Should travelers boycott Arizona because of gun laws? Frommer leans towards yes

Arthur Frommer, longtime travel book guru, posed a question about Arizona’s “open carry” gun laws. In Arizona, Frommer found out, people can bring loaded guns to political rallies. That’s what happened in Phoenix earlier this week when some of the protesters, who showed up outside the convention center where Barack Obama was speaking, visibly wielded guns–including an assault rifle. Such action is legal in Arizona, something Frommer feels alarmed by.

In Arthur Frommer ONLINE yesterday, he wonders if travelers ought to boycott Arizona in protest of such open carry laws since he thinks a gun law that allows people to bring loaded firearms to political protests violates citizens’ safety. He doesn’t want to travel to such places. As he wrote, if a gun had gone off, mayhem could have happened.

It’s not that Frommer objects to guns–or at least he doesn’t say if he does or doesn’t. He thinks there’s a problem when a person carrying a gun in public does so in a way that puts people in danger.

Last year, I expressed my concern about guns being allowed into US national parks for similar reasons. Of course, others have a different opinion and some expressed those in the comment section. Some comments pointed out issues I that hadn’t thought of. Some state roads and US highways, for example, pass through national parks. If a person is carrying a gun in his or her car and happens to be traveling on such a road, he or she would be in violation of a gun carrying law if guns were not allowed in a national park.

Still, there’s Frommer’s point that if people are allowed to have their guns with them as a means of intimidation, and other people are traveling through such spots, doesn’t that put people not involved in jeopardy? I seem to remember from US history classes that even when the west was wilder there were some places where people who were carrying guns had to leave them outside a town or saloon. Or, maybe that’s just the Hollywood version.

Check out some of these wacky laws, place names and signs from around the world!

Gun-friendly national parks possibly coming soon

I’ve been in national parks from Acadia in Maine to Glacier in Montana to Zion in Utah to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. (You can start humming “This Land is Your Land” if you like.) I’ve always felt safe–aggravated sometimes by over-sized RVs, but safe.

I even felt safe when I was hiking in Glacier with my husband, then boyfriend, when we saw a mother grizzly bear and her cub in the distance. We were far enough away from them that they looked like dogs. Even when my husband, then boyfriend, said, “All I have to do is out run you if they come for us,” I felt safe.

Evidently, I may not have been as safe as I thought. If I had had a gun, I’d feel safer. That’s the general idea of the proposal that is on the table to allow guns in the national park system. The people who think this is a good idea must have seen the “The River Wild’ several times over. That’s the flick when Meryl Streep‘s character takes on Kevin Bacon’s character–the bad guy, during a family raft trip down a river in some western state. It was filmed in Montana and Oregon.

There are people that think this idea is about as dumb as they come. According the this article in The New York Times, The national parks are supposed to be family-friendly. Family-friendly places don’t have guns. Look at this picture taken in Yosemite by James Gordon. Is there any place that looks more family-friendly than that? Plus, there is a chance someone feeling threatened might kill an animal when there isn’t a threat at all.

Personally, I’m on the side of folks who aren’t happy with the idea of guns in national parks. I’m a fairly calm person, but I know what it feels like to not find a parking space because some large vehicle pulling another large vehicle is taking up more than one space–or what it’s like to not be able to get around a large vehicle pulling another large vehicle on a windy road. Add summer heat, limited vacation time and you have to pee, but can’t stop because there’s no room to pull over, and you’ve got trouble. “Road Rage at the Grand Canyon” coming to a theater near you.

Travel and racism: What’s love got to do with it?

I posted a story about an on-line test developed by the University of Chicago to help people learn about their tendencies to think a wallet or a cell phone may be a gun depending on the color of the person’s skin. Two commenters wondered what the study has to do with travel. I think most things have to do with travel, but I majored in sociology as an undergraduate, so I see connections in EVERYTHING. Name two subjects and I’ll find the connecting dots somewhere.

Since my post, Iva wrote a post about gun related deaths in Chicago during one weekend, and the people she knows who wants to see bad neighborhoods. This is not that different, I don’t think, than people who drive through Appalachia looking to see if people have teeth.

