Kroger gun-toter: Misguided stunt, says mom

The identity of the 22-year old man who walked into the Kroger grocery store on Emmet Street carrying a loaded AR-15 rifle was withheld by police, given that he broke no laws and wasn't charged, but the man himself wasn't so tight-lipped as he gave what was announced to be an anonymous statement on the WNRN Sunday morning show Wake-up Call.

Asked by host Rick Moore to read the note he carried with him when he entered the Kroger on Sunday, January 27, the man, who'd been referred to as "Lawrence" previously during the interview, slipped.

"If I, Karl Bitzer, am injured or arrested today," he read, "it is for solely exercising my second amendment right to protect myself and my property; it is not to cause harm/injury to anyone else."

While Bitzer couldn't be reached for comment by press time, the Hook spoke with the young man's mother, Jini Bitzer, a Scottsville-based stained-glass artist, who paints her son as an opinionated, courageous person who did something he shouldn't have.

"He's a very straightforward young man," says Bitzer, whose Facebook page features numerous photos of her son, including one of the two riding motorcycles with custom plates. "Do I agree with what he did?" she asks. "No. But I love him and support him."

Bitzer says that her son had no intention of harming anyone, and that he just wanted to show people that not everyone with a gun is a bad person or a nut, a sentiment he echoes repeatedly during his radio interview.

"I wanted to show everyone a positive display that not everyone with a gun is bad or is going to hurt you," he said. "They're on your side and are going to help you in case you're ever in need."

"It's not the gun that is dangerous," his mother says. "It's the crazy person who has it."

However, as Charlottesville police Lt. Ronnie Roberts pointed out in a recent Hook story on the incident, it was a dangerous stunt that could have ended very badly.

"We are just fortunate that nobody was hurt," said Roberts.

Bitzer acknowledges that what her son did was misguided, but insists that his heart was in the right place.

"When I found out what he had done, I thought, 'Oh, sweetheart, you just don't know how this is going to go,'" says Bitzer. "He's living in a 22-year-old bubble, and he just didn't see the big picture here. He honestly thought people would understand what he was doing, that it was an attempt to draw attention to Second Amendment issues. He didn't expect the repercussions."

"I'm a father, and my wife is a mother, and we probably feel much the same way about some of the decisions that our kids have made," says Bob Girard, who encountered Bitzer in the store. "But displaying lethal weapons in a place where people have a natural suspicion should never be unremarkable."

Indeed, Bitzer acknowledged that her son knew he was putting himself in a dangerous situation, as he expressed in a letter he wrote beforehand that he knew he might get hurt.

"The difference between this guy and the next may be imperceptible on the outside," says Girard, "but you cannot afford to– you shouldn't be compelled to– make snap life-or-death judgments based largely on the appearance, smile or outward demeanor of another person, especially when they're carrying a loaded rifle."

As a mother, Bitzer is just relieved that nothing bad happened to her son, and hopes that some sort of positive discussion about the gun issue can come of it.

"I hope both groups–– gun advocates and gun control people–– can come together and work something out," she says. "We can't have nuts running around with guns."



While it is true that the young man with the assault rifle was within his rights to openly carry such a gun in public, and violated no laws in doing so, it is also true that he, perhaps unintentionally, caused quite an upset in the community.

It appears his intention was to call attention to second amendment rights by exercising them in a very public and dramatic way. No doubt, he certainly succeeded calling attention to second amendment rights, and in spite of the upset in which, fortunately, no one was harmed or at any risk of being harmed, this may not be such a bad thing.

The constitution and bill of rights were written not long after winning a revolutionary war against a tyrannical colonial regime, and it was a close run thing that was ultimately successful in large part because of massive financial and military aid from the kingdoms of France and Spain who sent their fleets that bottled up Cornwallis at Yorktown, leaving him no choice but to surrender to Washington.

So the constitution and bill of rights were written by revolutionaries well aware of the importance of a well armed citizenry in maintaining the continued independence of the new nation and the liberty of its people. The revolutionary motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia is Sic Semper Tyrannis, Thus Always to Tyrants, and the state seal shows Virtue, armed with a spear, her foot on the neck of the prostrate tyrant whose overthrown crown lies nearby.

