I got my first rifle when I was 8 years old. It was a birthday gift, and I was thrilled to receive it — a bolt-action Remington .22 with a beautiful dark-wood stock that fit perfectly in my young hands.
I loved to shoot. I had been playing around with a Ryder BB gun, and I felt ready for the upgrade. My father had taught me meticulous gun safety, and I took all of the rules to heart. Never point a weapon at anyone. Carry it broken. Always presume a gun, any gun, is loaded and potentially dangerous.
I was a gifted shooter, and target-shooting was a favorite pastime. I loved to line up cans and knock them down. I still do, when I get the chance.
Hunting did not appeal to me, although the meals that came from it definitely did. I went hunting with my dad a few times, but it became clear very quickly that his daughter in her too-big orange jacket was never going to be the one to bring home dinner. I did love to be outdoors in the fall, leaves crunching underfoot as I spied animals and cagily told no one.
Last Thursday, a man entered a Springfield Walmart, and he wore body armor and military fatigues while carrying a tactical rifle, a handgun and more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
The man had pretty bad timing, just days after mass shootings in El Paso (at a Walmart store) and Dayton, with a lot of people feeling on edge. He was detained by a law-abiding shopper who carried a concealed firearm and who held him until police arrived.
News stories following the event gave the man’s side of the story. He was wanting to test Walmart’s support for the right to bear arms, he told investigators. He never meant to shoot anyone. The man reportedly expressed surprise by the panic he evoked. “This is Missouri,” he said, according to law enforcement. “I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out.”
What a travesty this young man makes of our Bill of Rights by poking the bear with his ill-advised social experiment. As angry as I feel with this person, I’m also thankful that no one put a bullet through his foolish head. I do hope he goes to prison for his crime — and he’s eligible for up to four years — because a crime I believe it is. He is charged with making a terroristic threat, and I imagine the panic level at that store was extreme.
Even though no one was shot, the man’s experiment was by no means a harmless act. Two people, an officer and another driver, suffered severe injuries in a car crash as the officer drove to the scene of the possible active shooter situation. An internet donation page has been set up for the woman, 74, who reportedly has a lot of healing in front of her and is no longer able to work — all because of a man who put his ego above the needs of society.
I love shooting, but I don't carry. Even so, I feel much more aligned with the citizen who used his weapon for good. I support him. I do not support the terrorist. Laws don’t exist to be tested. They exist to keep us safe.
Something has happened to us since I was a child, learning to use, enjoy and respect weapons. These days guns are treated as accessories. They’re available in a range of colors to match our outfits. We pose for selfies with them when we’re feeling cute. We've taken to thinking of them with the most casual regard, and they're not treated with the extreme care that they once were.
There was a time when people saw firearms as dangerous but important tools. You would no sooner buy a gun to match your outfit than you would a chainsaw. The very idea is ludicrous.
A domestic terrorist who would shoot up Walmart (or try to look as if he might) makes a mockery of those who believe in our Second Amendment rights. This kind of joker has no place in a well-regulated militia, and someone who would terrorize our near neighbors who are innocently back-to-school shopping has no place in polite society.