Take, for example, an incident that occurred at the Kalamazoo Public Library early last month. A Kalamazoo resident took his handgun to the library’s Summer Reading Party – an event to kick off the library’s summer reading program for children.
According to media reports, the man, who was attending the party with his wife and child, was within his rights to carry a gun. He had a license and guns are not currently banned at Michigan’s public libraries. They are, however, banned in such places as banks, churches, courts, sports arenas and theaters. Some major retail outlets, such as Target, have also begun to ban guns from their stores.
The Michigan Library Association is currently seeking to have guns banned from libraries.
Library officials asked the man to leave the party, but he declined. He finally did leave after the police were called.
The man told a reporter that he was merely trying to protect his wife and 3-year-old daughter. He said he carries the gun at all times.
But library officials told him that he was scaring other children who were at the party.
Yes, he had the right to carry a gun to the party, but it wasn’t a very smart choice. With all the school shootings that have occurred in recent years, it is understandable why people would be upset over someone carrying a firearm at a place full of children.
Loutit District Library Director John Martin said he doesn’t agree with someone who comes into a library with children just to make a political statement that he has a right to carry a firearm. While he acknowledges that a person has the right to carry a gun, Martin said you don’t know for sure what that person’s intentions are with a gun.
Spring Lake District Library Director Claire Sheridan also recognizes that people have a right to carry a gun — but, at the same time, libraries are a safe place to be.
I agree with John and Claire — there is no need to carry a firearm into a library.
A similar incident took place at a Western Michigan Christian High School soccer game in September 2013. A man brought a gun to the game. He was asked to leave.
Again, the man had the right to carry a gun. But I can understand why school officials felt uncomfortable with the situation. The man would have been better off to have left his gun at home.
These kinds of incidents are taking place all over the country. I’m not going to get into the gun debate. Personally, I would never carry a firearm in fear that something horrific could occur.
People should use more common sense in situations that occurred at a public library and at a high school soccer game. But common sense often seems to take a backseat.
Take bicyclists, for example. I wrote a column last year about my bicycle accident in which my head slammed into the sidewalk. My bike helmet was cracked. My doctor told me that I could have been severely injured or even killed if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet.
I did have some people approach me and told me that they would wear a bicycle helmet from now on.
But I still see too many people riding their bikes without helmets. I even observed one young man riding at breakneck speed along a busy highway. He was attired in nice bicycle apparel, but he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Accidents do happen — and, if he fell and hit his head, he could be seriously injured or even killed.
Before the motorcycle helmet law was repealed, I had a lengthy discussion with a former colleague. He argued that people should have the right to choose whether to wear a helmet. I argued that riders without helmets who are involved in accidents are more seriously injured. I also told him that we all end up paying more into the catastrophic insurance fund.
Yes, it is probably more comfortable to ride without a helmet. But the threat of injury is more severe.
We all could stand to use more common sense – whether it comes to carrying a firearm or riding a bicycle or motorcycle.
— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist