aNewDomain — Not so long ago, I gave you a bit about how we can’t tell open-carry people from murderers, making open carry essentially an act of terror. In my own town this weekend, another shooting shows the truth in this assertion.
The story making rounds right now is that Naomi Bettis saw her neighbor appearing “distraught” and armed with an AR-15 rifle. She called the police, who responded that open carry is legal in our state.
Bettis said she recognized the gunman as her neighbor — whom she didn’t know by name — and that before the initial slaying she saw him roaming outside with a rifle. She called 911 to report the man, but according to the Denver Post, a dispatcher explained that Colorado has an open-carry law that allows public handling of firearms. From the Denver Post:
He did have a distraught look on his face,” Bettis said. “It looked like he had a rough couple days or so.”
Now all sorts of click-bait and propagandist sites are inflating these claims, drawing a direct connection between the dispatcher’s statement (reported by Bettis) and the shooting. To be clear, the timeline here is, so far, hazy.
A recording will likely emerge in the next few days, and a timeline, and then there will be more clarity. It is too early to say that the dispatcher and open carry got four people killed.
It is not too early to say this: It isn’t possible to tell the intent of an armed person in public. They might simply be asserting their second amendment rights to carry guns in public, or they might plan to murder as many people as they can before forcing the police to shoot them like an animal.
The ultimate effect of open carry is not to make us a safer society but to make us an ever more paranoid one. I teach community college. I lock the classroom doors at the start of each lesson, really the only precaution I am able to take against shooters.
It’s a stupid precaution and we have a stupid plan: On hearing gunshots, act like we’re home and the Jehovah’s Witnesses from down the road have come to talk to us about their revelations. In other words, turn off the lights and pretend we’re not home.
Any student who comes late has to knock to get in, though, and I have to go to the door to see who it is. Anyone could shoot me in the face. Or hide their gun, wait until I open the door, and force their way in.
We all think our safety is within our own control but it really isn’t. You might be tempted to get a gun so you can shoot the next shooter. Because you see people with guns all the time now, and you can’t tell if they’re on their way to murder a classroom full of kids or meet up with their Constitutionalist friends.
But now you’re one of the armed civilians who I can’t tell from a bad guy, from a mass shooter. When everyone is armed to the teeth, homicidal maniacs have cover, camouflage. They can hide in plain sight. The wolf doesn’t need sheep’s clothing anymore: We’re all wolves.
One blogger claims the dispatcher “lectured” Bettis about open carry () They claim to be the raw story, but that isn’t raw at all. This is hyperbole. Bettis reports the dispatcher declined to send officers because this is an open carry state. So far, that’s the truth as we know it. What constitutes a lecture? How many sources do we have? What’s the difference between a blog and a column?
I argue with my boss about this sometimes. I think I’m just a blogger, an opinionist with qualifications. Today I have to call out other bloggers, though, whose hyperbole makes it appear they’re looking for traffic on the back of tragedy rather than reporting the issue and starting a discussion.
The facts here are sufficiently concerning without throwing mud in the water.
I have some predictions, and none of them is likely to make me popular. This shooter walked calmly to the site of his crime and was not challenged. Ben Carson would like us to think we would band together and charge a shooter but nobody did – not because we’re cowards, but because we couldn’t tell his intentions. He didn’t have a “mass shooter” sign taped to his back. He walked calmly with a weapon he had a right to possess and carry openly and then murdered three people. We could only have charged him after he started shooting.
My prediction is this: Some perfectly innocent man is going to be killed by frightened people, in the next few months, because he open carried a weapon into a public space and people could not tell his intentions. Someone is going to do the only logical thing in this armed-for-our-own-protection context: They’re going to protect us from him by shooting him.
And no good can come of this. When one person starts shooting in public, they are going to become the “active shooter” who requires a response.
You really only have one reasonable alternative: Everyone put the guns down. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns – and is that a bad thing?
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover photo: MenWithAr15, All Rights Reserved.
Image one: “Arctic Wolf” by No machine-readable author provided. Ber’Zophus assumed (based on copyright claims). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
Image three: “Buco della serratura, bologna” by sailko – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.