Settled into the seat at one of the local Regal Cinemas the other night to watch Denzel Washington wreak havoc on the bad guys when I noticed a guy two rows ahead taking off his jacket and the nose of a semi-automatic pistol sticking down from a holster on his belt.
At first, I thought he might be an off-duty law enforcement officer but then recognized him from a gathering of gun fanciers at a meeting I covered for the media a few months ago. He’s a truck driver with a Virginia concealed carry permit.
I also have a concealed carry permit but my Glock 17 was locked in a gun safe in the trunk of my car on this particular event because Regal has a “no weapons” policy for its theaters and a notice saying firearms, legal or not, are not allowed inside the theater.
At the meeting where this guy spoke, he bragged about ignoring the signs at retail establishments that used the provisions of Virginia’s concealed-carry law to post a prohibition of possession of weapons.
“My rights trump their stupid claims,” he said at the time. “If I wanna carry, then I carry and to hell with anyone who tramples on my rights. Besides, they have to catch me first.”
As a law-abiding owner of weapons who, on occasion, employs both my legal rights to hold a concealed weapon and who follows the dictates of Virginia’s “open carry” provisions, I agree to follow the law. I also recognize the rights of business owners to enforce a “no weapons” policy on their premises. Gun forums throughout the Internet urge boycotts and rampant disrespect for such policies and, as a gun owner, I find such practices dangerous.
It is, in my opinion, stupid, disrespectful and dangerous to shoulder an AR-15 tactical weapon and open-carry into a Wal-Mart or another public establishment simply as a show of bravado “because I can.”
It makes those who don’t own guns or who don’t support Virginia’s liberal gun laws uncomfortable and sometimes fearful. It causes many of us who do own firearms but also support sensible use of weapons to simply shake our heads.
We were still about 15 minutes before the movie’s start time and the man with the gun got up and headed for the lobby. I followed him and watched him head into the concession stand line. I walked up to one of the off-duty area police officers who works security at the theater, pointed the gun fancier out, and told him that I saw him with a concealed weapon. When the gun carrier started back to the theater, the officer stopped him, asked him if he had a concealed weapon, and when he said he did have one, the officer and a theater employee told him to take the weapon and secure it in his car before going back to his seat.
Instead, he demanded his money back and, in a loud voice, stated he would never, ever, set foot in a Regal theater again.
“Your patrons would have been safer with me in the theater with my gun,” he claimed.
Gun fanciers often point to the mass shooting of patrons at a Colorado theater as reasons to allow guns in the hands of seats of movie patrons. Some who do own and operate weapons also worry at the lack of skill, marksmanship inabilities and judgment of too many who currently legally carry guns in public.
The officer thanked me for the assistance and I returned to my seat in the theater about half-way through the previews. Then I watched Robert McCall, the Equalizer, dispatch the bad guys with many weapons, including a ball-peen hammer, a drill, a nail-gun, a corkscrew and, yes, a gun or two.
But the blood was fake and the violence was on screen and not emanating from a seat in the theater.
Now, that’s what some of us call entertainment.