Who needs a gun to go shopping?

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When I was a youngster growing up in rural East Texas, just about everyone I knew owned a gun of some sort.

I was given my first firearm, an old single-shot .22 caliber rifle, when I was six, and by the time I was ten was a pretty fair sharpshooter. I had an uncle who never went anywhere without a .45 Smith and Wesson revolver strapped to his waist—but under his coat.

The only people I remember seeing openly carrying weapons were the county sheriff and his deputies. This was in the 1940s and 50s, a wild and wooly time, when arguments were often settled with guns or knives. By the time I left home and joined the army in 1962, I thought I’d seen the worst that society had to offer.

Boy, was I wrong.

Fast forward to 1986, four years after I’d retired from the army and become a diplomat, and I was back in East Texas visiting my mother and younger sister. I drove to a fast food establishment about ten miles from my mother’s house, and when I walked in to place my order, there, standing in the takeout line, were two young men wearing revolvers openly displayed.

At first, I thought they might be part of the sheriff’s department, but a closer look revealed beards and scruffy hair, not the military looks of our sheriff’s department. I mean, these two looked… as scruffy as their hair. I got in line for another register and tried not to pay them any attention as I ordered. Not that they were being provocative or anything. In fact, they were chatting and ordering food just like everyone else, as if this was the most natural thing in the world.

What I learned later was that this was part of a new custom. Texas had become an open-carry state. Anyone could own and openly carry a weapon in public, and a lot of people were doing just that. I later found at that Texas was not the only place, just the most blatant, and I started seeing photos of people in grocery stores and gas stations with hand guns and rifles, pushing shopping carts or pumping gas like it was just another day.

My mind was reeling. I checked the crime rates. In the part of Texas where I grew up, they didn’t seem much higher than I remembered from my youth, although there did seem to be a rise in gun-related incidents. Was this a chicken-egg thing? Did the increase in gun violence cause people to move to open carry, or vice versa, and why in blazes did anyone need to carry a gun to the grocery store to buy a carton of milk?

If anything, the situation has gotten worse. Now, you have people bringing guns to protest demonstrations, to mount surveillance of voting places, you name it, and some yo-yo will see it as an excuse of ‘pack heat.’ In the meantime, deaths from firearms keep rising.

Guns kill more kids these days than auto crashes or drug use. It’s so bad, one of the items on the schedule in many schools these days is active shooter drills, and students have to go through metal detectors on the way to class. And with all this, you have brain-dead politicians calling for arming teachers and other school staff.

Now, that’s a real reassuring thought. I read an article in the paper a few years ago about a teacher who accidentally shot herself with the gun she carried in her purse—to school. I guess it was just luck that she didn’t accidentally shoot a student.

I shake my head in dismay. Have things gotten so bad that we really need a gun to go shopping? – NWI

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