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With the Second Amendment, responsibility accompanies rights

By   /   December 2, 2013  /   Comments

Anyone who had read my writings on politics for any length of time knows my stance on the Second Amendment.  I’m an ardent believer in our right to keep and bear arms, and there’s not really anything that’s going to change that position.  Trust me, there have been events that shook my faith in my stance, but it held in every case.

However, I’m also a believer in the idea that rights are always accompanied by responsibilities.  We are responsible for the safe use and storage of our firearms.  Most gun owners I know do just that, but unfortunately, it’s far from universal.

This past weekend, a very dear friend was visiting home.  She lives in the Atlanta area but comes home fairly regularly.  While this is a dear friend, we differ significantly on our politics.  This isn’t really a problem for either of us, mostly because we don’t talk a whole lot of politics.  Unfortunately, this weekend, we did.

While discussing gun rights, we recounted a story where she was in a store.  A man was open carrying his firearm.  On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this.   What is wrong was this man’s reported unawareness at his very small child (my friend’s guess was about three years old) reaching up and grabbing at the pistol.

Luckily, nothing happened.

However, we who advocate so vocally for the Second Amendment have a responsibility.  We need to police our own.  We need to tell people like this man that he owes it to all of us to keep his awareness and make sure his child doesn’t grab his weapon.  He needs to be cognizant of the fact that his child was even grabbing at the pistol.

While we are at it, it’s not a bad idea to mention that open carrying is probably not the best way to make people comfortable with the idea of citizens carrying guns.  Yes, I support the idea of open carry.  However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.  Folks, it’s not.

Let’s leave behind the fact that if a criminal is about hurt people, those with openly displayed firearms are likely to be the first targets.  Instead, let’s focus on the reality.  That reality is that a lot of people are uncomfortable with openly displayed firearms.  While their comfort isn’t our responsibility, rubbing their noses in what they’re uncomfortable with doesn’t exactly work either.

Many readers who support the Second Amendment are less than enamored with gay marriage.  Some of those same readers – and stick with me, I’ll make the point shortly – have told me that they open carry as a way to remind people about the importance of the Second Amendment.  They prefer to make people uncomfortable as a way of trying to force them to adjust and become comfortable.

However, the people who oppose gay marriage also have seen open displays of gay and lesbian affection.  I have to ask them whether they have become more comfortable with the idea because of exposure?  Of course not.

Like it or not, people change their minds based on ideas, not because someone has made them see what they would rather not see.  You can’t force people to change their opinions, particularly on subjects that evoke such strong emotions.  All you will accomplish is making them even stronger in their beliefs.

People have the right to open carry.  That is the law, and it’s not one I wish to change.  However, remember that just because you have the right to do something, that doesn’t mean you have an obligation to do that thing.  Particularly when it can ultimately hurt your cause.

We, the Second Amendment advocates, must also stand ready.  When we see someone who is so unaware of what is going on that they don’t notice that small child grabbing at their gun, we need to say something.  My friend, who was unarmed, wasn’t remotely comfortable addressing this man who she described as looking like a “meth head”.  As she works for the Department of Corrections, she’s very aware of how many Georgians are part of the criminal justice system and has concerns whether this man was really legal to carry the gun, so do you think she was going to address such a person?

However, we can.  If we address such a man, we can be confident that should he act in an aggressive manner, we could take care of ourselves.  Of course, the most likely outcome would be a conversation.  Possibly a heated conversation, but violence isn’t particularly likely.   Then again, we don’t carry guns because of what’s most likely to happen, but what might happen.

It is up to us to police our own.  Just because someone’s doing something that isn’t illegal, doesn’t mean it’s not stupid.  We need to point it out to folks.  There is no reason to allow things like this to happen, especially since we all know what the outcomes can be.  Had that child gotten that gun, the potential tragedy would have been horrific.  Leaving out the political fallout, the potential of the child being hurt or killed are high, which says nothing about those around when that happened.

We can’t let things like this stand.  It’s vital that we make it clear that inattention when one is carrying a firearm can’t be allowed.  We need to make it clear to our fellow firearm carriers that this behavior is unacceptable.  Carrying a firearm is a right, but all rights come with responsibilities to exercise them correctly.  We need to remind our side of that from time to time.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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