This article appeared in four newspapers along the Treasure Coast on January 26th.  I know some of my readers will take issue with a couple of the comments, but that’s what blog forums are for, discussion, disagreement, new ideas and such.

Marshall Frank: Electronic devices bad, but not enough to get shot over

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Tampa movie-house killing of an annoying text messenger allegedly by a retired cop is a senseless tragedy that also raises a number of ancillary concerns. For certain, gun control advocates will try to parlay mileage from the incident as an example for restricting gun ownership. That’s not a valid answer.

But it does beg a question: Why would anyone carry a loaded .380 semi-automatic weapon to the movies? I’m a retired 30-year cop, fully aware of the dangers of crime. I possess a gun permit. But I use considerable discretion about carrying on my person, and certainly do not bring a gun with me to entertainment venues.

The court and/or jury will decide if 71-year-old Curtis Reeves should go to prison. Based on what we know, it doesn’t look good for his future. For sure, if Mr. Reeves did not have his gun handy, Chad Oulson would be alive today, perhaps with a black eye, instead of a bullet.

Sometimes, the mere possession of a gun, however lawful, emboldens the owner into sense of omnipotence. I knew an off-duty police woman who was confronted by an armed robber in a parking lot. He wanted her wallet. She reached in her purse and pulled out her .38-caliber revolver instead. The robber shot her dead. Had she not brandished her weapon and simply parted with her money, she’d be alive today.

While texting is certainly no reason for anyone to be shot, it illustrates how much of a nuisance electronic devices have become in today’s world. It is no laughing matter. These little hand computers have evolved into the neo-addiction of the modern era. Not only do they present a danger on the road, they incense neighboring people in restaurants, concerts and movie houses.

I recently attended a King Center concert by child phenom, Jackie Evancho, where theater announcements clearly admonished the audience from using devices. Regardless, some folks could not resist. Attendees were repeatedly disturbed by video-takers and security officers scurrying to snatch devices from violators. It angered many who paid $100 a ticket to enjoy a concert without the nuisance of camera/texting addicts.

While such irritation is understandable, shooting people is another dimension. Guns are not just annoying, they are deadly devices and their misuses bring deadly results.

For those who are lawfully permitted to carry firearms, restrictions still apply in many types of venues, including bars, sports arenas, schools and government buildings. Perhaps those prohibitions should also extend to crowded theaters where emotions can run high. It would not violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Mental illness, not guns, ranks as the greatest threat to public security, but we have regretfully abolished all systems to treat and track people with serious psychotic disturbances.

According to a consensus of recent studies, nearly 43 percent of American households are in possession of a firearm, and up to 75 million people currently own a gun, half of which are handguns. If only one-tenth of one percent of gun owners are mentally unstable, that equates to some 40,000 lawful gun owners who are potentially dangerous.

While we’re at it, more prohibitions should be legislated for electronic devices as well.