Thanks to my ever loving Mom and Dad I took an opportunity this morning to log a long trail run through the Colorado National Monument. Yesterday there was a series of rain/snow storms that ripped through the area so initially, I was a little concerned about mud, but it was not actually that bad. The sandy soils that are prevalent up and down the canyon bottoms in the Monument drain very fast.
Physically I did pretty well on the run. At two particular points, I felt a twinge on the inside of my left foot. It was in the fascia underneath the wound from my surgeries and so I was concerned. But in both cases, the pain subsided when I changed my footfall and slowed my pace for a while.
Right now, I am going to have to focus on active recovery. Both my calves and knees are sore. And my feet fell like someone ran over them with a truck. OUCH!
An Unfortunate Encounter
While climbing back up out of the Grand Valley I was planning my return route, with a break near the base of Independence Monument for some calories and maybe a picture or two, as part of the internal monologue that often takes root in my brain as I run. That climb, sandwiched between a south facing wall and a cliff below, is hot sweaty work. So my plan was getting pretty elaborate by the time I crested the fin of loose soils separating Monument Canyon and Wedding Canyon.
I rolled my eyes, almost spraining an ocular muscle in my right eye because I could hear voices bouncing off the sheer faces of rocks and cliffs in the little nestle between the Monument and the wall north of there. Someone spitting chaw out actually echoed. “Awesome!” I’m thinking at this point. I ran down into the intersection and found three kids, two boys and a girl, likely from Colorado Mesa University messing around in the delicate desert soils off the trail. And then a fourth, kicking the newly installed signs at the crossroads of the trails.
“Hey, you know that’s illegal,” I said as I noticed the oversized hand cannon strapped to this in-bread yokel’s belt. Of course, at this point trying to kick over a steel sign post sort of became a minor concern.
“No it’s nawt,” he said and I had correctly identified at least one of the spitters. “It’s legal fur me to carry a gun in the park. Just not in Federal buildings.”
Okay, I’m not a fool hearted moron. I turned and ran down the trail opting to skip chocolate coated pomegranate seeds and the last of my water in the shade of a boulder near the Monument. I am uncomfortable in the presence of people trained in the use and maintenance of firearms, but at least I also know they are more likely to remain even-tempered in even the most stressful of situations.
This kid was belligerent, flaunting the side arm like it gave him permission to behave without a modicum of civility let alone respect. I called the ranger station and was informed, with a nonchalance that irked me, that it is legal to carry a firearm in a National Park or Monument.
Rules Lawyering from the Dust
Yeah, I’m no lawyer, but I can play one on TV. Or the internet. After putting as much space between myself and that dysfunction as possible I couldn’t break the thought loop. I knew that the actual Federal statute is titled something about “Federal facilities” not buildings. A building is a facility, but not all facilities are buildings.
Having done a fair amount of trail work both as a volunteer and a paid Federal employee I also know that a trail system that traverses Federal land actually constitutes a sizable long-term investment by the government for the citizens of the country. While most trails lack walls (this one actually has numerous rock walls supporting the trail surface) they are numbered and entered in a Federal Facilities catalog of assets.
It occurred to me while running on the trial that the “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities” could and should be easily applied to the national trail system.
Only after I passed a family of four from France did I resolve to at least write some letters about this. Is this what we want the rest of the world to see American’s as half-crazy, anti-social, pretend warlords with shit for attitude?
What Mission Statement?
Since its founding, in the late 19th century the Park Service has had a singular goal and a well-defined mission statement.
“The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
Today folks, you let me down. I was enjoying my run through our nearest National Monument because of its natural value and had even been somewhat inspired by this very special place. Then I ran into a clear and significant threat, one that could have easily been prevented.
I’m fairly certain that I did not just go for a jog in Syria or Afghanistan. Had that been the case, I may have strapped a carbine to my back too. But, there is no threat, real or imagined, that justifies a sidearm in the Colorado National Monument. There were families with kids on that trail today, lots of them.
Why Open Carry is THE DUMB
I wanted to ask that kid what he hoped to accomplish by bringing that thing into the Park once I realized that he had it on his side. There are no bears or lions frequenting the canyons. Hunting is illegal in the Park and nothing is in season at the moment anyway.
That had to be either a .45 caliber M1911 reproduction or a semi-auto .357 with full steel construction. With the holster, he left open the whole thing must have been pushing four pounds. His pack weighed less when he left the trailhead full of snacks and water. And as a survival utility, this weapon is neither useful or efficient.
Then there is the Open Carry lobby, which believes “a right unexercised is a right lost” which hopes to normalize the practice of wearing firearms in public places. They have effectively fetishized a dangerous and anti-social behavior. However, what these human turd sacks fail to realize is how the rest of the world perceives them.
Let me illustrate my point:
You see I actually don’t have much problem with gun ownership. I have hunted plenty in the past and that practice would become all but impossible if I had to resort to throwing javelins with my atlatl and fleeing turkeys. The thing is, and I will emphasize this for effect, THERE IS A TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, a piece of legislation in the UK that has been echoed around the world, defines anti-social behavior as acting in a manner that has “caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons, not of the same household” as the perpetrator. The thing is, if you’re packing a six-shooter to pick up a box of tampons for your good lady everyone around you in Wally World does not see you as a hero for freedom, liberty and our shared rights. They don’t see you as some sort of vigilantly justice, ready and primed to keep the riffraff at bay. They don’t see you as a hardened and hearty outdoorsman just in from riding fence line on the range. They even don’t imagine you might be a soldier of fortune, with an awesome Joe nickname and swivel arms, ready to nab Snake Eyes on aisle nine.
They see you as the over-weight, immature fuckstick with sociopathic intent. Why else would you wear a firearm into a public place? You’re pushing rules to their limits, you’re threatening and harassing anyone near you and foolish enough to have left their body armor in the closet. You obviously lack restraint enough to have left the piece home in the first place, thus the question arises, do you lack the restraint to know when use is warranted?
Guys, it is not gun control freaks you need to fear. They’re not going to be the ones who take away your precious right to own arms. It is every day, average Joes like me that you should worry about. We write letters. We donate to election campaigns. But more than all of that, we’re the ones who feel threatened when you misunderstand us on a trail and act belligerently, because of your reprehensible behavior, while carrying a big, menacing gun.