Fear

Gun guy

Gun rights activist at a rally at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Over the weekend, a group of right-wingers held a rally at the Wisconsin Capitol to stand up and speak out for Second Amendment rights. At least a couple gun rights groups organized the event. Not that anyone is trying to take away the right to bear arms, but with the recent elections of Democrats Tony Evers to the governorship and Josh Kaul to the Attorney General’s office, the ralliers were afraid of reports that both men want to pass red flag gun laws and universal background checks. Red flag gun laws allow a court to temporarily take away firearms from someone who a judge decides is a possible threat to themselves or others. Currently all gun sales from licensed dealers require background checks, but private purchases, such as those at gun shows or between individuals, do not. Universal background checks would require background checks on all gun sales. These are two things they are afraid of right now.

Because of the involvement of Three Percent United Patriots in particular, left-leaning groups in Madison decided to hold a United Against Fascism counter protest across the street from the permitted rally. The Three Percenters have been defined as an anti-government militia group and have said they will defend their right to bear arms with armed resistance against any attempts to take away that right. Some of their members nationwide have been arrested for various plots. They were noticed by the general population when they provided security for the alt-right Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by one of the right-wingers when he drove a car into her.

When I got there I saw a handful of the gun rights advocates gathered on the Capitol steps and a large group of counter-protesters gathered across the street, as well as a fairly large police presence. There were somewhere between three dozen gun rights activists and about 250 on the other side. Many, if not most, of the gun rights activists were displaying handguns and other weaponry, which can be intimidating, but the strange thing was I did not feel intimidated at all. When I was taking pictures of one of them, it struck me when he looked at me that he was just a scared boy, that while they display guns to intimidate and scare others, they are the ones who are afraid.

It is because of fear that they were there. They fear their government, they fear their beloved weapons being taken away, they fear their fellow citizens who are tired of mass shootings and constant gun violence, they fear the left, they fear that someone is going to hurt them, so they carry these weapons not just to intimidate others, but to protect themselves from all of the horrible threats against them and their lifestyle. To me, it seems sad to live one’s life in that much fear. Wearing camouflage clothing and military gear while carrying guns may make them feel personally safer, but it can’t take away the underlying fear.

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About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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