Gun control is a divisive issue, but if there’s one thing we should all be able to rally around, it’s not acting like a dumbass. That’s at the heart of what I think is the best and most positive campaign I’ve seen for reducing gun violence—Evolve Together, a campaign that brings us this very funny ad:
Evolve’s mission is explicitly not about passing legislation related to guns. Rather, it’s about changing behavior through (1) clever advertising; (2) challenging gun owners to consciously adopt a rigorous mindset of gun safety; and (3) exposing what it calls “dumbassery”—failures of gun safety. Since I like making fun of people who fail at gun safety myself, this is a campaign that appeals to me.
But there’s a deeper point, which is that if guns aren’t going away, we need to develop a much more responsible culture of gun ownership and gun use, so that dangerous and anti-social uses of guns are seen as shameful and gun safety is a point of pride.
This might be the moment when someone jumps in and points out that many gun owners are already very pro-safety. Okay. But those folks might want to consider applying really serious social pressure on their fellows to make sure everyone is behaving responsibly. Consider the following three stories from the past week, all involving trained, licensed gun users, who no doubt think of themselves as very safety-conscious.
First, from Valdosta, GA, a tale of one open-carrier demanding to see another open-carrier’s papers… at gunpoint:
[A] misunderstanding between two armed men in a convenience store Tuesday led to a drawn firearm and a man’s arrest.
“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” said Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress . . . .
A man carrying a holstered firearm entered the store to make a purchase. Another customer, also with a holstered firearm, approached him and demanded to see his identification and firearms license, according to the Valdosta Police Department report.
The customer making demands for ID pulled his firearm from its holster but never pointed it at the other customer, who said he was not obligated to show any permits or identification.
He demanded the man’s ID again. Undeterred by the drawn gun, the man paid for his items, left the store and called for police.
Authorities arrested Ronald Williams, 62, on a charge of disorderly conduct, related to the pulling of a weapon inside of the store, according to the VPD. Police confiscated Williams’ weapon and took him to the Lowndes County Jail.
The police chief said no one can demand a person to show their gun permit. Under the new law, he as police chief and his officers cannot demand to see a firearms permit, Childress said.
Next, from Bloomsburg, PA, negligent discharge at the gun show:
A woman was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to her leg after police say a vendor at the Eagle Arms Gun Show at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds accidentally shot her on Saturday.
Police in Columbia County said vendor Geoffrey Hawk, the owner of “In Case of Emergency,” shot Krysta Gearhart of Orangeville in the thigh with a semi-automatic .380 while demonstrating a concealed carry holster. Usually, the demonstration is done with a plastic model of a gun.
“Often times that is what is utilized. This time the vendor used a real gun,” said Sergeant Leonard Rogutski of the Bloomsburg Police.
Police say that there was not a magazine attached to the weapon, however there was a round in the chamber.
Jesus H. Christ, soldier.
According to Bower, while the crowd stayed calm, some vendors were upset.
“I think the dealers were upset because it makes them look bad,” said Bower.
And finally, from Wyandotte, OK, a firing range owner lets his customers drop an artillery round on a nearby house.
An Oklahoma home was damaged last weekend by a howitzer artillery shell fired from a gun range three miles away.
The artillery shell – which is 14.5 inches long and 3.5 inches across – crashed through an exterior wall, hit the ceiling, and damaged another wall while homeowner Gene Kelley and his wife were in another room . . . .
No one was hurt, but Kelley said the damage could have been worse if the shell had not hit a tree limb and then the ground before striking his Wyandotte house.
The shell was fired from a 105mm howitzer at the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and Trade Show, but the gun range owner insists the historic weapon was safely fired by professionals in a downward projection.
“It was not on a level plane, but on a downward trend, pointed downhill in the bottom of a valley,” said Mike Friend, Owner of Fast Machine Gun Shoot. “For that thing to rise and go far northwest of the range, it’s just unheard of.”
I believe that owning a gun is not just a right, it’s a responsibility.
I will be trained in how to use my gun.
(That includes howitzers, gang.)
I will be answerable for every gun I own at all times.
I will speak out when I see people who are using guns without using their heads.
That last point is kind of key. If we’re going to be an “armed society,” then gun owners/users need to police one another’s behavior rigorously and make it socially unacceptable to act the fool while armed. That means, at a minimum, people should feel strong social pressure to observe basic points of safety. But it probably also means that it should be socially unacceptable to be belligerent while armed, or to treat being armed as a license for dumbass machismo.
To some extent, this is low-hanging fruit. A better culture of armed citizenship won’t solve all problems, or even stop the most heartbreaking kinds of violence—the ones that generate the big headlines. But it could save a significant number of lives and prevent a significant number of injuries. And that’s worth quite a lot. And a side benefit is that a gun culture that’s widely perceived to be more Will Kane and less Ike Clanton—one that polices itself and doesn’t tolerate bad behavior—would generate a lot more respect from non-gun owners.