This image was posted on Facebook by the user known as Cynthia Marie. The photo’s caption reads as follows;
“This picture was taken at a JcPenney(sic) by me, here in Riverdale, Utah! He is NOT breaking any Utah State laws. You DO NOT have to be a CCP holder in order to open carry in Utah as long as it is 2 actions away from firing. If you ARE a CCP holder in Utah, your firearm can be loaded. Obviously he is exercising his 2nd amendment right! People are torn about this picture and wondering if he is going overboard. I think he is proving a damn good point!”
So far the photo has been shared over 32,000 times with nearly 192,000 likes. The dialogue this photo has opened ranges from the violently disturbing to the logically educated. To say that many people are disturbed by this image is what disturbs me the most. It’s not that I’m insensitive to the fear the image invoke, it is that I personally find other images much more disturbing- like these for instance.
Both of these images represent for me a basic right within our constitution. Both the first and second amendment are being exercised in these images. Neither one of these photos represents anyone breaking any law, yet one invokes fear for some while the other invokes outrage for most. I’m sure we can debate for hours upon hours the need for both rights to be controlled or not- but that is not my question concerning these images. My question is why are we more afraid of guns than children being inoculated by hatred?
It was pointed out to me that perhaps given my background that guns represent safety and security to me, while for others gun violence is a stronger association. That statement got me thinking about my personal association with weapons. I didn’t grow up in a household of gun owners. My extended family members were hunters and law enforcement, which taught me to respect guns as a tool. I was taught from a very young age that if you own a weapon you should be morally and psychologically prepared to use that weapon to kill another living thing. I have never been able to reconcile myself to that mindset. I became a medic in the Army for that very reason- I wasn’t ready to kill anyone unless absolutely necessary to protect myself or others in my care. Nor am I immune to gun violence, I have twice been held at gun point while serving as a medic and an EMT. Guns don’t represent security and safety to me, as much as the responsible people with guns. Had this been a photo of a man in uniform carrying this weapon, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
In another context we can have the same discussion about Pit Bulls. Many places require Pit Bulls to be registered as a dangerous breed. Some ban the breed altogether, despite proven behavior contrary to the stereotype. Same friend owns a Pit Bull named Mandy, one of the sweetest dogs you’d ever meet. She says, “I wouldn’t put a spiked collar on Mandy to further intimidate people”. Instead she is sensitive enough to put Mandy in a rainbow sweater letting people approach at their own discretion, with full knowledge of Mandy’s breed. Her exact words, “She’s a Pit Bull, so be aware you’re going to get licked to death.”
This puts it in better context for me- the dog is not dangerous unless the owner teaches the dog to be dangerous. A responsible pet owner is the same to me as a responsible gun owner. Guns by themselves are not dangerous unless the person carrying the gun is dangerous. I am a CCP- Concealed Carry Permit holder. I am legally able to carry a concealed firearm, but I choose not to given the circumstances of my life. I currently live with someone who had a diagnosed mental disorder, I do not feel that it would be safe to have a weapon in my house. So I fully understand the need for gun control, but I don’t believe regulating law abiding citizens addresses the problem of gun violence. Criminals will be criminally negligent no matter what the law says. We must be responsible and held accountable for our use of any weapon, gun, knife, car, dog or protest signs.
Setting the debate aside, I’m more disturbed by our lack of education than I am by gun violence. I am personally more disturbed by children being raised to hate than I am by a responsible gun owner exercising his second amendment rights. For me it seems as if we’ve allowed fear to become our leader, rather than our enemy.