Let me explain why I’m worried

It’s not the ones who take firearms seriously, it’s the others

Just so we’re clear, I do not have a problem with responsible, legal gun owners who take firearms stewardship with deadly seriousness.

I do not have a problem with most firearms owners who’ve served in the U.S. military or in law enforcement. I do not have a problem with those who treat gun ownership with the gravity it deserves. As I’ve stated elsewhere ad nauseum, guns are tools designed to quickly and efficiently kill. It’s time everyone treats them with the respect they deserve — not just those who choose to do so. Freedom doesn’t mean free-for-all.

No, the people I have a problem with are the gun owners who view firearms as a God-given right with few responsibilities. I have a problem with firearms owners who are lazy and sloppy. I have a problem with allowing morons to own guns.

There are two big disconnects between me and many Second Amendment enthusiasts — I consider myself a 2A supporter, not an enthusiast.

The first point is granting assumed competency to people who wish to operate a tool designed for the sole purpose of killing.

How about demonstrated competency instead?

Regardless of our political leanings, we all have a vested interest in making sure those who operate dangerous, potentially lethal equipment in public are qualified to do so.

Most of us are in agreement that a person who has never operated a construction crane should not be permitted to hoist heavy loads over public streets without having skills and training in commercial crane operation. Most of us agree that it’s probably a bad idea for someone who’s never handled explosives to set up demolition charges to raze a building. I’m pretty sure we can even agree that someone who’s never driven a car should not get behind the wheel for a quick run to the liquor store.

Common tools like these are usually quite useful but can be lethal if misused. The public has a compelling interest in making sure people who publicly operate potentially lethal tools can demonstrate competency, maturity, stability and accountability. This is fundamental common sense.

Why, then, does a tool designed for the express purpose of killing have low (and sometimes no, depending on jurisdiction) such reasonable constraints? Why are those who pack in public not required to demonstrate competency, maturity, stability and accountability?

I find the irony especially disturbing when I see that so many recent mass shooters met the textbook definition of law-abiding, legal gun owners — a.k.a. good-guys-with-guns — right up until they killed a bunch of people. I believe robust national training standards coupled with sensible background checks and psychological evaluations could’ve prevented many of these.

Doesn’t it make much more sense to determine a gun user’s suitability beforehand as opposed to wringing our hands over dead kids later, lamenting yet another disturbed shooter who “fell through the cracks?”

The second philosophical disagreement I have with 2A enthusiasts involves another sweeping assumption. Anecdotally, when I speak to 2A supporters, I am assured that virtually all firearms owners take gun ownership very seriously. Yes, I will agree that many do. But not most, not even close.

I would wager somewhere between one-quarter and one-half of U.S. firearms owners would not meet the sensible safety and qualifications standards we would enact if firearms had just been invented and were utterly apolitical — in other words, the standards a sane society with no political agendas would enforce.

Allow me to present several examples of people who have no business owning firearms but who, nonetheless, consider(ed) themselves good-guys-with-guns, here to save the day. There is some dark humor in the narratives that follow but the topic looming behind the stories is deadly serious.

The moron with a gun

Consider the saga of very hungry security guard, Officer Nathan A. Scates.*

Tipsy from a couple Long Island iced teas downed at McMinnville’s classiest imbibery, Officer Scates exits the “Hobana” on Aug. 24, 2018 and moseys on up Third Street in downtown McMinnville, Oregon. As Officer Scates steps spritely, he spies a lonely but appealing tater tot on a seemingly abandoned plate atop a McMenamins sidewalk table. Can’t let that tot go to waste! he thinks hungrily.

After furtively snagging the solitary tot and stuffing it into his mouth, Officer Scates discovers the plate from which he removed the food was not abandoned, after all. Involuntarily gulping when he realizes his guilt, Officer Scates accidentally swallows the intact tot, which lodges firmly in his throat. The tot’s rightful owner takes umbrage with the theft, alerting her companions to Officer Scates’ brazen and ill-mannered act. Offended, the small group begins to follow the fleeing Officer Scates up Third Street, their displeasure evident in their words.

Mute and panicking, unable to explain this awful misunderstanding because a whole tater tot is stuck between his tonsils and his uvula, Officer Scates gestures frantically with his hands, facing the angry trio and trying to wave off their apparent hostility. “It was only a tater tot,” he wants to say but all that emerges from his mouth are muffled wheezes and bits of slobbery potato.

