Funny things start going through your head when you and your five-year-old daughter are suddenly surrounded by a dozen people wielding high-powered weaponry. Mostly, you know, expletives and panic, but also an agonizing moment of loss where you are suddenly trying to distill decades of complicated gun nuttery to a child that is still convinced Doctor Who is real.
"Look, Daddy, a parade!" was what I heard from the back seat. I suppose we could chicken out and I could go with that.
We were on our way out of Pearland on FM 518 on Sunday after my daughter had spent the night at my sister-in-law's house. It gave me a good chance to catch up on work on the weekend and while my daughter got with her aunt to that church thing I hear so much about. After the long drive on a warm afternoon in a car with no air conditioning I was busy scanning the other side of the road for some place we might have lunch and cool drinks at when we blundered into an open carry event.
I found out later that this demonstration was the Open Carry Texas Brazoria County Monthly Education Walk, where apparently like-minded gun owners gather assault rifles and American flags to try and show the out-and-about public just how safe and wonderful it is to be heavily armed at all times. They apparently hand out pamphlets and copies of the Constitution. Everything is perfect safe though. From the event's Facebook page...
Guns need to remain on SAFTEY unless the need arises. (We'll do SAFTEY CHECKS)
Unless the need arises... dear God and all his Pokemon what is going to happen outside of a Panera Bread on a Sunday in Pearland on the main thoroughfare? I think back now to the packed traffic leading to Highway 288, dozens of cars filled with hundreds of people and wonder what would have happened if just one person had been careless and sparked a tragedy at the hands of people convinced that the need could arise and had, in fact, arisen.
"It's not a parade, Heart," I told my daughter, my hands gripping the steering wheel hard while vision of accidental gun shot wounds from my wife's nursing textbooks played out in my head. "It's a demonstration. A protest. A gathering of people to express a political opinion."
I wish Schoolhouse Rockhad a catchy song about the right to assembly.
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"What for?" she asked.
"They think that we need guns everywhere," I said. "Lots and lots of guns." I have never discussed firearms with her. There are none in my house. I have a rich tradition of alcoholism and suicide on both sides of my family and I suck at hiding things. There is simply no scenario where my home is safer with a gun in it.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because they think it will make them safer," I replied. From behind me I heard her take a deep breath.
"No it's not!" she yelled. "They're going to do something stupid and die! They're going to kill people. Look at that boy! Even their children are going to kill people! Who does that? Come on!"
I did indeed get a look at that boy because I was lunging across the back seat to rapidly roll up the windows. He was around 12 years old, I'm guessing, and he had a rifle nearly as tall as he was strapped on his back. I was hoping like hell the group couldn't hear my daughter shouting at them, and simply thought I was a scaredy cat librul rolling up his windows against them. The last thing I wanted was for one of them to saunter over and try to hand me reading material with their other hand touching the body of a gun.
I had almost gotten the back window up when the kid screamed, "That's not what The Doctor says to do!" It's her angriest curse. By then they'd passed out of hearing range and were engaged in handing out materials to people trying to buy fast food. I decided that we could eat lunch somewhere else. Namely, a Fuddruckers 20 miles away and near our home.
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Even though I've lived in Texas my whole life, this was my first encounter with open carry activists, and while I freely admit they did nothing at all to me or anyone else I saw the sheer reckless bravado that comes from the movement never ceases to amaze me. The disregard for any kind of misinterpretation of their acts that could lead to something truly horrible happening is very real and apparently of minor importance to these people. I'm glad that a kindergartener (who by the way has already gone through school lockdown drills in case of an active shooter) can see that walking around armed is asking for trouble.
I mean, it's not like some of these people don't snap and do great harm sometimes.
And I do not now, nor will I ever, understand why the Second Amendment should mean that I have to drive my family through essentially a militia on a Sunday afternoon in a safe neighborhood simply so a few Texans can live-action roleplay with live ammo. The kid is right. It's just stupid.