Commentary

Saunders: Packing heat is a bad bet

bsaunders@newsobserver.comAugust 25, 2013 

The dude walking his missus to the car after leaving the movie theater at Brier Creek Shopping Center Saturday night was bigger, balder and meaner-looking than I, and I’m 6’2”, 260 pounds.

Okay, 270. Alright, dangit: 277.8, but I’m working on it.

The point is, nobody, except someone with a desire to spend a month in traction at WakeMed, was going to go jumping unprovoked on this big cat or trying to impede him.

So why was he carrying a gun in his hand for the short walk from the theater to his car in a well-lit parking lot? I wasn’t about to ask him, since he may have still been upset over paying $8 for a bucket of popcorn and $5 for a soda. I know it usually takes me an hour or two to get over that.

Just last week, a Triangle woman was accidentally shot inside a Staples store with a gun she presumably carried for self-defense. According to police reports, the woman’s 2-year-old child reached inside the woman’s pocketbook, and when mom reached to grab the baby’s hand, the gun inside went off, striking her.

Police, bafflingly, saw no need to press charges. If that isn’t a textbook example of “going armed to the terror of the public,” I’ll eat a dead cat fried in turpentine. Efforts to reach someone in the Wake Forest Police Department for an explanation were unsuccessful over the weekend.

Why should the rest of us feel the need to duck every time some careless gun owner in a store reaches into her purse to pull out a 50-cent coupon for some Double-stuffed Oreos or Post-it Notes? Why should babies have to strap on a bulletproof vest whenever they reach inside momsy’s purse for a piece of butterscotch?

Speaking of purses, walking around carrying a gun in anticipation of getting mugged is as nonsensical as someone walking around carrying a giant purse in anticipation of hitting the lottery Powerball. “Gee, Homer. I dreamed about a black cat eating a peanut-butter-and-Nutella sandwich on whole wheat toast last night, so that must mean my number is finally fixin’ to drop. Hand me my big purse, hon. Naw, the really big ’un.”

Sweet Thang hitting the lottery isn’t likely to happen, and neither is your getting mugged walking from the movie theater to your car. Or in the checkout line in Staples. The National Weather Service lists your probability of getting struck by lightning – “Hey, did God just do a drive-by on my behind?” – at one in 500,000. Your odds of hitting the Powerball lottery are one in 1.75 million. Your odds of being mugged are higher than that – one in 419, according to the Department of Justice – but still nothing to make us walk around paranoid, with a gun as an appendage. The same DoJ study said that violent crime in 2012 was at its lowest rate in 40 years and had declined by one-third since 1994.

So, why do so many Americans feel they aren’t properly attired until they slap on their Brut and strap on their Beretta .380?

First, hyping crime helps a certain organization stoke gun sales and its membership rolls. Second, TV stations have long believed “If it bleeds, it leads,” knowing that people are more inclined to watch stories of bloody mayhem than of harmony.

That’s great for selling washing machines, but it does nothing to create a better world.

When it comes to personal safety, too many people seem to have adopted the philosophy espoused by the great philosopher Fats Waller, who so famously asked “One never knows, do one?”

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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