Wins and Losses: Big, Small, or Not at All

The gun debate rages on, with each side claiming victory with each tiny step forward.  But, is anyone really winning, or are we just treading water, with little actually getting done?

Two examples:

First the open carry groups who have taken to carrying semi-automatic long rifles into various stores and restaurants was dealt another blow.  After requests from Chipotle, Sonic, and other businesses that these groups leave their guns at home, Target has done the same.  Target had been a popular location for these open carry gatherings in recent weeks, but no more.  The store released a statement from interim CEO John Mulligan:

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

The wording of the statement is interesting, as it is a request rather than an outright ban.  In states allowing open-carry, a gun owner would be legally allowed to ignore this request and take his gun into a Target store (or a Chipotle, Sonic, or any other store).  While Target employees and customers can hope that they can feel safe while they shop, without the scary sight of strangers with assault rifles, they are still powerless to stop a gun owner from carrying his gun in the store.  So, is this a win, or is it just rhetoric?

Second, a so-called win for gun folks:

A new law has gone into effect in Georgia that allows gun owners to carry their weapons virtually anywhere in the state:

Tuesday was also the day that Georgia’s so-called “guns everywhere” law went into effect, allowing residents to carry guns into bars, nightclubs, classrooms, and certain government buildings. Among other things, the law also prohibits police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone seen carrying a gun. Childress mentioned that last point when talking to the Daily Times about Tuesday’s incident.

This seems like a clear win for gun advocates, but there was trouble almost immediately.  Specifically, there was a confrontation between two men in a convenience store:

According to the Daily Times, the first man, Ronald Williams, approached the second man in the store and demanded to see his identification and firearms license. Williams also pulled his gun from his holster, without pointing it at the second man. The second man responded by saying that he was not obligated to show any permits or identification — then he paid for his purchase, left the store, and called the police.

Police responded to the call around 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Williams was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct for pulling his gun in the store.

So, gun owners do not know the details of the law that allows them to carry their weapons.  Nor do they know just who can be trusted to carry a gun.  And, this has people concerned, even police:

“This is an example of my concern with the new gun law that people will take the law into their own hands which we will not tolerate,” [Valdosta Police Chief Brian] Childress said.

I share his concern.  Laws allowing more and more people to carry weapons in more and more places will embolden those people to draw or even fire their weapons.  The (faulty) logic behind these kind of laws is that if more people are armed, fewer people will draw their guns since they will know that everyone else could potentially also be carrying a gun.  But, if everyone is carrying a gun, the likelihood that a gun will be drawn or fired increases, putting everyone in more, not less, danger.  So, is this a win?  Even for gun owners, this seems like a loss.

And that seems to be the pattern.  Laws get passed that make it easier to carry guns, and other laws get passed making it harder.  But, people still get shot and killed, either way.  Every win is a loss, and every loss is a potential lost life.  The only real win will be when people lose their desire to carry guns at all.