What does it mean that Dennis Turner is black?

Leonard Pitts

In 1879, on the road leading into Dodge City, there stood a sign. “The Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited,” it said.

As recounted in the book “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America” by Adam Winkler, the gun control ordinance was the first law passed when the city was organized in 1873. Nor was Dodge unique. Many other western towns, Wichita and Tombstone among them, had similar laws.

The statutes don’t seem to have been particularly controversial. Though Dodge City was, by reputation if not always in actual fact, one of the toughest and most lawless places on the frontier, cowboys had no problem walking unarmed into its brothels and saloons. Yet in 2019, many of us feel the need to take guns into Walmart.

Worse, they’re allowed to do so under permissive “open carry” laws which, in most states, give people the right to bear handguns and even long guns in public. But now Walmart is fighting back. Sort of.

Last week, the giant retailer announced that it was “respectfully requesting” that people not bring guns into its stores. This, on the heels of last month’s racist mass shooting — 22 people died — at a Walmart in El Paso. Other companies, including Kroger, CVS and Walgreens, quickly followed suit. The New York Times notes that still more companies — Starbucks, Target and Chipotle among them — already had such policies in place. Most used the same word Walmart did to couch their requests: “respectfully.”

To say “it’s about time” is to understate. Years of living in the shadow of massacres has left us a nation on tenterhooks, 330 million people all sharing the same case of PTSD. One recalls the panicked stampede in Times Square last month when motorcycles backfired. One observes that children are being sent back to school this year with bulletproof backpacks. And one is glad businesses are willing to “respectfully request.”

But they must do more.

The idea of a cowboy walking without his revolver down the wooden sidewalks of Tombstone stands in rather pointed contrast to that of some accountant waiting in line at a suburban Starbucks with an AR-15 slung across his back. One can imagine no more vivid illustration of the absurdist dystopia this country has become as a result of the NRA, its GOP toadies and their conviction that all people must have access to all guns in all places at all times.

If you’re sitting in a movie theater or standing in a checkout line and some stranger walks by carrying a military grade rifle, do you feel safer or do you start looking for the exit? The answer is obvious: this is not a scenario that instills a sense of security. One would have to be drunk, stupid or Republican to think otherwise.

So it’s good to see American business taking a stand American lawmakers won’t, the marketplace of commerce reaching a consensus the marketplace of ideas can’t. That said, this polite pleading is not enough. Asked about Walmart’s policy, even David Amad, a gun rights activist in Texas, told the Times, “They are ducking the issue.”

Which they are. Walmart and other retailers seek a path of least resistance that will relieve them of the responsibility of taking a stand. But no such path exists: sides must be chosen and lines must be drawn, because this is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. And death and death and death. As a private entity, Walmart, like CVS, Starbucks and Kroger, can simply say, Do not bring guns into our stores. They have that power and they must use it. The majority of us who want gun sanity in this land must require them to. They’ve made their “respectful request.”

We must answer with an impatient demand.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Tribune Wire


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(16) comments


"One would have to be drunk, stupid or Republican to think otherwise." When it comes to changing minds, insult is one of the least effective tools. While seeing the hypothetical gun carrying customer at Starbucks may be a shocker in the USA, it would be an unremarkable sight in Switzerland, where gun ownership is second only to that of the US. The Swiss own (and carry) guns because they trust their government, Americans do because they don't. The military label used so often to classify certain weapons as not protected by the second amendment is paradoxically the one argument used in the 1939 United States v. Miller SCOTUS decision upholding a gun conviction because the gun involved, a cut off shotgun, was not a military type weapon. None of the subsequent Supreme Court gun issue cases since Miller have reversed this decision.


I can't understand the allure. Having spent plenty of time having to carry a rifle around with me everywhere and guard it with my life it's like taking your shoes off after a hard day's work to get to NOT carry it.


The left’s relentless push to ban commonly-owned semiautomatic rifles under the guise of safety overlooks the fact that Americans face numerous things that cause exponentially more death than rifles on a daily basis. Democrats now threaten to burst into homes and forcibly take guns from law abiding citizens. Finally, the real goal of the democrats is confiscation...

hermit thrush

the willful ignorance about how buyback programs work is breathtaking to behold.

as is the utter lack of concern over the slaughter of our brothers, sisters, and children.


That's the goal of some. Clearly it's true of Beto. The article bemoans resistance to ANY regulation in any manner, implying that there's a continuum. Every slope is not slippery, however. I, for one, think the SAFE act, or the similar 90s era Assault Weapon SALES ban, is spot on. It's the right formula as an end state, not a mere stepping stone. While I don't want it, I would be willing to accept any amount of regulation of gun sales. But I believe confiscations (and mandatory buy backs) disregard the constitution, which says KEEP. But regulating trade is just making that KEEPing mandatory, and fits in nicely with the commerce clause. Unless the constitution can be changed, at this time nobody who wants to confiscate in disregard of it is ready to swear an oath to uphold and defend. Will I still vote for them once nominated? If necessary, because there are even worse dangers to the nation. But I don't "Want" confiscation. And any law calling for it wouldn't pass the court s. The constitution isn't going to be changed (it should be clarified), but interpretation might. A swing in the Supreme Court could eventually allow for a reversal of rulings that declared the right of the people to keep and bear is an individual right rather than a collective right. The wording and our system allow that legitimately. The wording is such that there isn't a right answer. In this case, it's not math, it's art, and different people swear they see different things. I see something poorly written by a committee. What it most resembles is a mandate to let people retain any guns they may have, on the off chance we need them to assemble and form a militia, under whose banner they would bear arms. In the meantime, the "bearing" of arms by the unorganized militia (average citizens with guns "just in case") is rightly regulated by the states, the traditional commanders of the militias.


Suppression of our Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms is not the solution, such as the "Safe Act'. Chicago just proved that last weekend, 34 shot 6 fatal. Their gun laws are as stringent if not more so than NYS. The gov't can't round up 12 million illegal aliens how are they going to round up 12 so called 'assault rifles'?

hermit thrush

easy. you don't actually have to round the weapons up. you put into a place a buyback program where people are legally mandated to turn them in. if they don't, then they are running a big risk should they ever have any interactions with the law down the road. it's only complicated to people who refuse to see how simple it is.


Wake up, America! The Second Amendment, written for a 1790-ish world, is obsolete.

The Founding Fathers deserve great respect for what they accomplished. But let's not buy the notion that they had divine wisdom.

Holmes -- the real one

1) False

2) False

3) False

I imagine that some special commenters are just drooling with excitement over the fact that Trump is saying we're "locked and loaded" ready to defend Saudi Arabia.

Holmes -- the real one

This was a reply to a comment from Airball55 -- one that has now apparently been removed.

I wonder why this deeply flawed comment system was chosen by nny360.


Don't websites have to pay Disqus something to use them?

Holmes -- the real one

rdsouth --

here is what I have found relating to that:


Where did the new comment system originate, I wonder.


Of course there are...traffic accidents...cancel...etc... What causes intentional-preventable slaughter of school kids...people in a mall...concert goers...night club attendees... and the notion that Dems will break down your door to take all guns is the continued parroting of the NRA... Dude, it's assault weapons... Owned guns all my life..hunt every Fall...looking forward to the opening day of deer season...and I'm NOT a Dem... It's large capacity semiautomatic rifles... they were banned, and need to be banned again..no one broke down doors during the previous AWB..good God.... Lacking that offer a solution.. I hear arguments all the time to keep weapons of war, but no solutions to the problem..

Holmes -- the real one

Yup, that's the issue.


Well said. Pretty much hit a homer in Gracie.


Thank you. So succinctly said.

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