The Stupid! It Burns!

Guns Across America rallies are scheduled–for the weekend of Martin Luther King Day. Good thinking.

In other public relations success stories, this wise and socially astute fellow:

…decided that the way to put everybody’s mind at ease about gun ownership was to go shopping at JC Penney’s heavily armed.  Smart.  Cuz nobody would be petrified about some guy wandering around a store who might, for all they know, be planning to suddenly slaughter everyone in sight.

Oddly, this intelligent man’s behavior (which is Totally Legal and therefore the smartest possible thing he could have done) went unappreciated by fellow shoppers, as well as by the business whose sales he helped so very much by his soothing protective presence:

The Salt Lake City Tribune (link isn’t working, sorry) is reporting that a clerk refused him service and all nearby customers wanted to “get away” from him. Gee, can’t imagine why.

Gun Guy had been in the military, had a concealed-carry permit, and had checked with police dispatch prior to his little outing. They confirmed to him that he had the right to parade around with his oh-so-harmless portable arsenal, which he says he carries to protect his kids and everyone else from “criminals, cartels, drug lords” and other “evil men.”

The Thing that Used to Be Conservatism continues its triumphal public relations march to victory in winning the hearts and minds of an American people unworthy of its genius.

UPDATE: In further stupid news, some Virginia pol advocating gun control decided to scare the crap out of the school groups and visitors in the legislative chamber galleries by brandishing an AK-47. Smart.

Are there no grownups with elementary social skills in this argument?

  • Will

    The teachers of tomorrow?

  • Jmac

    As someone who has no particularly strong feelings either way, this dude does waaaay more to push me to the “confiscate all guns by executive fiat” mode of thinking.

    (Note to the internet-impaired: I’m not at the “confiscate all guns by executive fiat” now, and doubt I ever will be. By replying to this comment you acknowledge that you have read and understood this disclaimer)

    • Sus

      I agree to your comment and your disclaimer Jmac.

    • Stu

      Keeping in mind your disclaimer, I think you hit on the pitfall of reacting to things like this in the present.

      No doubt someone, somewhere is reacting to this man’s very poor judgment with the thought of “there ought to be a law” or “we need to do something.” Stupid begets stupid. Rinse and repeat.

      • Jmac

        No argument from me.

      • Lawrence King

        Agreed. Ad hominem arguments are emotionally persuasive but invalid. To quote Larry Niven, “There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.”

  • ivan_the_mad

    He’s just kindly reminding everyone that what is legal isn’t necessarily what is not stupid, what is moral, or what have you. He’s providing a bona fide public service!

    • Evan

      Or as Chesterton said, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

  • Carol Weinstock

    Call me a simpleton, but I see a problem just with the picture itself. My dad was an Anchorage Police officer and we hunted regularly. First rule of guns is NEVER point one at anyone, loaded or not. I would have been nervous just because the positioning of the gun automatically points it at anyone in the near vicinity. Scary.

    • Stu

      His posture is normal for a soldier carrying arms in the field. That part of his not thinking this whole thing through.

      I have no problem with “open carry.” In fact a case can be made that it’s better than carrying concealed. Where I live, there is a group of individuals who routinely exercise this right at dinners where it is advertised ahead of time. As on who carries concealed, I can also say there certainly must have been times in the past when my firearm was evident to those around me. But it wasn’t a rifle. He’s dressing for conflict, not for self-defense.

    • Tim Jones

      Wow, my dad was an APD cop, too! And I doubt he’d have had any sympathy for this yahoo.

  • Chris

    Dear Lord. Train Wreck Nation.

  • TMLutas

    Since this is supposed to be a religion blog, I guess I should share my first experience seeing anybody doing regular open carry. He was singing in the choir in a Romanian Orthodox Church. He didn’t say anything, do anything, and nobody made a fuss. So I didn’t either and after seeing it two or three times, I even stopped noticing it really. It just sort of fades into the background. And that’s what the open carry people are trying to accomplish. A lot of people get uptight the first time they see open carry. By the tenth time, if they’re not carrying like idiots (see picture above), you end up having better things to do with your life. Open carry becomes normalized and people stop getting the vapors over guns.

