Missouri can be a weird place.
When I lived there, I attended, more than once, the annual International He-Man Conclave in Butts, a tiny burg 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. It was great fun and, as the name implies, the event was limited to men who brought beer, whiskey, chili, porno mags, four-wheelers and junk couches in hopes of building a bigger bonfire than last year.
Firearms were the main attraction, and shooting lasted all weekend. Glocks and Sig Sauers and Berettas and pretty much name it – about the only firearm that didn’t show up was a machine gun, despite persistent rumors that, fingers crossed, one would. By Monday morning, few targets remained – this was not so much about marksmanship as blowing to bits anything placed in a pasture turned shooting range.
Missouri loves guns. It is legal to carry around a rifle in public or strap a pistol to your waist, and people do exactly that. A couple years ago, when I visited a St. Louis motorcycle shop, the service department manager was packing his pistol in a holster for the world to see, as if a 9 mm handgun was as vital to fixing motorcycles as a 9 mm wrench.
Last week, someone dressed in body armor got arrested in a Missouri Walmart after walking in with a loaded rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition. He surrendered without incident and told authorities that he was testing the limits of the Second Amendment. “This is Missouri,” he reportedly told cops. “I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out.”
I think he had a point. If wandering around in public John Wayne style, pistol in full display, is OK, why shouldn’t you be able to walk around with an AR-15? The Walmart guy’s been charged with making a terrorist threat, but if I was on the jury, I’d spring him. This, after all, is the world we live in. But the world can change.
The Second Amendment needs to go. Shotguns and deer-hunting rifles, fine – both serve purposes other than killing people, and there is nothing like the sound of a 12-gauge being racked to scare off an intruder, plus it’s easy to aim. Anything else should be locked up at a shooting range. You can own as many assault rifles and handguns as you like, you can shoot them as much as you wish with as many bump stocks and 100-round clips as you desire, but if you take them off the range, you should be arrested along with the range owner who allowed it to happen. We can’t get there so long as the Second Amendment survives. Repeal, methinks, isn’t as impossible as it might seem, given that gun owners are in the minority and the rest of us are getting fed up with getting shot and going to funerals and watching tragedies unfold on television.
Donald Trump and racist rants have nothing to do with this. The killing started long before Trump entered politics. And I’m not so worried about mass murder as I am about one-by-one homicides and accidental shootings achieved with handguns that claim far more lives than crazed killers bearing assault rifles.
Last Sunday, I attended an active shooter training class at the Kerasotes YMCA. It reminded me of atom bomb drills from the Eisenhower era. Throw office supplies, shoes, books – anything – at the gunman. Run or hide or play dead. Shout or be quiet. Fight back, maybe. MacGyver barricades. Pray – that’s about the only thing that wasn’t mentioned, but it should have been. “There’s no way to be able to tell you what to do,” Jill Steiner, director of personnel and facility services for the Y, told the class.
While I was at the Y, John Preuss was at the Rochester Masonic Lodge teaching pretty much the same stuff – active shooter classes, it seems, are popular these days. Preuss also teaches gun safety as well as tactical pistol techniques, including how to shoot while moving, how to shoot from behind cover and how to shoot around barricades. When I observed that it sounds like stuff a would-be mass shooter might enjoy learning, Preuss said he hadn’t considered that. It is, he says, a matter of safety and being prepared.
How, I asked, would America change if the Second Amendment was repealed? “Honestly, I would leave – this would not be my country anymore,” Preuss said.
Preuss knows that tables at Wings, Etc., are thick and so make for ideal cover. That’s how he thinks, that’s how he lives his life and that’s his right. He told me he doesn’t trust the government (which makes two of us) and that guns help keep the government from overstepping bounds. “Gunsmoke, to me, is an aphrodisiac,” he told me. “A weapon is a wonderful thing.”
So, too, is freedom from fear. There are more guns than people in America, but I don’t feel safe. Do you?
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.