Tuesday night’s much-anticipated public meeting in Oak Harbor regarding a clearly illegal city regulation banning guns in public parks has been reportedly moved back to the city council chambers, where space is limited, because the mayor apparently did not have the authority to move it to a fire station.
It is the latest chapter in an on-going public debate about firearms across the country, and here in the Northwest this controversy might become something of a petri dish to observe the public fear of firearms.
The more some people in politics, including U.S. Attorney for Washington Jenny Durkan, talk about firearms, the more evidence mounts that the nation may have more of a problem people who have an irrational fear of guns and the people who own them, than with the guns, themselves.
While Durkan talks about guns as a “public health issue” in her weekend Op-Ed published by the Seattle Times, some Times readers might suggest that the real public health issue here is “hoplophobia.” It is a term coined by the late Col. Jeff Cooper more than 50 years ago, and while not officially recognized as a true mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, it does appear to be at epidemic proportions.
In Oak Harbor, anti-gun City Councilman Joel Servatius, according to the Whidbey News Times, still wants the Tuesday meeting to be held at a school, because that would be a so-called “gun free zone” and therefore make some citizens feel safer. As he explained it to the newspaper, “Holding our meeting in a venue in which guns (open carry or concealed) are allowed absolutely precludes some citizens from participating in open government because they are intimidated. I have forwarded several emails to the mayor from citizens who are intimidated so I know this is a known issue.”
Why? This columnist was quoted over the weekend in the Tacoma News Tribune and Bellingham Herald discussing the continuing rise in the number of concealed pistol licenses in the Evergreen State. Here’s what was said: “I’m kind of indifferent about it. The fact that citizens are exercising their rights doesn’t alarm me, and it shouldn’t anybody else.”
Durkan evidently has a problem with the private ownership of so-called “assault weapons,” though she acknowledges having been around guns since childhood and getting a shotgun at the tender age of 10 while living in Issaquah. She observes, “These high-capacity, high-powered guns are not hunting weapons. They were designed for a central purpose: killing people. As the Aurora, Colo., and Newtown., Conn., tragedies showed, they are efficient and deadly weapons.
“With every right comes obligations and limitations,” she continues. “Civilians cannot own a whole range of military weapons and technology. Military assault weapons should also face restrictions.”
Durkan also talks about putting more criminals behind bars on gun offenses, and also cracking down on people who are clearly engaged in the business of buying and selling firearms, but without the necessary licenses.
According to Cooper, “I coined the term hoplophobia…not out of pretension but in the sincere belief that we should recognize a very peculiar sociological attitude for what it is -- a more or less hysterical neurosis rather than a legitimate political position…hoplophobia is a mental disturbance characterized by irrational aversion to weapons, as opposed to justified apprehension about those who may wield them.”
As this column noted, today might see the number of Washington CPLs pass 396,000. That means perhaps one in a dozen adults here is legally carrying a firearm, a fact that seems to alarm gun prohibitionists – “hoplophobes” as Col. Cooper called them – who seem more concerned about the law-abiding armed citizens than the juvenile criminals who are packing them.
There is a hearing in Olympia this Thursday at 10 a.m. regarding legislation to crack down on illegally-armed teens that has the support of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, while the National Rifle Association has some concerns that teen hunters and target shooters might become victims of overzealous enforcement.
All of this is part of the new “national discussion” about firearms, and this conversation needs to include a candid consideration of hoplophobia as a critical element of the “problem” the nation faces. Gun owners argue that their rights should not be subject to the irrational fear some people have about firearms.
Tonight's Town Hall Seattle meeting might be the proper venue to bring this up. As this column reported, the gathering is about guns as a public health issue. It is time to bring this questionable queasiness into the public spotlight.