    The open carry folks have not hit critical mass in a lot of places so it is still viewed as shocking by a lot of people. Myself, I’ve got better things to do, like telling the guy off on the subject of not pointing a gun at anything you wouldn’t mind getting shot.

    • Robert King

      I’ve always been a fan of leaving weapons at the door of a church. I find the swords held by the Knights of Columbus during liturgies to be seriously mixed symbolism. So, while I’m happy to support open carry in general, I would be disturbed to see someone bring a gun into a church.

      • Stu

        The Swiss Guard remain armed during Papal Liturgies.

        But I generally agree with not bringing firearms into Church.

        • TMLutas

          I’m sure that somebody along the way has written up why that is ok and it would be a fascinating bit of theology. Now intersect that with US law on the unorganized militia and I think we’re approaching sanity. I’m not going to be sure though, until I read up on that existing body of relevant theology.

      • Janet

        I don’t know if this rule has changed in the last several years or not, but I remember being told that you could not bring a weapon, of any kind, inside a Chapel on a US military base. I was serving on an honor guard for a military wedding and we were told that we needed to leave our sabers at the door or wait outside.

    • Marthe Lépine

      With “open carry being normalized”, is there not a risk that such desentisized people would fail to react when noticing someone walking into a movie theatre, for example, or a restaurant, therefore not being ready to react when the same person starts shooting? Just wondering…

      • Charles

        Generally speaking, if the shooting does not start immediately upon their entrance, then they are probably not there to shoot anyone.
        Seems to be all of the shooting s have one thing in common- the perp starts shooting everyone on sight immediately.
        Besides, you are already surrounded by all sorts of folks legally carrying a gun already – concealed. You just can;t see it so you don’t know who has it or when you might be shot. Do you feel safer knowing they are hidden – but there nonetheless?? Or safer knowing who has a gun (open carry); they are not shooting at you (or anyone); and they will probably save your life if a lunatic DOES come in with the goal of killing you?
        I’m all for the latter.

        • Charles

          I think all this emotional angst comes down to imaginary safety (now click your heels together and say “there are no guns, there are no guns, there are no guns…”), as opposed to reality.

        • Mark Shea

          Yes. Clearly the problem was fellow shoppers unnerved by the guy brandishing weaponry. It was not his fault that they failed to divine his true meaning. As I say, the Thing that Used to be Conservatism is a movement rejected by an America unworthy of its genius. When it is perceived as scary, crazy, or weird that is entirely the fault of the people doing the perceiving. Everything is always everybody else’s fault. It’s why Romney lost, according to Party of Personal Responsibility.

          • Stu

            Holster your weapon and stop shooting it off.

            Charles is simply pointing the reality that there are all manner of firearms around you at all times and you just don’t know it.

            Concealed Carry usually requires a permit. Open carry doesn’t. Why is that? Open carry actually makes identification of potential threats easier.

            That doesn’t mean the guy in the picture above isn’t a chowderhead. He is. But there are some dynamics to be considered for the bigger picture. No one is blaming anyone for reacting.

        • Marthe Lépine

          There have been shootings in restaurants in Canada, but so far they have been targeted, gang-related, and the shooter was after specific individuals. And— “Do I feel safer knowing that there are armed people around me but the weapons are hidden?” No, no, and no, and since I do not live in the US, I do not have to try and find out. Except for one single exception if I can attend one particular retreat one last time, I have no intention of ever entering your country, knowing that there could be that many armed people around me.
          And to add to my previous comment: Once everyone is used to see guns everywhere, it might also begin to seem normal that any argument could eventually be settled by shooting…

      • Stu

        Maybe. But those kinds of folks are USUALLY dressed up in a peculiar manner as well. I realize that there is not a lot to draw upon in the picture, but to me he looks like a typical off duty guy in AFG and wouldn’t have caused me much of a stir, thought I understand why others would be concerned. My thought would have probably been, “what a dork.”

      • TMLutas

        The situational awareness relevant to reacting to a shooter is independent of the panic reaction upon perceiving a firearm, so no, there is no risk as the two mental processes are not the same.