The mob advances, their unkind words terrifying the hapless security officer. I know! he thinks. I’ll show them my gun so they see I’m really a good guy! By the time Officer Scates’ trembling hand unfastens his holster and removes his legally concealed Smith & Wesson, the tenor of the rioters’ words has darkened. Officer Scates thinks he hears horrible terms but it’s difficult to tell between his tot-blocked wheezes. He thinks he hears mean-spirited names like ‘moron,’ ‘a-hole’ and maybe even ‘white trash.’

As the advancing throng cries for blood, Officer Scates’ heart pounds. I’m a good guy, a security guard! I’m practically a cop!

Emboldened by his racing thoughts (and possibly the infusion of potato starch), Officer Scates decides to act. This is my chance to save the day! he thinks. I’ll be a hero! He can see the headlines now: Security guard takes down rioters in wine country. Hand shaking and throat wheezing, Officer Scates fires his weapon multiple times into the ground. He doesn’t realize or care that he fires into concrete. He’s too busy stopping rampaging lawbreakers.

It’s too bad an armed security guard like Former Security Officer Scates received no meaningful training prior to strapping on and stepping out. It’s too bad that Scates’ utter unsuitability to wear any kind of badge and carry a sidearm remained undetected by people who should’ve cared — it’s not like Scates made any effort to hide his nature. (At the time of the McMinnville incident, Scates was under indictment for verbal and physical assaults / hate-crimes against a Latina woman and a Muslim family. He has since been convicted of those crimes.)

As a result of his actions, Former Officer Scates is now serving a prison sentence. Scates’ victims — injured by flying shrapnel when he fired into the sidewalk — have recovered.

Because of our laughably low standards, Scates was a legal firearms owner with a concealed handgun license (CHL) — Scates met the textbook definition of “good-guy-with-a-gun.” But he didn’t even pretend to possess characteristics like competency, maturity, stability or accountability.

Enraged, impulsive and armed

Another legal firearms owner who absolutely considered himself a good-guy-with-a-gun (and probably still would, only he’s not allowed to have guns anymore) proved that, no, he’s actually an immature-guy-with-an-anger-control-problem-and-a-gun.

Part of me wants to feel a little bad for this respected business owner because what if he was just having a lousy day? But then I remind myself that gun sins can be deal-breakers — sometimes you don’t get multiple chances to prove you have the maturity to bear arms. Besides, when you arm yourself with a handgun and threaten two uniformed deputies trying to do their job, you kind of deserve what you get because that’s just stupid.

According to law enforcement reports, on July 25, 2018, armed with a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun, Newberg Ford managing partner John Kerekanich threatened to shoot a pair of Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputies who wanted to administer a field sobriety test to Kerekanich’s wife, Meri.

When WCSO received reports of a drunken woman who had been driving erratically, then parked in the driveway of a stranger for a long period before crashing into a ditch and ultimately fleeing home at dangerous speeds, deputies identified the driver as Meri Kerekanich. Clearly intoxicated when deputies tried to arrest her at home, Meri Kerekanich resisted, then screamed for her husband who appeared with the handgun and threatened deputies.

John Kerekanich — the high-profile owner of the Ford dealership in Newberg, Oregon, whose face is all over its advertising — then initiated a four-hour armed standoff with law enforcement, necessitating the intervention of the Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team to secure the Kerekaniches’ eventual surrender. The couple denies John Kerekanich threatened deputies.

To his credit, John Kerekanich did demonstrate accountability when he pled guilty and forfeited his firearms. Although he was sentenced to probation, he was assessed a very substantial fine. And I’m pretty sure the publicity didn’t help his business — Kerekanich’s face was immediately removed from all Newberg Ford advertising.

A lawful firearms owner, John Kerekanich met the textbook definition of “good-guy-with-a-gun.” While he did ultimately demonstrate accountability, characteristics like competency, maturity and stability were nowhere to be found. I wonder if Kerekanich knows many Black men have lost their lives for far lesser offenses.

Trained by TV shows

When you get a CHL but all your training comes from watching “NCIS” or old “Rockford Files” reruns, you get our next example.

On January 21, 2018, an accident occurred on the 405 freeway crossing the Fremont Bridge in Portland, Oregon. According to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), a pickup truck crashed into a barrier, hitting several cars before attempting to flee.

Here’s where our Lone Ranger steps in to save the day. What does he do? He whips out his sidearm and fires multiple shots at the pickup, in an attempt to shoot out its tires.

I can’t believe I even typed that. He wanted to shoot out the tires.

Really? Does anyone think maybe we should revisit gun safety training?

The PPB eventually took the driver of the pickup into custody. Travis S. Taylor was booked for DUII and lodged in the Multnomah County Jail.

