As we drive to my parents’ house, we see that the neighbors have a big sign in the yard. A normal yard sign in Mississippi is Congratulations Class of 2017 or Bitter Divorce Sale. I am suddenly self-conscious about our New York license plate. Stand and Fight is less welcoming than No Soliciting Unless You are Selling Thin Mints.
The sign does not explain who they hope to fight. The word “rifle” suggests they are not aiming for thoughtful conversation. Who do they want to fight?
Maybe the sign is meant to frighten potential thieves — like Protected by ADT Security Systems. (Full disclosure: We bought a house with one of those signs by the front door and left it there for seven years. We did not pay for a security system.)
Maybe they are worried about foreign invaders. Stand and Fight might be a more subtle version of Protected by Smith and Wesson. Most will be surprised if terrorists are discovered in Itawamba County. (The newspaper lists police calls that often include cows wandering on to the road.)
Maybe I am the one they want to fight. They may not care for people who believe there is room for improvement in our gun laws. I continue to think there is common ground between people of good will in favor of increased safety and people of good will who love the Second Amendment.
We can strengthen background checks. We can do more to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill. We can push for reasonable waiting periods. We can promote smart technology that senses fingerprints. We can require safeties that lower the number of accidental shootings. We can find sensible ways to keep guns off college campuses — where gun-related suicides are increasing. We can restrict magazine capacity on assault rifles. We can work to ban automatic weapons that have no purpose other than mass shootings. We can make murdering another human being more cumbersome.
Unfortunately, Stand and Fight could be interpreted to mean that the way to end conversations about gun laws is to shoot the people who want gun laws. I may have this completely wrong. The one who put up the sign may be a reflective person with whom I could share a helpful exchange of ideas, but most of us are reticent to engage someone who begins with Stand and Fight.
I checked the NRA website, but could not find an explanation for the Stand and Fight yard sign. I did learn that you can purchase NRA Portable Target Stands, Concealed Carry Handbags, and Concealment Leggings.
I asked my parents about the people who live there. They are renting the house from one of our distant relatives. (The street is named for my great-grandfather. Everyone in town is a distant relative.) The sign, which probably belongs to my relative, went up the day after the election in November, replacing a Vote for Trump sign that was not necessary in Mississippi.
I decided to take a photograph in case I thought of anything to write about the sign. Standing in their yard with my cell phone was awkward. How would I explain if someone questioned my presence on their lawn? What if they brought a rifle to the discussion?
I came up with several excuses:
“I am a surveyor who forgot to bring my surveying stuff.”
“My second cousin used to live here.” (This is true.)
“I too am a proud member of the NRA. I want to join the fight. Who are we fighting?”
I took the picture without incident, but then the story took a surprising turn. The next day the sign was gone. The timing may have been a coincidence. Or maybe not.
Perhaps the conversation went like this:
“Honey, there’s a man on the lawn taking a picture of our sign.”
“Why would anybody take a picture of our sign?”
“Maybe he’s a surveyor.”
“A surveyor with a cell phone?”
“Maybe he’s a fellow member of the NRA who believes in the Second Amendment.”
“Have you thought about whether Stand and Fight is the best way to express our openness to others’ ideas? It could be interpreted negatively.”
“Still, I would hope someone would talk to us before they publish a picture of our yard.”
“What if we put up a more helpful sign? Let’s look for one that says Sit and Talk.”