Guns Don’t Make You Free

On Thursday, Dmitriy N. Andreychenko walked into a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, wearing full body armor and carrying a semiautomatic handgun loaded with one round in its chamber and an “AR-style rifle.” He was also in possession of 100 rounds of ammunition. Andreychenko, aged 20, says he had no intention of hurting anybody. He was just making a video of himself swaggering around armed to the teeth in a Walmart to reaffirm his 2nd Amendment rights, or something.

Shoppers did not think well of Andreychenko’s stunt. They panicked and stampeded out of the store. Fortunately, there are no reports anyone was trampled. Another store patron, identified only as an off-duty fireman, pulled a gun on Andreychenko and held him until police came to take him into custody.

Like a lot of “red” states Missouri is pretty much anything goes as far as guns are concerned — carry what you want pretty much anywhere you want. Missouri also has the sixth highest rate of firearm deaths in the nation. The state motto should be changed to “The Shoot-Me State.” There was an open question whether Andreychenko would be charged with a crime, since state law allows him to openly carry lots of loaded firearms as long as he’s not doing it in a “threatening manner.”

But, apparently, a judge decided that what he did was threatening enough. Andreychenko has been charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree, a Class E felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison. It’s not clear whether this charge was based on anything in Andreychenko’s cell-phone video or captured by store surveillance cameras, or the fact that he obviously just plain scared the stuffing out of a lot of people and caused a panicked evacuation of the store.

Andreychenko claimed he did not anticipate customers’ reactions, a Friday statement from a Springfield police officer says.

“This is Missouri,” he told investigators, according to law enforcement. “I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out.”

Andreychenko’s wife and sister tried to talk him out of pulling the stunt. The wife allegedly told the police that Andreychenko is an “immature boy.” Yeah, that marriage is doomed.

This also points to the obvious stupidity of “open carry” laws. It’s fine to say that you can carry lots of guns as long as you don’t do so in a threatening manner. But the very act of openly carrying weapons is threatening in most contexts. Put another way, why else would somebody show up in a public place brandishing weapons if not, at the very least, to intimidate people? That’s really the whole point, isn’t it? It’s a dominance display, or at least an attempt at one:

Josh Marshall:

We should recognize these actions as precursor acts to mass shootings.

Indeed, yesterday the FBI announced the arrest of 23 year old Conor Climo for plotting to stage a mass shooting or bomb attack at either a synagogue or gay night club in Las Vegas. Three years ago he was in the news in Las Vegas as one of these self-styled open carry activists who’d decided he would patrol local neighborhoods uninvited with an AR-15 and various other military paraphrenalia. Here’s a local news report from September 2016. Police said he what he was doing was legal so long as he didn’t go within a certain distance of schools or certain government buildings.

Yep, the guy in the 2016 news story is the very same Conor Climo that the FBI just arrested. Back to Josh Marshall:

This isn’t just one example. It’s fairly obvious that anyone who carries off one of these stunts is worth monitoring for future mass casualty attacks. Despite the claims about acclimating people to the ‘normalness’ of being around random civilians with military style weapons and the language of “rights”, the obvious motivation behind these stunts is to feel power as evidenced by the ability to scare and terrorize people. That is to say, to experience the fear or terror or sense of powerlessness others feel when someone they don’t know or have any reason to trust is strutting around with an AR-15. The language and politics of extreme gun rights activists is consistently highly similar to those of far-right or white nationalist groups. They are of a piece both psychologically and ideologically.

I don’t expect the hard-right Missouri legislature to do a dadblamed thing about the phenomenon of play-pretend commandos shopping in Walmart. That would be for the best; the whackjob Texas legislature likes to respond to mass shooting by making sure the next shooter has an easier time arming himself by making their already absurdly loose gun laws even looser.

Folks, this is not freedom. Having to live among heavily armed Men With Issues whose personalities are somewhere on the Bozo spectrum is not my idea of freedom.  Further, if your “freedom” hinges on having to intimidate and dominate other law-abiding citizens, then your definition of “freedom” leaves a lot to be desired. And the “gun rights” crowd has a long history of using arms and intimidation to stomp on everyone else’s freedoms, especially freedom of speech when people speak up for gun control.

Charles Pierce wrote back in 2013,

The Republican party, a number of timid Democrats, and the conservative “movement” have played footsie with dangerous woodland characters for far too long. This stuff can be used, but it cannot be fully controlled. This is not political debate. This is empowered, enabled paranoia, with firearms. This is not an exercise in democracy. This is a little touch of Munich, 1923 come to the forested exurbs. This stuff can be used, but it cannot be fully controlled, and something very bad is going to happen.

Something very bad has happened a lot, and it keeps getting worse.