When “Beavis and Butthead” stepped out on a street corner in Gresham toting their rifles — one of them an AR-15 — as a form of public demonstration, all they really did was fan the flames of discontent and further erode the public's patience with gun ownership.

Steve Brown, executive editorThis really happened. See Mara Stine's front page story in today's Outlook.

Steven M. Boyce, 22, of Gresham and Warren R. Drouin, 22, of Medford shouldered their legally owned rifles on Wednesday, Jan. 9, and paraded them down the sidewalks in Portland and Gresham.

Why do you suppose they did this? They had hoped to demonstrate that these weapons are dangerous only when they're in the hands of people intent on lawlessness. They also wanted to demonstrate that laws allow them to openly carry these weapons in public settings.

I've been thinking about these guys by spinning their antics around one of my own recent experiences. I'm a waterfowl hunter, and every so often I like to go to Sauvie Island for a day of duck hunting, as I was a week or so ago.

At zero-dark-thirty I loaded my pickup and headed west toward Sauvie Island. En route I stopped at a Gresham 7-Eleven for coffee. It was then that I realized I'd left my shotgun in the bed of my pickup. I didn't want to leave it there while I went into the store, fearing it might be gone by the time I left the store. I was struck with a moment of humor and indecision: I'm standing in front of a convenience store in the wee hours of the morning with a shotgun in my hands. What might the man behind the counter inside the store think had he looked outside at that moment and saw a guy dressed in camo and holding a shotgun? I doubt his first conclusion would have been “Oh, another duck hunter in for coffee.”

So I quickly moved my shotgun from the bed of my pickup and into the safety of the cab and locked the doors, being careful to avoid drawing attention.

The point I'd like to make here is this: It is entirely appropriate to carry that shotgun and to use it for waterfowl hunting. But it is an entirely different thing to alarm anyone by brandishing that firearm. I did what I could at the moment to minimize the possibility that anyone would feel threatened in any way.

Several days later I heard about these two guys carrying their rifles along public streets (in the Sellwood area of Southeast Portland, and again along Gresham's Powell Boulevard), leading me to wonder if they'd paused long enough to consider how their actions might alarm other people.

I don't think they did. If they had, they well might have gone about their public-information demonstration in a different way.

Coming on the heels of shootings at Clackamas Town Center and in Newtown, Conn., the American public is justifiably on edge regarding firearms, especially the AR style of firearms. I have my own ideas about gun control, but that's another topic for another day, and one that I'm not addressing here.

This column is about kindness and sensitivity, and about putting other people's fears ahead of your own selfish interest in making a point.

These guys were successful only in communicating a lie: That people who own weapons are insensitive and selfish. Who wants to stand in that corner?

What these guys fail to recognize is that with great rights come great responsibilities. Those who own guns have a responsibility to use them wisely and safely, and in a way that does not cause anyone to feel threatened.

People in Gresham who saw these men clearly had no idea about their intentions. And people were justifiably nervous. These guys did nothing to advance public approval of gun ownership, and might have actually served to set it back.

Thanks, guys, but the next time you plan to help the cause of gun ownership, just don't.

Steve Brown is executive editor of The Outlook, Sandy Post and Estacada News.

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