Point/Counterpoint: Gun rights

Would you feel safe at the Festival knowing fellow concertgoers were potentially armed?

Carrying in public places: ‘Better to have it and not need it’

By Steve Wasylko
Reader Contributor

The short answer is “yes,” I would feel safe at the Festival knowing concertgoers were potentially armed.

I believe the real question for people on both sides of the issue is, “Would I feel safe anywhere in public knowing that my fellow citizens were potentially armed?” For myself, the answer is a resounding “yes.” There have been many studies that show that concealed weapons permit holders are less likely to commit a crime than the average citizen (see the article “Report: Concealed Carry Permit Holders Are The Most Law-Abiding People In The Country” at dailywire.com). In fact, there are studies that show that CWP holders are less likely to commit a crime than even police officers are. 

I believe that those on the other side of this issue are probably not comfortable with their fellow citizens being armed in public, period. As far as private citizens carrying a firearm, I fail to see the difference between the Festival and any other public place.

As The New York Times reported in June 2005, the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers do not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm. We have already seen instances in mass shootings, such as Parkland, where an officer failed to act. I am very pro-law enforcement and believe that the majority of officers would take steps to protect someone. That still leaves the fact that the chances of an officer being there when a crime is being committed are slim to none.

I carry a gun everywhere I legally can, every day. I do so because I know that if something happens I am the only one who can protect myself and my family. It costs me nothing to carry a gun. It could cost myself or my loved ones our lives if I do not. It’s no different to me than having a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, a first aid kit in my car or wearing my seatbelt every day. The chances of needing those things are low, but the costs of not having them when needing them is very high. To use a cliche, “Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

Much of what I have written above is in reference to “normal” violent crime. Robbery, assault, etc. What we have unfortunately seen over the past couple of decades is that large public gatherings can be targets for deranged individuals looking to cause massive harm. The vast majority of these mass public shootings have occurred in places where private citizens are prohibited from carrying firearms. 

It is not a coincidence that these places are picked for these heinous crimes. They are choosing the place where they are least likely to encounter any armed resistance. That makes the answer to the question of carrying at someplace such as the Festival even more of a definitive “yes.” 

Not only are you still at risk for “normal” crime, but you are now in a place where there is a much greater risk of a mass shooting event. Knowing that the Festival is someplace where guns are not allowed makes the chances of it being a target even higher. (For more information on gun-free zones and crime, see recent data on crimeresearch.org: “Breaking down Mass Public Shooting data from 1998 though June 2019” and “Mass Public Shootings keep occurring in Gun-Free Zones”).

This is North Idaho. Many people carry guns every day and no one knows, due to the fact that most people carry concealed. What many on the opposite side of this issue may not know is that up until last year, people have been carrying at the Festival since its inception. As far as I know, there has never been an incident where a Festival attendee with a weapon has caused a problem, and I have spoken with people who have worked security there for over a decade. I have zero concern about my fellow citizens carrying firearms at the Festival or anywhere else for that matter.

Steve Wasylko is a firearms instructor who teaches the enhanced concealed weapons permit class and a federally licensed firearms dealer through his business, Sandpoint Arms.

• • •

There’s no way around it: Fewer guns means less gun violence

By Rachel Castor
Reader Contributor

The more guns there are, the less safe we are. As much as I understand the fear of government overreach that necessitated the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, there is no way around this statistic.

Before I moved to Sandpoint, I lived in Canada for five years. I still joke that the only unifying theme of Canadians’ culture is the glee with which they make fun of Americans or opine about the barbarity, corruption, lack of morals and general hypocrisy that routinely characterize the United States of America. 

In typical “you-can’t-talk-about-my-mother-that-way” fashion, I found myself constantly defending the very worst of our country’s failures, including and most often, the United States’ obsession with guns. 

I didn’t grow up around guns. They were never a part of my community. I have never hunted. I have never wanted to own a gun. Last year, a prowler tried every door in my house while I stood inside in the dark, sweating and shaking. I didn’t even want a gun then, because if I had pulled a gun on him, who knows who would have fired first? He left and no one was hurt. 

My culture is science and not belief. The numbers tell me that the more guns we have, the more people are wounded, accidentally and on purpose, by guns. 

Statistics show that brandishing a weapon escalates situations into inevitable violence. According to Everytown For Gun Safety, a nationwide gun research and litigation organization (everytownresearch.org), 100 Americans are killed by guns every day, and hundreds more are wounded. Firearms are the second-leading cause of death for children and teens in America.  Nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot at by their partners, and every month 52 women are shot and killed by their partners. 

The terrifying statistics go on and on. Still, I spent five years defending gun rights because I also understood how integral to the American story and American ethos guns are, and likely will be forever. 

The school shooting at Columbine in 1999 happened during my senior year of high school and changed my life. It changed my politics. It left me sad and scared, worried and wondering. 

In high school, I befriended several exchange students from the UK; they told me that the first school shootings in their countries resulted in the immediate ban of all firearms except those used for hunting and on farms. They said they had no more mass shootings or school shootings after that. 

My senior class’ gift to the school was a memorial to the students killed at Columbine. “Never Again” was the message on the memorial. Instead, it has happened over, and over, and over again. 

In 2018, after the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fla., I felt that it would take senseless gun deaths and random acts of violence making victims, widows and childless parents of us all before we would have the political will to make a change.

I understand why the right to bear arms was so important in our Constitution. I know our country has always, and justly, valued individual freedom over government hegemony. I also know that the fewer guns we have, the fewer gun deaths we will have. 

The fewer guns at the Festival at Sandpoint, the less likely my kids — or your kids — will be shot.

Rachel Castor is the facilitator of Sandpoint Indivisible, a writer, a mother and works full time as an appraiser.

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