I had the occasion of visiting Atlanta a few weeks ago. After several cold, rainy days, a warm sunny day presented itself. I went to the Olympic fountain with my six-year-old daughter.
There were probably close to a hundred people all around the fountain enjoying the day. I disabled my mature/adult judgment long enough to allow her the frivolous enjoyment of getting soaked by running through the fountain with a handful of other children whose parents were of a similar mind. Technically, it might not have been actually warm enough to have allowed it, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time.
Childhood is such a fleeting moment.
My little girl was taking a break and enjoying a cool drink with me at the side of the fountain, when I heard what I recognized as five quick shots from a semi-automatic weapon, nearby. I'd say the shots were within a hundred yards.
Most everyone else recognized the sounds as gunshots, too. As if in a choreographed movement, virtually everyone crumpled into a cowering position, a position from which it would have been entirely impossible to see any threat approaching.
If a gunman had been coming to wreak death and destruction, almost no one would have seen him coming. None of the cowering people would have been able to react with a more defensive action, such as running quickly away in a zig-zag pattern.
I was among a handful of folks who, instead of sticking their heads in the sand, had the instinct to become more alert and survey the surroundings with a keener eye toward locating and identifying any continuing threat. When I say a handful, I mean maybe four or five other people, both men and women, were doing what I was doing. Everyone else looked like sheep waiting for the big, bad wolf to go away.
Please don't misunderstand, I'm no hero. I had never been in a situation such as this before. I have, sadly and to my utter disgrace, no military experience. I do, however, have a CCW license.
I have been licensed to carry a concealed weapon for over six and a half years. Happily, I have never had any occasion to present my weapon. I was not raised by parents that were anti-gun, but neither were they gun enthusiasts. I found on my own how much fun target shooting and scenario shooting could be. Right after getting my CCW, I went for a three-day concealed carry course offered by SIGArms Academy in New Hampshire. God, that was fun. My ability to place rounds on a target has been honed over the years and I have been successful in bringing friends and family into the world of gun ownership.
I don't walk around with a John Wayne swagger, but confidence in my gun handling abilities does probably translate into the image of someone who is less likely to be thought of as a target by those who are looking for one. None of that mattered on that beautiful spring morning at the fountain with my six-year-old, as those shots rang out.
Why? I had double-checked that the drive to Atlanta would take me through states that offered reciprocation with the state in which my CCW is issued. Georgia reciprocates with my state.
So, why was it that I was sitting there by the fountain with my six-year-old, as the shots rang out, with no gun on my hip? Simple. We were walking from our hotel to the Georgia Dome, where no guns are allowed. My extensive FBI background check notwithstanding. My status as a law-abiding citizen notwithstanding. My extensive training with my handgun notwithstanding.
Back to the moment right after the shots were fired. I was up like a prairie dog. I knew the general direction from which the shots had come. There was no one approaching the fountain area from that location.
My first conscious thought was of anger. I was angry that I was holding my little girl, her joyful excursion now polluted by the unfolding events. I was angry that my outing with her had been marred by the same. But, even more so, I was angry that I did not have my gun to protect myself and my daughter.
I was angry that I did not possess the means to stop a threat, if one decided to present itself to us and the people around us.
After a few moments, I heard a plaintive, male voice calling from behind me: "Don't you know what's going on? Don't you know those were gunshots?"
The inference was that I, and the others who were looking around, were being stupid by not cowering like him and the rest of those who were. With everything else that was going on, I wanted to go over to that man and slap him. I think I was more angry at him than at the rest of the morning's festivities. My God, what has happened to us?
Not long thereafter, I saw police personnel on foot heading into the area from which the shots had come. They were joined by additional personnel on bicycle and the sounds of sirens approaching. I was impressed by the speed with which the police responded. Within five minutes, almost everyone had confidence that whatever had occurred, it was under control. Activity around the fountain began to return to some sense of normalcy. I squeezed as much of the water out of my daughter's shoes as I could and we made our way over to the Georgia Dome, not filled with the same sense of happiness as we might have been.
Hours later, I found out what had transpired. Apparently, a gunman had entered CNN Headquarters across from the fountain area. He had been chased out of the CNN Building and into the park where police shot and killed him. The shots we heard were from police weapons. I spoke with a FoxNews technician as they were breaking down equipment after a broadcast concerning the shooting. He told me that what had happened occurred fairly regularly. "Some nut with a gun goes into CNN almost every week," he quipped, seemingly amused by the whole thing. Sure made me think about ignoring some of the restrictions of where I could carry my weapon.
A couple of weeks later, a lone gunman went into another area where he could be assured that no one else was carrying a gun. 32 innocent lives were lost as much to insane gun laws as to an insane gunman. If everyone had a gun, no one would be stupid enough to pull one out.
Hopefully, Switzerland will be able to fend off the current assault on the longstanding requirement that every able bodied man have at least one weapon... preferably full-auto.