We were leaving the parking lot of a local chain eatery when we saw you ambling back to your car with a pistol strapped to your hip. Yes, I know that you have every right to do this under Connecticut’s open carry law. But man, I wish you wouldn’t.
I do understand the impulse to bring a firearm to a family restaurant. What if something were to happen? The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, as the saying goes, is a good guy with a gun.
I guess that’s you? I hope that’s you.
Open carry is also a vital exercise of your rights, and I get that! Rights are important. I’m exercising one of mine right now, and I treasure the experience while it lasts. I also know that if you don’t exercise those rights, you’re in danger of losing them. I’ve seen the CCDL stickers (“Carry On!”) on cars, and I know how important this is to you.
I’m not here to tell you that open carry is wrong, even though it would make people from literally every country not currently experiencing a civil war scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with us (freedom is what’s wrong with us, I suppose. Freedom to carry a pistol to dinner).
I’m also not here to advocate for changes to the law. The constant, senseless murder of children in our schools hasn’t budged the Republicans who run the U.S. Senate to enact something as simple as a nationwide gun registry, so that fight is moot for now.
But – and I know this sounds silly and paranoid of me – would you mind not being strapped at a place where families are eating steak, burgers and fries? Because, to be perfectly honest, you scare the absolute shit out of me.
And I know I’m not the only one.
There’s a very, very old poem and song from medieval France called “L’homme Armé,” or “the armed man.”
L’homme, l’homme, l’homme armé
L’homme armé doibt on doubter
On a fait partout crier
Que chascun se viegne armer
D’un haubregon de fer.
L’homme, l’homme, l’homme armé
L’homme armé doibt on doubter.
A very loose translation: “The armed man, the armed man. Fear the armed man. All around the cry has gone out, men should wear a coat of iron mail. The armed man, fear the armed man.”
The medieval mind is a different one, and this song is bound up in tradition and religion. The armed man could be a religious warrior, a crusader, an archangel. But there’s a simple, understandable current of fear: Be afraid of the men with weapons. Be afraid.
Who should be afraid? The enemy, perhaps. There’s a theory that says this song was popular when the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks sent shockwaves through Christian Europe. To arms, to arms, be feared.
But really, everyone who has no weapon fears the armed man.
I don’t know anyone’s motivations. What if by some off chance you have hate in your heart? What if you see me, a queer, left-leaning loudmouth, sharing a kiss with my wife, or saying something you don’t like?
Will you blow my head off? You have a gun, it’s right there.
Carrying a firearm openly will terrify people, and it doesn’t matter whether that’s the intention or not.
Well then, you might say, everyone should be armed! Right? That way I might have a gun, but so will you. Stalemate! Nothing to fear. A society where everyone has a gun strapped to their hip is peaceful, safe and secure.
I don’t have an easy comeback for this one, because we don’t have that society and it’s impossible to know exactly what it would be like. But I do know that the man with the gun is to be feared. Therefore, if we all have a gun, if that armed man is every single person we see, then we will fear everyone.
That’s not peace. It’s paranoia. And in an age where we’re constantly being whipped up into a frenzy about those people on the other side who want to destroy our way of life, that paranoia could easily break out into something much worse.
So yes, it’s your right to be the armed man in public spaces. But as one citizen to another, I’m asking you, please, leave the gun at home.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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