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I slowly navigated my small pickup around the herds of Cardinals fans gathered downtown to bear witness to the parade for the 2011 World Series champions. The parade would not be for another two hours, but all the choice parking was gone. I finally found a place up Washington Avenue, a good 15 minute hike to Kiener Plaza, my destination. I was not going to join the jubilant Redbirds fans. Kiener Plaza is where the St. Louis version of Occupy Wall Street had set up camp . . .

I force-marched my way toward my destination, past the Centenary Methodist church where I found a spray-painted anarchy tag. I snapped a photo, and wondered if this was a fortend.  I went up to and through the Soldier’s Memorial. The crowds thickened the closer I came to downtown. I passed the civil courts building, pausing to snap a photo of the memorial to St. Louis Police who had fallen in the line of duty.

When I arrived at Kiener Plaza, I planned to find “Occupy” participants – “occupants” I suppose – and ask them about the 2nd Amendment.

My first interview was with John. John was a solid man with his tawny-streaked silver hair pulled back into a ponytail.  He smiled as he concentrated on his work. John was not staying overnight, but was helping out an “occupant” by truing up a warped bike wheel.

John said he supported “These kids,” because “…they are fighting to have a future…” John had a long, easy manner about him. He attentively twisted the spokes, slowly and methodically using a large crescent wrench to bring the wheel into true.

As he worked, I asked him about his view of the 2nd Amendment. He looked up at me and said “I believe it is important.”

I’ll admit this was a surprise.

“Look, a man will do whatever it takes to survive. You back a man into a corner, he can do all sorts of things. The 2nd amendment means a person has the right to defend themselves.”

John went on to lament the economic realities we faced, and reiterated his view that citizens in rough neighborhoods ought to be able to avail themselves of a firearm.

I meandered around a bit. Old tents had been pitched in the grassy areas in the perimeter of one side of the plaza as well as on the paved center. Musicians growled on the center stage, some loud, others unable to make their equipment do much but create something of an atmosphere.

The pillars all had duct-taped signs denouncing corporatism, capitalism, or announcing a film festival or activism seminar. I came upon a group of young people sitting in the amphitheater talking and half-listening to the performers.

Chrissie describes herself as a “professional pain in the ass” and presents as her leftist bona-fides her work with “Let me tell you a funny story” she offered, “I became a liberal when I was three. I was watching Dumbo on Mother’s Day and Ronald Reagan came on with some bullshit announcement and I hated him ever since.”

I laugh, thinking I learned to hat Nixon the same way, only it was Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. “Can I get your thoughts on the 2nd Amendment?” I ask.

I offer to read it, but Chrissie has a pocket copy and reads it out loud. As the others ponder my question, she begins. “I think, grammatically, the way it is written, that the militia part was to reduce or eliminate the need for a standing Army.”

I scribble this down as she continues “Look, my grandma shot food in her pinafore, so my family has had guns in their lives way back.”

Trey, a full time engineering student who is working full time in a restaurant works to manage a frisky dog while composing his thoughts. “I agree with Chrissie, though I think I am even more…adamant about the 2nd Amendment”

He continues, “I mean, we have no protection against government tyranny without it. I don’t know how many crimes have been committed with legal guns, but lots of crimes against the people have been committed with government guns.”

Riffing on this point, Chrissie says “Fast and Furious is an example of government providing guns to criminals.” She fishes in her purse for a working lighter to fire up a small plastic tipped cigar.

“If that’s ever proven” Trey interrupts.

I add that it is definite that the government provided guns to criminals and that Congress is investigating the details. “Exactly” Chrissie concludes through a puff of smoke that frames her face.

“I do not have a gun, but I want to get one.  I want to get a concealed carry permit.” Trey says, finally having calmed the dog down.

“What do you think of Missouri’s concealed carry law?” I ask, looking at Chrissie.

“I’m not exactly against it, but I am worried about the wrong people running around with guns,” she offers.

Alyssa sports a blue hoodie replete with what appear to be vulgarities and a shocking red hairdo.  She rejoins the group after taking a brief hiatus.  I re-read the 2nd amendment to her to get her thoughts.

