Saturday, August 10, 2019

You Might Want To Rethink That...

File under: Maybe this wasn't as good an idea as you thought...

A man who sparked panic by walking into a Walmart with a rifle and body armor told police he was testing his right to bear arms in public.

Dmitriy Andreychenko entered the shop heavily armed, days after a mass shooting at another of Walmart's stores.

"I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the second amendment," the 20-year-old told police after his arrest.

Prosecutors have charged him with making a terrorist threat.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for Mr. Andreychenko, who appears to be being charged with feloniously thoughtless scariness ("The terrorist threat charge covers an act which 'recklessly disregards the risk of causing the evacuation' of a building, or 'knowingly causes a false belief or fear... that a condition exists involving danger to life'.") for his admittedly ill-advised "social experiment." The response to this illustrates the degree to which our legal system, cynicism aside, is designed to respond to public fears and anxieties. Terrorism doesn't usually involve recklessness or scaring people when there is no actual threat.

It also speaks to the strange relationship that we have with firearms. In a manner of speaking, Mr. Andreychenko did nothing illegal. There's no indication that the weapons he was carrying were illegal or that he wasn't allowed to possess them. (Although now, according to the article, he'll have to surrender his guns even if granted bail.) But his (possibly soon to be ex-) wife was correct: people were going to take him walking into Walmart "heavily armed" very seriously. But to be sure, what people really objected to was him being so visibly armed; after all, he was held at gunpoint by another armed customer in the store until the police arrived, and there's nothing in the story that indicates that this man was also detained.

But is also illustrates the disconnect between two different constituencies that simply can't understand where the other is coming from.
"This is Missouri, I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out," [Mr. Andreychenko] said, according to police filings.
While in this case, Mr. Andreychenko wasn't as in tune with his community as he believed that he was, the general understanding that people in the central areas of the country have a different relationship with guns is true enough. Had it occurred to him to try this experiment in, say, January (assuming that no more mass shootings were widely publicized in the meantime) he may have provoked nothing more than exasperation with his need to test Walmart on their perceived constitutional commitments. But as it is, he's looking at prison time.

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