The shooter cooperated with the PPB investigation but the shooter’s identity was not disclosed.

People like Former Security Officer Nathan Scates, business owner John Kerekanich and the mystery tire shooter of the Fremont Bridge worry me. These are the people who should not possess firearms without extensive training, if even then.

I keep saying it: guns are tools designed to quickly and efficiently kill. It’s time everyone treats them with the respect they deserve — not just those who choose to do so. Freedom cannot be a free-for-all.

I know guns aren’t going away and I wouldn’t suggest that anyway. But it seems all sane Americans should have an interest in making sure those who bear arms do so responsibly.

Criminal record? No gun. Impulsivity and self-control issues? No gun. Anger control problems? No gun. Low I.Q.? Lack of maturity? No gun. Mental health issues? No gun.

It’s long past time we give guns the respect they deserve. In my opinion, the best way we could do this is by enacting national training standards paired with sensible background checks and reasonable psychological evaluations.

As things stand, we’re well on our way to becoming a society where much of the population is armed but few have meaningful training. We’ve been here before — we called it the Wild West, where immediate justice was more important than accurate justice and life could be shockingly cheap.

It staggers my mind that many of us apparently believe it’s a good thing to reestablish a form of free-for-all frontier justice.


*EDITORIAL NOTE: Yes, I embellished some details on the saga of Nathan Scates because it was too good an opportunity to pass up. All salient details are accurate and verifiable. But I had a little fun with the tater tot.

Photocomposite root photo© 2022 Maxim Potkin via Unsplash

11 Replies to “Let me explain why I’m worried”

  1. You have taken a reasonable approach. A requirement for training is important and should have some specificity. Training should not just be the legal aspect of carrying and using a firearm but hands-on target firing, safe handling, and care of the weapon. An enhanced background check also makes sense.

    1. Establishing national training standards would best be accomplished by using a broad spectrum of perspectives including (reasonable) gun rights activists and Second Amendment supporters. Such a panel should also include gun violence statisticians and associated researchers. Really, the whole country has a stake in this and all segments should earnestly and honestly participate.
      .
      Of course, there are those who will be unable to remove the political element and those who will work to make such an endeavor fail. We’re just clever enough to hang ourselves and just stupid enough not to see it coming.

  2. Greetings Matt,

    1st off I’d like to know how you would plan on enforcing all these restrictions.
    Since in your words, “guns aren’t going away”, then we would need a massive enforcement agency.
    Although I agree with you that people with criminal records should not be allowed to own firearms, they won’t much care about your restriction ideas.
    And in the age of “Defund the Police” and “Prison Reform” I feel less safe already thinking about your ideas.

    Secondly and sadly, a horrific event happened in Uvalde Tx that shredded both our arguments of the “Good guy/gal with a gun”.
    These officers were trained, well equipped and they outnumbered the lone evil bastard who did what he did, but they froze.
    They showed up within minutes, with all the training and hours at the range, but something went terribly wrong. They followed the chain of command, and they were told to stand down.
    Not only were they told to stand down, one officer was disarmed because he was going to save his wife who had been shot, and he knew this because she told him so.
    We can’t know how many lives it cost during the nearly 1-hour delay before a true “good guy with a shot-gun” showed up.
    What makes me sick to my stomach is that is that this is almost identical to the Parkland Florida event.
    People who were trained and who we put our trust in failed us miserably and now they are “lawyering up” to save their asses.
    I’ve always “Backed the Blue”, way before it was a bumper sticker and that’s never going to change.
    But if cities burned for over a year for Goerge Floyd, where is the justice for these young humans?

    Sometimes evil wins, history shows us that.

