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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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Madland: Open carry gun advocates play the victim
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Is the society we really want to live in?
Is the society we really want to live in?

A few years back, some men went into a Culver's on the east side of Madison with holstered guns plainly visible to the patrons around them, a stance known as open carry. Being dinner time at Culver's, the place was naturally filled with old people. Those old people got scared, and called the cops, who went ahead and arrested the men. These men then sued the city and got $10,000 of taxpayer money.

Those guys were jerks. They were within their rights. They were still jerks.

Now gun enthusiasts are feeling victimized thanks to the first-person tale related in an op-ed published by the Wausau Daily Herald. In it, an Iraq War veteran named Dereck Simonsmeier recalls his experience in getting kicked out of a Pick 'n Save in Weston (basically it's Wausau's Middleton) for open carrying a gun in a side holster.

This isn't like the Culver's incident, as Simonsmeier wasn't arrested. Since it was the manager who kicked him out of the store, his rights weren't violated. A private business is deciding who it wants in the store, and getting booted for carrying a gun has nothing to do with illegal discrimination. Nevertheless, Simonsmeier is still playing the persecution card.

But even if Simonsmeier had a case, Pick 'n Save doesn't feel like the proving ground of the Bill of Rights.

At the risk of having my Madison liberal card taken away, I find the Solidarity Sing Along to be pretty annoying. And I believe they are firmly within their rights -- the singers shouldn't get arrested, even if they are pretty annoying. However, they have chosen to fight their constitutional battle in the Wisconsin Capitol, a marketplace of ideas and debate, as opposed to Pick 'n Save, a marketplace of dry goods that you can find for way cheaper at Woodman's.

Imagine if a bunch of people got together and started singing songs in the middle of a store. Management could kick them out, and it would not be a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Folks who want to make a point about open carry: Go ahead, have a rally around the Capitol to show how much of a badass you all are.

People in a grocery store or a fast-casual restaurant don't deserve to be pulled into this guy's quest to feel persecuted. They are just regular people trying to get dinner. I don't have the same sympathy for Capitol employees. If they didn't want to deal with political protests, they shouldn't have gotten a job at the epicenter of a city that loves a protest.

In the op-ed, Simonsmeier mentions how he was asked by a manager to put a jacket on over his gun. But Simonsmeier was not wearing a jacket -- in January, in Wisconsin -- and was so asked to leave the store. While waiting for his friend to finish shopping, Simonsmeier described what it was like to have to stand outside:

The cold had numbed my arms and severely restricted the movement of my hands and fingers. If I had needed to draw my weapon in the Pick 'n Save parking lot, I would have been unsuccessful.

I won't lie. This part unnerved me a little. Simonsmeier remembered to bring a gun into the store, but didn't bring a jacket. Given it's Wisconsin in January, I'd think wearing jacket would be way higher on the priority list over a gun. His concern with being able to draw and fire at any time seems a tad excessive. When my fingers get cold, I just get mad that I'm going to have to use Siri.

I thank Mr. Simonsmeier for his service, but Wisconsin is not Iraq. Now, maybe little ol' Madison is safer than the mean streets of Wausau, but I've never been in the parking lot of a grocery store and thought that things were about to go down.

Someone once ran into my side mirror while I was shopping at the Copps on Monona Drive, but a gun wouldn’t have really helped out in that situation.

These men are within their rights to carry guns around. But is it the society we really want to live in? Are we afraid of the people around us so much that the only way we feel we can trust them is if we have the ability to shoot and kill them at a moment's notice? The Second Amendment is an important part of the Bill of Rights, but it's not like the government is going to take away your gun if you leave it at home.

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