A man walked into my store with a gun today. I was working at the front at the cash registers, and I saw it holstered on his hip, there for the entire world to see. He walked confidently next to his partner, browsing through the various books and merchandise. Did I feel safe with this man and his unconcealed gun walking around my store? Frankly, no, I did not.
I did not feel safe because he had a weapon and I had absolutely no idea if he had obtained it legally, if he had the proper permit (which, I discovered, you don’t need for some weapons in Utah), if he had the mental fortitude to be in public with a weapon, etc. etc. This man was respectable when he came up to pay for his books, but from a distance (and even in the exchange of money) I could not tell, nor could I trust, how he would use the weapon holstered at his hip.
It made me very nervous to have a man with a gun in the store. I assumed—I hoped—he wasn’t going to use it; logically, I know that most people do not have plans to use a gun to kill people. At least, I hope not. However, the presence of the weapon made me wary. This lack of comfort mostly stems from my not knowing anything about the man with the gun. I assume that everything is fine with him and that he is a law-abiding citizen, but I do not know that. And that lack of knowledge makes me uncomfortable.
Do I respect his right under Utah law to carry a gun unconcealed in a public setting? Yes, yes I do. Do I also respect my right to lobby for laws and changes to precedence that remove dangerous weapons from the public or at least seek for more secure ways for guns to be obtained so that I can have peace of mind? Yes, yes I do. Respecting law as it is while also working to change it are not two diametrically opposed actions. I respect the second amendment and the years of legal precedence that have shaped our current arguments around access and use of weapons in the public sphere; I also respect the idea that laws are fluid and meant to change as society, technology, and the world change.
Now, lest everyone begin to think they have me pegged on the gun rights argument, I believe that more thought and discourse need to happen. More options need to be on the table. Would it be best to remove every single weapon from the entire world? Yes, probably, but as much as I am an idealistic person, I’m also a realist. Would it be bad to remove all weapons from citizens when they cannot completely trust the government or even their neighbors? Yes, that would probably be bad. But, would it be good if we had better ways of keeping guns from the hands of bad people? Yes, that would be good. But, what if that good thing affects a law-abiding citizen in a bad way?
The nuances around the argument are not simply “take all the guns away” vs. “let everyone have guns because the second amendment says that.” It’s an argument that cannot be solved in a simple 600-word blog post. One thing I do know, and the reason I’m writing this, is that I felt uncomfortable when that man walked in with an unconcealed gun. I didn’t feel safe. I still don’t feel safe. But I do feel like I want to talk about this topic more. And I do feel like I want to work toward a better solution that helps me feel safe and hopefully makes the world a safer place in general.