Yet to others like me who feel no attraction to going through life strapped to a lethal weapon, the Trayvon Martin killing remains sad and cautionary. We wonder if Zimmerman would have been emboldened to stalk Martin, then get out of his car and confront that teen, had he not had a firearm to fall back on.
Certainly not every Illinoisan who wants to walk around with a gun has the same makeup as Zimmerman or retired Houston firefighter Raul Rodriguez, who media reports say carried his gun to a loud birthday party at a neighbor’s house, then used it. However, it is virtually certain that some police officer wannabes and others with authoritarian, vigilante or even “don’t tread on me” tendencies will now be legally carrying – and emboldened – in Illinois.
Our irresponsible National Rifle Association brethren only recently repulsed universal background checks at gun shows and over the Internet aimed at screening out what I call the “crazy eyes” – mass shooters like James Holmes and Jared Lee Loughner. Meanwhile, the annals of gun crime are full of many more apparently normal types: spurned lovers, vengeful ex-employees, etc., who were so-called “law-abiding, legal owners”– right up until they weren’t.
The Zimmerman case adds a new wrinkle: an owner still considered law-abiding, who still gets to tote his gun around, even after having killed. How many other concealed carrying “Zimmermans” will incite unnecessary violent confrontations – instead of avoiding, defusing or walking away?
Many who are gung-ho for gun rights reject any application of the concept of public safety to private gun ownership. This complete disassociation of personal gun rights from social consequences often results in ugly remarks directed at the families of victims of massacres like Newtown, compounded by extreme expressions of perceived personal victimization at any attempted gun control.
So let me say again, “No, Mr. or Ms. Gun Owner, we the Public Who Want to Be Protected from Gun Violence do not equate you with Adam Lanza.” We are not accusing you of heinous gun crimes simply because we are expecting you to be part of the solution to gun crime – the most important part, actually.
We are asking you with the guns to stop glossing over their innate lethal potential, to always know where they are, to protect them rigorously from theft and to immediately report them when lost or stolen. We expect you to keep your guns out of the hands of innocent children and unhinged friends and relatives.
Most of all, we want you to acknowledge that vast numbers of your fellow citizens don’t want to live in a world where they have to act as their own policeman – or have everyone around them acting like a policeman. We point out that liberty existed in America long before concealed carry.
There is, in fact, an even more basic kind of liberty defined by an individual’s right not to have to worry if someone who’s confronting them over a loud party or traffic accident might be feeling a little “deputized.”
One of the worst possible outcomes of concealed carry, in my book, would be more and more of our neighbors taking on the burdens of concealed carry in fear of being surrounded everywhere in public by others who are packing.
You don’t consider carrying a gun in public a burden? Maybe you haven’t thought enough about the rights, the fears and the reactions of the rest of us – the unarmed public.
Sandy Baksys is a Springfield native who works as a writer and PR consultant.