When I learned about the study about racism and guns, I flashed to ideas about safety and travel. Perhaps, I was thinking, people’s ideas about safety have something to do with where they choose to go on vacation, and perhaps, if they travel at all. There are plenty of reasons why people choose vacation spots, but there are reasons why people don’t pick certain destinations as well. I don’t think racism is it, but a sense of security and the predictable is.

There’s a reason why Disneyland and Disney World get a crowd. Part of it has something to do with feeling safe, I would guess. The Magic Kingdom has a far-reaching comfort zone. When our daughter was five-years -old, we lost her in Disneyland for a few minutes because my husband thought she was holding my hand, and I thought she was holding his. We were busy arguing about something, thus distracted. Our daughter had stopped to look at something and we had kept going. We freaked a bit, running pell mell, retracing our steps, but I didn’t think something bad would have happened. Disneyland is about as controlled an environment as one can get.

New York City, also a popular tourist destination, isn’t controlled, and perhaps, because of this, people may feel more on edge, particularly on a first time visit.

The first time I went to New York City without adults, I was with a high school friend. We went for a day walking a tidy path from Times Square to Grand Central Station, down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center and back to Times Square. There wasn’t any risk of getting lost. Never mind that as a 4th grader, I had ridden my bike all over State College, Pennsylvania when I lived there. On my next trip to New York, also in high school, I did strike out on a subway for more of the unknown. Years later, I feel perfectly safe in the city, even when walking to my brother’s apartment at night by myself.

People have ideas of danger that are on a subconscious level. When a friend and I traveled across the United States by bus (yes, it can be done) after we got out of the Peace Corps, we spent a few nights hanging out at bus stations in the middle of the night the further west we got. For some reason buses don’t seem to leave any earlier than 1 a.m. or arrive any later than 5 a.m. once you get past St. Louis. At least that’s what we found when we were traveling.

While we were waing for a city bus in Denver to take us to the bus station, after we went to a movie blocks away from the theater we asked a woman about the safety around the bus station that time of night. She gave us a police whistle she had around her neck. In Salt Lake City, one couple, who knew that we were heading to the bus station late at night, decided they would take us there when we stopped to ask them for directions. As far as I could tell, we were as safe at the bus stations as we would have been at Disneyland, but there are impressions people have of bus stations at night.

I’ve lived several years outside of the United States and have talked to many, many, many people who think that cities in the United States are not safe because of all the guns. At times it has seemed like people think that as soon as you step off the airplane at JFK or La Guardia, you’d better duck and cover. (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but people, mostly taxi drivers in Singapore, have said that they worry.) Whenever people mention a thought of the United States not being safe, I tell them that it is safe. Really.

My thought is that people who travel extensively may see the world as a much safer place just because their exposure to diversity is that much higher. The unknown becomes less threatening because the unknown is smaller. This is my hunch based on conversations I’ve had with people who don’t travel much. I’m not saying that those who travel are better people, but their experiences may give them a broader knowledge of humanity.

To mr, the study by the University of Chicago is not a definitive account on racist attitudes, but one that is looking for an explanation about an aspect of human behavior. Just like it is surprising to think of Robert Quest, the CNN reporter getting caught in Central Park with a small bag of meth in his pocket, we have notions of who we think might be more likely to be holding a gun. As I said in my post, I never think anyone is holding a gun. I actually don’t know anyone who has a gun besides two people–one of them a hunter. There may be others who think everyone is holding a gun.

I do think that which type of person travels, and where people go, has something to do with safety. Whether people think an object that is pulled out of a pocket late at night is a gun, a wallet or a cell phone probably has more to do with where someone is and the circumstances. Where someone is may have something to do with where the person feels safe. That’s my opinion, anyway. I can’t help it. I majored in Sociology.

Oh, and what does love got to do with it? The line from the song, “What’s Love Got To Do with It?” played in my head for some reason when I was thinking of a title for the post. It stuck. It’s a line from the Tina Turner song. The next line line from the song is “What’s love but a second hand emotion?” I don’t think this has anything to do with travel, but it’s catchy.