There is No Right to “Feel” Safe

It was a typical Summer Sunday at the park on Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis. Families with picnic baskets on the grass, strolling around the lake, fishing, drinking sodas and eating ice cream cones. In the gazebo just next to the concession stand, a number of folks, myself included, had barbecue grills, cooking brats, burgers, and even steaks.

A downright serene afternoon.

Then, sometime just after lunch, a Minneapolis Police cruiser stopped in the parking lot next to the gazebo. A young officer, a Sergeant, approached the group that was grilling the food and, in a rather more stern approach than was necessary under the circumstances, asked to see their permits to carry a handgun.

The reason that he asked was that many of the group, (again, including me) were carrying handguns openly, most in holsters on their hips or in the small of the back. But why was the officer there in the first place?

Well, while hundreds of park visitors passed by the group of obviously armed men and women with barely a raised eyebrow, it seems that at least one patron was “alarmed” by the sight of otherwise everyday Minnesota citizens openly carrying (horrors!) guns, even though a number of us were wearing t-shirts that clearly said “FIREARM INSTRUCTOR” on the back. So naturally, they called the cops.

Nothing untoward happened. After checking everyone’s permits, the Officer agreed that they most certainly had every right to carry openly – contrary to a common mistaken belief, Minnesota’s carry permit law does not require that firearms be “concealed.” The Officer did, however, opine that open carry had some downside to it, including causing some consternation on the part of those who had a fear of guns.

While I personally took no offense at the Officer’s comments, a couple of those in our group considered his remarks unnecessary – one instructor even told him that “we don’t need a lecture.” I admit that while my approach with Police has always been to be as non-confrontational as possible, I do understand the instructor’s annoyance.

For too long, those of us who own firearms for self-defense have been treated as though somehow we should have to “justify” our being armed. Even worse, we are expected to be “sensitive” to the “feelings” of those who choose not to protect themselves.

More than a few times I have heard the comment, often from genuinely “nice” people, that no one should be allowed to carry guns in this or that specific place, because they “have a right to feel safe” when they go to the park (or the mall, or church, etc.). Now, while we agree that everyone does indeed have a fundamental right to be safe from harm (why do they think we carry guns in the first place), absolutely NO ONE has a right to “feel” safe.

And in any event, it is most certainly not our responsibility to worry about someone being frightened or “offended” by the mere sight of a firearm. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago in America that it was unusual to see a man without a gun on his hip. Now, had any member of our group been exhibiting threatening or reckless behavior – waving guns around, for example – that would be another matter. But that was not the case – if anything, our group was quieter and more sedate than most.

Thankfully, now that the carry permit law has been in effect for more than 7 years, and there are now 75,000 lawful permit holders, most Minnesotans have come to learn that we are, with few exceptions, simply “regular folks” who just happen to carry guns to protect ourselves – they no longer panic simply because they see someone with a gun.

And as more and more Minnesotans obtain permits to carry a firearm (about a 1000 new applicants a month) we can only hope that this trend continues…

John Caile


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