By Jeff Knox
This week, Target’s acting CEO released a statement saying that guns were not conducive to the family atmosphere the company strives for in their stores, and that, while they were going to continue to be ruled by local laws on the subject, they were respectfully requesting that customers not bring guns into their stores.
Bloomberg and his PR subsidiary, Moms Demand Action, are spinning the statement as a victory for their anti-rights cause, but like previous “victories,” the Target statement has more to do with getting out of the middle of a battle between Bloomberg’s Astroturf groups and millions of gun owners than it has to do with safety or a family environment. Target is the fourth national chain the Bloomies have targeted for “allowing” people who are legally carrying firearms to spend money in their establishments, and they are the fourth company to sidestep the issue by politely asking gun owners not to carry in their facilities.
All of the businesses have wisely refused to actually adopt policies prohibiting firearms, and all have made it a point to clearly state that they had no intention of taking that drastic step. There are even reports that “No Guns” signs actually disappeared from some stores.
Starbucks put it best when they instructed their employees on what to do if they noticed that a customer was armed: “Sell him some coffee.”
While I would have much preferred that all of these companies had told Bloomberg and his PR flaks to take a hike, I don’t particularly blame them for ducking out of the fight. I, like many other gun owners, find their position offensive, and will be less likely to do business with any of them, but while some are calling for an organized boycott of Target, I reserve that sort of action for companies that actively take a stand against my rights.
The questions we often hear are: What does anyone need with a gun in a Target store? Why in particular burly young men like we saw in the Bloomies’ propaganda pictures? And why especially scary-looking guns like AR-15s?
Why did Rosa Parks need to sit on the front of the bus?
It’s not a question of needs; it’s a question of rights.
There is little likelihood of a middle-class American in a suburban store or restaurant ever needing a gun. Crime in the US has been steadily falling for decades. If a person isn’t in one of a certain few urban neighborhoods, is not involved in gangs, drugs, or other illegal activities, and not embroiled in a bitter divorce with an irrational and violent individual, the odds of being the victim of a life-threatening violent crime are pretty slim.
Nonetheless, “unlikely” doesn’t mean “impossible.” A friend of mine left her gun in her car one day and missed an opportunity to stop a crazed murderer. She survived, but saw both of her parents killed.
The right to a gun has nothing to do with the likelihood of needing one. Whether you choose to own a gun or not, you still have the right to do so. Whether you choose to practice a religion or not, it remains your right and your choice. No one has the right to make the decision for you. No one has the right to place limits and barriers to your rights, or to arbitrarily decide when or where you may exercise those rights.
Clearly it is not very practical for someone to walk around all the time with a rifle slung over their shoulder. If it were, we would undoubtedly see it much more often, as it is perfectly legal in most of the country and has been since before we were a country. Long guns are awkward, obtrusive, and inconvenient to lug around. Even so, there are times when carrying a long gun in public becomes necessary or just expedient. When I was a kid, it was not uncommon to see me and other neighborhood kids, walking or riding a bicycle with a rifle or shotgun on a shoulder or strapped to the handlebars. We would go out past the edge of town to hunt or just shoot pinecones or cow patties. During times of emergency and natural disasters, neighbors often band together to form patrols to discourage looting. If my car were to break down in a high-crime area, would it be better for me to shoulder my AR for the hike to get help, or to leave it unattended in the car?
Yes, these are circumstances that are different than a group of zealous rights activists slinging rifles to go shopping at Target, but their right to do that, and my right to carry a rifle for a particular purpose, are codependent. Exercising a right without an obvious need does not make it less of a right, and in fact, the folks carrying the rifles “just because they can,” are not only exercising their rights under the Second Amendment, they are exercising their First Amendment rights as well, because their purpose is to make a political statement. In the case of the folks in Texas, it is to protest the law that denies them the right to carry much more practical and convenient sidearms.
Newspapers once routinely carried the quote on their masthead: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I say, let’s return to a commitment to defend rights, regardless of whose or where they are exercised.
©2014 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition is a project of Neal Knox Associates, Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org