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What About Those Guns?
Especially in the hands of meatheads
I wrote a short essay a couple years ago called "My Own Private Arsenal." It appears in my book One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large. It is largely about the firearms collected in my house; a brief paragraph about each one, what it is, how it came to be in my possession, etc. The point I attempt to get at with the piece is that one can acquire guns in the United States without even trying. I'm not a gun guy at all yet somehow I own several. I'm ambivalent about them, frankly. If I had to get rid of them I wouldn't much care. If I were to keep one, it would be the hunting rifle, as I could see a use for that in putting food on the table, which is why I have it in the first place. I've never aimed it at a living thing.
An editor friend at a popular magazine asked me to adapt the essay for publication, because he wanted to stir his readership up a little bit. I took a few stabs at revamping it to fit the section where he envisioned it appearing—in a magazine I've dreamed of publishing in as long as I've been writing—and likely spent more time doing so than I spent writing the piece in the first place. The project never went anywhere. I suspect the idea was killed for one of two reasons. First, the likeliest, is that I'm just not a good enough writer and thinker for this publication. And second, I don't think "liberals" like to think about guns much. What passes as "the Left" in this country froths at the mouth over guns whenever children are killed by them but isn't willing to take the necessary steps to really do anything. These people continue to vote for representatives in the Democratic party who lack the guts to really push any status quo-bucking issue. Not just guns, but anything meaningful to address the crumbling social fabric of our society.
Removing guns from Americans would be a long, grueling fight, if possible at all. But reform? Maybe. It would require more political courage than most politicians have by the time they compromise their way to the upper echelons of power. It would require citizens really digging in for the long haul and showing up to vote in big numbers.
Speaking of reform, put me down as someone all in with the movement to defund the police. I put in a couple hours last week alongside the other tens and hundreds of thousands of people who have been pouring into the streets to protest police brutality. The images of cops who look like shock troops from a superhero movie are indelible. Especially when they are willfully engaged in additional acts of petty crime and violent, senseless brutality on the people they are allegedly sworn to protect. All of which is being caught on camera for the entire world to see, again and again. C'mon, (white) guys. It's one thing to be thuggish. But thuggish and stupid? Where do we find these morons? It's one thing when one of these losers has the financial means to buy his way to the top of the grubby heap, like our current Republican president did, but what about the rest of these cowardly fucks?
As my friend (and personal poet laureate) Mark Gibbons said to me: "Ignorance is a condition. Stupidity is a commitment."
Could this rising up be a pivotal moment in history? Who knows, but people are pissed. By this I mean BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people. Most white people over the age of maybe thirty or so are dumbfounded, I think. A customer called in to the bookstore yesterday looking for a couple particular titles about racism and white superiority. When I told her those books are sold out everywhere, she said, "That's because they're being bought up by all the white people in this country suddenly looking around and going, 'What the fuck?!'" When she apologized for her language I assured her I couldn't have said it better myself.
Let's hope people read the books. Then act on them.
How about the rest of the (overwhelmingly white) people? I'm talking about the (mostly) men who are geared up like super soldiers themselves, showing up with rugged beards and armed to the teeth to "protect their towns" from ravening hordes of (mythical) Antifa terrorists bent on anarchy. These warriors for freedom (*cough*) have been lurking amidst our local protesters in Missoula as "security." It makes people uneasy, as it should. No one trusts them; I certainly don't. The night I was out in the crowd the vast majority of them looked barely out of high school. One young woman hopped down off the hood of a pickup where she'd been sitting and eating a slice of pizza, staggered, tripped and fell flat on her ass. It seemed a good way for the pistol shoved through the waistband of her jeans to fire accidentally and blow a hole right through her own leg. Or through a bystander.
If you're so emotionally immature as to carry your pistol by shoving it into your jeans, you probably aren't capable of making an emotionally mature decision about when it would be best to use that pistol either, which is the best reason to leave the thing at home in the first place.
It's legal to be a moron carrying a gun. It's legal to stand out there in a crowd of people, armed and armored up, hoping for nothing more than to shoot it out with a bunch of black-clad anarchists descending on your city aboard a convoy of skateboards. It’s also legal to be a shocked citizen wondering how all this is even possible when you’ve been letting slide your civic responsibilities to your community. Shit happens whether you participate or not, friend.
On February 12th, downtown Missoula was shut down in an eight block radius for several hours because, allegedly, someone had shot out the back window of a patrolman engaged in a traffic stop. You'd have thought we were being invaded by Communists from Boulder or somewhere the way law enforcement geared up and locked it all down.
From an article in the Missoulian:
“We’ll catch the coward that did this to one of our officers,” Missoula City Councilman Jesse Ramos told the Missoulian. “This is not acceptable in Missoula. … If you mess with an officer you mess with the whole city of Missoula.”
So macho. GRRR! Go on and thump your chest, Ramos, you pathetic tool.
Here's our mayor, John Engen, from the same article:
“From my view in the command post, our law enforcement professionals in the Missoula Police Department acted swiftly, appropriately and professionally to ensure the safety of our employees and of the larger community,” Engen said in the statement. “Fortunately, no one was physically injured, and that’s a remarkable outcome in itself.”
A command post! So playing army! Can you imagine the swinging hard-ons up in there, with snipers on nearby rooftops, just waiting to take someone out? That was the remarkable outcome everyone was hoping for, I'm sure.
Except it never happened, as a follow-up report a couple weeks later revealed. No bullet fragments. No shooter. Likely "defective glass" in the vehicle. Yet the response was still deemed "without a doubt" appropriate. All because a cop car was involved. Would they have shut the city down for a local stiff like me? Doubt it.
I don't like cops carrying guns any more than I do teenagers. I don't like them in full military-armed swagger. Last year I had a neighbor who had had legal troubles stemming from drug abuse problems. She is a young woman with a house full of kids, a sketchy boyfriend with sketchy companions and at times even sketchier visitors. It was stressful. Somewhere along the line she violated parole and the cops—the sheriff's department in this case—came after her. Over the course of a couple weeks there were several instances where the street in front of my house was jammed with multiple patrol cars, deputies geared up in body armor and packing AR-15s (I think, I'm no expert). We're talking anywhere from three to half-a-dozen. They weren't just strutting around with them either. They were arrayed strategically with muzzles trained on the house.
It's no fun seeing this play out where one lives. I know many people face it all the time and I don't like it. One high caliber bullet gone astray could find its way into my house, into me or my wife or my pets, or a neighbor, any of it. All for what, a fucking parole violation for petty theft? It's ludicrous.
I don't understand the need to carry around a gun. I see people with them all the time. I see them out at the river. I see them at the farmer's market. Whenever I see a person with a gun I'm hyper aware of their presence and I immediately categorize them as being a lunatic with issues. I don't want to be around them.
But it's legal. It's the world that has been created right beneath our noses. I'm not against the 2nd amendment. But I'm against a bunch of meatheads standing around in crowds armed to the teeth and dreaming of a shootout.
Montanans, this is one that you don't want to sleep on come November. It is House Bill No. 357, Referred By LR-130. It reads:
AN ACT REVISING FIREARMS LAWS TO SECURE THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS AND TO PREVENT A PATCHWORK OF RESTRICTIONS BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ACROSS THE STATE AND PROVIDING THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS MAY NOT REGULATE THE CARRYING OF CONCEALED WEAPONS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AMENDING SECTIONS 7-1-111 AND 45-8-351, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
Basically that means more guns in more places, and less ability for local governments to add restrictions for specific circumstances. Do the right thing.