Lileks: Staying out of the bullseye: Packing heat at Target

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 10:34 PM

A group with the hard-to-acronym name of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America protested at Target’s downtown HQ this week, part of a larger effort to persuade the retailer to forbid “Open Carry.” Some guys in Texas have been going into Target stores carrying their rifles, as local law permits. They also carried them into fast-food restaurants. Some Second Amendment supporters approve. Some think it’s not ­particularly persuasive.

I’m just wondering when a rifle would come in handy at Target.

Some possibilities:

1. You’re short. You need to get that 12-pack of Scott tissue on the top shelf, but it’s on the back of the shelf, and there’s no one around to help. Bad: Use the gun to order someone to get it down for you. Good: Holding the stock of the rifle, use the barrel to knock over the bale of bathroom tissue, and then — if the gun has a sight at the end — snag the plastic and pull it toward you.

Or, get a team member’s attention, either by waving, or firing some shots into the ceiling.

2. Someone is running through the store and looks crazed. This could be someone who has had a mental break, possibly because the chances of getting yogurt that isn’t Greek have diminished to just about zero and he’s had it with these trends, and is running toward the sporting goods aisle to get a machete.

So you could A) brandish your weapon, letting him know he’s outmatched, or B) just pop him right there.

Then you discover he had forgotten something his wife sent him to get and had left his cart at the checkout line and was running because he was inconveniencing everyone who was behind him in line.

Don’t you feel silly now. Come to think of it, Target doesn’t even carry machetes. Well, they do have knives over in kitchenware, so you weren’t totally off base, but, still. Oops. Clean up on aisle 7!

3. It’s been a while until hunting season, so to recapture the pleasures of hunting, you throw a package of chicken breasts in the air and fire off a few rounds.

4. Someone is taking advantage of the overworked product demonstrator by circling back over and over and taking two pieces of Clif bars. After you’ve observed three such abuses of the store’s ­generosity, well, you’ll just hold him here until a manager comes over.

5. A register is being robbed, and the clerk is using the light to signal for help while attempting to buy time, asking the robber if he would like to steal 10 percent more today by opening a Target charge account. Using your scope, you disable the thief from your concealed position in greeting cards, which also reminds you to pick up one for your dad; Father’s Day is coming up.

These are possible ­scenarios, but not plausible. These are not situations any responsible gun owner would conceive of as a reason to use a gun at Target. So there has to be something else.

Self-protection? If so, it would seem the “carry” part is more relevant than the “open” part, in which case a holster and a sidearm would suffice.

Proving a point? Noted. Minds changed: zero.

Lest you ascribe these ­sentiments to the sort of weenie newspaper wimp who starts sentences with words like “lest,” I am not opposed to the idea of open carry. I am not relieved by signs that say “Guns are banned in these premises,” because it has the same effect on bad guys as the screen on the DVD that says “Interpol has taken an interest in movie piracy.”

I grew up in a house that had guns on a rack on the wall. All the local dads hunted. At an early age I witnessed my uncle shoot a rabid badger in a culvert pipe — an event that formed the plot for my first novel, written in first grade. Four pages. Rustic life punctuated by sudden violence, starring Pepper The Barking Farm Dog. I’m still working on the screenplay. Anyway: guns don’t make me nervous.

People who want to make people nervous by wearing guns to prove a point, however, are another matter.

You could argue that the more conspicuous open carry we have, the more everyone learns to unclench about firearms and associate them with law-abiding good guys instead of the law-flouting miscreants. I get that. But people are entitled not to like guns.

People don’t like tarantulas, and while it’s legal to own them, showing up at Chipotle with one perched on your head isn’t doing tarantula-acceptance any good.

Two possible solutions:

1. Wear a uniform. Any uniform. People relax a bit around guns if they’re worn by someone whose shirt and pants match in fabric and color, and they have an embroidered patch on the sleeve. Even if it’s a Cub Scouts emblem. It’s how we’re programmed.

The only exception is plaid: If you wear plaid pants and a matching plaid shirt and you enter a store with a rifle, people will think you are here to hold everyone hostage until Nick at Night starts showing WKRP reruns again.

2. New store policy: Rifles will be permitted in the store, but company policy insists that a big puffy pink pom-pom must be tied to the barrel. If you don’t have one, there is a $40 pom-pom rental fee.

But that’s for a shotgun. Single-barrels need only sport one pom.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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