Guns in our midst: ‘It makes the world a more dangerous place’

Lawrence resident Marilyn Roy, above, shown outside the Douglas County Court-house, is passionate in her stance against the state's concealed carry law and guns in general. She believes the proliferation of firearms makes the world a more dangerous place.

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.

Marilyn Roy closes her eyes when she speaks about guns.

At times she sees her childhood – growing up in the 1950s in Barstow, Calif. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, it was an isolated place. The most common visitor, Roy says, was a Route 66 traveler who would stop to repair a flat tire.

But there also were the booms. Sonic booms. In the middle of the Cold War, Barstow was surrounded by four military bases. Sights of tanks, jets and other weapons of war were common.

“You always grew up with that in your consciousness,” Roy said.

Maybe that is why she doesn’t like guns. She grew up around all that power and never felt comfortable with it.

In all honesty, she doesn’t know exactly why the sight of a gun makes her think of anger, retribution and a host of other negative thoughts. But she knows that even though she can see how a concealed weapon might come in handy in a few rare situations – a carjacking, a home burglary – she still thinks the idea of an average person carrying a concealed weapon is one of the worst ideas ever.

“It gives you the power at any given moment to maim or kill anyone who you are afraid of for any reason, good or not,” Roy said. “It makes the world a more dangerous place.”

Turning the other cheek

When Marilyn Roy talks about parts of her past, she clutches her purse tightly. She rocks with it in her chair as she talks about the times that turned violent. Her life in Barstow, although isolated – or acultural, as she describes it – wasn’t necessarily serene.

“I grew up in a troubled family,” Roy said. “My family wasn’t hunky-dory.”

Roy, 57, found hard times on her own, too. She was forced to put her son up for adoption when he was 5, for reasons she did not disclose. Afterward, she went to Kansas City to try to start over, but instead she found a dead end. She was homeless in Kansas City and Texas for about four years.

On the streets, she saw the drugs, she saw the guns, she saw the violence. Some of it found her, too. Roy said she’s been the victim of domestic violence and physical abuse on multiple occasions.

The violence left her with a choice to make. She said a person can either choose to fight violence with violence, or take the tack that violence begets nothing good.

“The consequence of violence being fought with violence just doesn’t appeal to me,” Roy said.

Since 1974, Roy has been spreading that message in Lawrence. That’s how long she has lived in the city, spending part of the time as a student. She has a degree in psychology and runs a small home-based business called Simplify, a home/office organization business that has a motto of “supporting peaceful lifestyles.” She’s also on a Social Security disability related to some of the emotional scars from her past. She’s likely best known to many Lawrence residents as a frequent advocate at City Hall and elsewhere for people who are disadvantaged.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I was just born a pacifist,” Roy said.

A disease

But when pressed, Roy concedes the point that supporters of concealed carry most often make: A gun can save your life in the right situation. She said that, sure, a gun may stop someone from hijacking your car. And also there’s no guarantee that having a gun for protection will stop you from getting shot. But yes, Roy said, a gun could help you in that instance.

But still, she doesn’t like the idea. Even though a hidden gun may help solve your individual problem, it makes society’s problem even worse.

“When there was discussion about passing the (concealed carry) law, I thought ‘please, please don’t,'” Roy said. “Because I think the more means of protection that are introduced and accepted by our society, the higher the fear level goes.”

In other words, she thinks concealed carry is the fuel for a vicious cycle: People buy a gun because they don’t feel secure. Other people buy a gun because they don’t feel secure with everybody else walking around with a gun.

Roy thinks now is a particularly bad time for concealed carry. She said society already is struggling to deal with its fears. Talk of terror dominates the news, and phrases such as “weapons of mass destruction” have become part of our lexicon.

“We as a nation have changed in how we perceive each other,” Roy said. “Our trust level in each other has been seriously eroded. You see it more and more. The Homeland Security act, all the money being spent to secure airports, people more and more putting alarm systems in their cars and homes.

“I think it is a disease and an obsession. It is painful to watch.”

But it also is hard to ignore. Roy said guns are now on her mind more than ever. She said it is hard not to worry about who is carrying a gun as she walks down Massachusetts Street. She said the frequent red, black and white signs proclaiming guns are not allowed in an establishment do nothing but remind people of how gun-dominant our society has become.

“The concealed gun act, having passed that here in Kansas, I’m absolutely furious,” Roy said. “I think it only contributes to that level of mistrust and paranoia that has been subtly but surely built into our system, our psyches.

“I think we have lost a lot of our humanity.”