I just listened to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s press conference about law enforcement preparations for the release of the grand jury’s investigation into Michael Brown’s shooting death at the hands of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. The grand jury’s announcement can come at any time between now and the end of November.
I listened to Governor Nixon speak, while actively monitoring the #Ferguson tag on Twitter as he gave his statement and then answered questions from the media.
To say that there is a disconnect between what Governor Nixon said and what Ferguson “activists” heard is putting it mildly.
Nixon said that he wanted to ensure that protesters would have their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest if they did not like the grand jury’s decision.
He also said that law enforcement had a primary duty in this matter to ensure the safety of everyone.
Many of the “activists” took this grossly out of context, and somehow twisted it to mean that law enforcement would be attacking protesters.
Reality is over here… <—
—> … but what “activists” choose to interepret is somewhere over here.
There is very little middle ground.
This massive disconnect between the rest of society and the “activists” is why so many locals in the greater St. Louis area are reported to be taking up arms:
On Monday, Steven King, who owns Metro Shooting Supplies told CNN that customers bought 100 guns this weekend. A typical weekend brings in about 30 buyers.
“People are afraid they are gonna throw Molotov cocktails,” says King, referring to the mostly nonviolent protests that have taken place in Ferguson since the shooting.
The increase in gun sales reaches across racial and ethnic lines, he says.
“A lot of black people coming in saying they are afraid of the hooliganism,” he says.
“But not all of Ferguson is hooliganish. The media portrays us that way. If the world can just see this is one little street in Ferguson going crazy, they’d understand that we’re not just one big burning city.”
At Metro Shooting Range in nearby Bridgeton, Missouri, manager John Stephenson says gun sales are up 40 to 50% as of last week.
And lots of folks are coming in to the gun range for training, which he says is important for new gun owners.
“Every time that door opens, we’re seeing new faces,” Stephenson says. Many new customers tell him they’re concerned about the response to the grand jury decision.
The bulk of the weapons sold to new buyers are home defense shotguns. “We’ve sold tons,” he says.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles says a good number of residents have told him they’re buying guns for protection. The mayor has warned law enforcement to be mindful that there are a flurry of new gun owners.
“It is a little frightening to think that somebody who is less trained may not have that restraint.”
It is a terrifying prospect.
Legitimate peaceful protesters have wolves hiding among them, apparently looking to instigate something more than peaceful demonstrations.
Fearful residents are purchasing firearms for the first time, and fear is driving those purchases.
I have a gnawing concern that this toxic mix of simmering anger, an inability (or unwillingness) of people to communicate to one another, and fear from residents with newly purchased weapons and little to no training is going to lead to negligent discharges, “accidental” shootings, unnecessary shootings, and more than likely, more death and agony.
Inertia seems to have taken hold.
At this point we must simply hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that citizens won’t be forced to practice self-defense.