Guns in our midst: ‘It gives you the ability to look someone in the eye and say no’

Richard Dyer, of Lawrence, passionate in his pro-gun views, thinks the concealed carry law makes the world safer.

How easy is it?

Reporter Chad Lawhorn explores firsthand what is involved in acquiring a gun for concealed carry in Kansas, in Monday’s Journal-World.

A single, laminated flower hangs from the refrigerator in Richard Dyer’s Lawrence apartment.

You know, the art-project kind where the petals are made from a cutout of a small child’s hand. Hanging next to a Kansas City Royals schedule, it paints a grandfatherly picture.

Dyer’s curly white beard, a half-finished Sudoku puzzle on the kitchen table, and how he leans in and turns his ear toward you to hear better, add to the image.

But don’t let the 57-year-old, self-professed bookworm fool you. He can show you a different side, not that he would want to, nor that you would want to see it.

“One thing a firearm does for you is it gives you the ability to look someone in the eye and say ‘no,’ and mean it,” Dyer said.

Dyer may be carrying a gun now, as he visits and leans back in a dining table chair. It is not a subject he wants to talk about. Nobody’s business. But Dyer certainly believes it is his right to carry a gun in his house, in City Hall, in a dark downtown alley or anywhere else.

Dyer doesn’t walk around with business cards that read “Richard Dyer, gun activist,” but on a Tuesday evening late last year, he was one. He was the only member of the public who attended the Nov. 14 Lawrence City Commission meeting to protest a policy that would allow the city to post “no firearm” signs at City Hall, recreation centers and other public buildings.

The policy was in reaction to the state’s new concealed carry law, which allows residents who successfully complete a training class to carry a concealed gun in places where it isn’t prohibited.

He argued – politely – that what city commissioners were doing was prohibiting law-abiding residents from having guns. The criminals wouldn’t pay any attention to a sign, he told the room full of City Hall leaders. Commissioners unanimously disagreed.

Dyer left undeterred. He really didn’t expect them to do anything differently. He describes the commissioners’ reaction as “standard,” and says they probably just haven’t thought about the subject very much.

Dyer has. He says commissioners probably never stopped to think about the role that gun control played in regimes such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

“I think the quote comes out of Solzhenitsyn,” Dyer said. “They sat in their death camps and wondered how it would have been for the KGB – if every night when they went out in the dark of the night and pounded on a door to seize someone – that when they opened the door, someone went ‘bang.’ They said no and shot them.

“Tell them no and make it count.”

In control

The glasses that sit atop Dyer’s nose are made for working. They’re the large, square, gold-rimmed variety with lenses that are much bigger than the small “stylish” spectacles of today.

Dyer’s glasses are good for reading and good for seeing the big picture, he says.

“People live in the moment these days,” Dyer said. “Sometimes in the moment you get into constraints on what you can see.”

That isn’t a problem for Dyer. He spends a good deal of his time looking back. He’s an avid reader of history. Dyer said as a 7- or 8-year-old boy, he started reading about the Civil War and slavery, and was always struck by how many “otherwise good people” thought slavery was acceptable.

But he goes back even further to point to the writings that have done more than any other to shape his views on guns and the right to bear arms. For that, he pulls out Machiavelli, the Italian political philosopher who lived from 1469 to 1527 – who famously said if a man must choose, “it is better to be feared than loved.”

Dyer, though, doesn’t babble about any of that “feared or loved” stuff that is in every Western Civilization textbook, and that has made Machiavellian a synonym for sadistic. Instead, Dyer points to one of the philosopher’s lesser known books, “The Discourses.” He said a major point stuck with him after reading the book.

“Government needs to be controlled, and citizens need to do the controlling,” Dyer said. “And it goes from there.”

‘A spare tire’

Dyer – a former diesel mechanic who is on a disability retirement from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway – can imagine what some people think of him. The “tinfoil hat brigade,” his synonym for crazy or extreme, is how he’s heard it referred to.

He’s fine with that. Dyer’s history books have told him that people who stand up for civil rights have been marginalized before. He should be no different, because to Dyer, concealed carry is a civil rights issue.

“The concepts behind the Second Amendment are immortal, so to speak,” Dyer said. “They are basic truths. The freedom to defend yourself is fundamental. It would sort of be like someone passing a law saying you shouldn’t be breathing today.

“The government did not grant you that right. The Bill of Rights doesn’t grant you that right. What it says is that government can’t infringe upon that right.”

But Dyer said he knows that may be too philosophical for some. So he tells people to look in the trunk of their car for a reminder of why carrying a firearm might be a good idea.

Most cars have a spare tire. Most days, you don’t need it. But when you need it, you need it. Dyer said it is the same way with a concealed gun.

“Every now and then it comes in handy,” Dyer said. “There are people who have found out it comes in real handy in certain situations.”