Monday, May 12, 2014

What's Wrong With These People? (Chair Stealer at B&N)

Dear Madame L,

I was in my local bookstore the other day. I wandered around for awhile looking at books and magazines and then I put my notebooks down on a table in the coffee shop and went to the counter to order a hot chocolate.

As I waited for my hot cocoa, I happened to turn around and see a man at my table, pawing through my notebooks. I walked over and said, "This is my stuff. What are you doing?"

He said, "I want to sit here, and nobody is sitting here." He put down my notebooks and stood there staring at me.

I noticed he was wearing an NRA cap. I didn't see a gun anywhere, but apparently now you can carry them anywhere, even into a bookstore, just in case there's some lawless book-lover there whose notebooks you might have to forcefully remove from a table where you want to sit, even though there are more than 10 other tables, empty, in the place.

I said, "I'm sitting here, or I will be, in a minute or two. That's why I put my things here." After staring at me for another second or two, he finally moved to another table.

But if he'd shown a gun and started waving it around, I'll bet I would have let him have the table.

What's wrong with these people?


Should Have Been Scared Witless

Dear Scared,

Madame L does not know what's wrong with these people, but she would have been scared, too. Gun-toting demonstrators have lately felt they could, and should, celebrate their Second Amendment rights by showing up at all kinds of public establishments with their gun-loving pals, waving their weapons around and wondering why people don't like it. (Interestingly, though, they do this in groups, because even the stupidest among them grok that if they show up alone, waving a gun around, they'll be mistaken for a crook [see below for more on this aspect].)

From the article Madame L linked to above:
Just last week open carry proponents decided to have one of their “demonstrations” by going into a Jack in the Box en massescaring the employees so badly that they hid in the walk-in freezer. The so-called demonstrators seemed confused by the response of police who assumed there was an armed robbery in progress and dispatched a phalanx of cops.
“We’re not breaking the laws,” Haros said. “We’re not here to hurt anybody. We’re not trying to alarm anybody. We’re doing this because it’s our constitutional right.”
Haros, who believes openly carrying firearms helps police, said citizens should know that the demonstrations will continue.
“It’s just for safety purposes,” Haros said. “Officers can’t be there at all times. We understand that. They can only do so much.”
So this fine fellow believes he is doing this to protect the public. And while they don’t wear uniforms so you can’t identify them, have no specialized training in the law, are not bound by police protocols or answer to the authority of the democratic system of government of the people, they have taken it upon themselves to look after all of us because the police are busy. (And presumably, unless you are wearing a hoodie and they think you look suspicious, you probably won’t get shot dead by mistake.) We used to have a name for this. It was called vigilantism. One can only hope that when a “bad guy” really does show up at your Jack in the Box or Starbucks and one of these self-appointed John Waynes decides to draw his weapon you’ll be as lucky as the innocent civilian who narrowly escaped being killed in error at the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. 

All of this is allegedly being done to protect our freedoms. But it’s only the “freedom” of the person wearing a firearm that matters. Those parents who want their kids to feel safe in a public park aren’t free to tell a man waving a gun around to leave them alone, are they? Patrons and employees of Starbucks aren’t free to express their opinion of open carry laws when one of these demonstrations are taking place in the store. Those Jack in the Box employees aren’t free to refuse service to armed customers. Sure, they are all theoretically free to do those things. It’s their constitutional right just like it’s the constitutional right of these people to carry a gun. But in the real world, sane people do not confront armed men and women. They don’t argue with them over politics. They certainly do not put their kids in harm’s way in order to make a point. So when it comes right down to it, when you are in the presence of one of these armed citizens, you don’t really have any rights at all.  

You can see why they think that’s freedom. It is. For them. The rest of us just have to be very polite, keep our voices down and back away very slowly, saying, “Yes sir, whatever you say, sir,” and let them have their way.
 Madame L is personally acquainted with several people who think they should be able to carry their loaded weapons into movie theaters, parks, churches, and, yes, Jack-in-the-Boxes, to show their freedoms. Madame L tries to stay as far away from these vigilantes, and their places of film-watching, recreation, worship, and eating, as she can. Because these people are NOT police, they are NOT trained in gun safety or police tactics, they do NOT know how to tell a "good guy" from a "bad guy," they are NOT helping anyone, they are NOT keeping anyone safe, and they ARE, simply, and deliberately, scaring a lot of innocent and harmless people.

Other than that very personal and visceral reaction, Madame L has no solution to the problem. Other Dear Readers, your suggestions?

Sincerely, and with some trepidation,

Madame L

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

That's the best review of this frightening situation that I've seen so far. This needs to go as a letter to the NYTimes or the Washington Post ASAP.

MY solution is to quickly get the heck out of any place where an open-carry "event" is taking place. And then call the police.

There is some hope that the more astute among them may start thinking about the awkwardness that ensues... and then reconsider what THEIR "rights" really mean for everyone else.