Going to the local drug store to pick up my wife's prescription isn't my favorite chore, but at least it's fairly straight forward and quick if the pharmacist on duty is in a good mood. There is one lady who works behind the counter that seems to have a grudge against me, so much I figure I must look like a former boyfriend or ex-husband that treated her wrong. I take such incidents in stride now but something else happened yesterday as I walked into the drug store that exemplifies the nearly psychotic times we find ourselves living.
While the drug store in question will go unnamed, just know it is one of those ubiquitous national chains that tries to act like a mini-grocery store as well as having whole aisles dedicated to things like Halloween costumes and even cheap toys. As I walked through the automatic sliding doors I passed one of the store clerks stocking a shelf with colorful boxes. Wasn't really paying attention to the writing on the boxes but I did notice they looked rather heavy. As I turned a corner and started walking down another aisle, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of another person walking through the sliding glass door entrance.
Quick impressions are easily subject to misinterpretation but the guy seemed even more rushed than me as well as slightly perturbed. An idea reinforced when I started hearing an impatient voice whose volume was higher than anything used in a normal conversation. Whatever the case, I had my own task to accomplish and didn't think anymore of it, until I heard a seriously loud bang coming from that direction a second or two later. Being upfront, my first thought was that the guy I believed to be upset had pulled a gun and fired off a shot. At who, I had no idea but naturally the clerk innocently stocking shelves was high on the list.
The sad thing in all was that instead of just blowing off the noise, I instead stopped in my tracks and waited a few seconds to see if anything else happened, like more shots being fired or people beginning to scream in panic. Thankfully, except for the normal noise associated with a business, it was all quiet. Minutes later on the way back out I noticed that one of the shelves the clerk had been placing the heavy boxes on had broken or collapsed. As for the guy who seemed perturbed, I saw him at the general merchandise checkout with an armload of school supplies as I walked out the door.
Yes, this all ended uneventfully but the nasty bug in the societal system is that given the number of mass shootings this country has, sometimes on a monthly or even weekly basis, the possibility the dude buying school supplies was a deranged nutcase sporting a high-capacity firearm was real. At times I really hate all the trash comments I make about the area I live, but to be honest earning your concealed carry license for a handgun is one of the ways guys here earn their man card.
What it all boils down to is that I remember a time when I was a kid that while owning firearms was cool, the idea that you would carry one around in public was crazy to the general population, even here in the American South. This attitude was best exemplified by the ancient Andy Griffith Show where the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor made a point of not wearing a sidearm because he wanted people to respect him and his authority, not the weapon he carried. That example a little too abstract, well my own grandfather once verbally jumped all over my twenty-something ass in the 1980's when I attempted to carry my own .45 automatic inside a public place.
Understand, my pistol was unloaded and my reason for carrying it was because I didn't want to leave it in my car since one of the door locks was busted, but my grandfather looked me dead in the eye and said only morons walk around with guns in public. Back during those years my enthusiasm for firearms extended to the ownership of an assault rifle as well, which when I look at the pictures of myself taken with it seem really creepy now. To complete this story I sold both the assault rifle and that .45 when I became involved in SCUBA diving and wanted to buy my own equipment.
Needless to say, mass shootings back in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid and young “adult” were outrageously rare occurrences but since then popular culture has made carrying a gun almost a prerequisite for some to have self respect for themselves. Many disagree, but I have had discussions with gun enthusiasts and their denials of that idea always have the ring of drug addicts or alcoholics swearing up and down that they don't have a problem, that the issue is with everyone else. Throw in unstable individuals with easy access to some serious firepower and you get mass shootings and a lot of innocent people dead, including small children. While I had long since moved on to other more constructive activities, that particular event ended the lackadaisical attitude I had towards letting gun nuts have their fun as long as I didn't have to hear them speak.
Gun nuts will skip over this sentence but I'm not calling for the ban of civilian ownership of firearms. I own another .45 automatic, although it spends most of its existence locked up inside a box in my closet. But I don't believe you can rationally say the saturation of guns in our national culture is healthy. Instead of having the calm and cool fictional Andy Taylor saying he wanted people to respect him personally, you have types like Eastwood who made his fame playing a character that asks if some punk is feeling lucky while he points a .44 magnum at his head. Excuse me for picking on Eastwood because he has plenty of company, but people tend to copy what seems reasonable and when countless movies suggest that you need to carry a firearm to solve issues, especially difficult ones involving troublesome people you're creating an atmosphere where civil society can't function.
Yes, there are numerous instances where someone with a gun protected their lives and those of their families, that is not an issue. The issue is that the United States has exponentially more mass shootings than any industrialized western country. Of course, I am not including such third-world countries such as Somalia or any other where civil society has broken down completely. If the widespread ownership of all sorts of weapons promoted peace, like gun enthusiasts say they would here, shouldn't those countries be law-abiding garden spots?
I'll write it one more time, I'm not talking about banning civilian ownership of guns. But in a rational society there should be enough common sense that laws and regulations could be enacted to where mass shootings are once again relegated to the rare, bizarre occurrence like it was when the fictional Sheriff Taylor's attitude was widespread among the public. My general idea is that you have to be trained and then licensed to drive a car, seems reasonable to suggest that something like a gun might require similar procedures. I'll throw mandatory liability insurance as a requirement as well, although the first two things I mentioned sends the average gun nut into seizures. I've noticed the barest mention of forcing gun owners to carry liability insurance turns them into enraged, petulant, mindless zombie children out for blood.
As for those who may think I am living in fear of some unknown madman, maybe I am making more of the incident in the drug store than I should. But, then again I'm not the one who feels defenseless if I'm not walking around in public with a loaded concealed weapon.