“I hadn’t thought to much about it…” she admits “But people have a right to self defense and hunting.”

Alyssa is concerned about high-capacity magazines, a theme jumped on by Trey and Chrissy. They agree that a man walking up the street with an “AK” with 200 rounds is more than the 2nd amendment was meant to protect.

Conan comes at the end of my session with Alyssa, Trey and Chrissie, missing out on the group photo. He is providing medical help to the occupants though he has no formal medical training. His long hair is pulled back, and he has a serious look on his face.  While he is participating in the occupation, I am unable to secure any leftist bona-fides, only that he is politically undefined.

“The 2nd Amendment is our right to rise up against tyranny” he says, setting his jaw.  “If the government ever fired on protestors, that would mean it is time to fight back.”

A discussion began about the ability of the people to resist the government. The military, in their view, had the overwhelming advantage in firepower. I did not ask if this militated against their objection to high-capacity magazines.

Allyssa offered that she is an activist for gay marriage, and is on the fence on the issue of pro-life/pro-choice. She is adamant that immigrants come in the front door and that illegal immigration should be curtailed.

“I guess we are not your typical bunch of leftists” Trey observes.

Chrissie takes the opportunity to object to my “leftist” formulation.  “We’re not just a bunch of George Soros funded Obamabots. If you check around, not too many here are fans of Obama.” As we speak, somebody yells “IDIOTS!”  Chrissie smiles gracefully.

I went on and spoke to Freddy, an African American who had stopped by our clutch to say hello to the dog. I asked if he was part of the group and he said yes, but when I asked about the 2nd Amendment, he deferred to his friend Roy.

Roy is also black, with a soft, burly build.  .We sit and I ask him about the 2nd Amendment, and read it from my wallet-sized bill of rights autographed by Penn Gillette.

What do you think about the 2nd Amendment, gun ownership, etc.” I ask.

Roy thought for a moment and said “I’d like to get rid of it – all of them.  There are too many guns on the street, too many kids get their parent’s guns and kill or get killed.”

He continued “My sister was killed in a drive by shooting in San Diego walking out of a midnight service at church on New Year’s Eve. They hit my nephew too.  All they were doing was going to get a snack at a little store up the street.”

Roy has seen recent tragedy “Two of my cousins were shot, one of them is dead.  I don’t know what that was about, I just learned about it.” Roy is visibly wearier recounting the tragedies. “Hell, I’ve been shot.”

Pointing to scars visible on his wrist, then to his arm and leg, Roy said “I was a cop, and I got shot up on a drug bust.”

“You were shot in the line of duty?” I said.

“Yeah, I was at the back door, and he came out guns blazing. Shot me up.”

“Were you disabled?”

“No, but they wanted to put me on desk duty, and not back on patrol, so I left the force” he replied. “The kid who shot me asked me to help him get his life turned around.”

“Really? What did you do?” I asked.

Roy shrugged. “I helped him, he did 18 years for shooting me. He got off of drugs, and I helped him out when he got out. He’s a preacher now.”

At a distance Sean looked like a professor in search of a class. Tall, he has a malt liquor stashed in the breast pocket of his cloth sport jacket. His tall deeply creased face is illuminated by two bright blue eyes.He speaks quickly and articulately, if a bit at length.  Sean says he is not a participant, but an observer.  He believes he understands better than the occupants the issues they face, but is working out the best approach to share his ideas.

“Sean, it seems it might be hard for me to do your ideas justice” I say, trying to politely excuse myself from a more extensive battery of ideas than what will fit my narrow interest.

“OK” he says “Ask me a specific question, and I will give you a specific answer.”  I repeat the same question I have asked of the other occupants.

“Which one is the 2nd Amendment?” he asks. I recite it from memory.

“I’m a regular guy – I love to do regular guy things.  I have no problem with the right to keep and bear arms.”

Sean continued his stream of thought “If we eliminate the right to bear arms, America is more vulnerable.” He pauses “Look, I don’t think you should have a bazooka, and what the hell do you need a 50 round clip for, but since we cannot define what the limit is, we need to leave the right alone.”

