The one that sees us as always under seige:
WINDER, Ga. —All Jim Cooley wants to do is buy some soda.
“You want to come to Walmart?” he asks his wife.
“No,” Maria says.
“Pretty please?” Jim asks.
“I’m not going to sit there and have the police called on you. I mean, I don’t want to see that crap,” Maria says, knowing what a trip to Walmart means. She knows her 51-year-old husband has two guns inside the house, and this afternoon it won’t be the 9mm, which he straps on with a round in the chamber when grabbing lunch at his favorite fast-food restaurant or visiting a friend’s auto shop. It’ll be the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which he brings when going somewhere he thinks is dangerous, like the Atlanta airport, where he’s taken it loaded with a 100-bullet drum, or Walmart, where he thinks crowds could pose easy targets for terrorists.
In a country of relaxing gun laws where it’s now legal to open-carry in 45 states and there are 14.5 million people with carry permits, every day seems to bring a new version of what open carry can mean. In Kentucky, it’s now legal to open-carry in city buildings. In downtown Cleveland, people carried military-style rifles during the Republican National Convention. In Howell, Mich., last month, a father went openly armed to his child’s middle-school orientation. In Mississippi, it’s now legal to open-carry without a permit at all. And in Georgia, which has passed a “guns everywhere” bill and has issued nearly 1 million carry permits, Jim Cooley is staking out his version of what’s acceptable as he keeps pleading with his wife.
“I got to get soda.”
Maria sighs. She worked the night before assembling air-conditioner compressors at a nearby factory, and in a few hours, she knows she’ll have to leave for another third shift.
“Yeah,” she says, giving in. “I might as well get this travesty out of the way.”
“You carrying a big ol’ rifle in the store, scaring the hell out of all the Walmart shoppers.”