Wednesday, June 6, 2012

OK House Representative Ralph Shortey: Our Man for a Turkey Shoot

Never one to shy from controversy, OK Representative Ralph Shortey has spoken in support of an Open Carry law, first tried in 2010 and vetoed by Brad Henry, Governor in that year. In spite of opposition from law enforcers, this season’s version advanced out of committee and passed both OK chambers. This season’s governor, Mary Fallin, an ALEC honoree and loyalist, signed it as soon as it reached her desk.

Open Carry laws, advanced by the NRA, often hand in hand with ALEC, exist because its authors and sponsors profess that ours is a “dangerous world.” But is it really?

Using information from 2010 and published in the Book of Odds, Steve Mardon posted online the odds in favor of you or me becoming a victim of crime ( Relationships-Society/Crime-Punishment/Articles/A0397-Murder-Most-Foul-Or-Most-Rare-Crime-Worry), and the odds, as you will see, are pretty good that we will not be a victim:

  • Identity Theft: 1 in 1.52 (66%) of us worry about this digital-age crime, but the odds that a household will be a victim of identity theft in a single year are only 1 in 18.22—just slightly over 5%.
  • Car Crimes: 1 in 2.13 of us worry about our car being stolen or broken into. The actual odds of car theft in a year? Nationwide, just 1 in 187.3.
  • Sexual Assault: 1 in 5.26 of us worry about this terrifying crime. 1 in 541.1 women actually become victims of rape or sexual assault in a year (1 in 1,008 people overall).
  • Murder: For this most final of all crimes, our worry seems egregiously out of proportion. 1 in 5.26 of us worry about being murdered, but the odds a person will be murdered in a single year are just 1 in 18,690.

We are most likely to experience identity theft and least likely to be killed. So the truth about our world is that it is reasonably safe. Of course, risks exist, and some people or regions are more dangerous than others, but overall, most of us will live our full lives without having our identities or property stolen and without being assaulted or murdered.

Still, if you follow the news, you could mistakenly believe that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because in the news business, if it bleeds, it leads. In other words, stories about war, accidental death, murder, and assault dominate, and these stories persuade us that we should not venture out after dark or into parts of the city featured on the nightly news.

Mr. Shortey’s belief in a dangerous world comes first-hand, however. He advocated for Open Carry after a frightening encounter, but I’ll let him tell you about it himself:

“’I was in oil and gas,’ Shortey said. ‘I was out on a lease at one time and I got attacked by a turkey. Wait until you get attacked by a turkey. You will know the fear that a turkey can invoke in a person. And so I beat it with a club. That was all I could do. I wish that I had a gun with me,’ he said. ‘And I started carrying a gun in my truck after that without a license because I didn’t want to get attacked by a mountain lion. Turkeys are bad enough.’” (Source: 464053/oklahoma-state-senator-justifies-need-for-open-carry-gun-law-due-to-threat-from-wild-turkeys, posted by Faiz Shakir, using an article in The Tulsa World)

Note that Mr. Shortey admits to carrying a gun without permit or license. He also admits that the danger in this world that compels him to support Open Carry in public places is a remote oil and gas lease site where a wild turkey took issue with Mr. Shortey’s presence.

Now I’ve been bombed by a mere swallow defending her nest, and I’ll admit that I was startled. I have also felt the bat’s wing move the air in front of my face as I moved through the night on a path that intersected his. I flailed, crouched, and changed directions. I have even reached inside a dog house on a cold winter night to retrieve a pet food bowl where an uninvited guest, a possum, fed. It moved faster than I had ever imagined a possum could move and bared sharp teeth, gnashing them in my general direction. I ran for the back door, and I was faster. I saved myself, and I wonder why Mr. Shortey didn’t just run for his vehicle and let all those tons of metal separate him from that testy turkey. Alas, Mr. Shortey has not embellished upon his tale; he simply believes that a gun would have helped in that moment.

I remain unconvinced. I’ve known some educated people who lack common sense, and I’ve known some uneducated people who also lack common sense. Each class of person is capable of hysteria, poor judgment, and rash decisions. I don’t want to be close when either one pulls the old Six- or Six-hundred Shooter from its holster and begins to blast away at some perceived threat. Collateral damage is the most likely outcome, and that’s one thing that firearms education helps gun owners understand: no one, not even trained police and military sharpshooters, uses a dangerous weapon without jeopardizing others or the gun-owner:

·      A child may find the gun and hurt himself. In the U. S., about 500 children die this way every year.

·      A bullied, hurt child may steal the gun and carry it to school in order to pay back all those who have wronged him. One of the few characteristics that fit all known mass killers is access to guns. A teen’s brain is still under construction; he should not have any access to a weapon so easily hidden and so capable of killing many in seconds.

·      A gun-owner may think the gun is unloaded, only to discover tragically that it is in fact armed and dangerous. In January 2012, the CDC provided data showing that 31,347 people die as a result of firearms, and this number includes gun-owners.

·      Even law enforcers are not safe. In 2010, 56 officers of the law died, all but one killed with a firearm.

Mr. Shortey has convinced me that his judgment is unsound, especially because he bases it upon a turkey that, according to him, posed a threat to him. That turkey meets the criterion for a turkey shoot: a conflict in which one party has great advantage over the other. In this case, Mr. Shortey, with or without a licensed firearm, had the advantage, but he wants even more advantage. He wants a weapon that is more likely to hurt him or another human than a single offended turkey. Would that Mr. Shortey cared as much about the lives of others as he cares about his own in a turkey shoot.