Gun ownership has always been a given in Wyoming. Both political parties support it. Hunter safety classes are in our schools and children are raised hunting for food and recreation. Many of us have hunted and owned guns all our lives. But there is a counter culture that has emerged that raises the hair on the back of my neck. It has nothing to do with personal protection or recreational use of guns. It is a predatory, terrorist movement that seeks to plunge us into a civil war.
Their propaganda is pervasive across Social Media. And unfortunately, many readers are easily swayed. Words can indeed kill us. Shouting fire in a crowded theater does. And it seems there is a fear driven stampede by many to accumulate a bigger and bigger arsenal to protect us from those who are different, in other words our neighbors and friends.
Armchair politicians may think their alarmist posts are justified, but their words often incite others to react in extreme ways. Now, many citizens think they can become vigilante law enforcers.
Threats are brandished on Social Media. Or they prance into grocery stores, filling stations, hardware stores and other privately owned businesses armed to the teeth. It is not personal protection; it is a cocky, arrogant challenge to everyone else. It is High noon at OK corral or some fantasy driven dream of gun supremacy.
We see similar things happening in the political arena in our state. Republicans are fighting within their party. They call moderate Republicans RINO’s because they do not adhere to the extremism of others. One Republican incumbent went after another Republican challenger in a vicious, character destroying way. It is telling that he had enough supporters to win. Another very conservative legislator who has hunted for years, was demonized for drawing a reasonable line. How can those who use such tactics call themselves decent, civilized people?
A couple of years ago, armed delegates to the Republican Convention in Laramie decided to challenge the University’s ban on guns on campus.
Another year some of the armed delegates had a fist fight.
We’ve seen some of the more extreme in the movement setting up a hunting camp with a confederate flag or a nazi swastika flag flying. Or, flags with indecent language are mounted in the back of their trucks or flown on poles next to their homes.
Free speech seems to make them believe they are entitled to verbally assault and bully others. Sadly, many are exhibiting hate, bigotry and intolerance of “others.”
Suspicion of neighbors and fellow citizens is now rampant. It used to be we were united against threats from outside our country.
Now other citizens of being called un-American because: They belong to a different political party; They are gay; They are transgender; Or their skin is not white.
How can we have a safe functioning country in an atmosphere of intolerance where use of weapons against fellow citizens is encouraged?
The paranoia that the NRA has generated for their financial gain has simply agitated gun owners and made money for gun and ammunition manufacturers. It has also made the organization obscenely rich and corrupted.
Now we have an organization in Wyoming advocating to put free guns in the hands of citizens. Law makers opposing them are being verbally threatened with abusive language and possible bodily harm.
Gun ownership is not going away. But responsible gun ownership is disappearing.Right now, free speech and gun rights are colliding as gun toting citizens are occupying the same space, says Timothy Zick, Law professor. Others say it may take decades to sort out this conflict. Meanwhile protesters and anti-protesters are carrying guns.
Law enforcement is seeing a huge increase in the numbers of weapons at protests. Free speech advocates say they are intimidated by guns or feel the need to carry to protect themselves. This dynamic is eroding our freedom to peacefully protest.
And, unfortunately, here it is giving responsible gun owners and our state a bad name. We are not all gun toting vigilantes. But we are harboring them and extremists that want to take over our state.