January 15, 2013

Letters to the editor: Practice of open carry unnerves readers

Regarding citizen Justin Dean's recent interpretation of his Second Amendment rights, as discussed in a letter to the editor by Zack Beisswanger ("Carrier of gun had legitimate motive," Jan. 3), I have some questions.

click image to enlarge

A runner passes an exercise station along Back Cove. A Dec. 24 incident in which a man carried a gun along the Back Cove trail and through other parts of Portland continues to prompt discussion.

2012 file photo/Gordon Chibroski

Beisswanger asks why some view the open carry display any differently from the reaction to that very display by other citizens, who called authorities to report it. He calls the differing reactions "a double standard," because Dean "broke no laws."

Answer: Many are incredulous that folks in Maine can carry what many regard as weapons of war without a license, specific training or the need to answer the most basic of inquiries that any citizen might face at a polling station or random driving checkpoint.

Beisswanger notes we should take comfort because the weapon carrier is an Army veteran. With a healthy respect for firearms and much higher regard for those in uniform, I submit that service members suffer the same frailties as the general populace, having been both victimized by, and perpetrators of, domestic mass gun violence.

I dare say that even if this veteran were in full fatigue uniform, so to have been known as the well-trained Ranger he is, some might have been more alarmed rather than less.

There is a reason hockey fights are tolerated on ice but lead to arrest elsewhere. There are also reasons these weapons, especially when equipped with high-capacity magazines, are called "assault weapons" and are perfectly congruous where one is expecting to assault a group or be assaulted, but very incongruous within suburban exercise trails! As a society, we need to address this.

Dean claimed to appreciate the nuances between carrying an assault weapon publicly in his hands – which he calls "ridiculous" ("Bill Nemitz: A world so safe, it's scary," Dec. 28) – or in a sling – which is apparently OK – while somehow missing broad social norms and signaling to many intimidation, insecurity and fear.

Kudos should be given to law enforcement for handling an unnerving situation with professionalism and cool heads.

Mike Del Tergo


To the man who carried an AR-15 assault rifle around Portland just 10 days after the same type of weapon was used in the Connecticut tragedy ("Man with assault rifle prompts flurry of police calls in Portland," Dec. 25), shame on you!

To the state of Maine, shame on you for making it perfectly legal for this man to do what he did, even though there was no need to defend himself, which I thought was the reason gun owners want to have guns in the first place.

I have never spent much time in Portland, so maybe I am missing something. Did he indeed feel a need to defend himself while walking in the West End and the Parkside neighborhood and on the Back Cove trail?

To Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, I have a question for you. You said, "It was not the right time to send that type of message" (that he was exercising his Second Amendment right to openly carry a firearm).

My question is, when is the right time? Should he have waited 20 days a month, perhaps a year?

On a personal note, I have never owned a gun and have no desire to. I do agree that people should have the right to own a gun, but is it getting to the point where it is no longer just a right to own a gun but it is now a requirement in order to feel safe?

Robert J. Dow

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