Do we really need babysitters for Barettas?

gun storage truckDoes the image of an armored truck, outfitted with 360-degree surveillance cameras and secured by body-camera-toting security guards, parked on the lot of a bar in downtown St. Louis, fill you with civic pride?

If so, welcome to militarized St. Louis. This is the city that sported a tank in its Gay Pride parade. Now we are being asked to host a “gun truck” — an idea that was hatched by a former St. Louis County police chief, who apparently equates public safety with armed citizenry.

Despite repeated pleas from St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson not to bring guns downtown, apparently some suburb-dwellers are either so afraid of the city, or so attached to their firearms, or both, that they are unwilling to attend a baseball game without packing heat. Thus, the gun truck idea was born. For just $10 (or $15, if you pay by credit card), the truck will baby-sit your Beretta while you enjoy a few beers at the ballpark.

There are so many disturbing things about this idea that it’s hard to know where to start.

First, the idea that you need to be armed at all times is just another attempt to make it seem normal to carry a weapon wherever you go. We can thank the National Rifle Association and the gun industry for this; as our national fear and paranoia increase, so do their profits.

Second, it is really unfortunate that so many people are trying to portray downtown St. Louis as unsafe. Much of this stems from the tragic shooting of Christopher Sanna, who was shot in 2015 after he and his girlfriend left Busch Stadium. Following this horrific event, security in the city was beefed up before and after sporting events. Much credit for clear-eyed thinking goes to Sanna himself, who was quoted in this newspaper in October 2015, saying: “We have to be able to come up with something other than everyone carrying a gun.”

Sound public policy and good business decisions are seldom made as a result of a few isolated incidents. What does happen after these incidents are efforts to make us all afraid. The result is something as ludicrous as a gun truck. Never underestimate the ability of fear to make us do stupid things. Never doubt the greed of some entrepreneurs to make money off our fears.

 Maybe Chief Dotson, in his continuing efforts to encourage people not to travel around with guns, should enlist the help of the late country singer Johnny Cash. In 1958, Cash rose to the top of the charts with his hit song, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.” For those too young to remember, the song tells the story of a young cowboy who, ignoring the advice of his mother, gets into gunfight at a saloon and is killed. The repeated refrain goes:

“Don’t take your guns to town, son

Leave your guns at home, Bill

Don’t take your guns to town.”

Maybe we should start to mind our mothers.

[Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 13, 2016 in the Op-Ed section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  It is reprinted with permission of the author.]