    • Survivor

      As someone who has spent a good bit of time in Israel (where there is a good deal of open carry), the scene doesn’t bother me – though I do have questions about his muzzle control and whether there is a round in the chamber.
      FYI, at Infantry Basic at Ft. Benning the recruits carry nearly all the time, including the dining facility. This is a relatively new development, and intended to acclimate them to carrying full-time when they are on deployment.

      • Dan Berger

        Well, yeah; we did that a fair bit even in basic back in the ’80s. But we did not have ammo loaded in the weapons; do the Infantry Basic guys have ammunition?

    • Pavel Chichikov

      Very strange tale you tell, TM, armed while singing in a choir. Why?

      • TMLutas

        Why did I tell it or why does he do it (I don’t doubt he still does it)? On the first, it actually happens to be my personal story and it fits with the religious character of the forum so I shared. I am a philosophical supporter of the 2nd amendment and do not carry at this point. I was a member of the unarmed audience seeing this and had my wife and three children with me. I thought that would be a relevant perspective on open carry in an unusual situation. On the second, I never talked to him about it so I do not know. We stopped visiting that church when the nun they were hosting and the lay board running the parish had a falling out. Since my wife is a major supporter of that nun, serving on her skete’s board of directors, we found other places to go so it would be inconvenient at this point to ask him.

    • Pavel Chichikov

      I’d say off-hand that any society in which people feel the need to carry lethal weapons around with them in ordinary life situations is in deep trouble. Insecure, fearful, passive-aggressive. Getting used to it is even worse.

      When in a Catholic or Orthodox Church you are in the immediate presence of God. With a gun?

      • Stu

        Some people in this country actually do live in very remote areas where law enforcement is far away. I have property in OK that is like that. A call to the Sheriff will take a long time to get a response. He is very open that as a law abiding citizen, you need to have a means to take action. Now that doesn’t apply to the guy in the JCPenny, but I don’t think you can make such a blanket generalization as you do.

      • TMLutas

        The idea that one *must* outsource their personal security to others otherwise they are “(i)nsecure, fearful, passive-aggressive” is quite strange to me. It is fairly settled law that the government has no actionable obligation to protect you via law enforcement. Perhaps that is a better starting point for you to ponder over matters of personal protection. Perhaps you are in a different country where the government does have such an obligation; are you?

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Pop psychology from urban dwellers always betrays their provincialism. When everyday life is lived in the countryside, having immediate means to dispatch the odd bear, cougar or hog only makes sense.

        I’ve never met a passive-aggressive or insecure Cossack, for that matter.

  • SteveP

    “Heavily armed?” I don’t know, Mark, we can only see the right tricep to the elbow and the left elbow. Maybe 30 pushups max.?

    On the somewhat serious side, homosexual advocates sometimes argue that the strength of an “ick” response to the idea of a homosexual act is an indication of a “closet case.” Would it be the same logic with weapons? E.g. the other shoppers actually had gun envy, secretly wishing they had the courage to “come out”?

    On the very serious side the post title is an excellent summary and perfect allusion.
    Peace be with you.

    • TMLutas

      Is there any difference between what the homosexual lobby calls the “closet case” and what the Church calls those attracted to the same sex to do? What’s the venn diagram like between the two? I’ve never cared enough to dig deep into the theology (does that get me out of the “closet case” parlor game) but the assumption of homosexual lobby values just jumped out at me.

      • “joe”

        “the homosexual lobby”

  • Debra

    Very poor judgement indeed. The point of a concealed carry permit is to be able to carry without terrifying people. He doesn’t even have it slung properly. The muzzle is not pointed in a safe direction.

    • HokiePundit

      Well, maybe one purpose. Having a concealed carry permit, and talking with others who have them, the primary reason is so that you have something of the element of surprise on your side. There’s actually a perennial debate among people in favor of carrying over which is better: concealed, because it retains some surprise (and also doesn’t scare naive people), or open, because it may dissuade criminals from attacking someone who they know can fight back.

  • Jim

    Well, there is a connection between MLK and guns, and not just that he was assassinated. He did, after all, apply for (and was refused) a concealed carry permit. He also had something of an “armory” in his home. Still, not the best judgment call on the part of Guns Across America.

    • Marcel

      Ow! Bright light hurts brain… must ignore…

  • Steve P (with a space)

    If I were really cynical I could imagine him being paid by the anti-gun lobby to pull off this stunt.

