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I know I've brought this up before but back in the 90s, when I worked at a chain book/video/music store, a dude used to come in with his family and a nine millimeter pistol in a shoulder holster. The rules back then in New Mexico were that it was legal to carry an unconcealed firearm, though establishments were allowed to ban them and it was illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits. So, this guy with his military style haircut (but not the kind of body or discipline you'd associate with having completed the most basic basic training) would come into the store with his piece in full view. The store owners didn't care to ban him.
Our store was in kind of a rotten neighborhood and was robbed by a gunman (I didn't have a shift that day, lucky me). I was working the register when our armed customer said, "I bet you feel safer when I'm in the store." What do you say? The customer is always an imaginary vigilante?
I was getting paid around $7 an hour. The money going into and out of the cash registers wasn't mine. The owners of that money had instructed us to hand it over to any armed robber. The police would take care of the robbers. The owners of the company would call their insurers.
"Hand over the money and nobody gets hurt," says the robber. "Deal!" we reply. The point is to avoid a Tarantino-style gunfight gone wrong where customers and employees die in a pool of blood and uncarbonated soda syrup from the fountain near the exit.
It's weird enough that this guy imagined saving us from some armed burglar. He imagined it so much that he articulated it to me. He knew it was never going to happen so he mentioned the possibility, out loud in front of his wife and kids and wanted me to validate his fantasy. His wife was, by the way, pretty freaking embarrassed.
Here's an Oregon State Representative who fancies that were he instead a Newtown teacher, allowed to carry his gun, that many lives would have been saved by his heroics.
This is all fairly natural adolescent thinking. When you grow up with comic books, action movies and old stories about heroes who win the hands of their loves by defending their honor, such fantasies are likely to crop up in young minds. And maybe some youthful thoughts and impulses never really leave us.
People who own guns for personal defense like to say, "I hope I never have to use it." But do they all, really, hope that? Deep down, do we trust that sentiment anymore? Or do they secretly hope that they will have to use it and that they will do something heroic and extraordinary? George Zimmerman patrolled his neighborhood, looking for a fight. Whether or not Florida law protects him, do we believe that he didn't get what he was looking for the night he confronted Trayvon Martin on a darkened street?
How many people are out there, inwardly spoiling for violence?