Chad Oulson shouldn’t be dead. But he is, because another man — an ex-cop, one of the 1.15 million people with a Florida gun permit, the kind of guy the NRA holds up as a paragon of gun safety — had a ready trigger and a short fuse.
Oulson, you’ve no doubt heard, was texting his young daughter, who was in daycare while her parents took the day off together, during the previews of a matinee in Wesley Chapel. Curtis Reeves objected. There was an argument. Oulson threw his popcorn. Reeves drew his .380 caliber pistol.
Now Oulson’s wife is a widow, his daughter fatherless. And for what?
His death — his senseless, needless death — is a product of a culture that fetishizes guns, that worships them not as necessary tools of gamesmanship and self-protection, but of essential, fundamental elements of manhood and patriotism, a culture thinly veiling threads of racism and paranoia. (A recent study in PLoS One, the world’s largest scientific journal, linked anti-black racism to both gun ownership and opposition to gun-control laws among American whites.)
Reeves will likely mount a Stand Your Ground defense, just like that racist prick Michael Dunn, who shot a black teenager last year on Jacksonville’s Southside for the high crime of playing loud music. (Dunn goes on trial next month.) Whether they get off or not, their victims will still be dead, in part because this law gives license to people with short fuses and ready triggers. And now the Florida Legislature, in its infinite wisdom and absolute fealty to the gun lobby, wants to expand Stand Your Ground to cover warning shots. What could possibly go wrong?
A few days before Oulson’s death, the Times-Union reported on the local chapter of a group called Florida Carry, whose members bring Smith & Wessons, on full display, to the Jacksonville Beach pier on the second Saturday of every month just because they can. The group’s official T-shirt reads, “An unarmed citizen is a victim.”
Florida Carry, by the way, is the same outfit that sued the University of North Florida over its gun prohibitions. Last December, a state appeals court ruled that UNF could no longer ban students from storing guns in their cars. Now Florida Carry is suing the University of Florida because it forbids students to have weapons in their dorms. In light of these lawsuits, the University of Central Florida — my alma mater, which just last year narrowly escaped a GSG 522-powered massacre in one of its dormitories — caved last week, too.
It’s time we said enough. Thirty-eight thousand gun deaths a year are enough. Seventeen school shootings in the U.S. in 2013 are enough. Senseless killings at gas stations and in movie theaters are enough.
The notion that owning a gun is an unimpeachable, unchallengeable right, that you should be able to take one anywhere and everywhere you please, that our society would somehow be safer if everyone was armed to the teeth, has to go, lest our newspaper headlines be filled with more dead Chad Oulsons in the years to come.
This isn’t the goddamned Wild West. We shouldn’t want it to be.