Guns and democracy

There was a rally in Montpelier today. The purpose of the rally was:

*To encourage state legislators to introduce a bill in Vermont banning assault weapons
*To support Vermont bill H124
*To express support for federal efforts, including Senator Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013
*To reduce gun violence and create safer communities for our children

There had been some movement in VT on gun control efforts but a rally of folks who opposed regulations on arms seemed to squelch forward progress. Today’s event was put together by people who wanted to stand up and push gun violence back on the Vermont agenda. I planned to go. I had thought to leave the kids at home but since they were up and eager to get out and about, I decided I would bring them and we would do a walk-by. I was a bit concerned about the substance of the speeches (we haven’t gone into details on Newtown) so I thought we could see if it felt like a place where it was OK for kids to be.

About 2 blocks from the capitol (in front of the movie theater) Jie-jie stopped in her tracks. Someone had just parked at the meter we were passing. He got out of his car, walked to the passenger side, removed a rifle (no, I don’t know anything about it), slung it over his shoulder, and started walking toward the rally. We were slightly ahead of him. She said, “Mom. That person has a gun. It isn’t safe here. I want to go home. What if the people at the rally are disagreeing and he decides to start shooting people?”

I didn’t know what to do but really felt that I had to do something.

“Excuse me,” I said to the man with the gun as he walked past and Jie-jie cowered behind me. “I wonder if you might help me. My 7-year-old daughter sees that you have a gun and that makes her feel very unsafe. I wonder if you have anything to say that might make her feel OK about you being here with a gun.”

“I feel unsafe because you people are trying to take our guns” he replied.

“Look,” I said, “I’m talking about my daughter, right here. Isn’t there anything you can say to address her concerns?”

“My grandpa has a gun for hunting,” Mei-mei, who seemed unaffected by this whole thing, chimed in, “but sometimes people use guns to hurt other people. What do you use your gun for?”

“You can use it to hunt. You can use it for protection. That is what daddies are for,” he said and continued on his way.

We watched him walk toward the rally. Jie-jie was still cowering behind me. We sat on the bench in front of the movie theater. “It isn’t safe here,” she said, and began to cry. I explained how we are just as safe today as we were yesterday and that it does make us uncomfortable when people are walking around with guns and that is what the rally is about. We don’t have to go to the rally, I said, but let’s walk a little closer to see if the police, who are supposed to keep us safe, stop that guy with the gun. Let’s get close enough to see how many other people are there to say that they don’t want guns slung over the shoulder of people walking around our downtown. We got close enough to see that the police did stop the man with the gun:

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They detained him for quite a while, checking his ID and, I assume, making sure he was legal to carry his gun. Ultimately they left him alone but they did not allow him to approach the rally.

We got close enough to see many of our friends, young and old, saying enough is enough. And that was enough for us.We ran some errands downtown. As we went into one shop Jie-jie said, “It is good to come into the store. Guns aren’t allowed in stores.”

“No, Jie-jie,” I replied, “guns are allowed in stores.”

“But people in Montpelier don’t usually have guns.”

“Well, we really don’t know how many people have guns because they might be concealed. That means they might carry the guns so you can’t see them.”

“Why do they do that?”

“I really don’t know.”

We revisited the subject many times as Jie-jie raised it throughout the day. I tried to keep things normal (e.g. we stayed downtown for a while and did our normal rounds) so she would process this as a preexisting facet of life – new awareness, not new conditions. I did my best to balance my assertions that my children are as safe today as they were yesterday and are surrounded by people who seek to keep them safe (parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, law enforcement, etc), and discussed the fact that our poor gun regulations mean that we are not as safe as we could be.

In my own thoughts I keep coming back to that guy with the gun. From where I am standing, he did use that gun today although he did not shoot it. When people brandish their weapons they quiet the rest of us. I was naive not to assume that people would come with their guns. Because of the fear and uncertainty that weapon created, we did not  join the rally. Our voices were not heard. How many likeminded but wiser people anticipated the scene and stayed home? That gun was a visual indicator of his power over me and others he disagrees with – his ability to hurt and to inflict great harm from a distance. Would I have felt more comfortable if I had a gun, too? Of course not. The ability to return fire does nothing to eliminate the fear that I or my children will be fired upon.

If you look back over the nature of the conversation we’ve been having in the US since Newtown, you will see it again and again. Calls for sensible gun control countered and silenced by threats of violence from the very people who want to claim that guns make us safer.