    Seriously – this has to be worth about $7 billion in advertising for their cause.

  • jessica

    Yeah, not the best way to make his point. But seriously, the fear that everyone who is carrying a gun may harm you is irrational. You are probably near a dozen loaded guns every time you leave your house, and have never even known.

    • Shannon

      i keep hearing that the people who go to the trouble of getting and carrying guns legally, are the good guys. What assurance do I have of that? People go to the trouble of getting drivers licenses and plates yet commit crimes with vehicles. I’d be scared stiff of this dude. When I know a person is armed, I’m on high alert, no matter who they are. Yes this includes police officers. No person has ever proved to me that they are so beyond reproach that they can’t misjudge a person, or a situation, and that’s human. But when a person is armed and makes a human mistake in judgement, that’s a whole different can of worms.

      • Stu

        Most “bad guys” really wouldn’t bother with the hassle.

        In most places to carry concealed you have to have criminal check and get fingerprinted.

      • Ed the Roman


        The rate of gun crimes perpetrated by concealed carry permit holders is just about the same as the rate of gun crimes perpetrated by policemen.

      • HokiePundit

        I think Stu nails it. It isn’t so much “only honest people have guns” as “people who want guns for evil are willing to be dishonest about it.” Once we ban or even heavily restrict access to guns, we’re basically back to the weak being preyed upon because they have no effective means to equalize the strength disparity.

    • Cinlef

      Even assuming the best motives in the world on the part of that openly armed gentleman, I’d still be inclined to get the hell out of that JC Penny on the grounds that someone felt it necessary to openly carry a rifle while shopping there, which doesn’t fill me confidence in the safety of that store or its surrounding neighborhood

  • KM

    Oops! Here’s more stupid. This doesn’t help the situation much either.

    “Security guard leaves gun unattended in restroom at Lapeer charter school.”

    (Note: I’m in favor of the President’s School Resource Officer (aka trained school police officers) recommendation on Wednesday.)

  • Paul H

    “Are there no grownups with elementary social skills in this argument?”

    Yes, there are, but they are a lot less fun to blog about. ;-)

    • Stu

      Just heard about a guy who walked into a store carrying concealed. He had a permit and was fully legal.

      He then left and went back home completely unnoticed. :)

      • TerranDaniel

        You, sir, just gave me the best laugh I’ve had all week. Thank you!

  • jessica

    Shannon, what mistake are you imagining? Also, you should be alert all the time anyway.

  • MasterThief

    A relevant Aesop’s fable:

    The Camel

    WHEN MAN first saw the Camel, he was so frightened at his vast
    size that he ran away. After a time, perceiving the meekness and
    gentleness of the beast’s temper, he summoned courage enough to
    approach him. Soon afterwards, observing that he was an animal
    altogether deficient in spirit, he assumed such boldness as to
    put a bridle in his mouth, and to let a child drive him.

    Moral: Familiarity overcomes dread.

  • Stu
    • TMLutas

      Congrats, you actually made me feel sympathy for the open carry chucklehead above (something I did not think was going to happen). While his barrel was not pointed correctly, at least he had all fingers outside the trigger guard, something that the anti-gun legislator did not.

      • Stu

        I suspect the legislator has never used a firearm in his life.

  • Grey Pilgrim

    I grew up around guns. My father and all my uncles and basically everybody I knew hunted, so there were guns everywhere, all the time. They were either out hunting with them or they had them out cleaning them, sighting them, target practice, buying, selling, or trading them, etc. Guns themselves don’t bother me. I’ve been around folks who were carrying openly, usually a pistol of some sort or other, and I never felt in danger.

    What would bother me in a situation like this is not so much the gun, but the thought that here is a guy who feels like he needs to carry the biggest gun he can find in the most open, confrontational way possible. I would be a little wary that he would be looking for a situation in which to be a hero, and would quickly escalate any minor situation into a “I brought this gun along just for this purpose” scenario. When you have a shiny, new hammer every problem looks like a nail. Just from looking at him I wouldn’t be able to tell he was in the military or had any training at all, or indeed any common sense at all. He may very well be very rational and calm, and is really very much to be trusted with the gun, but I have no way of knowing that at a glance. So I’d be avoiding him for sure, just to hedge my bets. Again, he may be a perfectly lovely human being, but then again he may be a loser with a power complex who bought a powerful weapon so that he could carry it around and intimidate people or swoop in to save the day by spraying the mall with bullets when he perceives that some crisis has come up. For me and my family, I’m playing the odds and steering clear.

