Protest by gun activists sends wrong message
You’re sitting at Espresso Royale, enjoying a cappuccino and studying for a big exam. In walk 40 men with guns holstered to their sides. Do you fear for your safety and consider running out the door or ducking for cover? Or do you thank your lucky stars someone is exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms?

A situation like this sounds unlikely — like a scene out of a movie — but it’s become reality for residents of Hastings. Groups of armed men have shown up at places like picnics in the park and Richie’s Koffee Shop, where they made a pit stop last Thursday before attending a pro-Second Amendment speech given by gun-toting organizer Skip Coryell. Coryell gave his speech with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun at his side.

The speech and public demonstration were promoted on the Web site, whose motto is, “A right unexercised is a right lost.”

The men, who belong to no particular group, say they are flexing their Second Amendment rights in a very public way to defy Hastings Police Department Chief Jerry Sarver, who they say wants to stifle their right to bear arms. Sarver denies such implications, saying he believes the men are looking for a reaction, some kind of interference, from law enforcement. That much is obvious.

It appears the men are more concerned with sparking a controversy and provoking a reaction from people than they are about their rights. They don’t give specific reasons for being so devoted to carrying their weapons openly in public places. They justify their actions by citing their constitutional rights alone, instead of providing information, like an increase in crime in the area, that would make them feel carrying a gun is necessary.

The presence of a man with a gun strapped to his side in a coffee shop isn’t only unusual — it’s frightening. Seeing anyone besides a police officer carrying a gun in public is a jarring experience and conjures up images of criminals and otherwise dangerous people.

Had a similar group shown up on MSU’s campus, there would have been cause for alarm and concern for the safety of the student body. That same outrage should resonate in a coffee shop, where patrons and staff are left feeling nervous and scared, unsure of what may happen next.

The group’s actions are childish and inappropriate in today’s world of school shootings and the heightened security that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It sends the wrong message to show up at random places with a gun. In the eyes of a child, it trivializes the responsibility of carrying a gun by making it look like a toy. Adults could surely assume these men are exactly the people who should not be allowed to own and carry guns.

While Michigan law allows people to carry guns in holsters, a concealed weapons permit is more practical if you’re actually looking to carry a gun for protection and not intimidation.

The group’s desire to protect their constitutional rights is hard to condemn but their method of bringing their cause to the forefront is shameful. Their right to bear arms shouldn’t come at the cost of others’ right to feel safe.

Published on Wednesday, July 30, 2008