership laws. I've read some states are seeing an increase in gun sales because of this "fear." But I don't see it as a fear. Sure, Obama likely supports stricter gun laws. He's from Chicago and Illinois, two very tough areas to carry guns. But I don't see him restricting me protecting myself in my own home. Maybe on the streets, but if that means I need to get a "federal" license to carry, so be it. I'm sure I can pass the course. And it would make me feel safer that when I saw that fanny pack on the dude in the store, I knew he too had passed the course.

And while I'm sure we won't go to something as extreme as you can see in some European countries where guns are only carried by cops or where every citizen is in the "militia" and is expected to have a gun, I think I could live with that too. Gun related crimes are usually lower in those countries, so maybe it works. But I don't see that coming. It would be too much against the nature and backbone of our country. We'd have better luck getting rid of all the cars on the road.

Okay, I'm off my soap box. Congratulations if you made it this far.


Mike Stollenwerk said...

What state are you in? In most states no permit is required to open carry and the police have no lawful power to force you to produce ID and a concealed permit for open carrying.

Neil Richard said...

I live in Virginia, where a permit is not required to open-carry (you're not even required to register your handguns). Concealed-carry in VA does have some limitations, such as you can't conceal carry in a school, courthouse, facility that serves alcohol on site, or where restricted by private property owner. Of all these restricted areas, I can open-carry where they serve alcohol (the rest carry the same prohibitions). So during my typical day, if I carry-concealed, I don't open-carry unless I stop for food with an ABC ON license.

As for providing ID, the first run-in I had, I was open-carrying. He didn't ask for ID or my permit, but I did mention in our conversation that I had one. That's when the conversation went from "police talking to a citizen with a gun" to "gun enthusiast talking to another gun enthusiast."

The second run-in I had, I was carrying-concealed (I was wearing my Galco Classic Miami under-arm holster) until I took my jacket off. The trooper was professional and polite during the entire exchange so I had no reservations in providing ID.

1979 semi-finalist said...

I think this was one of your most interesting posts.

This is a world I am totally unfamiliar with...and I find it frustrating that the general public has treated you badly, but as a friend can I ask a possibly innane question?

Why do you carry a gun? When I contrast it with my life it's a pretty significant thing...the idea that I would handle or own a gun, let alone the idea that I would carry a gun pretty much daily...can you tell me where and why this comes from for you?

I'd like to understand.

Neil Richard said...

1979 - This could take a bit to explain/understand for those outside of my life. Or those in my life. So I'll do my best.

Since I was a child, I was around guns. My father had guns. His brothers had guns. My stepfather had guns. And during that childhood, I was allowed to handle, shoot, clean, and eventually own guns. I think I was about 10 or 12 when I got my bb gun and maybe 16 or so when I got a .22 rifle and later a 14 gauge 14 shotgun (currently I own a 9mm pistol and an AR-15 as well).

But why guns you may ask. Why are they so much a part of your life, why do you carry them? As to why are they so much part of my life, it's because of what I said above. I grew up with them. I was always taught to respect them and be safe with them. When I was an idiot with them, the hammer fell on me pretty hard. That never kept me from playing with them when nobody was looking, but I can assure you even when I played with them, I made sure they were unloaded. I knew I'd get hurt if they were loaded and, if I survived an accident, my parents would kill me.

Now, even though guns are such a "part" of my life, I don't hunt. If I were desperate for food, I'd consider it, clearly, but I don't take any pleasure in killing an animal (the one exception would be prairie dogs on the family farm). For me, I enjoy target shooting. Hitting a piece of paper from yards away and being precise about it is what I like.

As to why do I carry a gun? That's a bit more difficult to answer. So maybe I'll explain it this way. When you get on an airplane or in a car, you buckle your seatbelt. Why? To protect yourself in the event of an accident. Granted, it might not do much when the plane crashes, but seatbelts to save lives in car accidents (I can attest to this personally). To me, my gun is a seatbelt. In the event of something horrible happening, I have it there to protect me and my family.

Will it work everytime? No, and I know that. Just like a seatbelt won't always save you. But I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

In the past few years that I've been carrying a gun, I've noticed most people ignore me. Especially when it's concealed because most don't know what to look for. That small number of people that do see it, they tend to leave me alone. So in addition to being a "seatbelt" by protecting me, it's also a deterrent like bug spray.

So for you, living and working in NYC, how safe would you feel walking alone (or with Adam) down the street at 2 am? What if you were on the Upper East Side? Or in the Bronx? Or Harlem? Or in New Jersey? I'm not saying you normally place yourself in that situation, but what if you had to for some reason? Could Adam protect you and himself from 1 thug? What about 2? What about 8?

And that's where part of my obsessive-compulsive behavior comes in. I was raised and taught to be paranoid. It used to cripple me to some degree by being afraid of certain situations. I've overcome that, but I'd still like to be prepared for a potentially bad situation.

1979 semi-finalist said...

This was a really good explanation (and exactly what I was looking for) I hope you didn't mind sharing.

As for your questions back to me. I find guns pretty interesting. I've always wanted to try target practice (I have this sneaking suspicion I'll be awesome at it - but my eyes - not great - tell me I'll be terrible). Anyway, I've also often wanted to own a gun, mostly because of zombies (obvs). So I can understand the whole "gun interest". It is harder for me to understand the carrying one around everywhere. I suspect even if I one day do own a gun and get trained to shoot it, I'll still never carry it around with me. Except in the case of zombie apocolypse (again, obvs!).

In regards to NYC - I feel safe. I always kind of feel safe. Rarely do I get messed with and I think that's for a variety of reasons that I won't address here. But it is naive to assume that nobody will mess with me. I guess I'm just not confident that in that case a gun will necessarily make the difference. I also do live in a pretty safe neighborhood as NYC goes, and my walk to work, though often late and dark, is not far.

Of note is the fact that I once suggested Adam and I walk through the park (central park) after dinner on our way home and he looked at me horrified "you never walk in the park at night!". So my naive-ness (not a word) is apparently a potential issue.

Anyway, thanks again for explaining all of this. And thanks for talking about your youth - how you grew up - I think that explains a lot of it. While the concept of carrying a gun seems as foreign to me as walking around with...I don't know...a bomb, for you, it's completely natural because you it's what you know. It all makes sense.

I wish you many happy gun toting days :)

Neil Richard said...

Glad it helped. And I think how odd it would feel for you to carry a gun would be right up there with how odd it would feel for me to walk around NYC. I'm just a country boy and don't handle crowds well.

And I agree, I think youth and environment has a lot to do with it. My wife was raised in a gun-free house and, while I respect that and adapt to it, her side of the family is much like you, they just don't "get it" when it comes to me and guns.

John Zeleznik said...

It's nice to read a more moderate POV when it comes to gun control. I'm very neutral on doesn't really have an effect on me either way.