    On a related note I was at the mall a week or so back, and there was a guy strolling around in full Blade regalia, including a couple of samurai swords strapped across his back. He had various other things stuffed in pockets and strapped to his legs as well. I followed him at a distance trying to see if he was carrying a gun, but I never got a good look. I didn’t see any obvious guns, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if one was tucked away in his coat or something. He seemed to just basically be wandering around window shopping, and was not otherwise threatening in any way, so after the initial scan we made our way to the other end of the mall.

  • KM

    When 30 Black Panthers openly and legally carried pistols and shotguns outside the California state capitol in Sacramento in May 1967, Governor Reagan and the California Republicans immediately passed The Mulford Act which prohibited the public carrying of loaded firearms. So these guys in this story might want to consider that.

  • Cantorboy

    Does his t-shirt say “Chicks dig me” on the front?
    Just wondering…

    • Stu

      It’s actually three wolves howling at the moon.

  • Anna

    Yeah, so given that the random mass shooting here happened in a Von Maur, this seems mind-bogglingly cruel to do to people. I mean, if some moron did this stunt here, he’d be re-terrorizing rather a lot of people who survived that shooting or lost someone in it or who, just because they live here, are always a bit wary since it’s hard to go into that mall without remembering what happened there and looking for the exits.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    I was in Tashkent in the mid-80s when there was a Soviet tank division in town. I guess you could call that open carry.

    In ’91 my landlady looked out of her window on Taganskaya Boulevard and saw main battle tanks parked at the curbs.

    I guess you could call that open carry.

    The same year I saw Soviet paratroopers patrolling the streets of Moscow. They only carried batons, but they were so tough looking and had such a fearsome reputation that they didn’t need firearms.

    In Tbilisi only a few years before all they had needed was their trenching tools.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    If while you are carrying a gun someone begins to call you the most vile names you can imagine, impugns the virtue of your wife and your mother, and does this in their presence, but does not move against you physically.

    Can you still keep your hands off your weapon? Do you have that sort of self-control?

    • Stu


      If you have those questions about yourself, then indeed you are not someone who should be carrying arms.

      As for me, I do have that sort of self-control. I was raised that way.

      • rjolly

        Ditto, and Pavel-the exact scenario you put forth was mention in my first concealed carry course as well as the renewal course. In fact what I have found is that if I am carrying my response to any provocation (which is rare) is much more subdued and looking for a way to de-escalate the situation safely. As Stu implied, if you can’t control your emotions- you shouldn’t be carrying.

        • Andy

          and for every person like you rjolly and stu, there are at least ten who do no have that control and there in lies the problem. Appeals to self-control falter with “stand your ground laws” and reasonable fear laws.

          • Dave G.

            Any stats to back that up? Are you sure. Given the amount of anger in our modern discourse, and the number of people who own firearms, I would think the murder rate would be much higher. It would certainly be off the scale in areas where concealed firearms are legal. I’m not saying it’s not true. Most murders may be nothing other than people who got into arguments while carrying legally concealed firearms. But some stats to help flush it out would be helpful.

          • Stu

            Yes, I eagerly await the statistics to back that assertion up.

  • Matt

    Gun rallies are scheduled now because the Democrats made insane (literally) pushes against legal gun ownership. Look up what New York just did. Look up what Illinois TRIED to do in a lame duck session. These people want to disarm citizens, and will use any excuse in the book to do it.

    As for the image, I find it strange that people are perplexed when other people follow the law as it is written. This guy has a right to open carry, and so he chooses to. He’s using that gun, presumably, because that’s the “scary evil baby killer” that scares everyone. Oh, and it’s also one of the most popular rifles in the United States for civilian usage. Anyone who doesn’t realize this hasn’t been to a gun range recently.

    I tend to think it’s only very strange to someone if you’ve never been around guns, or are raised to think about them in a very shallow and one-dimensional way (i.e., only bad guys ever have guns).