    1. Well, where you and I apparently diverge is I can’t do nothing because history shows us sometimes evil wins. Yes, evil sometimes wins but shouldn’t we try to mitigate?
      .
      Addressing your remarks in sequence:
      .
      As to an agency, yes, much like DMV is the agency charged with keeping Oregon roads safe by making sure (most) drivers are legal, competent and accountable, I had assumed it was obvious we would need an authority to administer the training standards I propose. This could be a new federal agency, commissioned into an existing federal agency or a federally-funded state agency enforcing federal standards. It could be funded in any number of ways.
      .
      I am not proposing restrictions — I am proposing minimum standards of competency and accountability. Using a DMV comparison again, most people would agree that driving is exponentially safer with DMV testing and certifying motorists for competence and requiring proof of insurance for accountability.
      .
      With daily mass shootings occuring, I would think an agency overseeing firearms qualifications, regulations and safety would be welcomed, considering that most recent mass shootings were committed by legal firearms owners. It’d kinda be nice to not let those guys have guns, in my opinion. One of the best ways to do this is through robust national training standards coupled with extensive background checks and psychological profiles.
      .
      Let me ask you this, Graham: if we abolished DMV, would Oregon roads be safer? Less safe? The same? (Hint: there is only one intelligent and honest answer.)
      .
      No, criminals don’t usually care too much about laws. We agree on this. My focus here, however, was less on the career street criminal than on disturbed (mostly) white men who are typically not criminals right up until that point where they commit the horror of a mass shooting. We stand a chance of stopping some of these guys because they very often follow the law right up to the moment before their crime.
      .
      The events in Uvalde, Texas were tragic but I do not see how they negate the need for professional tactically-trained law enforcement. I think we can agree that the shamefully unprofessional response in Uvalde is not representative of most professional law enforcement departments. Right now, heads are rolling as a result. But isn’t it kind of throwing the baby out with the bath water to minimize a professional armed law enforcement response or to suggest it’s comparable to one amateur with a Glock? No thanks, my money is on professional law enforcement every time.
      .
      Remember, we have around 1.6 mass shootings a day. Statistically, not all of them will be resolved ideally. Even Columbine caused a rethink of pretty much all existing mass shooting response protocols at the time. Uvalde’s command deficit and unprofessional response was shameful and possibly criminal. But it neither negates/reduces the need for trained law enforcement nor elevates the chances of untrained CHL John Doe getting off a lucky shot.

  3. First, thank you Matt for a masterclass in rhetorical writing! Second, this is the sanest article I have read on the subject. What the article screams for (even if slightly obliquely) is CHANGE. Being world leaders in mass shootings isn’t something to boast about to the grandkids! In a rich society like America we should invest in the infrastructure to support our constitutional freedoms. Yes a highly visible agency like the DMV is called for given the second amendment. Of course, we must pay for it and just like a vehicle has plates that have to be paid for and renewed so someone making a choice to carry should also bear the lion share of the cost. I do hope that one of the outcomes of Uvalde will be better training of all those who are trained to deal with the exceptions.

    A friend of mine, over a cup of coffee, the other day explained that he kept a gun – he explained how he had trained his daughter to regard this gun with the utmost respect for what it was designed to do. Although I personally wouldn’t want to “carry” I do respect his right and desire to do so. It struck me that he was a good – guy – with – gun and an example of someone you would approve of carrying said item. We need to have debate about this and we definitely need humility and change at this time.

    JB

    1. Thank you, Jonathan.
      .
      The frustrating thing to me is the utter lack of inertia on either side. One side wants to propose solutions that are impossible, theatric or ineffective. It proposes “solutions” that are reactive and ill-thought-out or are intended to make adherents feel as if they’re doing something far more than actually accomplishing anything meaningful.
      .
      The other side believes the solution is to arm as many people as possible. (Training not necessary.)
      .
      My purpose in writing this essay was to propose a solution that was realistic, potentially effective and agreeable to both sides. Not that my thoughts will change anything at all.

  4. Matt,

    The 33% Libertarian part of you is losing the battle with your Liberal/ progressive percent.
    I mentioned to you when this most recent event took place that the DC crowd would “Do Something”.
    Well, they did what they always do, they cobbled together an 80-page bill that none of our representatives were allowed to read and most didn’t care too anyway.
    The bill will do ZERO to make schools safer, and that’s what I’m talking about, schools and young people being sent to “gun free zones” for 8 hours a day 5 days a week.
    Does the DMV make our roads safer you ask? Well let me share a personal story.
    My father who was battling dementia at the time was fixated on not losing his driver’s license and it was ready to expire on his birthday.
    So my mother and I drove him there expecting that there was no way he would pass the test and we would be able to blame the DMV for not renewing his license.
    Well guess what, they rubber stamped him because he had a perfect driving record, and his vision was great.
    Now granted he could get lost at the end of the driveway and we explained that to them in advance but that wasn’t within their purview.

    I’ve spent my entire adult life marveling at the institutionalized incompetence and worse yet, the total lack of accountability of these bloated agencies.
    So yes, you and I will diverge on creating another unaccountable bureaucracy.

