A gun for a gun, a bullet for
a bullet, a bulldozer for a …
by Allen Best
A few years ago, a failed candidate for public office in the Colorado mountain town of Granby showed up to speak at a town board meeting with a gun stuffed in his pocket. The town of 1,800 people is located near Rocky Mountain National Park, about 80 miles northwest of Denver.
Why you would need a gun when addressing a town board anywhere is beyond me. Would the elected officials fly into a rage, pull their concealed weapons, and start shooting if the speaker’s criticism hit too close to home?
That didn’t happen. What did happen was the gun, which presumably was loaded, slipped from the speaker’s pocket and clattered to the floor. Luckily, it did not discharge. Town trustees decided that henceforth all guns brought into the town hall must be concealed. I’m sure everybody in Granby feels safer now.
I thought about this recently after 12 people were murdered at the Aurora Century 16 theater in Colorado. Gun-rights advocates were quick to argue that the answer to easily obtained guns and bullets is more guns and bullets. Members of the U.S. armed forces were in the audience, noted one columnist in The Denver Post. “Had one of them, or any other law-abiding adult, had a handgun on (that) night, the shot might have stopped or slowed the killer.”
There is precedent. In 2007, a man killed two people in metro Denver, then two more at a megachurch in Colorado Springs before being cut down by an armed security guard. The guard, a volunteer, had prior law-enforcement experience.
Sifting through the case histories of non-political mass murderers in recent U.S. history, the only constant was easy access to guns. Many shooters had patches of mental illness or exhibited anti-social behavior, or both, prior to their eruptions. The murderer in Aurora easily obtained four guns because he had no criminal record. His only legal blemish was a traffic ticket for going 46 mph in a 35 mph zone.
Because anybody can be on the dark side, say gun-rights advocates, those on the side of goodness must be prepared, guns handy – because, well, you just never know.
Consider my chapter of Toastmasters. We’re a rather ordinary, law-abiding, maybe even dull bunch. Occasionally, somebody (usually me) blathers on for 15 minutes in an allotted 10-minute slot. We curb such breaches of Toastmaster civility with mild admonishments. “In talking about the Civil War,” we might say, “you could narrow the range of your speech to just a few key battles.”
But who really knows when an aspiring public speaker will come off the rail? Who knows when the mildest of criticism will turn a visitor into a bull-goose loony? I can see I should start packing a pistol to Toastmasters meetings because – well, you just never know.
Same thing for the grocery store. How do you know that the guy picking among the rutabagas in the produce section isn’t planning to start picking off customers? If you’re in the meat department at the time, maybe you need a rifle to blunt the mayhem 20 aisles away.
Every shopping list should start this way: 1) Hand-gun (Glock) in pocket; 2) Assault rifle (American made only!), unholstered; 3) Body armor; 4) Loaf of bread, gluten free.
Actually, I was just kidding about the gluten-free bread.
In Aurora, the murderer had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition, and he could do so because he was, at that point, a law-abiding citizen. Who was to question his right to bear bullets or how many? He was, at that point, presumably among the good people. If your job is to be prepared, you might well imagine a need for 10,000, 100,000 or even a million bullets. You just never know.
Granby,the mountain town, got into the world news in 2004. A previously law-abiding businessman got very angry about a zoning action. Over a year and a half, he fortified a 50-ton Komatsu bulldozer, using concrete and steel plates a foot thick to create a protective box around the operating compartment. One sun-splashed June morning, he set out to level the Granby Town Hall, next the mayor’s house, and then, building by building, the rest of the town. He substantially succeeded, taking shots at people along the way, if without success, before his Komatsu fell into the basement of the Gambles store.
Could this rampage have been blunted? By the logic of the gun-rights advocates, the law-abiding people in Granby should have been building steel- and concrete-reinforced Komatsus of their own. Because, after all, you just never know.
This essay was in the Aug. 28, 2012, issue of Mountain Town News. For a free trial issue of this 20-page publication, please send me an e-mail.