Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Open Carry: Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

On Saturday the Medina County Gazette of Medina, Ohio published this guest column of mine: 

I frequently visit Medina with my husband and two young children because that’s where I grew up and my parents still live here. The Gazette tells me that next time I'm on the Square with my kids, I might see people from the activist group Northeast Open Carry patrolling the area with firearms in holsters or strapped to their backs. If I do, I won't call the police since there's nothing illegal going on. The law is already firmly on the side of open carry advocates. They aren't even required to show their IDs when questioned by police.
But I won't stick around. Police who carry firearms are trained and hired to serve and protect. Concealed carry requires at least a permit.

But a man just strutting around with a gun, he’s a total unknown. Maybe he's had sufficient training in firearm use and safety, maybe not. Maybe he's a schizophrenic about to have his first onset of serious symptoms. Maybe he's generally paranoid with lousy judgment. Maybe he’s a perfectly stable, responsible guy. The point is, I don't know.

What I do know is that Joe Smith or whoever is holding a deadly weapon and could easily kill me or my kids from hundreds of feet away. 

To Joe Smith or whoever, I didn't ask for your protection, and more importantly, I don't need it. The Medina crime rate is much lower than both the Ohio average and national average crime rates. (The city is ranked among the safest 15 percent of Ohio’s communities, according data compiled by Most of the rare robberies and thefts that happen in Medina do not involve a deadly weapon at all. So unless you are on your way to the shooting range or to hunt, why are you flaunting your firearms in public spaces?

Just because you have the legal right to openly carry shotguns, assault rifles, and semi-automatic pistols in public doesn't mean it's a good idea or without risk. The Constitution gives the Westboro Baptist Church the right to protest military funerals with signs saying “God hates fags.” That doesn't mean they should or that doing so won't cause trouble. It also doesn't mean that the public should accept such behavior as “normal.”

People of Medina live without fear. It's not that crime never happens in Medina, but the number of crimes there that could be prevented by a random stranger walking around with a gun are so low that they're negligible. 

In a safe place, adding guns only adds the risks that come with them. That's why most people in Medina clear the area and might even call 911 in response to seeing a random stranger casually patrolling public spaces. Nobody here needs to be “educated.” We already felt safe, and Northeast Open Carry activists are taking some of that peace of mind away. 

Martha Knox is an artist and blogger living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the daughter of David Knox, the managing editor of The Gazette.

That's my point of view visiting my quiet little hometown in Ohio. Now for my perspective from where I live today. 

A couple years ago a man was shot and killed on my street. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. I heard the shots from my living room, looked out the window just in time to see the shooter and his accomplice run away. Minutes later I stepped out on my porch to see a body lying on the sidewalk across the street. He died on the way to the hospital, one of America's many victims of violent crime, most often connected to the illicit drug trade. 

I live in Philadelphia, a city where hundreds of people are murdered and thousands more are injured with guns every year. Many more, including children and youth, are traumatized by witnessing gun violence in their neighborhoods. Here in Philly, if I saw someone walking around with a gun, even though Pennsylvanians have a right to open carry, I would call 9-11, because here the odds that violence will ensue is likely.

The idea of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns is based on nothing more than wishful fantasy, and is in opposition to actual evidence. And yet people all over the United States are trying to change American society into one which encourages vigilantism and is poised for conflict with deadly weapons anywhere, anytime.  

Let's be clear what's happening here: Open Carry Activists already have the right to do what they are doing. What they want now is to change the culture into one which accepts them flaunting those rights. 

Is this a change we Americans want? We already have horrifically high rates of gun violence compared with other industrialized nations. If guns being carried by just about anyone, anywhere, anywhere become the norm, do we really believe that most of those people will be sufficiently trained and cautious at all times? How many people ignore speed limits, thinking they can handle higher speeds, despite the threat of fines and accidents?

Are we really going to ignore the fact that the proliferation of firearms increases the numbers of suicides and accidents involving guns? Or that a desperate criminal will exhibit far more risky behavior such as grabbing a gun from an innocent citizen or shooting innocent people before responsible, armed citizens have a chance to fully assess the situation?

Flaunting rights to openly carry around firearms in public make no sense in safe communities such as my hometown or communities like Philadelphia which are already plagued with gun violence. It makes no sense period. 

The simple truth is that more guns don't protect people. They increase the chance of people getting shot. Forget the wild west fantasy, that's the science, that's the reality. 

1 comment:

  1. Imo, a more left leaning Supreme Court is the best hope to recognize the honest meaning of a well regulated militia that is connected to constitutional gun rights. .In the shorter term hopefully some brave (angered at some mass shooting) state will legislate a significant civilian weapons ban. Pie in the sky thinking I know, alas in the meantime not owning a firearm is among the best things to do to statistically reduce the odds of firearm injury.