Earlier this week, I wrote about the guy in West Allis who was found not guilty of disorderly conduct after he walked around his yard with a holstered gun at his waist.
This brought out the gun lovers and prompted a second post. In the comment thread of said post, I opined, as I have done in other places, that I am just as, if not more, concerned about the wannabe Dirty Harry's of the world, or the carelessness of some gun owners as I am with a criminal causing mischief.
Lo and behold, a very good example unfortunately comes to pass in short order:
The news report says that he was arrested for unlawful use of the weapon, which would indicate that he was permitted to have it. Other reports state that the guy had been drinking.
When Mr. Krause, the fellow in West Allis, was walking around with his weapon, I argued that his right to carry the weapon ended when he started to infringe on the rights of his neighbors by frightening them. I am sure that Mr. Krause might be a very nice guy. I am sure that the friends and neighbors of the TV shooter would also say he was a very nice guy.
But even very nice guys have bad days. That is why having someone walk around with a gun can be scary. Who knows what their state of mind is? The gun toter (I am not referring to anyone specifically here) could have been drinking, he could have just had a fight with his wife, he could be feeling depressed, he could have a previously undiagnosed mental illness or he could have had any number of things go wrong that has left him disgruntled and frustrated with the world. Enough things happen and the next thing you know, you have a guy in a "Falling Down" mentality. It would happen all the easier, because he's toting that gun.
In other words, it's not the inanimate object on the person's hip that is necessarily the scary thing. It is the person that is toting it, and what he could do with that weapon that is truly frightening. It is even more frightening when you look at the context of each situation.
I asked sarcastically if Mr. Krause, who was in his own yard planting a tree, was afraid of crabgrass or large termites that he felt he needed the gun. That question still holds.
Why did he feel he needed the gun. Also with the TV shooter, why did he have a loaded gun to watch TV?
In my opinion, both men showed a high level of irresponsibility. It is not normal behavior to walk around with a gun while you're doing your gardening. It is not normal behavior to have a gun laying there while watching TV. While it may have been perfectly legal for both of these men to do what they did, it is distinctly out of the realm of normal and socially acceptable behavior.
Here's an example to show what I mean. When people ride an elevator, they do the same thing. They get in, push the button for the floor they want and then stand facing the elevator doors with their faces upturned to watch the progress of the elevator as it goes up or down to the designated floors. This happens even if they are the only person in the elevator. Now imagine how you would feel if you got on an elevator with other people, but one guy stayed facing the inside of the elevator, looking at the people riding with him. This would make you feel uncomfortable and wonder what in the world he was doing. Your would make your adrenalin flow a little faster and raise your level of alertness, watching for any other signs of danger.
What the guy is doing is perfectly legal, but it is abnormal. Since it is abnormal, it makes one feel uncomfortable and raises their sense of danger, even though no immediate threat is present.
Now imagine how you would feel if this guy, who is riding the elevator with you, behaving in a way that is most unusual, also has a gun on his hip or under his shoulder. That would probably increase your anxiety and your concern for your safety. The only difference is that he now has a tool that would it make it easier for him to cause harm, if that was indeed his intent.
To me, walking around with a gun while doing something like gardening is abnormal, even if it is perfectly legal. If my neighbor was out doing some yard work and was carrying a weapon, it would cause me alarm, and I would probably call the cops as well. Especially if I did not know the guy all that well.
As an additional point, in the comment threads of the previous posts, there were also a few people that stated that they would be more frightened by the police response. As shown with the TV shooter, a strong presence by the police SWAT team helped the incident end peacefully with no one getting hurt. That is the way it is supposed to happen. If the police showed up with less officers, the gunman might have been inclined to really lose it and start shooting at the cops. We see this in the stories where the rural sheriff's deputies get gunned down going to someone's farm or home in the woods on what would have been an otherwise routine call.