I would never consider the purchase of firearms to be as much fun as my more regular hobbies - being a general nuisance at local bars, watching politicians get booed at big sporting events, and finding new ways to get my name gratuitously mentioned in Letters to the Editor. Still, I did attend my first-ever gun show in Chanute last weekend and I had an enjoyable experience there. I figured that this was an appropriate field trip considering the changes that are currently being proposed to the state’s concealed carry law. A measure moving through the Kansas legislature would give any resident of the state over 21 the right to conceal a handgun or a rifle without a permit in public spaces.


Since I have a lifelong tendency to say stupid things at exactly the wrong time, I would like to know which people I may meet around Chanute who might be armed on any given day. I estimated that going to the gun show would be a good first step towards memorizing the faces of those local residents who might be a little more likely to be packing so I can adjust my arguing style accordingly.


Fortunately, everyone who I interacted with at the gun show was very nice and didn’t seem all that eager to shoot me. I give all of the dealers and vendors credit for tolerating my silly questions. I am sure it was perfectly obvious to all of them that I grew up a city boy with hippie parents who didn’t raise me to be comfortable around firearms. I never went target shooting or even learned to properly hold a gun. The only time I ever went hunting for game in my life was a couple of years ago and shooting at all those animals got me permanently banned from the lobby of the downtown Bank of Commerce.


I don’t currently own any firearms and I prefer to protect my Chanute country estate with a baseball bat, three trained killer attack cats, and a generally warm relationship with the local police department. So far, this has worked well to keep me and my home safe here, and I have never felt that not owning a gun has ever left me at risk for anything.


So I have a little bit of trouble relating to those individuals who don’t feel like they can safely get through their day-to-day lives without carrying a firearm at all times. Statistics show that most of us won’t be anywhere near any terrorist attacks or mass shootings in our lifetimes. It seems like a bit of a wasted effort to walk around a city like Chanute armed to the teeth at all times, as if such an unlikely event is somehow going to break out any second.


If someone does want to live that way, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that they at least obtain some type of permit to carry such a weapon and undergo some type of training to properly use it. At least, the local law enforcement should probably have some idea of who they are.


I’m not saying that people who know what they’re doing with firearms shouldn’t ever be allowed to carry their weapon of choice. Conceal and carry requiring some sort of basic paperwork seems like a pretty reasonable request. People who want this state to remain peaceable and agreeable should not be in a big hurry to change such a sensible policy.


I have always been a big proponent of minding my own business and practicing a “live and let live” philosophy, and I am open-minded enough to extend this to gun owners. They should be free to have all the guns they want, as long as they aren’t using them to shoot anyone who doesn’t deserve it.


Any society is going to have a certain number of people who do horrible things, and the peaceful populace does need some common-sense protection from violence. It would be naive to think that we can all just hold hands with each other and sing “Kumbaya” and turn every single bad and violent situation that is encountered into a good positive one. However, I would hate to see the small possibility of violence inspire us to hand our state over wholesale to cynical politicians and the gun lobby that owns them.


Maybe instead of devoting our energies in that direction, we could do a little reevaluating as a state and as a society, and decide to start having a conversation about mental illness and how we could better address those in this area who might need a little help. Or we could set a good example for our young people by resolving to learn to talk things out a little more and resort to physical violence quite a bit less. We could consciously choose to emphasize love instead of always defaulting to fear. I have to think that kind of gesture would make our state a better place to live than any superficial attempt to increase the number of citizens who feel like they always have to carry a gun.


Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals and invitations to future Chanute gun shows to brian@chanute.com.



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