Let’s start with a basic premise: Unless you are in police work, security or the military, there is no reason to openly display a handgun in a public place. It’s called “open carry,” and debate on the subject — which hangs on the second amendment right of the U.S. Constitution to keep and bear arms — is raging hot and heavy.
Intimidation, whether admitted or not, is the motivation for packing a pistol or, more formally, wearing a sidearm. The sidearms are also useful for nourishing a superiority complex.
This is no longer the Wild West. It hasn’t been that wild for a century at least, even though reruns of the movies ”High Noon” and ”Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” are still playing and fun to watch.
Guns are used to kill people. Guns scare people. They have no public role in the lives of ordinary, law-abiding citizens, and certainly should not be flashed in locations such as Vancouver.
We don’t need a trial or a judge’s verdict to do the right thing, which is to not show a handgun in public. The gun-carry debate — carrying heat in public — was reheated March 19 when Kurk Kirby of Vancouver toted a holstered and loaded .45 caliber pistol and 35 rounds of ammunition outside a shopping center at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. He was cited for unlawful display of a weapon. The Vancouver city attorney’s office is moving ahead with the case. Kirby’s wife, Dawn, told police she was carrying a concealed gun, and had a permit for it. She was not cited.
Officers learned that Kirby and his wife had performed an open carry the previous day at Westfield Vancouver mall. They were escorted out of the mall by security officers who reported they were “belligerent.”
While Kirby told Vancouver police he was carrying the weapon because he might be attacked, further details were blocked after he was silenced by his attorney. There was no indication of specific threats to him, so speculation is wide-ranging. Was he fearful of harm or did he just want to prove he could carry a gun in public?
Open-carry bans urged
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted Dec. 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights. Open carry is allowed in 43 states, including Washington.
Concerned about a growing trend among Second Amendment advocates to carry handguns, California Assemblywoman Lori Saldana has authored a bill to ban people from wearing guns openly, according to an April 18 Associated Press story in the San Jose Mercury News. Florida, Illinois, Texas and the District of Columbia have similar bans.
The passion fueling the gun carry issue is ferocious. An April 15 Columbian story drew 44 reader comments, several ridiculing those who oppose open carry. Many of the nasty, mocking comments were signed by people using fake names, apparently afraid to link their identifies with their opinions.
Cliff Nutting of Washougal, quoted recently as a gun-carry advocate, has always identified himself, even when he was a member of The Columbian’s Advisory Council, a group of citizens who met with editors to critique the newspaper. Several years ago, when I was editor, I was told Nutting was carrying a concealed handgun into those meetings. The Columbian had a policy forbidding guns on the premises, and I told Nutting he would need to leave his gun with the nearby sheriff’s department during meetings. He declined and resigned from the council. I hated to see him go because he was articulate on coverage issues. About the same time, another council member unexpectedly carried an automatic rifle into a council meeting to make a point about gun safety, disturbing several members.
While I have owned guns since I was a teenager and hunted deer, ducks and pheasants in earlier years, I would never strut through my neighborhood carrying a holstered handgun. Guns carried by civilians do not belong in public places. Society is already on edge in this time of recession and political strife. There’s no need to flaunt a lethal weapon to increase tension in America.
Tom Koenninger is editor emeritus of The Columbian. His column of personal opinion appears on Wednesdays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.