WOSTER: No Quick Draw McGraw in the Capitol Building

I listened recently to the audio of a legislative committee hearing on a bill to let people with enhanced permits bring concealed weapons into the state Capitol, and I thought of George Temple and Vinnie Harold.

Terry Woster

I listened recently to the audio of a legislative committee hearing on a bill to let people with enhanced permits bring concealed weapons into the state Capitol, and I thought of George Temple and Vinnie Harold.

They are characters in a 1950s western movie called "The Fastest Gun Alive." Glenn Ford played Temple. Broderick Crawford played Harold, an outlaw, a fast gun on the run. Temple, who had changed his name to avoid the family connection, was the son of a famous, fast-shooting lawman. Even though he didn't want the connection, he finally tired of having folks think he was just a store clerk. One day he put on a display of amazingly fast draws and accurate shots - at coins and beer glasses.

Harold and his gang stopped in town and somehow learned of Temple's exploits. Harold refused to leave without a showdown and threatened to burn the church and everyone in it. When folks pleaded with Temple to defend them, he had to admit the pistol was his dad's, he'd never been in a gunfight and the prospect terrified him. Even as a kid, I took away the notion that it's one thing to be proficient with a firearm and quite another to respond well with bullets flying. I doubt I'd respond well in that situation.

In several recent legislative sessions, bills have been introduced to allow firearms in the Capitol. Some bills would have let anyone carry. Some would have limited it to elected officials. The bill I listened to this year would let holders of an enhanced permit bring weapons to the Capitol. Such a permit requires, among other things, training in use of firearms and use of force. I find that more reasonable than some past bills.

The bill passed the House easily. It's on the schedule for the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning (Wednesday).


My preference is to let Capitol security continue to do the job. They have extensive training. They know the building. They know each other. I know several of them, and I'd trust them in a high-stress situation. I also recognized a couple of plain-clothes security folks when I visited the Capitol recently. I'd trust them, too.

Over the years I've known several legislators I'd trust to make good decisions in bad situations. I've known others I wouldn't trust with a weapon in any stressful situation. I'm not criticizing. I wouldn't trust me in a shooting situation, either.

A supporter of the enhanced carry bill says lawmakers are like sitting ducks. I get that. Senators and representatives sit in their chambers on third floor with spectators in seats on all sides a floor above. Basic ROTC taught me that one principle of battle is to occupy the high ground. But the state Capitol's high ground is often occupied by high-school government classes and other day visitors. They'd be sitting ducks, too, if lawmakers down below pulled handguns and started blazing away into the upper gallery. There's no simple answer.

The Capitol is a crazy place. It's noisy, full of back stairs and alcoves and dead-ends and marble walls and pillars. Sound carries in funny ways. I witnessed an active shooter drill there a couple of years ago. I was in the Rotunda and thought I heard shots from the far end of the building, maybe on first floor somewhere. I looked up and saw the shooter on third floor running in the direction I'd thought I heard shots coming from. I'd have been disoriented in an instant. I might have fired at the first person I saw coming around a pillar.

In that movie I mentioned? Temple relents, straps on his dad's gun and beats Vinnie Harold to the draw. Happy Hollywood ending. Maybe that would happen in real life. "A good guy with a gun beats a bad guy with a gun'' and all. Maybe not, too. Maybe the guy gets flustered and takes out a civilian or two.

I'm not against guns. I grew up with them. I'm just not convinced more people carrying guns in the Capitol would make it a safer place. The security folks have that covered.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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