Guns do not belong on our streets. They do not belong in our shops, schools, restaurants and parks. But, even beyond that, guns in the hands of ordinary people in ordinary places stifle healthy debate and derail the democratic process.

My 7-year-old sees it all as plain as day.

When will our legislators see it, too, and make her freedom and security their priority?

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11 Responses to Guns and democracy

  1. Justin Farrar says:

    Sir, I appreciate that you gave the man a chance to explain and educate, unfortunately he blew it and not just for himself but for all gun owners. The huge majority of gun owners keep to themselves and carry concealed unless they are hunting. We are having a pro-gun rally next weekend and on our group webpage we have reminded people that guns are not legal at the State Capitol and that there is no reason to open conceal off grounds while in Montpelier especially now with these rallys going on. This man is being ridiculed all over the internet by gun owners for doing what he did even though it is legal to carry off grounds and is legal at many capitols around the country. Towards the end of your post you state that guns dont belong out in public but I have to disagree. There are over 300 million guns in America, even if there was a complete ban on manufacture and sale today that wouldn’t make a dent in crimes committed with guns. What if that man had been there with bad intentions and pulled his gun on you? How would you have protected your family? If you were carrying a gun you would have been able to protect them. I’m not saying everyone should carry a gun but I am saying that those that choose to should be able to. They have made a very big decision that they put hours upon hours of thought into. They train on a regular basis to insure that they are as safe as possible and have proven themselves to actually be safer when involved in a shooting than the police are. I know this reply wont change your mind but I would love for you to come to the pro-gun rally at the State House next Saturday @ noon and listen to the speakers we have lined up and talk with the gun owners there. If you are interested and would like to meet up let me know and I’ll give you my cell phone#.
    Thank you for your time!
    Justin Farrar

  2. Willem Lange says:

    Good gravy, Justin! Get a grip on reality. If “that man” had “pulled his gun on” her, there would have been nothing she could do to protect herself. Men frightened enough to need lethal weapons in public places – especially in Vermont, for God’s sake! – are dangerous to all of us.

    • Justin Farrar says:

      You may think that very few people carry on a daily basis in Vermont but you would be incorrect. Here is the exact reason I carry a gun.

      I don’t carry a gun . . .

      … to kill people. I carry a gun to keep from being killed.

      I don’t carry a gun to scare people. I carry a gun because sometimes this world can be a scary place.

      I don’t carry a gun because I’m paranoid. I carry a gun because there are real threats in the world.

      I don’t carry a gun because I’m evil. I carry a gun because I have lived long enough to see the evil in the world.

      I don’t carry a gun because I hate the government. I carry a gun because I understand the limitations of government.

      I don’t carry a gun because I’m angry. I carry a gun so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life hating myself for failing to be prepared.

      I don’t carry a gun because my sex organs are too small. I carry a gun because I want to continue to use those sex organs for the purpose for which they were intended for a good long time to come.

      I don’t carry a gun because I want to shoot someone. I carry a gun because I want to die at a ripe old age in my bed, and not on a sidewalk somewhere tomorrow afternoon.

      I don’t carry a gun because I’m a cowboy. I carry a gun because, when I die and go to heaven, I want to be a cowboy.

      I don’t carry a gun to make me feel like a man. I carry a gun because men know how to take care of themselves and the ones they love.

      I don’t carry a gun because I feel inadequate. I carry a gun because unarmed and facing three armed thugs, I am inadequate.

      I don’t carry a gun because I love it. I carry a gun because I love life and the people who make it meaningful to me.

  3. Josh says:

    Andrea,
    I would ask that you consider why you don’t feel safe around your fellow human beings simply because they may or may not be carrying a gun. Why are you teaching your children to fear guns?

    In Vermont, people view guns as any other potentially dangerous tool such as an axe or a chain saw. Guns can be used for acquiring food, protecting livestock/crops from predators, a family day of target shooting, competitive shooting sports, home protection, self defense and on and on. While it may not be common for people to carry rifles into public spaces, it should not cause panic or fear.

    As a parent of young children myself, I urge you to empower them by teaching them about firearms and how to safely handle them. If they see a man carrying a gun, their first response should not be fear. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings and take the situation into context.

    Although most of us (even in the gun community) would not condone this man’s actions, it is reasonable to believe he was seeking to show up to the rally to exercise the very rights which the protesters were seeking to remove from him. It sounds as though the man left without incident and no harm was done.

    When we lose trust and faith in our fellow human beings to the point that we don’t trust them with potentially dangerous objects, we lose something in our society.

