A tale of two images


Being skeptical means one foot on the open-minded  side of the fence, and one foot firmly in the That’s-Bullshit side of the property line. it’s a tough straddle sometimes. But here’s how it pays off. See that image above? It’s a group of pro-gun demonstrators, that showed up uninvited at a Mothers against gun violence meeting. Which is kinda inappropriate and even a little bit creepy. BUT — it’s not quite as bad as it appears. Go below.

That looks like the same group in the same positions taken around the same time. They were just posing for a pic. But from the side, it looks like they’re gathering intel on terrorists and about to start staking out perches for an upcoming sniperfest.

When I was into rock climbing, I was in deep. My entire life revolved around it. From morning to night, I spent all my money on it, I trained and ate exclusively with the idea of climbing fun, hard, steep rock faces. Every girl I dated for ten years was probably an accomplished climber or at least an athlete in some way who was able and willing to climb with me. Some people, including some friends made before I got into it, probably saw me as crazy, but I was just having fun and I really, really liked sport and big wall climbing.

It scared the crap out of my parents, but I really did know what I was doing, I did it well and did it safely. Basically, anything vertical or overhanging with tiny gnarly handholds and without ice and snow was heaven. We used to put up manufactured routes on concrete bridge supports under overpasses, drill two-finger pockets right into that taxpayer provided cement and screw on hand-holds when necessary, out of sheer boredom in the rain. I’d drive 20 hours on a three-day weekend to put up new routes, or work on a single 20 meter sport route, cross state and at times international borders, to places like this, weekend after weekend, for days on end until I could redpoint it– climb it from bottom to top without falling once.

Most gun people aren’t nuts anymore than most climbers or most SCUBA divers, they’re just obsessed. Here in Texas, people have guns for many reasons, and no doubt some of them, generally the younger and stupider ones, don’t know how scary and intimidating they sometimes come off. There are always a few of those who don’t care or want to be scary, but mostly because it’s game to them. They’ve never fired a gun in defense or fear or anger in their lives and never will.

Your average firearm enthusiast will keep people who aren’t afraid of guns or who talk radical violent shit at arms length, much like those of us in the climbing or skydiving community would treat some new guy who like to brag about how s/he wasn’t afraid of heights. They really like firearms, they devote considerable money and time to guns, many are specialized history buffs, the way some people like antique cars or others like collecting old comic books. They’re fascinated by the history of forearms, they dream of finding that diamond in the rough, taking it home, restoring it, and reading about its history. Maybe making a few bucks selling it another collector.

So I sent the group and acknowledgement that they weren’t staking out the scene. And also mentioned it might be worth a little being a tad more sensitive in the future. Imagine for example if a group of parents whose kids were hurt or killed by drugs met for lunch and were greeted in a Colorado parking lot by a group of activists exercising their right to get publicly, flagrantly drunk and stoned. The demonstrators would be well within their rights, I might even be sympathetic.

That could easily backfire. If that second image hadn’t surfaced, that’s exactly what might have happened here. And most important of all, it would be a needlessly thoughtless act to carry out. Don’t be thoughtless to your neighbors, guys.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    So just why did these heavily armed weapons freaks somehow happen to pose for their group portrait right outside the restaurant where a small local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense was coincidentally meeting?

    Slightly more detail at Talking Points Memo.

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Well written and seconded by me, Stephen “DarkSyde” Andrew. You are spot on here.

  3. says

    I fail to see how the second image changes anything about the situation – a group of gun enthusiasts got together, armed themselves, and went to ensure that a much smaller group of folks who didn’t like guns knew that they were there, and that they were armed, and that they were absolutely okay with arming themselves and following around people who disagreed with them politically.

    The second picture shows the same thing the first picture did – a group of armed individuals who showed up in force to make a political statement of intimidation.

    I like guns. I have guns. I hunt.

    And those pictured people, in both pictures, make me furious because they are exactly the kind of folks who should not have guns.

    They could have shown up with signs. They showed up with guns.

    If you take your gun out in public to make a political statement, you are being irresponsible with your gun.

    If you have your gun out for any reason other than hunting, target shooting, or maintenance, you are being irresponsible.

    Irresponsible individuals should not own firearms.

