My dad used to tell me stories of his childhood in rural Georgia. As a kid, he hunted rabbits and squirrels, and even held a Boy Scout sharpshooting record for decades until some newer kid broke it a few years back.
I never fully grasped my dad’s skill with a gun until one Christmas, when I tore away the wrapping paper on a brand new BB gun à la A Christmas Story — to my parents’ stunned silence. The peashooter was from my grandmother, who had decided it was time for me to learn to shoot (without including my mother and father, of course). My dad begrudgingly set up a YooHoo can on a stump in the backyard and, after lecturing me on firearm safety, aimed the gun like a modern Atticus Finch and put a BB right through the middle.
It was the first and last time I ever saw him hold a gun.
After his years serving in the military, my dad gave up on guns. He got married, boxed up his rifles and revolvers, and started teaching Chemistry at Piedmont College in the small rural town of Demorest, Georgia.
That town, where I was born and went to elementary school, now allows guns in the workplace, thanks to a push by their mayor, former GOP state Representative Rick Austin. The new rule only applies to city employees, and those employees must pass a safety course in order to carry their concealed firearm to work.
The new policy sure seems to fit in with the typical far-right ideology of the north Georgia foothills, and some folks seem happy with it.
“I’m thinking this way. If someone came in with a gun and started shooting people, if I had a gun, I would use it. So I think it would be good,” Peggy Johnson said.
But not everyone feels that way. One local resident put it bluntly:
“That’s stupid,” said John Rainey, who described himself as a war veteran. “It’s not that bad around here. I’ve been here for 40 years, and it ain’t that bad.”
Maybe along the way, John Rainey came to the same realization as my dad that guns have their place: on a military base, in a police station or even a backyard taking potshots at empty cans.
Maybe guns don’t belong in bars, churches or government buildings, such as the Georgia state capitol or your local courthouse. Maybe these are places where the public can have the peace of mind that the only guns around them are in the hands of the trained law enforcement professionals sworn to protect us.
If so, the mayor of Demorest just took that peace of mind away from his own employees and every single one of his constituents who wants to participate in city government.
And maybe, as John Rainey would say, that’s just plain stupid.