This ain't the Wild West — it's Charleston 

Keep It Holstered

click to enlarge Hold your horses, cowboys. For this hootenanny, Leave the heavy ammunition at home

Scott Suchy photoillustration

Hold your horses, cowboys. For this hootenanny, Leave the heavy ammunition at home

Here's a fun fact for you: If you are one of the handful of lucky folks to get tickets to Thursday's big, Wild West themed Best of Charleston bash at the Charleston Area Convention Center, you'll have to leave the toy guns at home.

Yes, you can still dress up in your Doc Holliday and Annie Oakley best — in fact, you're encouraged to — but you'll always be two six shooters short in the cosplay department thanks to the strict orders of the Convention Center sheriff.

Kinda seems to defeat the purpose of a Wild West themed party right? After all, what's a gunslinger without their gun to sling?

Then again, it all depends on your view of what actually constitutes playing the role of one of those brave men and women who ventured West, claimed land that wasn't theirs, systematically killed off huge swaths of buffalo for sport, and nearly got a perfect score in genocide.

But that's Manifest Destiny for you. You can't rightly create a glorious new nation from sea to shining sea without taking Texas from the Mexicans and then having the balls to call them an invading army at the Battle of the Alamo. Davy Crockett died for our hypocrisy, folks.

Anyhow, back to the toy guns.

Yep, just checked one more time. You can't bring them to the party. The next gun show at the convention center, though, that's a different matter.

It wasn't always like this, of course, this societal aversion to toy firearms.

There was a time you could run around in your Roy Rogers undies and pop a cap at every Tom, Dick, and Harriette around and nobody in Mayberry would've batted an eye, except to say how adorable you were for pretending to gun down folks in the street. Those were the days. Sigh.

But then the Black Panthers got the good ole idea to take the Second Amendment to heart and arm themselves. They even had the gall to march up the steps of the California state capitol building. Yikes.

Enter the NRA.

Instead of being all gung-ho about arming every single man, woman, and child with a firearm as they are today, the NRA of yesteryear didn't like the idea of this anti-establishment army taking up arms and scaring the public. Nope. And so a law banning open-carry was passed in California, a law that remains on the books today.

Flash forward to the late 1980s and early 1990s. America was concerned with gang violence and the crack epidemic in the nation's urban centers. The two went hand in hand, as the cheap new drug brought in big money to the gangs who ran the trade. Needless to say, the gangs needed to protect themselves from competing bangers, and so they began buying assault rifles and launched a tit-for-tat, drive-by war on the streets of Los Angeles, New York City, and elsewhere.

This time, the NRA wasn't so bothered.

But Uncle Sam was and banned assault weapons for 10 years. That said, when the law expired in 2004, it wasn't renewed.

Since then, you know what has happened.

The number of mass casualty shootings has increased, gun sales have become increasingly brisk, and concealed-carry laws have spread faster than the oft-repeated mantra, "Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun."

That's bogus, you know, that quote. It's a myth every bit as fantastical as Saint Nick and the idea that Columbia is a tourist destination and not a famously hot frying pan of concrete, asphalt, and middle-aged frat boys wearing backward baseball caps singing Hootie and the Blowfish's "Hold My Hand (because it won't stop shaking because I've been getting ripped in Five Points for 30 years and the trough is so far away)."

The truth is, all of those good guys rarely, if ever, draw their guns. In fact, a recent Harvard University study found that gun owners only defended themselves with a gun in 0.9 percent of cases.

Now, it could be that the gun owner didn't feel drawing a firearm was necessary. Or it could be because the owner simply wasn't anywhere near their weapon. Or it could be that, you know, when confronted with a criminal who intends to rob or harm you, most people are too scared to do anything other than exactly what the bad guy tells them to do. Who knows?

That said, we all should be glad that the vast majority of good guys — 48 percent of whom bought their guns solely for their protection — never draw their guns. They save more lives that way.

While it may be easy to figure out who's the good guy and who's the bad guy when you're standing across from each other at the O.K. Corral, it's not so easy if you're inside a concert hall or a nightclub. Heck in 2015, there were 489 accidental shootings, 49 percent of which were by individuals over 35, an age group you'd think had plenty of time to learn the NRA's rules of gun safety: always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Even though that 489 figure is small, it should give you pause.

Sadly, it doesn't even come close to the number of people who used a firearm to commit suicide that year, 22,018, which is nearly double of those who were murdered.

The point is, guns don't save lives, they take lives.

So if you want to pull your gun out of your holster and play cowboy, stay home. And please, please, please, make sure no one else is in the house while you're doing it.


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