  4. Suido says

    They’re fascinated by the history of forearms

    A climbing version of a freudian slip? As much as grip strength is important for accurate shooting and safe handling, I don’t think anyone other than a climber or an arm wrestler is going to be interested in a history of forearms. :-P

    On a more serious note – showing off a gun in a generic public place, no matter the motivation or the intentions, is going to cause alarm, and should invite interest from the police. This is no different to brandishing any other weapon in public without context. A responsible gun owner would understand that.

  5. LeftSidePositive says

    Yeah, I don’t think it really changes anything. In the first picture, they look like they’re posturing about being ready to kill someone. In the second picture, they are passive-aggressively suggesting they could kill someone with a plastered on smile. It’s the difference between “I’m going to destroy you and everything you own” and “Well, this is a nice place…shame if something happened to it, eh?” The difference is entirely superficial.

    And the analogy with public intoxication fails. Being drunk is mostly a danger to oneself, not to others (assuming there’s no heavy machinery involved). Standing in proximity to a drunk person will not get you killed. Jagerbombs are not, in fact, bombs. Being publicly drunk in the company of those who have lost loved ones to addiction might be insensitive, but it does not put your political opponents in the range of an immediately deadly weapon.

    And, please, spare me the claim that they’re just demonstrating & smiling in the second photo and have no intention to shoot. No one should be put in the position of having to gauge how likely someone who shows up in public with a gun to disagree with you is actually going to shoot it. No one should be put in fear of arguing or counter-demonstrating because of the entirely valid limbic system red-alert that occurs when someone has chosen to be in possession of a deadly weapon around you (or the cortical understanding that group dynamics change rapidly, political arguments get heated, and riots and fights, you know, exist). As we’ve learned from tons of online harassment, even if the vast majority of threats are not credible, the cumulative effect of those threats wears one down, and the constant need to assess threats is a generator of fear in its own right.

  6. grumpyoldfart says

    A group of women complain about gun violence and the protesters confront them with weapons! It doesn’t matter if they were preparing to attack or just having a laugh in the car park. They over-reacted and now they’re stuck with some bad publicity.

  7. lochaber says

    Disclaimer: I’m of mixed/ambiguous feelings about guns and such. I generally don’t like them on a personal level, and the NRA crowd scare the hell out of me, but I’m not certain I’m exactly for banning guns, etc. I truly don’t think I really know where I stand on the issue.

    That said, I think there is a big difference twixt the two photos – the first photo looks as if they are posing for assault, while the second looks like your classic guns and flag photo-op.

    Even though the second image doesn’t quite display the aggression of the first, it’s still far too much implied aggression for the event (and I imagine that’s why it’s the more commonly viewed perspective of the event- it will sell more papers/clicks). Almost everyone of those weapons has a magazine loaded, and regardless of whether it’s empty or not, that’s not an appropriate condition for a weapon in public.

    I’d be much more likely to support their ‘counter-protest’ or whatever, if they did it unarmed. This is one of the implied threats that the pro-gun contingent constantly uses; bringing weapons (and their implied threat of violence) to ‘peaceful’ protests. And often these same groups are prone to quote that ‘watering the tree of liberty with blood’ tripe, and other thinly-veiled threats.

    On a side note, how long would a black kid holding any of those weapons in any of those poses last in a wealthy suburb or predominantly white city?

  8. debbaasseerr says

    For the OCT people, the difference between the first and second photo is a pretty good approximation of “How others see me”, versus “How I see myself”.

    They stayed for about two hours. Even ignoring the much scarier view from the side (you know, more along the perspective that any given passer-by would have), and granting they kept nice bright smiles the whole time, and kids were there, kiddin’ about – that’s TWO HOURS OF PEOPLE STANDING AROUND WITH GUNS.

  9. James Guillory says

    “If you take your gun out in public to make a political statement, you are being irresponsible with your gun.”

    + 1

  10. keithb says

    ChasCPeterson @10:
    If you are refering to #9, given DarkSyde’s current medical situation it seemed like an honest query, not a threat.

  11. Holms says

    Definitely agreeing with #3. The second photo looks slightly more cheery and less overtly menacing, but it remains that these fucks have no reservations against following and intimidating their political opponents with assault rifles.

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