First, let's say this, just so we're clear: The gentleman who caused a flurry of attention Wednesday morning by showing up near Tangent Elementary School dressed in hunting attire and carrying a rifle and handgun was completely within his rights.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's ask the next question: Was it a smart thing to do?
The man, who later told Linn County Sheriff's Office deputies he was on his way to Tangent's city office to discuss an issue with city staff, was across the street from the school. (To be fair, both buildings are near each other.)
Someone at the school saw him. The school's principal ordered a lockdown and summoned deputies. Deputies responded, with gratifying speed, located the man (who was not identified) and took him into custody for questioning. No one was physically harmed in the incident.
Did the principal make the correct call? Absolutely. Given the same set of facts, you would have done exactly the same thing: An armed man dressed for hunting is across the street from your school? These are times when you have no choice but to err on the side of caution, every time. There's no upside to making the wrong call here.
In a news release about the incident, the Sheriff's Office reported that the man "was professional and made no threats" during his visit to the Tangent city office. The press release offered no insight as to why the man thought he needed to carry weapons into his discussion there. But we can guess that his appearance at the city office caused, at the very least, some raised eyebrows, and that's likely putting it mildly.
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Deputies said the man was cooperative, never was on school property and never pointed his firearms in the direction of people.
The press release from the Sheriff's Office goes on to add this small masterpiece of understatement: "Deputies counseled him on the perception of walking by a school with a firearm and the alarm it caused, considering the recent events nationally."
Our guess here, though, is that the man was at least somewhat aware of the perception he was causing by carrying firearms to the city office. Maybe he didn't know that the city office was near a school, although that seems unlikely; after all, if people in the school could see him, he would have been able to see the school, and that realization should have been enough to make the man rethink whatever Second Amendment statement he thought he was making. At that point, his best bet would have been to go home, disarm, and return to the city office to carry on his discussion, unarmed. Maybe it would have been inconvenient for him to do that, but it probably was somewhat inconvenient to get hauled down to the Sheriff's Office for questioning.
In any event, his actions caused 30 minutes of worry, not just for teachers, staff and students — but also for parents, as word leaked out about the lockdown on social media. A more thoughtful reflection might well have caused the man to rethink his plans, and that would have spared a lot of people that agonizing half-hour of concern. (Give credit here to Greater Albany Public Schools officials for releasing what information they could about the incident as quickly as they could.)
Let's get back to our opening statement: This gentleman was completely within his rights to carry these weapons. Our guess is that his intention was to make some kind of statement about his Second Amendment rights, and plenty of people around here have strong feelings about gun ownership.
But there are smart ways (and appropriate places) to make those statements. The man's tone-deaf actions on Wednesday failed both of those tests. (mm)