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Pyle: Don't wait to be told
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some of us are lucky enough to have someone in our lives who keeps us from doing stupid things, things that would embarrass or humiliate us if we didn't have them to, lovingly, steer us straight.

Sometimes it is a relatively simple statement, from the mom to the teenage daughter ("You are not going out dressed like a Las Vegas hooker!") or the wife to the husband ("You are not going out dressed like a Deseret Industries donation bin!").

Other times it can be more delicate, as when someone has to find a kind way to tell you that you smell bad. Or that your carefully curated collection of homophobic jokes really does not endear you to, well, anyone.

So, here's a little friendly advice to many good and honest Utahns:

I'm sorry. And I say this with all respect and affection. I know you mean well. But someone needs to tell you. Openly carrying a firearm in a public place makes you look like an idiot.

Nobody is questioning your right to self-defense. The Second Amendment does guarantee your right to keep and bear arms.

But it is a simple fact that toting a piece in a public place — when you are not a uniformed police officer, or when you are not obviously on your way to a hunting trip, or when you are not actively engaged in putting down a zombie uprising — makes all the sane people around you feel threatened.

Normal people, seeing a civilian gunslinger in public, assume one of two things: 1) This person is aware of a credible threat of violence. I better get out of here. 2) This person is a credible threat of violence. I better get out of here.

The argument that merely carrying a firearm around does not, in itself, constitute any kind of threatening or disorderly conduct, an argument heard in committee hearings the other day on Utah's Capitol Hill, is a view that has carried no weight in civil society since Wyatt Earp cleaned up Tombstone.

Claiming that openly carrying a gun in public is not offensive, rude, threatening, even bullying, is like saying there is nothing sexual, or threatening, or just plain gross, about being naked in public.

Hey, the public nudists might say — in an argument that actually was taken seriously for a while in San Francisco — I'm not bothering anybody. I'm just exercising my constitutional rights of free expression. If it bothers you, that's your problem.

The other day was Gun Day at the Utah Legislature. It was not, as some may have hoped, like T-shirt night at the Jazz, where the first 1,000 people through the security gate at the House of Representatives committee rooms would receive a free Glock.

It was, rather, a day for hearing the various tough guy bills that claimed to preserve, protect and defend Utahns' rights to make absolute and utter fools of themselves by showing off their guns.

It got so bad that Rep. Curt Oda — one of the strongest gun rights advocates who ever lived — felt the need to chase down one of the semi-automatic exhibitionists to tell him, in effect, "Dude, you're not helping."

Don't take it from me. Take it from one of the most straight-arrow armed Americans of all time: Sgt. Joe Friday.

When asked how he could stand to enforce laws against drugs, the TV cop of the 1960s let forth with a torrent of examples of how people had ruined their health, their families and their lives by selling or taking illegal substances.

His take-away: "I judge weed by the company it keeps."

It's the same with guns.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, has to be carefully watched, by several people. You can be one of them, at facebook.com/stateofthedebate.

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