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Sheriff Richard Mack and Jerad Miller at Libertarian sheriffs debate
All right, I've got some questions on the Bundy-standoff patriots who went on to kill two law enforcement officers and an armed passerby in Las Vegas last weekend. Or rather America should have some questions, because if America doesn't have questions about this then America has gone even more nuts than any of us could have expected.
... a neighbor who saw them set off on foot Sunday morning with a red shopping cart carrying weapons and ammunition was not alarmed enough to call police.

"I thought they were talking out of their neck," Kelly Fielder told NBC Los Angeles.

A question: How is it that a pair of people can walk down the street with a shopping cart full of guns and ammunition and that is considered not a sufficiently noteworthy or alarming thing? We can perhaps chalk up the initial non-reaction of neighbor Kelly Fielder to her apparent status of potential crackpot herself—she had accompanied the Millers to the Bundy standoff in April, and so would seem to harbor similar anti-government sentiments or at least be a generally miserable judge of character—but then there's also this:
Police believe the couple walked the four miles to CiCi's Pizza, where Officers Alyn Beck, 42, and Igor Soldo, 32, were having lunch in a booth.
... meaning that the nice pair of alarming-looking meth addicts walked for four miles through Las Vegas neighborhoods with a shopping cart of guns and ammunition and apparently attracted no notice or alarm from residents or passersby during the entire trip.

They didn't even attract attention upon entering a shopping center, not until the moment they shot two law enforcement officers having lunch. That would seem in fact to be the reaction that the various gun groups demand of us: that heavily armed individuals wandering through heavily populated places should be considered normal, and that the police ought not be able to do a thing about it until after the trigger is pulled.

Why? (And more questions, below the fold):

A question: The Cliven Bundy ranch militia has consisted of armed "patriots," some waving yellow Gadsden flags, listening raptly as Cliven Bundy staged racism-peppered "press conferences" demanding revolutionary action, including the disarming of law enforcement personnel. He even chastised listeners for how long it was taking to disarm the government, after his initial "prophesied" time period for those actions had passed.

The Bundy-linked killers shot and killed two law enforcement officers. They then disarmed them, leaving a racist symbol and draping a yellow Gadsden flag over one of the bodies, before heading across the street to a Walmart where they announced a new "revolution."

Barging through the front door, Jerad Miller fired off one round, announced "a revolution" and told everyone to leave, while his wife hung back, putting their bags in a store cart.

“They just said, ‘The revolution’s begun,’ they said that they shot some officers, and basically get out of the store if you don’t want to get hurt,” said Tyrone Ellis, who works at the store.

Is our theory to be that the rhetoric between the two are simply an unfortunate coincidence?

A question: The bystander who was killed in this incident is being called a hero. After Miller entered the Walmart, firing one round and telling those inside the store to leave, a customer who was himself carrying a weapon sought to confront the shooter.

Standing near the registers was Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, of Las Vegas, who happened to have a concealed weapon and decided to intervene "immediately and heroically," McMahill said.

But Wilcox didn't realize Amanda Miller, now inside the store, was with the armed man and he walked right by her on his way to end the attack. As he passed her, she pulled out a gun and shot him in the ribs, killing him.

As much as it may chafe to call such heroism into question, there is no evidence that the shooters intended to kill any of the customers inside the store—they instead ordered them to leave. Does it not seem probable that if Wilcox had not moved to confront the shooter, instead waiting for a police response that arrived almost immediately thereafter, there may have been no bystander casualties? Banks and other places of business have a general policy of not resisting armed robberies, instead relying on law enforcement to intercept or engage the criminals in a more professional manner than a employee or customer could manage. If it was the intent of the armed bystander here to intervene, it implies the bystander was willing to engage in a firefight with an unknown gunman in a location filled with other fleeing bystanders.

Having a good guy with a gun on hand to stop a bad guy with a gun is the explicit premise of NRA and Open Carry efforts to normalize the presence of weapons—even assault weapons—in public places. Is this therefore now the endorsed plan of action? That Mr. Wilcox is a hero because he sought to engage in gun battle against an unknown foe of unknown numbers? And—again, recognizing the sensitivity of calling the wisdom of a murdered man into question—would he still receive the hero label if his actions had resulted in other customers being killed by stray bullets fired from one side or the other?

I am not certain how much longer we are to put up with either the Sean Hannity-approved, Fox News-broadcast notions that the Cliven Bundy militia crowd were true patriots until Cliven Bundy began elucidating his inner racist thoughts, or the NRA and congressionally approved notions that heavily armed groups of people should be able to go into whatever public places they like, with as many and whatever type of weapons they like, and by law neither the police nor the general public is allowed to consider those persons a threat until the precise moment they start shooting. Not even if they have multiple guns and a "shopping cart" of ammunition, and not even when they walk through the establishment with their finger on or near the trigger. Certainly not upon entering a local pizza restaurant and striding toward its patrons with guns in hand.

A question: are we to take these positions seriously, then? That is still the premise? That our defense against violent actors with guns in our public places is to further normalize the carrying of more guns in our public places? That being concerned or alarmed when someone enters a public space bristling with weaponry ought to be a reaction that is openly mocked, or that should result in public and private harassment of those members of the public that show alarm? That the police should be limited in their response to the public wandering around with shopping carts of guns and ammunition to doing nothing at all, because such actions are reasonable up to the precise moment when they or a member of the public gets shot?

I think we need to know. I think we need to know if the Cliven Bundy crowd shouting for "revolution" over the forces of law enforcement and the tyranny of federal grazing fees are still to be considered responsible patriots for pointing their guns at federal agents and daring them to enforce the law. I think we need to know if it is still the position of the NRA that a recent felon should still be allowed to easily acquire a gun so long as he obtains it through private sale, or that the public should consider there to be nothing at all untoward about a group of people entering a Target or a Chipotle or a Walmart with rifles in hand. This would be the time for that conversation—no need to wait. No need for a respectful pause between mass murders before we debate such things, because we probably won't have very much time before the next mass murder anyway. If we want to defend all of these things as being a rational and legitimate status quo, the time to do it would be right now.

Originally posted to Hunter on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 06:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Daily Kos.

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