“I hope to God we can be responsible, is all I am saying” he concludes. “I mean, walking around with an Uzi is weird – what is that for, but the right is the right. It remains.”

After talking with Sean, I pack it in. I met with seven people at the Occupy St. Louis “be in” and only one person has a problem with both guns and the 2nd Amendment. Given Roy’s history, I understand why even if I do not agree.

This is St. Louis, after all, so perhaps the REALLY frothing, spittle-soaked gun-grabbing hippies are in other cities with a populous of a less conservative nature. That said, Sean was from the Pacific Northwest, not exactly Sarah Palin country.

I have much to ponder. Your thoughts?

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  1. Nice job, I’d like to see similar responses from different areas of the country, I think you might get a different response from DC or NYC or San Francisco.

  2. “We’re not just a bunch of George Soros funded Obamabots.”

    But you sure are being used like one!

    I am encouraged, though, that several of the people you interviewed seem to be on the right trail as far as the 2nd Amendment. Thanks for the interesting article.

  3. Great article Tim, I almost skipped reading it but it kept getting more interesting as I read on.

  4. Good reading! More proof that you can’t just lump people into lefties or righties. People are complicated, and so are politics.

  5. The bottom line is that people are not completely red or blue. Part of the problem with the current political climate in this country is that we assume that they are.

  6. Thanks Tim, fantastic article. Good to see some articulate, non-partisan reporting here about an issue we all deeply care about.

    As above posters comment and as you reported, politics are more complicated than simple red and blue allegiances. Not only do many people support a mixture of red and blue platforms, but the occupiers tend to have as much contempt for liberals as the average TTAGer. And not because they’re republicans. By and large, they do not like Obama – and Obama almost certainly does not like them.

  7. I was wondering where my fellow TTAG’ers were on the whole “Occupy #” movement.

    Personally, I completely support the underlying message of the movement and what it stands for. I hate how some media outlets are trying to paint it as a left wing extremist group full of slackers and jobless college kids.

    They are regular people, with real concerns, and disgusted with how well represented the agenda of large corporations are in DC. And the chasam between reality and the people who are supposed to be representing us…is HUGE.

    Case in point: During a presentation with a representative from the Federal Reserve, right during the start of the housing balloon bust, a question from a fellow MBA student was asked; “How bad will the housing bubble affect the economy and for how long?”

    And with out missing a beat, this rep responds: “Don’t worry about that. It’s not going to be that big of a deal. And even if it is, it won’t affect us to badly. We will just have to buy our BMW’s next year instead of this year…”

    Later next year, I had the opportunity to eat lunch with a multi-billion dollar hedge fun manager in Boston, who was a consultant to 2 Presidents, on the subject of Social Security solvency. When some colleagues and I asked about his thoughts on the future of Social Security, he responded in a simillar fashion.: “Look, don’t worry about Social Security. Social Security isn’t for people like you”. He then pointed out the window at the people shuffeling through the streets. “Social Security is for those people out there, who don’t have other investments or 401k’s or real options. People like us don’t have to worry”.

    Every year, lobbyist work hard to make it easier for major corporations to turn a profit, and harder for the average citizen to avail themselves to the same tax breaks and financial tools those same corporations rely on to do business. Every year lobbyist make it easier for large companies to get away with financial crimes, you and I would be sent away for.

    Every year, congress gives large corporations all the tax breaks, but small businesses have to fight for every break despite being responsible for 80% of the jobs in the US.

    What we NEED is a 2nd Ammendment arm of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    • No, what we need is for more Americans to remember that if you want to succeed you need to work hard (which usually entails an education too). That’s why I support the 53% movement. It’s about how 53% of the people in this country pay 100% of the income tax while 47% of the country gets to freeload and how it’s those 47% who are out there demanding MORE money from the 53% who already bear all of the tax burden.

