Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Be Afraid Of A Gun?

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.


  1. "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."

    Hmm, using that logic, we should ban cars, baseball bats and any number of things, as well as booze. Any inanimate object may be used as a weapon. Hell, the human body is a weapon. Caps, my friend, you are going more by feelings than anything else. You would 'feel' uncomfortable. So what. That means that we should all make sure others are 'feeling comfortable', even when we're on our own property and not doing anything illegal? Nuts! I guess the Land of the Free is now officially over, killed by feelings rather than an outside enemy.

  2. The vote is even more dangerous than a pistol ... politicians have been voted in that have killed millions. The mere thought of a liberal having the vote scares me.

    You right to vote for liberal causes ends when it frightens me.

  3. Bill they do limit's people's use of cars when they have been misused.

    But cars, hammers, golf clubs, etc. are tools whose primary purpose isn't to hurt or kill someone.

    You're worried about this country, but so am I, when common courtesy and common sense are things to be scoffed at.

    And Bill, even if it is your property, you still cannot do whatever you want. Try walking around naked in your yard and see how far you get before the police come to visit you.

  4. Mr. Barrett,

    I do not think that many liberals had voted for Bush, Bush, or Reagan. I fear your fear has been misplaced.

  5. This incident just smells to me of neighbor versus neighbor tit-for-tat sniping. I'd love to know if there are any prior police calls between these two. I agree that wearing a gun while planting trees in a suburban neighborhood is a little weird. I disagree that merely wearing the gun was sufficient reason for the neighbors to call the cops. As you point out, a little weirdness might be enough to tip the scales, depending on the circumstance. For that matter, some neighbors are sensitive enough to call the cops if your lawn is a little too tall. Some neighbors are willing to call the cops if they hear gunshots in your house, and they won't even knock to find out if you were just using it to adjust your cable box. What kind of a gulag do we live in if you can't adjust electronics with a gun in the comfort of your own home?

    There's a rapid response by the boots 'n gun lovers. What would scare Owen? What would scare him into breaking the law? The answer appears to be unusual-looking people in neighborhoods where some conservatives think he must be either lost or looking for drugs or sex. I wonder if Owen would roll through the stop sign if he saw a scruffy fellow on the corner with a gun on his hip. The discussion over there is hilarious. Did you know you'll be charged with a hate crime for running over a black person?

  6. Caps, my friend, I won't walk around my apartment nekkid! And I DIDN'T need that mental image, thankyou! BS on cars! How many multiple offense drunk drivers have we seen. Courtesy and commom sense are wonderful things when exercised. Rights and laws are the same way. What the man was doing was not only a right, but, LAWFUL. Would I do it? Likely not, but that is beside the point. As to a guns design, yes, it is designed to kill. Yet, it can't do so on it's own. It needs the user to determine it's good or ill.

    Right now, we're exercising our right to Free Speech. Once you open the door, as we have already, to begin modifying a right, there's no stopping those who would abolish them. You and I may not like certain parts of The Constitution, but, once we start f*cking with it, it won't stop until the Freedoms are gone. There's always someone who want's 'what's best' for you, provided it's what THEY think is best.

  7. Bill,

    I am not challenging his right to own a gun. That would be hypocritical of me, since I own firearms myself.

    But I can call for a bit of common courtesy and consideration of others.

    As I have said repeatedly, just because one has the right to do something, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.

  8. Mr. Liebenthal,

    Perhaps you can cite the psychological loophole that exists for law enforcement officers that exempts them from your fears of a "Falling Down" situation.

    If you believe that the only thing that separates us from the banal existence of 9-5 jobs and a trail of bodies is a fight with a partner or a few glasses of wine you have my pity.

  9. Most law enforcement officers, especially in larger, metropolitan areas have to undergo psychological evaluations first.

    They are also observed on a daily basis by superior officers that should be trained to observe stress.

    The police have an outstanding support program in place, as well.

    There is more than ample evidence, on a daily basis, of this not necessarily being true of the general public.

  10. And then there is the Green Bay police Dept.

    One shoot all shoot policy.

    I don't have all that much faith in the police doing what they should be doing in supervising themselves.

    I don't recall any of the right perspective saying much about preserving our rights to protection from illegal wire-tapping in the, "protecting our rights," arena, during the prior administration. Maybe I missed it.

  11. Ah, but all sorts of good socialists voted for Hitler and Mussolini ... FDR's kitchen cabinet absolutely adored the italian.

    Any future dictator will garner votes from everyone, left and right, in varying numbers ... hence those votes are dangerous, and should be feared.

    Since you can't guarantee that all vote usage will be safe, I guess we'll have to consider banning the practice.

    I think you got my point ... one's personal fears are not a valid excuse for prior restraint of the basic human rights of others.

  12. Not really.

    Both the right and the left have voted for real goofballs or worse.

    The difference is that a voter's personal action of voting endangered no one. I have yet to hear of a crime of passion or any sort of death or injury of a person directly related to someone voting or by a voting machine. Nor do they carry voting machines strapped to their waist.

  13. Capper:

    You scare me so I should have the right to shut your blog down by your logic.

  14. Explain how it scares you. The truth scares you? Rational thought scares you? Please be more specific.

  15. You probably have heard the expression, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Some folks - decent, honest, caring folks - have taken that sentiment one step further and committed themselves to always being able to defend themselves (and others) should that be needed. These folks believe that there is evil in the world, and that evil must be opposed. A firearm is the means to that end.

    One can put trust in the police, but if the police were present at the outset of a crime that crime would probably not occur. One can say that evil will not come nigh me, but this is mere wish. Every person has the right to defend herself, and your unease with the means to do this does not give you a veto.

  16. There are non-lethal ways to defend oneself without a gun or the police.

    What is scary is someone who is scared and with a gun.