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The Gunslingers

Robert Downes - August 30th, 2010
The Gunslingers
You have to wonder if Second Amendment activists are going to shoot themselves in the foot in Royal Oak this weekend, because they’ve finally succeeded in pissing off even the Republican establishment, along with the business community and the average American family.
An organization called Michigan Open Carry, Inc. is encouraging gun owners to carry their holstered pistols to a family festival called Arts, Beats and Eats in downtown Royal Oak on Labor Day weekend. The festival hopes to draw 25,000 people or more.
But many families are telling the Detroit media that they’ll stay away out of fear for their safety and that of their children.
That‘s because the open-carry crowd are setting themselves up as ad hoc citizen police officers, “protecting“ the public -- although without any police training or background checks as to their level of lunacy.
An ongoing fantasy for a person inclined to carry a gun around in public is drawing down on some bad guy in a public place and being the hero of the day to an adoring crowd.
But in real life, that could mean serving as judge, jury and executioner on a mouthy bunch of teenagers, spraying bullets around a downtown street packed with festivalgoers. And you know, our hero just might be more of a Nervous Nelly than a Deadeye Dick.
On the Detroit-area blogs, even a number of gun owners who have concealed weapon permits think that parading around with a holstered pistol at a festival is a stupid idea.
The Royal Oak City Commission struggled for weeks with the legality of its ban on open-carry handguns at the festival. Ultimately, the city attorney ruled that Royal Oak had no choice but to allow gun owners to carry their weapons in plain view downtown and the city voted 4-3 to avoid a lawsuit.
That’s because under state law, any person over the age of 18 who doesn’t have a criminal record can legally carry a holstered firearm in any public place except at a bank, court, entertainment venue that seats more than 2,500 people, theater, church, sports arena, day care center, hospital, bar or federal building.
L. Brooks Patterson, the Oakland County Executive who launched the charity festival in Pontiac 10 years ago, is furious.
“These guys want to make a point and don’t give a damn about the charities the festival supports,” Patterson told the Oakland Press. “I have a problem with these gun-toting zealots.”
Patterson is no gun-control liberal. The former gubernatorial candidate is a far-right leader of the Republican Party in Michigan, who could make the legislative wind blow in a new direction in Lansing if he chooses. As in, enacting laws to repeal dingbat ideas like carrying handguns at festivals packed with thousands of people.
And Patterson is not pleased with the idea of turning a family festival into a version of the Wild West. As he puts it: “If they want to carry guns, why don’t they join the army and get their asses over to Afghanistan?”
For their part, open-carry gun owners claim they’re only trying to protect themselves in a dangerous world by wearing pistols on their belts. That’s understandable in an edgy place like suburban Royal Oak: Possibly some latté-sipping hipster could lay a sneer and a really snarky remark on a pistol-packer from behind the shelter of an iPad at one of the many coffeehouses lining the town.
So if you‘re planning to parade around Royal Oak this weekend with your .44 strapped on your hip, expect to receive a healthy dose of the evil eye and plenty of “attitude“ from people who don‘t appreciate your cowboy act.
Closer to home, Michigan Open Carry held a pistol-packing picnic at Sunset Park in Traverse City in late June -- an event which drew more yawns than criticism, possibly because they were sequestered in a small park. It will be interesting to see the local reaction when the group decides to show up at future events in the region. Will the pistoleros be welcome at the Bay Harbor Art Fair or the Cedar Polka Festival? How about the Cherry Festival turtle race?
So, chalk the open-carry movement up as another one of life’s little irritations -- like the wanna-be teen gangbangers who wear their pants down around their knees, or the yahoos who drive through town with lewd rap music blasting out of their windows. Add to that the party poops who will soon be strutting around with pistols on their belts, demonstrating how “responsible“ they are as gun owners.
The difference is that the Pistol Petes may be crossing the line on a public safety issue that Michigan citizens will no longer be willing to tolerate.

 
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