When Shannon Watts and her Moms first started campaigning to turn popular retail destinations into gun-free zones, the pro-gun noisemakers went ballistic, accusing her (and the eminence grise behind her) of all sorts of nefarious schemes to leave Ma and Pa Shopper unprotected from thugs, criminals, ISIS-wannabes and God knows who else might be trying to kill or maim the American family as it fulfills its self-appointed destiny to shop until we drop. And it didn’t take long for some of the pro-gun bloggers to dig up the usual stories about how several shoppers were held up outside of Target stores which was no doubt caused by Target’s decision to ask customers to leave their guns at home.
Now the gun internet is agog at the most recent efforts by Shannon and her ladies to push yet another retailer – Kroger – into taking a no-gun stance. But this time around they are celebrating the fact that, until now, the supermarket chain has refused to give in. To show you how loony the gun debate can sometimes become, Breitbart pitched in with its usual anti-gun screed by announcing that Kroger’s reported third-quarter profit increase was no doubt due to its refusal to buy into the Mom’s demand that shoppers leave their guns at home.
I happen to believe that the campaign to create gun-free retail zones is the most creative and positive step ever made by the gun-sense crowd. What it does, for the very first time, is challenge the most sacred and stupid rationale for gun ownership in this country, namely, the idea that guns protect us from crime. This idea has been assiduously and constantly promoted by the gun industry for the past twenty years, and it is nothing more than whole cloth. There is not one, single, credible study that proves any connection between crime rates and access to guns. Period.
Now before all my usual critics send out their comments about how I have finally revealed myself to be against the 2nd Amendment in every shape and form, let me make one thing very clear. Note in the previous paragraph that I did not say that guns don’t protect us from crime. What I said is that there’s no evidence to support the argument either way. In case you didn’t know it, that’s what the word ‘any’ really means.
I can’t blame the gun industry for wanting to make Americans believe that guns are a good way to keep us from getting assaulted, robbed or worse. After all, once Americans began living in suburbs and getting off the farm, the whole nature of gun ownership began to change. What are you going to do? Tell Mr. and Mrs. Suburbanite they still need the shotgun wedged behind the front door to go out and shoot the wolf or coyote that’s hungrily eyeing their cows or sheep? There ain’t no cows or sheep.
The funny thing is that the gun industry has done a pretty good job of convincing gun owners that there’s still a need to own a gun. Not only do the polls show that a clear majority of the gun-owning population not only believes they need guns for self-defense, but this is a complete reversal from the results of the same polls conducted twenty years ago which showed that a clear majority of gun owners owned guns for hunting and sport. The fact that there’s nothing behind this attitudinal shift except incessant, pro-gun hot air is beside the point. People believe what they want to believe.
Which is why I am so impressed with the Mom’s strategy to put feet on the ground and make people think and talk about this issue as they enter retail stores. Because what better place to meet the ‘average’ American than in front of a supermarket, a mall or a discount chain? And what better way to challenge the assumptions and marketing riffs of the gun industry than with a direct, face-to-face talk? You never know. Maybe both sides will learn what the other side really wants.