When I visit home, in Charleston, South Carolina, I often go to a particular Waffle House to sit, eat and work. A few of the longtime servers there always remember me as the man who brings his computer (Waffle House isn’t exactly Starbucks).
Saturday, an armed man attempted to rob that Waffle House. Another armed man, a customer, shot and killed the robber.
Two men. Two guns. One fortunate outcome.
Of course there could have been other outcomes. The customer could have mistakenly shot someone innocent. The robber could have fired his weapon, shooting an innocent person, something he might not have done if he wasn’t fired upon first.
The employees and customers could have been shot and killed by the robber.
There are so many different things that could have happened. This is exactly what gun control advocates imagine—that the prevalence of firearms in society could lead to our streets and cities becoming the Wild West.
But does anyone, including gun control supporters, wish that armed customer had not been in that Waffle House on Saturday and not done what he did?
“He saved us, that’s what he did,” one Waffle House employee said.
I’m not a gun guy. But I am a South Carolinian.
I have friends who carry and conceal. Members of my family do as well. Being around guns—and folks who know how to properly handle and respect firearms—is part of the culture I was raised in.
For people living in major urban cities with strict firearm laws, particularly outside the South and parts of the Midwest, this kind of gun culture sounds like a recipe for disaster. The entire concept of an armed populace is probably as alien to non-gun cultures as Waffle House itself.
This point was driven home on Saturday Night Live last week when the Manhattan-based comedy troop, led by guest host, Manhattan-born comedian and gun control advocate Amy Schumer, spoofed what Time and other news outlets framed as “America’s obsession with guns.” Featuring a phony television public service announcement, Time reported, “The skit features several seemingly normal everyday events — going for a jog, having a baby, being on a date — illustrating the human desire to seek love, connection, a sense of purpose and — as a narrator punctuates, ‘guns.”
Time continued, “In a searing reminder of the jarring everyday prevalence of guns, the skit goes on to put a firearm in shockingly uncomfortable situations, drawing nervous giggles: in a newborn baby’s hand, substituting for the bottle in the party game Spin the Bottle, at an office.”
Though it was obviously humor, the spoof bears no resemblance to the reality of gun culture. It reflected the cartoonish bias of those disconnected—culturally, geographically, politically—from the millions of Americans who own legal guns.
The SNL skit actually reminded me of how some on the hard right view Muslim Americans—believing their mere presence breeds extremism. We even have major Republican presidential candidates saying Muslims should never serve in the White House and large numbers of voters agreeing with this sentiment.
The threat of Islamic terrorism is something we must guard against. But is the problem really Muslim Americans?
The problem of mass shootings is something we must guard against. But is the problem really the vast majority of gun owning Americans?
The SNL skit aired 18 hours after the Waffle House incident in my hometown. The Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh recently gave multiple examples of the same type of incidents with the same outcomes—citizens with guns stopping crimes.
There are 350 million guns in the United States, something unusual compared to other countries. We also have the constitutional right to have guns.
If we can agree that, practically, these guns are not going anywhere, it then becomes a question of who should have them. We can always have more or less laws. The laws we already have did not stop a number of recent mass shootings. National Review’s Charles Cooke recently asked an MSNBC panel if it could name one new policy that would have stopped the shooting tragedy in Douglas County, Oregon last month. The panel struggled to find answers.
A police officer on the scene of the Waffle House shooting noted of the armed customer who acted, “It’s says something about firearms… for good people with firearms being in the right hands.”
Yes, it does say something—that there’s a significant, potentially life-saving difference between good people having guns and bad people having them.
Just saying guns are the problem is ignorant.
It’s also a prejudice some at a South Carolina Waffle House recently might not have understood.