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An Open Letter to Attorney General Tim Fox: How Do I Keep from Being Killed When I Leave My Home?

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

I need some legal advice. As Montana’s top law enforcement officer, entrusted with public safety, perhaps you can offer some practical advice for Montanans that will help reduce the likelihood that we will be the next victims of a mass killing.

Given that you and the Republican Party in Montana oppose sensible gun regulation and given that the NRA and Montana Shooting Sports Association have stoked irrational fears about the imaginary threat of gun confiscation, there are not an insignificant number of gun enthusiasts who feel they best protect their rights by carrying assaults weapons in public spaces.

A few pictures below show these defenders of the Second Amendment in action. A pair seem to have bravely carried their assault weapons into a Chipotle to buy a burrito, another pair heroically brought theirs to Target to protect their children, and a militia of them took to a parking lot not unlike the one that was the scene of the recent carnage in El Paso.

Here’s my dilemma: what do I do if I encounter a lone gunman carrying his assault rifle into a store? What do I do if a group of them wanders through a park when I am just hanging out with my friends?

Do I shoot them?

Do I kill them because they might be bent on killing me and everyone around me? The response from many Second Amendment advocates in the past twenty hours has been just that, and these people—many of whom you are probably counting on to support you in your bid for governor—seem to honestly believe that the only way to stop mass killings is for someone to kill the killers.

Montana law, written by Republicans and defended by you, suggests that I might be in the right to shoot them. In 2009, the Legislature changed the law to give me the ability to use deadly force if I “reasonably believe that the conduct is necessary for self-defense or the defense of another against the other person’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

And let’s be honest, Mr. Fox. With the wave of killings using these weapons of war happening all over our country, how could I not reasonably believe that I should shoot someone who is unhinged enough to walk into a burrito shop with an AR-15 strapped over his shoulder?

I think we can both agree that the tragedy in El Paso illustrates that my concern is not theoretical.

Again, this leads me to ask whether I should just shoot that person? Perhaps you’ve created a brochure that will help me identify who are the “NRA Good Guys with a Gun©” and who are the bad guys? If so, please forward it to me.

Maybe I’m a radical liberal, but even shooting with such a guide in mind seems wrong. After all, there’s at least a chance I might be wrong and they are only carrying their weapons in public to put their fragile masculinity on full display, not to threaten others.

Do I notify the police?

Given the permissive laws in place in Montana and your own opposition to local communities establishing their own standards for gun safety, I’d assume you’d object to my calling law enforcement and argue it would be a waste of police resources to have them come investigate. After all, the contemporary gun rights position is that any restriction on guns violates the constitution, even though our country managed to have sensible restrictions on gun laws for two centuries until the NRA became the arbiter of our rights.

Since neither of those options seems viable—one because of my unwillingness to murder and the other because Republicans have hamstrung the police—I’m left to assume that my only choice is the third one.

Do I think and pray really hard that they not kill me or someone else?

After all, Republicans typically offer “thoughts and prayers” after a shooting, though you seem to have exercised your right to remain silent on the last three incidents. Is the problem that we’re not supposed to offer thoughts and prayers after the incident but deploy them right before an attack with an assault weapon that can kill nine and wound 27 in under a minute?

I’m just a regular person. I’m certain that, as Montana’s top law enforcement officer, you’ve got some insight into which of my three strategies is most appropriate. Or perhaps you’ve been silent in the face of three mass killings in less than a week because you’re busy developing a comprehensive plan to make our communities safe from this threat.

In any case, I am eager to hear your response. Lives depend on it, and there clearly is no time to wait for an answer.

Thank you.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Well said ! I only wish that more sensible people could read these words, and understand. Gun rights advocates: Your right to carry a gun anywhere and everywhere should not trump MY right to feel safe in a public place!

  • Advocates for unlimited, unrestricted gun rights for all seem particularly opposed to any concerns about mental health issues being part of more comprehensive background checks.

    I wonder why that is?

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