Assault rifles such as the AR-15 have been used in the last two mass shootings in America. James Holmes used an assault rifle when he went on a bloody killing spree in an Aurora, Colorado theater last summer and in December a man walked into Newtown Elementary School with an assault rifle and killed 20 children. Needless to say, these kinds of weapons scare people, and it’s easy to understand why. So when citizens in Portland, Oregon saw two men walking through streets carrying assault rifles, it caused a wave of fear and multiple 911 calls.
Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce claim they were only trying to “educate” people about gun rights and were “hoping” that people would approach them to ask questions about the weapons strapped to their backs. But their presence with assault rifles only caused citizens to panic and call 911.
KPTV reports that some people ran in fear for their lives while some people in local businesses locked themselves in the buildings and hid.
Police spoke with the two men and told them that while they are legally carrying firearms they are scaring the public. Officers reported that the men didn’t seem to care that they were frightening people.
“Exercising my rights with a rifle to try to decrease the demonizing of peacefully exercising your rights in public,” Warren Drouin said when asked about his intent. Steven Boyce stated that the pair wants “to open that line of communication, to let people know that you can defend yourself in a time of crisis or any time that you want to.” In response to the general panic they caused, Drouins said that people should “observe the person to determine if the person is aggressive. We’re not doing anything threatening to anyone.” The men hope to hold future demonstrations.
Here’s the video via KPTV:
But that’s the problem. Many would-be shooters don’t seem aggressive until they begin firing their weapon at people. That’s why police advise the public to call 911 when they see a person carrying weapons. Had Drouin and Boyce been simply carrying holstered handguns either visible at their side or concealed from view, there probably wouldn’t have been a panic. But these men openly carried weapons of war through streets that aren’t exactly crime ridden, the same weapons that have been used effectively by individuals to kill multiple people in mass shootings across the country. When I think about what kind of people openly carry assault weapons in the streets I think of American combat troops in a war zone or people in violent areas in the Middle East. I certainly do not think of two American men strolling down a quiet and peaceful street in Oregon.
What if Boyce and Drouin weren’t law abiding citizens? What if they were hell-bent on committing a mass shooting? What if citizens had walked up to them as the two men had hoped? Any citizen who approached them just to ask a question would have made themselves an easy target. That’s why this stunt is ill-advised and completely irresponsible given the already frayed nerves of the American public. A person could also have decided to take preëmptive action against these men by firing upon them in self-defense. It’s a very real possibility. If I see two men who are carrying holstered handguns, I don’t think much of it. I simply assume they have a permit to carry. But if I see two men carrying assault rifles down an open street, I assume they intend on doing something big. Why else would a person carry an assault rifle? It just doesn’t make sense unless you intend to do great harm. That’s why people perceived these two men as threats. Just by carrying such a weapon, the men became instant threats to all the people around them. They may not in fact be criminals but they certainly looked the part. Another gun carrier could have easily fired on these men in the effort to prevent another mass shooting. Then all of a sudden the situation becomes a fire-fight in Portland and innocent people are put at risk. In other words, nobody needs to carry an assault rifle to defend themselves and carrying assault rifles through peaceful streets only heightens the anxiety Americans already feel when they go to a public place. Assault rifles represent gun violence at its deadliest. People who carry them in public in the name of defense look no different than a person carrying one with intent to kill. That’s why these weapons should be banned in public, so that innocent people can see and report the threat from a distance instead of risking their lives to approach armed individuals to ask them questions about why they are carrying an AR-15 down the street.