In Middlefield, Ohio on March 10, after being pulled over for minor traffic violation, James Gilkerson, 42, opened fire, with an AK-47 rifle, on the police officers who had just stopped him. Police fired back, and eventually killed him. Both officers were wounded, and one lost a finger, but both ultimately recovered. To this date police don’t know why Gilkerson opened fire. Upon viewing the footage of the incident the local county prosecutor has said that the shooting was justified and has not pressed charges on the officers. The newly released dashboard video of the incident is below; warning, it contains a graphic shootout.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
This is not another article that articulates a single violent event and then uses it as an argument for or against gun control; instead it hopes to be more productive and stir a legitimate discussion about gun culture as a whole. The issue I have towards the gun community is that it perpetuates many of the dangerous behaviors and thought processes which detriment and stigmatize it. While the majority of gun owners are obviously responsible moral individuals, the gun community has an image problem, and for a good reason.
In Gilkerson’s car, police found a duffel bag with knives, close to 400 bullets, gunpowder, and a makeshift library of books and pamphlets about explosives and guns. Police have found little information about Gilkerson, only that he cared for his elderly mother, had no criminal history, was a loner, and that he seemed anti-authority. It is not entirely clear as of now if the weapons were purchased legally or not.
The books found with Gilkerson read like a primer for a burgeoning military enthusiast, including titles such as Converting Model Rockets into Explosive Missiles, and Advanced Close Range Gunfighting. In the guns shows I have been to, all in Texas admittedly, much of the literature has been similar to these; including survivalist strategies, firearm tips, anti-government manifestos, occasional explosives books, and other titles which would look bad together on a library fine.
While it is perfectly in our rights to research such things, and my reading list would certainly sometimes give others concern, it speaks to the culture which gun shows and fervent Second Amendment supporters enable: a juvenile obsession with violent antics and strategies, and a largely unfounded fear of government. This image is reflected in Gilkerson. These violent obsessions coupled with anti-establishment viewpoints are downright scary, and rightly so.
One way to improve this image is gun shows. It’s easy as cake to get through a gun show without legal checks if you want to. If the gun community wants to be taken more seriously they should keep their gun shows fully legal, and minimize or factualize the anti-government mentality. This would go a long way to improving their image and showcasing more responsible firearm mentalities.