      I worked hard in high school, I worked 30 hours a week while getting my bachelors, now I’m working a minimum of 40 hours a week (often 60) while getting my masters degree so that I can make something of my life. If all of the energy put into whining about a “right” to someone else’s money was put into doing something productive, those people would have the very money that they’re demanding.

      • Good luck with that.When your $150K job is offshored to a post-doc Indian who is very much happy to work for $35K, you’ll understand.It would appear that like 1 in 4 Americans, you believe that you will be a millionaire within the next 4 years. Sadly, if your family isn’t already in that group, your odds are on par with winning a State lottery…

        BTW, that freeloadin’ “43%” pays sales taxes, gas taxes, utility taxes, phone taxes, property taxes, and dozens of other governmental fees. They get no “free ride” unless they live under a viaduct and eat solely out of trash cans. Those taxes are far more regressive on them than they are on those of us in the upper percentiles.

        • First off, the “offshoring” scare tactic is crap. Most of the jobs that were outsourced (other than manufacturing) have been returned to the US due to the poor quality of work done by those in other countries in comparison to US workers. Even many decades from now when we truly have a 100% integrated global economy, you can always MOVE to where the jobs are – just like how people move within their own country for a job opportunity.

          No, I believe that in four years I’ll probably be making $60,000 to $70,000 (fairly normal pay for someone with my degrees and only a few years experience). The difference is that I have something called a “work ethic” and realize that the harder I work, the more likely I am to get a raise / promotion and thus have a higher standard of living. If I don’t get a raise, that’s not the fault of some “evil rich person” – it’s because I didn’t EARN it. Needless to say, every boss I’ve ever had has always repeatedly praised my hard work and dedication – even when it was literally flipping burgers and cleaning toilets.

          Don’t use some myth of “only people from super rich families can get good jobs” as an excuse for your lack of hard work.

          They pay sales tax and gasoline tax (usually not property tax because they don’t own property) and such, which is NOTHING compared to what income taxes are. Take a look at the amount the typical person pays per year in those miscellaneous minor taxes and then look at how much they pay in income taxes – their income taxes will be several times higher. Then there’s the fact that those getting checks from the government to pay for food aren’t really paying sales tax either because it’s tax dollars being used to pay tax dollars – thus it’s purely a money shuffle.

          When you’re getting paid money to NOT work, that’s getting a free ride. When 47% of the population has no real financial stake in having sound economic policy, that’s a HUGE problem (look at countries like Greece for a great real world example). Those taxes aren’t regressive at all because they’re all based off how much you choose to spend. If you’re poor, you don’t need a cell phone (thus no cell phone tax), you don’t NEED to buy products new (thus eliminating almost all sales tax), etc. It’s a matter of why would they spend their money wisely when it’s someone else being forced to pay the bill?

          • Scare tactic? Do tell. Those jobs were never ever ‘returned to the US’ do to “bad quality”. Are you a paid troll for FOX or Koch? Please show the evidence of that BS job…

            (Hint: I know you can’t…)

            BTW- 60 or 70K? That’s the money I made as a 20 year old in the restaurant biz. Back in the late 80s.

            Not that you actually have a clue how taxes work as you have already stated your ‘student’ bona fides, lemme help ya. None of my S-corps or C-corps have paid more than drinkin’ money in taxes since the mid-90s. I can (and do) move money where it needs to be to avoid US taxation.

            It’s easy. Every US corp with a brain does it. And it’s morally wrong. As soon as the gov makes it illegal, I’ll move my cash where it will benefit more Americans. Till then I’ll keep bending punks over because “it is the way it is

              • Please elucidate which “facts” I made up.

                Troll? If by that you mean someone who knows shite when they smell it, then I certainly am. Any time you think you can intellectually whip it out, I’m ready. Let’s go.

                Once again, I invite you to actually post something/anything that supports your ‘position’.

                Anyone with 20 functional IQ points and a pulse knows that income distribution and U6 unemployment is at the level last seen in the 1930s. Which is not what the FF ever wanted.

      • I can understand your feelings on working hard, and wanting everyone to pay their share in taxes Totenglocke.

        But your feelings and those of the Occupy Wall Street movement, aren’t mutually exclusive.

