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Monday, February 22, 2016

From the News: Judge Extends Gun Ban at St. Louis Zoo

With the exception of abortion, there is probably no political issue in the United States more fraught with emotion other than those pertaining to guns.  Recently, some zoos have found themselves, pun unintended, under fire for their insistence that visitors be barred from bringing guns through their gates.  And St. Louis isn't alone in this - I know that the issue  has been brought up in Houston, and I'm sure it's come up at other zoos as well.

Personally, I understand why visitors who go habitually armed might not want to make an exception for the zoo.  That being said, I've been present for a few zoo emergencies, some of them during open hours, and can't think of a single one which would have been improved by having armed visitors around.  Imagine dealing with an animal escape while visitors pretending that they are Rambo come out guns blazing, trying to save the day?

I've never dealt with an active shooter situation, but imagine if one did unfold.  Visitor A has a gun.  Visitor B (who has a gun as well) sees that gun and, thinking Visitor A is about to start shooting, pulls out his gun to shoot Visitor A.  Unfortunately, at this point Visitor C (also armed) sees this and panics, and the next thing we know, there's a firefight at the zoo.

And that's just visitors during emergencies.

I once saw a guest (shirtless and smoking, both against the rules but we'll leave that be for now) take out a knife and jump into a planted area in our zoo to chase after and attempt to kill what we believed as a venomous snake.  Imagine if he had a gun.  I've seen grown adults throw rocks to try to get the animals to move.  Imagine firing a warning shot instead?  I've had to break up fist-fights between visitors... again, a situation that could have been worse if everyone was armed.

I'm sure there are some valid reasons for wanting to bring a handgun to the zoo.  However, as someone who is tasked with protecting the visitors and the animals at the facility, I would respectfully say "Thanks... we really don't need the help."

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