Civics != Guns

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Yes, I know that the odds are extremely remote of anything like this happening here in Great Falls, but then I’m sure that people in Columbine, at Virginia Tech, and other shooting rampages all thought the same thing. This time, it happened in Kirkwood, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri:

A gunman with a history of acrimony against city leaders stormed a council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three other people before law enforcers fatally shot him, authorities said. The man’s gunfire injured the mayor, a newspaper reported. The victims at the meeting in suburban St. Louis were killed after the gunman rushed the council chambers and began firing as he yelled “Shoot the mayor,”

Which puts the events of a few weeks ago into a slightly different light: Ric Valois tried to enter the City Commission meeting carrying a concealed weapon.

Valois is among those objecting to the city’s operation of animal control services and the animal shelter. In connection with that, he is leading a petition drive to recall three members of the Great Falls City Commission: Mayor Dona Stebbins and Commissioners Bill Beecher and John Rosenbaum. By law, Valois is not allowed to bring a concealed weapon into public buildings, even if he has a concealed-weapons permit, said police Sgt. Glen Stinar.

Do I think that Valois intended to shoot anyone? No. Was it stupid of him to try to bring a gun to a City Commission meeting? Yes. If any of the things being said about Valois in the Tribune forums are true, then it doesn’t surprise me that the police had the sense to ask him if he was “carrying.” And given that Valois is the boyfriend of Susan Overfield – the woman who was forcibly removed from a City Commission meeting last year and is suing the city – well, it doesn’t take an over-active imagination to assume the worst-case scenario. And that is what the police are sometimes supposed to do: plan for the worst-case scenario – or better yet, prevent it.

And even if they are baseless accusations, there is still a good reason that firearms are prohibited at civic meetings. City council meetings are sometimes – even often, in some cases – the scene of very passionate arguments – about private property, business decisions that affect people’s livelihood, zoning rules that determine the fate of scores (or more) of people, disgruntled activists, and so on. It’s not the place for firearms – it’s a place for civics. And civics, ideally, should be civil.


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