Friday, May 17, 2013

Guns Don't Always Make Me Feel Safe

I tend to stay out of the gun control issues.  I grew up around guns, so I know that responsible, law-abiding people do just fine with theirs, and I have no problem with their owning them.  Two things happened yesterday, however, that really made me think about guns in our society.

I stopped at a convenience store near my house for a soda.  I walked in behind a guy with a pretty hefty handgun on his hip.  I didn’t think too much of it.  If he’s openly showing his weapon, then he probably has all of his permits and everything.  Gun guy happens to open the very cooler that I want in, but it’s no big deal.  How long is going to take him to get a soda, right?  I can wait my turn.
Gun guy proceeds to pick up every Dr. Pepper in the case.  He holds them up to the light, he appears to measure them against each other, he checks the seals – he really examines each and every Dr. Pepper.  I’m standing behind him during all of this, and I have enough time to notice several details about him.  He hasn’t washed in quite a while, his nails are dirty and need to be trimmed, he has a tramp stamp, and his Star Wars boxer shorts are not just too big, they’re also very dirty.   Gun guy finally picks two of the Dr. Peppers and closes the door.  I smile at him and take my turn, reach in and grab my soda.  I happened to be getting a Dr. Pepper too, and he really watched me.  When I was finished in the cooler and started to close the door, he quickly jumped in and started examining the Dr. Peppers again. 
This guy’s behavior disturbed me, and then I started wondering if I really want a guy like this to have access to firearms.  He really made me nervous, and I didn’t like being around someone behaving in such an odd manner, who also just happened to be carrying a gun.  It was very unsettling.
Later, Yvonne and I stopped by Opry Mills to see Jordan.  As we’re leaving, a very young guy walks past us into the mall.  He’s wearing a police sniper’s vest, and every single pocket, both front and back, is full of a firearm or ammunition.  He also has a couple of flashlights and some pepper spray, but he had SEVERAL guns and clips on him.  This guy was dressed in regular, ill-fitting street clothes, he’s wearing a ball cap with a team logo on it, and he was NOT displaying a badge.  His vest was too big, and the only thing on it was one crookedly-applied Velcro strip with the word “Police” on it. Believe me, I looked for something to identify this guy – a badge, a Metro patch, something, especially in light of my very recent encounter with the convenience store gun guy.  
Yvonne and I agreed that the young man did NOT look like a police officer, and we wondered what to do.  We looked around and there happened to be two security guards talking to each other, so I attempted to draw their attention to the young guy.  They blew me off!  The security guards said there were a couple of police detectives that were walking around, and they had guns and badges at their waists.  I tried to impress upon the guard that the young man we saw had no visible badge, did not look like a police officer and had more than one gun on his chest, not on his waist.  Again, he blew me off.   I left the mall, but I worried until Jordan got off work.  I do NOT think that young guy was a police detective. 
So, in one evening I’ve gone from being quiet to wondering about the state of things.  First, maybe we should do more extensive background checks on people.  The guy in the convenience store may have been harmless, but he sure wasn’t acting like someone I wanted to be around when he had a gun.  Secondly, that guy going into Opry Mills – what should I have done about him?  Neither Yvonne nor I believe he was a Metro detective.  We did report him, but Mall security blew us off.  Should we have gone further and called 911?  Should we have ignored it and not even said anything to the security guard because it’s the guy’s right to bear arms?  Once again, this guy made me very uncomfortable.  He just did not appear official, and even if he was, security should have told us they’d check into it instead of blowing us off. 
I believe most law-abiding citizens keep their guns safely stored and only use them for legal purposes, such as protection, but how far does that protection need to go?  We have security in some public places, like the mall.  Things can still happen, but I worry less about that then I did last night about an armed stranger roaming around.  I didn’t know either of those men, and their presence didn’t comfort me.  It frightened me.  I do believe in the right to bear arms, but don’t I, my family, and my friends have the right to feel safe?    
So … what to do … what to do?

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