    Warm Regards,
    Josh

    • Taylor says:

      Andrea,  in your post  you state that your child asked: Why would anyone conceal carry?  you replied with: “i don’t know. ”  I think it would be best to research the reasons why people open or conceal carry and teach your child to think and ask questions. Not teach your child “what to think”.  

      Did you know in one of the mall shootings the shooter saw a nearby civilian with a firearm on his hip, he then stopped shooting and surrendered?

      I conceal carry for the following reason: in the event that an  individual pulls out a weapon to cause mass harm such as a bomb,  handgun,   rifle,  bow and arrow,  and is about to discharge one of those weapons.  I can be a resistance to the threat.

       I don’t carry to act tough or to intimidate,  I carry to protect civilians around me and myself. Think of it as many peace officers that can respond to a threat much faster than a police officer 10-20 minutes away. police respond after the damage has been done, armed civiallians allow for immediate resistance.

      Vermont has the third lowest crime rate in the nation,  everywhere where it’s harder to get guns,  there’s more gun violence.  This is because bad  intended people know that it’s  unlikley that a law abiding citizen will have a level form of defense(gun). So gun violence is higher in a place with more gun regulation. If you dont believe me look at Chicago and Washington DC. look at the over 100 percent increase in gun violence in DC just one year after handguns were banned in 79′. In Chicago, handgun ownership was banned in 1983 and gun homicides went up 186 percent the following year. Chicago has the highest gun murder rate in the nation. Gun regulations don’t make you safe, a better defense makes you safer. Do you think that taking guns out of good moral civiallians that want to protect others is a good idea? Do you think giving good intended gun owners a disadvantage against a bad guy with a gun by limiting their firing capacity is a good idea? and why? Remember: Laws are not walls.  
      Leaping in front of a mad man that attempts to shoot a gun is not a good idea, that will just leave you dead and he will then have no problem going after your kids if he was deranged enough to do so, Your best form of defense would be to take cover, while telling your kids to run while drawing your own gun so you can eliminate the threat,  moving targets are harder to shoot. Think about it.

      On a positive ending note, iI want to say that I am so passionate about protecting gun owners rights because I know many of my active duty friends in the military carry for the same reason I do. They understand the concept that armed civiallians save more lives than ending them. if you ask me why I need a multiple round magazine I can tell you my reasons, but I will upon request since it’s another write up. In conclusion I don’t want to see Vermont turn into Chicago or new york, or dc. New York had 199 gun homicides in 2011, Vt had under 8 in 2011 and half of them were suicides. Our gun laws make sense and they work. Please think over what I have said and investigate into it.

      Thank you,

      -Taylor

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  6. Justin Farrar says:

    Andrea,
    The guy that was carrying the gun at the anti-gun rally is being ridiculed by us pro-gun people because of his timing. If he had done it after these rallys or a month before it wouldn’t have been an issue. But because of his timing it is giving the anti-gun crowd ammo for their arguement. As far me saying he could have been a bad guy that was just an example for you to get you to think about the only thing that could have protected you. The fact that he was walking around with a rifle slung over his shoulder wouldn’t have bothered me one bit as far as me feeling safe or not.
    John Q public isn’t the one shooting people so disarming him is leaving him, you and your children vulnerable to the bad guy because the police will never be there in time. You statement that you wouldn’t have time to react is a frequent arguement by those that dont train on a regular basis. If you train regulalry you will see just how fast you can draw from concealed under a shirt, jacket or both. Training coupled with being aware of your surroundings can protect but in America the police are an average of 23 minutes away, relying on them instead of yourself is not a good idea especially when the supreme court has ruled that the police have no moral obligation to protect you.
    Sincerely
    Justin Farrar

  7. Justin Farrar says:

    Andrea,
    I forgot to reply to a couple of your comments

    “Being armed myself would not have changed the scenario (I wouldn’t take the time for dropping bags and letting go of the the hands of 2 kids, to unholster a weapon when my quickest option would be to throw myself at him to shield the kids).”
    In the case that someone pulls a gun on you what good would you be to your kids if you used yourself as a shield? Once you are dead or wounded who will protect your kids from the next shots?

    “I believe a more reasonable, more effective option would be to take the guns out of the hands of random John Q. Publics (when not hunting game)”
    I already addressed the issue with disarming “random John Q. Publics” in another post but forgot to mention that the 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. It was written to protect the god given right to protect our family and self.

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  9. Pat Finnie says:

    I equate firearms to a fire extinguisher, I have them, I know how to use them, but I hope I never have to.!

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