The man who walked into a Springfield, Mo., Walmart last Thursday wielding a military-style semiautomatic rifle and wearing body armor, terrifying shoppers in the aftermath of the El Paso massacre, says he was just “testing” his Second Amendment rights. It sounds insane, but consider the true insanity: Since Missouri is an open-carry state, wielding that weapon in public probably wasn’t in itself illegal.
He’s been charged with making a terrorist threat because he caused a storewide panic — by doing something that is explicitly permitted under Missouri law. What does that sick scenario say about Missouri law?
Dmitriy Andreychenko, 20, entered the Walmart outfitted in camouflage and carrying, in addition to his visible AR-style rifle, a semiautomatic handgun and 100 rounds of ammunition. It was, in essence, exactly the scenario of the Aug. 3 massacre of 22 people in a Walmart in Texas — the cradle of the national open-carry movement.
The only difference this time is that the Missouri gunman didn’t do any shooting. Nonetheless, fellow shoppers ran from the store and called police. Andreychenko was arrested without incident.
The problem is that Missouri, like many other states, allows most people 19 years or older to carry firearms in public, open or concealed. It only becomes illegal if the weapon is “displayed in an angry or threatening manner.” It’s a standard so subjective as to be meaningless, but one the Springfield gunman doesn’t seem to have violated by merely strolling the aisles watching his fellow shoppers scatter in fear. There’s been no reporting to suggest he pointed the guns at anyone.
That has necessitated some logical contortions from Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson to explain how it is that Andreychenko faces criminal charges: “Missouri protects the right of people to open carry a firearm,” Patterson said in a statement, “but that does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner endangering other citizens.”
Again, Missouri law explicitly permits scenarios exactly like this one. If what Andreychenko did was “reckless” and “endangering” (and it was), then so is the law itself.
The entire point of the “carry” movements, both open and concealed, was to create a society in which the people all around us are armed, as if to serve notice to all bad guys out there. Warnings that this was a careful-what-you-wish-for proposition fell on deaf ears, as the gun lobby and its political lackeys apparently came to believe their own irrational rhetoric about gun violence having nothing to do with guns.
Now, Walmart shoppers — and people in other public spaces wherever such laws are in effect — have to wonder which of those legally carrying gunmen will suddenly decide to illegally use what he’s carrying. This is the world our permissive gun culture built. We’re all prisoners in it, and will continue to be until sanity returns to the state legislatures where such laws exist.