    Who’s responsible for the security and safety for these thousands of schools? The answer is teachers’ unions, big powerful labor unions.
    They all need to be drug kicking and screaming to the bargaining table and forced to make the necessary changes to these schools to make them safer.
    They fully expect that you will give them more power and money to “solve” this problem. How about we take power and money away from them as option?
    Matt, I’m as serious as a heart attack, WE can do this. Not more of the same, not 80 pages of lawyer-speak that nobody reads.
    It’s happening all across the country, charter schools, religious schools…and they oppose it all. Why? They lose power and influence.
    When you see this for what it is, if you are intellectually honest you can never un-see it.

    Graham

    1. Other than my progressive side steamrolling my libertarian side, I neither disagree nor take issue with anything you state in your response, Graham. 🙂 You’re right. Nevertheless, I come to remarkably different conclusions than you.
      .
      The primary reason I can only partially embrace libertarianism has to do with the philosophy’s reliance on people “doing the right thing.” My experience has taught me that people very rarely do the right thing. Or slightly less cynically, enough people fail to do the right thing that we need rules to compel them to do the right thing.
      .
      On the simplest level, a great example is one of my neighbors: without pesky rules on the books, his “lawn” would grow to four feet, his house would be Pepto-Bismol-pink and there’d be 11 or 12 rusting, junk cars populating all that tall grass. No, thank you. Neighbors like this infringe on my freedoms which makes me grateful for government regulations.
      .
      As this pertains to guns, I’d be right there with you, Graham, if I had your faith that all armed citizens were trained, competent and cool-headed – physically and psychologically ready to step in and administer lethal force. My experience has taught me they’re not prepared, although they believe with religious fervor that they are. And this is why I worry – hence, this column.
      .
      We both know state agencies are often bloated and laughably ineffective. I worked in the legislature; we could probably swap stories all day. But if we’re honest, we also know those agencies provide a lot of collective benefit, too. If we abolished DMV, unlicensed and uninsured driving offenses would increase exponentially. With no database of Oregon drivers and vehicles, there would be no enforcement of the statutes for which DMV maintained records. Plus, no more driving tests. Anyone could drive whenever they wanted.
      .
      My own horror stories about DMV are not reason to shut down the agency – it’s that baby/bath water thing again. I find it difficult to believe you’d be cool with anyone driving, untested, uninsured, uncaring.
      .
      Further, DMV relies on family members to report when a loved one is no longer fit to drive. The agency actively encourages this and staff will make an effort to be compassionate and discreet when informing a loved one of driving privilege revocation – they can avoid letting loved one know their family turned them in.
      .
      Your experience, while regrettable, is no reason to abolish the agency.
      .
      So we’re stuck with the Ds doing their usual reactive theater and the Rs doing nothing, other than calling for everyone to be armed. Then, people like me propose ideas that could theoretically have an impact but, no, those ideas don’t fit into the Ds’ bag of tired tricks or into the Rs’ mission to arm as many people as possible.
      .
      And now, in our usual stalemate, we just wait for the next mass shooting so we can repeat it all over again. We shouldn’t have to wait long.

  5. Hello Matt,

    Normally I don’t like to use other peoples words to express my opinion, but I found these two sentences to be so spot on.
    Wanted to ask for your thoughts.

    The subject matter was West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency SCOTUS ruling.
    “Congress has defaulted on its responsibility to write laws for decades, by delegating its legislative authority to bureaucrats who then make up “regulations” (with the authority of law) and issue judgments and exact penalties (just like laws). The benefit for the legislators is that they escape the responsibility they would face if they had written these regulations as laws, when they produce negative consequences for interested parties, including potential campaign donors.

    It seems pretty straightforward: the Supreme Court is telling Congress to do its job and pass laws, just as the Constitution requires it to do, and thereby face the consequences of those laws. Political accountability is essential of laws are to be made, after all. There is no accountability for bureaucrats who cannot be fired under Civil Service regulations. ”

    Have a great 4th Of July Weekend.
    Graham

  6. Amen, brother.
    .
    Sometimes, the words of others are too perfect to NOT use.
    .
    Why do it the right way when we can do it the easy way? Why do it the right way when we can do it the convenient way? Why do it the right way when we can do it the self-enriching way?
    .
    We’re doomed.

  7. Ok – we agree

    So would you agree that we shouldn’t “outsource” our 2nd Amendment Rights to be watered down by these un-elected bureaucrats?
    There are no “emanations or penumbras” in the 2nd Amendment, It states clearly “Shall not be infringed”.
    Article 5 Convention of States is truly the ONLY way to move the power back to the sovereign.
    Anyone expecting these people to vote limits on their power is deluding themselves.

    As far as being doomed…I prefer to say, we’re not going to Hell we’re just passing through it.

    Happy 4th
    Graham

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