        And before you make assumptions about how hard anyone works, let alone the people of “Occupy Wall Street”, take a look at their demographics as presented by; A website geared to young business start ups and innovative business models:

        That said, you’ll find out soon enough, that working hard, garuntees nothing. Particularly in the white collar world.

        Personally, I have learned that playing politics, knowing the right people, along with a decent handicap and a solid short game, gets you ALLOT further than hard work.

        People need to work hard yes. But you must realize, that the no matter how hard people work, not everyone is going to make a decent living. In fact, we may not want everyone to do well. The world needs gas pumpers and pole dancers too.

        But the only thing that gets those people through the day, is the hope that they MAY some day get to live a better life. And once you tilt the playing field in an obvious and dramatic manner against that possibility, and what you cultivate is an insurrection.

  8. Excellent article. I would love to read the opinions of other cities and their locals.

    The only anti-gun opinion in this article is understandable, but taking that stance based on the experience they had isn’t a justification imho. If anything, I would have advocated for more firearms in the hands of responsible citizens.

    Too often the common man/woman is the first and sometimes last line of defense when LE is tied up in other locations due to budget cuts and rising crime rates. In light of the aftermath of Katrina and other incidents, I still believe that by default, persons in uniform aren’t your friend, they are an extension of another person’s will.

    Seeing people begin to understand the concept of defending themselves against tyranny and corruption tied in with the interpretation of the second amendment is restoring my faith that the average citizen isn’t a sheep.

    • I am pondering that question. Roy is a decent guy but our cultures are radically different, and how we view guns is a particularly stark difference. I mean to explore that in a future article.

  9. well these people are not going to get 2A protections from the current crew, and probably not financial relief either. I’m wondering if any of them were packing, sounds like no. Many of these Obamavilles have a no weapons policy at the door.

  10. There are plenty of gun hating statists here St. Louis. They aren’t the smelly kids down in Kiener Plaza, they are my neighbors. The liberal drones around here are so thick you can toss a rock randomly in the air and hit one. You were there on the weekend. The union guys don’t get paid to protest on the weekend.

    MO’s CCW laws are outstanding.

    Looking at the author of this post I’m struck to wonder how many Tim McNabb’s there are out here that really like guns and would go to Kiener Plaza to chat it up with the useful idiots.

    Dood you owe me $60! I’ll let you pay it off in ammo at UD. You can squeeze a few off my new Sig 556 Swat.

    And if its a different Tim, oops. Wanna go shooting some time 🙂

    • And if its a different Tim, oops. It’s the Tim that graduated HS in the mid80s from a place in Olivette that had a dude named Denny running it at the time.He’s a very decent fellow. Always has been to my knowledge.(Damn, I sound like a stalker or a fanboi. It’s an STL thing, you wouldn’t understand… or maybe you would as you are in da ‘Lou as well…)

      • Sounds like there is at least one, maybe two good doods around here that share that name. Stand up guy. He’ll know me by email, also knows where I live :o.

        Has a sweet crimson trace on his revolver.

        I’m not from STL but I’ve lived here long enough to hear the high school thing and even decode it at times.

    • That Guy – I do owe you 60 bucks – and yes I will pay you in ammo.

      Porschespeed – You are correct. Email me if you like tim (dot) mcnabb (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. Good article, interesting read.

    Though I think we can’t get too wrapped up in 2A tunnel vision. Just because someone supports the 2nd Amendment, that doesn’t make them an ally. As much as some people (myself included) might like to see the current administration ousted by any means necessary, what about the one that takes its place? All these occupiers decrying capitalism and whatnot…do you really want them armed and taking over the country, so to speak?

    Many 2A supporters attribute at least some of their support to the overarching theme of America…namely, freedom and the right to defend and work for one’s own well-being, which firearms represent in the way of self-defense. Let’s face it…many if not most of these occupiers are NOT fighting for the American values that have sustained this country. There might be one or two lumped in there, but overall, if they had their way, we’d be a communist third world country.

