People with guns make me nervous.
So I can’t imagine how Dallas police felt last week when gunfire erupted during at a Black Lives Matter protest while a bunch of camo-clad yahoos wandered around with with their faux assault rifles hanging out.
I’m OK with the guns. Hailing from southeast Colorado amid families who farmed, ranched and liked to hunt, guns were unremarkable to me. They’re tools. Deadly tools. Gun-rights trolls on social media like to taunt people by saying they’re hysterically afraid of guns, and therefore unreasonable about pushing for gun control legislation. It’s all crap. Guns don’t scare me. People do.
Strangers with guns — especially in places where it serves no logical, practical or satisfactory purpose to possess one — make me fidgety.
For me, guns serve only one purpose: to kill. Coyotes, pigeons, snakes — even a few hours of target practice to ensure a future lethal shot will count. And people. Guns kill people. So the instant I’m around someone with a gun, even a cop, I’m paying keen attention to him or her and the weapon.
It’s not that I don’t trust police. It’s just that I don’t trust anyone implicitly. I don’t trust people signaling a right turn until I actually see them make it. Mercurial gun-lovers? Uh uh.
Over the years, I’ve spent eons as a reporter in police stations, squad cars and at crime scenes. For the most part I’m good with cops and guns. I’m never unaware of their weapons. You become relaxed but never casual. I’ve seen close up what bullets do to humans. It’s ugly.
People and guns are unpredictable sometimes. Former Aurora Police Chief Ricky Bennet’s gun went off accidentally in the police locker room several years ago, clouding his career. I covered a story where an Aurora police cadet was killed when a fellow cadet accidentally fired a gun in a weapons safety class. Accidental shootings happen anywhere.
And I get very nervous when civilians I don’t know have guns, and especially in places where guns have no business: stores, hospitals, government buildings, the streets of central Aurora.
Unfortunately, the whacky gun lobby and their legislative flock have pushed Colorado into the same danger zone as Texas by making this an “open carry” state. It means that if you legally have a gun — a driver license is harder to come by — you can strap it on and walk down Havana Street or Colfax Avenue, and officers can’t do squat about it. Denver had sense enough to ban such insanity. We’re still embracing our crazy here in Aurora.
Of course officers pretty much always have to drive out and stop people parading their pieces in public because the 911 phones ring off the hook every time some gun-a-bitionist gets the urge to show it off. The cops make sure the guy — it’s always a guy — is just doing his thing and isn’t headed to say, a movie theater or a high school to do what’s becoming a very common thing guys like to do with guns in public.
Joe Public isn’t the only one this strap-on mentality makes nervous. Aurora City Council, just loaded with conservative, pro-Second-Amendment types, revealed they aren’t all that pro-gun sometimes. They voted last year to prohibit open carry dudes from strutting their stuff at city hall. While these pro-gun lawmakers easily peeled off reasons why open carry in their place of business is very bad news, they refuse to extend the same measure of courtesy and safety to any other part of Aurora. Suck it up, folks. It’s the Second Amendment, and it’s for your own good.
This is all tough stuff for police. For the most part, most cops I know are pretty much OK with the public being able to own guns and keep them around for “security” reasons. So when the local open-carrier goes walking, they handle it coolly. They shrug when asked about how wise it is to allow people to carry guns around a town that’s still aching from the Aurora theater massacre, Platte Canyon, Columbine and Arapahoe high schools.
This week I wondered how Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz feels about open carry after the disaster in Dallas last week. Metz has been making the media circuit since Dallas, talking about how we need to talk more about underlying policing issues.
“We are not interested in discussing this topic,” a spokesperson said in a message. I know for sure nothing thrills a gun-a-bitionist like telling him to keep it tucked out of sight. It makes every public official skittish about broaching the matter.
Plenty of other police departments go there, though. A whopping 75 percent of Texas police departments begged that state’s legislature not to enact their open-carry law there, saying it’s a surefire recipe for disaster.
And so it was last week. When racist, anti-cop sniper Micah Johnson opened fire on officers protecting Black Lives Matter protesters in Dallas, there were numerous open-carriers in or near the march, some decked out in camo and toting real or knock-off “assault” rifles. They looked like snipers. It was chaos. Dallas police said the guys legally and “innocently” toting guns made a horrible situation even that much worse.
Of course it did. It’s only common sense thrown to the side by lawmakers whose own good sense has been bought, stolen or never found a home in their gun-lovin’ heads.
Here’s the deal. The times, they’ve been a-changing. While open carry was only misguided and potentially dangerous just a short time ago, now that we’ve become a country of open warfare in the very streets of Dallas, and probably coming soon to a town near you, we’ve got to stop at least one very real threat. This one. It’s hard enough to duck malevolent gunman bullets. The last thing we need is making it so officers can’t even tell who the bad guys are when these Beirut battles erupt. And God forbid one of these yahoos actually decides to squeeze off a few rounds during a melee.
Police may graciously be OK with you setting yourself up a little home arsenal in case the Obama Administration goes rogue and comes to your door to force you to eat more vegetables or something. But state lawmakers need to reverse course here and make people keep their death-toys at home to protect the public, the police and even the simple-minded gun-a-bitionists who are making the country’s dangerously complicated gun problems calamitous. Ban open carry.