The Right to Be Safe From Gun Violence Seems More Valuable Than Gun Rights

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If you were to walk into a local business to buy something you needed and encounter another customer wearing a MAGA hat and openly carrying an assault-style rifle, would you feel a twinge of fear? I believe I would, and it seems to me that this would be an appropriate reaction. Even if I did not worry that I would be targeted by this person or that they would be likely to use their weapon in any way, their presence would make the environment feel less safe. The same would be true of anyone in the store carrying a concealed firearm, but this would be less of a concern since I would be far less likely to know that was happening.

We keep hearing stories about people shooting up all sorts of public places, and it is beginning to make some of us think twice about spending more time than we have to in public places. These attacks are sometimes premeditated mass shootings where the perpetrator arrives with the goal of harming others. But many of them involve using guns to resolve disputes that the perpetrator may not have anticipated. That is, they become angry with someone and reach for their gun. Regardless of whether one is ever targeted in one of these incidents, most of us can appreciate the risk of being hit by a stray bullet during any of these incidents.

I've heard some conservative gun enthusiasts insist that they feel safer every time they encounter someone open carrying in a public place, but I am skeptical of this. I suspect most would feel safer if they, someone they knew, or perhaps even someone who looked like them was open carrying but that this would not necessarily be the case if a stranger was doing so, especially if that stranger happened to be of a different race. For example, I have a hard time believing that my White conservative neighbors would welcome the sight of several Black men openly carrying firearms in the local hardware store.

In any case, I think we've made a terrible mistake in the United States by deciding that the "right to bear Arms" means what some claim, no longer has anything to do with a "well regulated Militia," and that this particular right trumps the right of all people to be safe from violence in public spaces. In a nation as obsessed with "the economy" as we are, it is puzzling that we have allowed things to reach the point where growing numbers of people find themselves tempted to stay home because they don't have a reassuring answer to one increasingly common question: Is today the day my luck runs out and I become a victim of gun violence?