The hallmarks of a civilized society are many. I grew up deeply influenced by my mother’s dedication to public health, which has made me aware of the importance of the well-developed programs in the U.S. and in many other countries to protect citizens from bad food, tainted pharmaceuticals and epidemic diseases, and to promote safety in public places and on work sites. During my own lifetime the scourges of polio and smallpox have virtually been eliminated from the earth, and would be gone, were it not for the fact that there are still some places where no public health infrastructure exists. Without food inspections, drug regulations, water and air quality management and the organizations that administer those programs, we’d be a lot less civilized and always on the brink of potential disaster.
For example, when I walk into a restaurant or coffee shop — say Starbucks — in California, I have the opportunity to see how they’ve done on their health department inspections. Every place that serves food displays an 8 x 10-inch placard indicating that the establishment rated an “A,” “B” or “C” (passing, some problems or failing) on their most recent health inspection. That’s reassuring. We typically don’t patronize a place with less than an “A.”
We all assume that this significant machinery of safety, health and security is constantly whirring away behind the scenes: inspectors are doing their jobs, regulations are being obeyed and order prevails.
There’s another odd thing I take for granted. I assume that when I’m in a restaurant or a movie theater or an office, I won’t be mixing with people who are wearing guns, unless they’re police officers or, as once happened to me, I’m visiting my FBI-agent cousin who had a .357 magnum under his jacket because that was required for his job.
The gun lobby is powerful in the United States. A lot of sensible restrictions on where citizens can carry firearms are being challenged, including in work places, public parks, university campuses, etc. The National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful lobbying forces in the country, is aggressively promoting these challenges among federal, state and local legislators who are intimidated and cowed into acceding to their agenda.
The latest ploy, described HERE, is for gun-toters to gather in coffee shops and restaurants, packing firearms. It’s obvious that individuals who would do something like that lack the basic judgment to qualify themselves as “responsible gun owners,” which is the phrase the NRA uses to describe its membership. All it takes is one selfish, self-centered and bullying individual to discharge a weapon in a public place to result in your death or that of a nearby child or bystander or passing motorist. If they get off a good shot with a powerful enough weapon, they might manage to maim someone several blocks away.
Talk to a doctor or nurse in an emergency ward; ask a civic leader or minister or a mother or father in the tough neighborhoods of any of a hundred cities about what guns on the streets represent to them. You already know the answer. A nincompoop carrying a gun in a restaurant represents as much a threat to our public welfare as someone who poisons the water supply.
As the Brady Campaign site indicates, many businesses are banning guns in their locations, which is within their legal rights. One notable refusal to do so has been Starbucks. I encourage you to sign the petition on the Brady Campaign site to urge them to ban guns from their stores. Let the NRA members have their hunting rifles, but do not let idiots loose on the streets with guns that protect no one and threaten everyone.
Mom would thank you, too, if she were here. So will those emergency doctors, ministers and mothers and fathers.
Note: Although in this blog I intend to be apolitical, guns aren’t political. The people who have them kill people. That’s not about politics. It’s about civilization.
© 2012 Brad Nixon