This is one of those posts that has been nagging at me for some time. I have absolutely no desire to write it, as I know the controversy this discussion will likely stir. I don’t like the sick feeling I get in my gut when I think about it, let alone talk about it. Unfortunately I don’t see any way of getting away from it, since this is a blog about life, love, and mothering. I have no choice but to write it. File this one under life. The unsettling realities of life.
Several weeks ago we went out to dinner then stopped at a local ice cream parlor for dessert. It is set up just as you would imagine – somewhat long and narrow with glass windows displaying multiple colors and flavors on your left, several bistro tables and chairs on your right. Dividing the two spaces are three posts strung together with black webbing tape designed to work as a people mover. My kids love to run back and forth under it making a near miss of total decapitation each time. One more time and no ice cream for you! This people mover serves little purpose here in this small, lightly populated store which truly fascinates me. Have you ever watched a flock of birds? Five hundred birds can fly in one direction and with little or no notice the entire group makes a right hand turn without a single casualty and yet as humans we can’t stand in a straight line.
On this night, however it was more crowded than usual. We live in college town, literally about a mile from campus so it was no surprise to see a group of co-eds in line for ice cream. There was a group in front of us and before I knew it, one behind us. We were right in the middle, stopped luckily in front of the ice cream display. My kids were ogling the choices exclaiming their preference for pink, blue, or green. I noticed a young girl right behind me; we made eye contact and smiled. She took a quick look at my unpainted toenails and I am certain she vowed to herself in that moment to not ‘let herself go’ when she gets older and has kids. This is not the case! Truth be told, I utilize the time when my kids are in the tub playing to do my at-home pedi. From the time either one enters the tub to the time they are ready to bathe, I can usually get the paint off, clip and buff. Repainting usually has to wait until the next day. Or week. For the record, I have not let myself go; my priorities have simply changed!
Somewhat suddenly I heard this loud voice coming from behind the counter. Out of the corner of my eye I could see hands seeming to wave wildly about. I look over and see a tall, thin man with white hair standing behind the counter next to the young man who is serving the ice cream. He’s very demonstrative, waving his arms and yelling, “Big news people! Big changes! Just wait, over the next year you will know what I’m talking about! Yeah!” Who is this guy and what could he possibly be talking about? I look to the girl behind me and ask if she knows who this guy is. She shrugged and replied laughing, “Maybe he’s Mr. Ice Cream!” He was dressed in a white dress shirt, no tie, and dark suit pants. His overly gold watch with black face stood out on his thin wrist. While waving his hands I noticed a large, gold and diamond nugget ring on his right pinky finger. “Just wait! Big news is coming! Just for tonight – free scoops for everyone!”
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who he was or why he was here. What big news could he be talking about? Do I need to let him know that the waffle cone actually made its debut about twenty years ago and is still doing quite well? Is he bringing out a new flavor? It’s only ice cream. Aside from chocolate hard shell topping I’m not sure what is left that’s new and exciting. This guy is nuts. Oh my God. He’s nuts; armed and nuts. Suddenly my senses were on overload. Suddenly I didn’t want ice cream anymore. I could hear my heart beating in my ears.
As the line shifted forward I could now get a full look at crazy Mr. Ice Cream. He had yet again waved his arms in the air to reveal a handgun. This was not a small pistol that he was wearing on his hip. This was a large handgun that was strapped to his body with one of those over-the-shoulder harnesses allowing the gun to sit along his ribs under his left arm. I am no gun expert but this gun would surly eat a .38 for breakfast. Is he a cop? No way, a cop would be dressed better. Is he an armored car driver? No, he’d be in uniform. My head was spinning. The co-eds were still high-fiving because they were getting a free scoop and all I could think about was the best way to be a body shield for my children. Do I cover William and Brian take Audrey? Does Brian cover us all? Do we risk it and run? I was suddenly feeling trapped. There was not a single intellectually decent reason for this man to be wearing this type of weapon in this family based establishment.
Remaining clam we moved forward and apparently someone must have asked him about the gun. In response, he waved his arms to get everyone’s attention, shifted his body for us all to see his gun and, laughing said, “Oh this? This, yes, it’s ok everybody, I have a permit!” Like somehow that made it alright. It was legal, sure but necessary? He then went into the back of the store. I told Brian I would meet him outside with the kids. Things had moved very quickly and before I knew it Brian was with us outside giving the kids their ice cream. After a few bites we took it to-go.
I am not anti-gun. I have a family full of hunters and outdoorsmen. I grew up in a house full of guns. I wouldn’t want my father or brother to be unable to have access to a gun for their sport or limit someone who wanted a gun to protect their home. With that said, I cannot find a reason for an ice cream man to be armed in the presence of college kids and small children. So what if I tell him there wasn’t enough nuts on my sundae? Will he shoot me? We all have rights, clearly I understand that. But why is it acceptable that his right to bear arms directly affected my right to enjoy ice cream with my children? How is it that this is acceptable?
I can already hear people saying that I am overreacting. Possibly. Maybe not. I’m a mother and we act in any way necessary to protect our children. Was I scared? Absolutely. I don’t think I’m overreacting when all I want to do is protect her:
And my life with them:
Chances are nothing terrible was going to happen that night. I know that it was highly unlikely for Mr. Ice Cream to shoot me over peanuts. I also know that as a society we have said the exact same thing over and over, far too many times. Chances are nothing is going to happen. No one really believed James Holmes would ever hurt anyone. Or did they? We all knew Adam Lanza had access to guns but no one thought for a second he would actually use them. Really? Look at Ivan Lopez, he carried a gun with him daily and was highly skilled. He was one of the ones that was supposed to protect us. He would never hurt anyone. Are we sure about that? I hear people say that having armed citizens is a good thing – they protect us from crazy people. So what the hell are we supposed to do when it’s the crazy person with the gun? Haven’t we seen enough tragedy to answer this question?
We take risks every day. I get that, I do. But I also know that there are degrees of risk. Is having an armed ice cream man a necessary risk? When it comes to my family the answer is clearly no. That seems to be the only question I do have an answer for. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of questions, wonderings, and conflicting opinions. My experience that night raised even more questions and raised more doubt. With all of the people in this world yelling that more guns is the answer, then why did this experience simply make me feel more afraid? Knowing that Mr. Ice Cream carries a very large concealed handgun does not make me feel any safer. Does it make you feel any safer?