    Much ado about nothing here, Mark. I’ve been a big fan of you previously, but the way you’re constantly mis-handling this issue, and refusing to address people’s reasonable arguments while repeating your witty quips how all these NRA-fok are all dummys and silly-heads for actually trying to stand up for their rights in some way.

    Yes, not everything they do is super intelligent and completely thought out. But you’re missing the bigger picture, which is that a very large machine against the 2nd Amendment has been set in motion in the aftermath of the tragic events at Sandy Hook. These people don’t want to curb crime, but disarm the population for God-knows-why.

    I suggest you actually stop and listen to the people that have experience in the matter. Not that it’s guaranteed to change your mind, but it doesn’t really look like you’re giving them a fair hearing from what I’ve seen so far on your blog. I’d venture to say that John C. Wright sees this issue a lot clearer than you do.

    • M. Jordan Lichens

      I’ve been around guns and I think this guy is an idiot who does more harm to his cause than good. It may be his right, but it’s not necessarily wise. Let me put it this way, it’s my First Amendment right to speak obscenities and show provocative images across the street of a church on a Sunday morning. While it’s a right, most would agree that there’s no reason to be a jerk about it and that doing so only causes more harm.

    • TMLutas

      Re the NY Legislature, they apparently illegalized all law enforcement’s arms by mistake. They’re looking to fix that before the March effective date on the law, otherwise every municipality is going to be in violation of the law.

      • Stu

        Why change the law? Unless you believe the authorities should be able to carry more ammunition than a potential assailant who is going to be breaking the law by doing so? Apparently law abiding citizens though need to remain with less ammunition than the aforementioned rogue element.

        But at least the politicians “did something.”

      • Stu

        BTW…the “you” was a rhetorical “you” and not directed at…um…err….uhhhhh…you.

  • Tamara Horsburgh

    Im incredible sad that people are using this weekend – right before Martin Luther King day – to march or rally for the right to have a gun. It actually makes me want to cry….

  • Kenneth

    My money says this guy: A) Is out-breeding the rest of us and B) Waters his crops with Brawdo. Brawdo. It’s what plants crave!

    • Jmac

      Man, I wish I could get some electrolytes. All I have is this stupid toilet-water :(

    • Stu

      Outbreeding? So you see fellow humans as animals?

      “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.”

      • Jmac

        pssst, Stu. It’s a reference to the movie Idiocracy.

        • Stu

          As much as I think that movie is prophetic, I didn’t like that aspect of it.

  • Christian Ohnimus

    Some random stranger did a stupid thing. There are other random people out there who do similarly stupid things. I am not really sure how this relates to public policy on guns.

    Perhaps this is more relevant:

    And perhaps this as well:

  • Christian Ohnimus


    “Are there no grownups with elementary social skills in this argument?”

    Do you actually expect our drama-seeking media to highlight the boring, reasonable folks who cite boring statistics and facts in defense of their case when they have spectacular stories like these that practically write themselves? As far as the media sees it every story has only two sides and both are outlandish and extreme. That’s the kind of dramatization that’s makes money. I don’t know if further highlighting these babbling classes on your blog and saying “look how stupid they are!” is really contributing to any kind of reasonable, mutually beneficial discussion.

    If you want to know where the socially competent grownups are, well, many of them have been commenting right here on your blog.

    • Dave G.

      Very good point. Perhaps the best thing to do is for us to find areas where people are trying to discuss these things reasonably. Rather than focus on the extremes of either side. It’s hard to get on the media’s case if that’s who we all seem to point to in advancing our own particular perspectives.

  • Robert

    Troubled by the image and the concept of ‘open carry’ but am also troubled by the ‘stupid’ language; too redolent of the way the ‘Thing that Used to be Liberalism’ talks. Decades of identity politics have done massive amounts of damage, in your country and mine (Australia). How else could one explain the reaction of otherwise sensible Catholic people to recent massacres?: “I definitely need to be packing now”.

    • TMLutas

      No, the fellow is quite stupid because of his lack of barrel control. If you are going to make a political point about guns in a pro-gun fashion, you have something of an obligation to handle them correctly. This TED talk shows how to do it right for a european audience.