    Railing against capitalism is stupid, plain and simple. Even friggin Alec Baldwin thinks so. And many of these occupiers want a nice, big welfare government. So what if some of them also support the 2nd Amendment?

    I’m just saying the 2A is not the be all end all of who’s an ally and who isn’t. You have to think about what that supposes ally would do with his own 2A freedoms, and whether he’d just use it to become the next Che. Be careful who you call friend.

    • You make an excellent point Silver, and I completely agree. Any of these folks I interviewed are highly tolerant of gun-grabbers given their likely voting patterns and activities. They clearly do not weigh the 2nd Amendment more highly than other social or economic policies.

      • Silver, respectfully, the 2nd Amendment is either for everyone or no one.

        You don’t get to pick the type of folk you’d prefer were armed.

        Someone supporting 2A may not make them an ally (to you and the wider constellation of your politics), but to me at least it makes them a fellow citizen.

        • +1

          And I think there is a big difference between marching against corporate greed and lack of ethical practices, and marching against capitalisim.

  12. Softballs Tim, softballs…

    I know you were smart enough 30 years ago to know the uninformed were, well, the uniformed.

    Regardless, nice writing, Kyle would be proud…

    • I was not interested in arguing with anyone, but wanted to simply listen. I thought of plenty of follow-on questions, but decided that I was getting interesting insight without being provocative.

      I would be interested in seeing your article should you ever schlep your way to one of these enclaves and ask a different set of questions.

      I did not see Kyle, by the way.

      • OK – it took me a few minutes to remember Kyle, the English teacher. I thought you were making a “Seek Kyle – he is about this tall” joke.

        • Fair enough, there’s something to be said for just letting folks ‘put it out there’ as it were. It does yield a type of truth, one that I feel requires sussing out, but hey, you’ve known I’m an ass since HS…

          BTW-Damn dude, I hadn’t even thought of the “seek Kyle” joke. Very good my friend. Funny that no matter where we go, we end up with the same bunch of mofos we’ve known since, well, forever.

  13. thatguy – “Has a sweet crimson trace on his revolver.” Tim didn’t mention that the revolver with the sweet crimson trace belongs to his wife, did he? I just let him borrow it when I’m not using it;)

  14. An absolutely fantastic write-up.

    I would respectfully suggest to the “Occupy” folks that if they’d like to redistribute wealth, they might want to get out of the parks. There are people who make money in America’s parks, but what they do for it is kinda creepy.

  15. People always jump to the conclusion that there xould never be a successful overthrow of tyranny in the united srates because they think the government has superior firepower. But seriously do they think they are going to nuke the united states? And I think if there is ever a true tyrannical government it is important to remember that the armed forces have vowed to withhold the constitution. They put there lives on the line to defend it. I seriously doubt they would fight against americans fighting for there freedom. It is more likely they would desert and steal military equipment and fight along side the revolutionaries.

  16. I certainly hope so, Joe. That said, I think the most likely scenario is civil unrest following an economic collapse, not a beer-hall putsch or coup where the military is used to quell a nationwide insurrection.

    God forbid, but the second scenario is when a state or group of states tell the feds to go screw themselves over some series of big-ticket issues, quite possibly the kind where some states are bailed out by over-taxing their more successful neighbors. Bobby Jindall nearly touched off a constitutional crisis by creating sand-berms to protect Louisiana’s wetlands in defiance of one or more Alphabet agencies.

    • Didnt a simillar situation turn into the civil war? ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants”-thomas jefferson. Maybe the tree of liberty is thirsty. He also said” what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

      • The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be excersised when wrong, but better so than not excersised at all.

  17. I have a really good idea. Im going to buy a bunch of $10 gas masks ofrom cheaper than dirt and I will sell them for fifty dollars at my local protest. In denver they started using mace and pepper paint balls. It will be extra funny because it will be capitalism in the midst of capitalism protest.

    • Who? Me?

      In my defense, I schlepped my ass down to OSTL specifically to ask, rather than assume. I did this so as to NOT paint with too broad of a brush.

      Or are you just painting with a broad brush.

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