People are very concerned that I’m advocating theft in a blog post yesterday that approvingly quoted an essay about the philosophy of responding to open-carry activists.
The author of that essay argued that bystanders should immediately leave any place of business entered by someone who is openly carrying a gun, not even stopping to pay for groceries in a cart or for a meal that’s on the table.
The reason we should leave immediately is, at its core, a philosophical one:
The difficulty of knowing other people’s intent is a classic philosophical problem. It is epistemological in that it involves the limits of our knowledge. We can’t really know what anyone else hopes to do, and sometimes, because of the subconscious and of self-deception, we don’t ever know what our own true intent is. It is also an example of the problem of other minds. We can never really enter into the perspective of any other person, nor can we ever really know what they think (or even if they think). We are discrete individuals and communication is unreliable.
But what stood out to some of my readers, it seems, was the unfair burden being inflicted on the poor businesses rather than on all the people who were enjoying a meal with their families one minute and then found themselves potentially in mortal danger the next minute.
But we can clear up the problem of the restaurant very easily. The author of the post I quoted thinks that the burden should be shifted to the open-carry activists who made us leave our meals unfinished. I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with reaching safety and then calling the restaurant to pay via credit card. Or dropping some cash on the table as you leave.
What doesn’t work for me is sitting around while someone brandishes a weapon around me and my family, hoping that this gun-carrying stranger has good intentions and that nothing goes wrong by either design or by accident.
Just a few months after I moved to Nebraska, on my birthday in 2007, a teenager walked into a department store at a mall here in Omaha and murdered eight people in six minutes with a semi-automatic rifle. The difference between that teenager and the open-carry activists at Chipotle is one of intent. The mass shooting in Omaha was perpetrated by someone who brought a gun into a business in order to murder people; the activists at Chipotle (and other places) bring identical guns into businesses to make a political statement.
But I have absolutely no way to determine the intent of someone walking toward me with a semi-automatic rifle. The only rational thing to do is to get away from such a person immediately because such a person represents a very real threat. I can’t comprehend why anyone would think otherwise, that a good idea is to just wait and see if the person intends to shoot you before getting to safety.