That a well armed citizenry was indeed an important national policy was demonstrated in 1812 when the British invaded and burned Washington DC, among other atrocities.

None of this argues in favor of bringing a loaded assault weapon into a supermarket, which can only be seen as profoundly inappropriate behavior under the prevailing peaceful circumstances of our city and state.

Nor, on the other hand, does any of this argue for a ban on assault weapons. The actions of a misguided young man can serve as a public lesson in what constitutes appropriate behavior, and no doubt the young man himself has learned a lot along with the rest of us.

There have lately been notoriously atrocious incidents involving assault weapons, in each case committed by individuals who, it seems, have had serious mental health problems. There is no doubt that we need to do more about addressing problems in mental health and in recognizing these problems and getting those suffering into treatment or a secure environment where they can not be a threat to themselves or others.

I think we may also need to do more about careful licensing procedures. We have to take examinations before being issued a license to drive a car, and it may be that we need to do something similar for possession of certain classes of firearms, perhaps including assault rifles or large capacity magazines. These examinations might also provide an opportunity for recognizing mental health problems.

A simple ban on assault weapons or large capacity magazines might prevent those casually interested in the novelty of owning such a weapon, but because there are already millions of these guns legally in circulation, it will not deter someone who really wants to get one, by legal or other means. Even totally outlawing such guns and requiring that they be turned in would be ineffective because while some people would turn them in, others would not, and then only outlaws would have them. So the horse is out of the barn on any effective ban on these weapons, like it or not.

And for that matter, anyone who intends in a pre-meditated way to commit an atrocity can find ways to do it that don't involve assault rifles. A couple of empty wine bottles and a gallon of gasoline in the hands of an unbalance assailant could cause catastrophic conditions in a crowded place such as a movie theatre, or a subway or a classroom. So the issue really seems to be a mental health issue more than a weapons issue.

I should also say that the popularity of the assault rifle among those who choose to commit these atrocities may arise from the current cultural environment where there has been an increased militarization of everything, including entertainment vehicles, like violent movies involving military or paramilitary heroes using every sort of automatic weapon in ever more violent fantasies of heroism and valiant patriotism. Or, take a look at the video games these days and see how they celebrate violence and encourage the users to take part in make believe violence and killing using automatic weapons, killing all the bad guys... Then there is television... or take a look at what is on display in the toy store these days...

So our national culture has been increasingly militarized and the violent use of powerful weapons like assault rifles has, more and more, been associated with heroes and heroism.

Is it possible that this has an unhealthy influence on individuals already suffering from emotional or psycological imbalance? Could such a constant media barrage of heroic violence contribute to such a loss of balance.

Do all of the things around us that celebrate and encourage violence and the use of powerful, empowering weapons tend, in some unstable minds, to normalize violence, or lead to a misguided, unbalanced impression that such violence and the use of instruments of violence is normal, to be encouraged and even celebrated?

If our nation was ever again faced with tyranny, either from within or without, I think would be in all of our interests to have a well armed and well balanced citizenry to deter or eliminate the tyrant and his servants. So I hesitate to do anything that might diminish my second amendment rights, which were created for very good reasons and have stood the test of time.

But I would look more closely at what has gone wrong with our nation's culture that has led to what appears to be an increasingly frequent occurrence of atrocities committed by individuals who appear to be mentally ill. What is causing the mental illness?

A Hollywood media blitz of glorification of violence and military weapons for ever greater profits at the box office?

The dramatically increased use of drugs, and I mean prescription drugs, to treat everything from normal anxiety to children who misbehave in school?

A decade and more of endless foreign war that has bankrupted us as a nation while the war profiteers have sucked all the money out of the economy leaving more and more homeless, impoverished, hungry, frustrated, desperate people, more and more at risk of becoming unbalanced?

There is no doubt that the terrible instances of gun violence we have seen in recent years are symptomatic of something gone terribly wrong in our society and that we, as a nation, need to do something about it sooner rather than later.

But to simply pass a law outlawing guns or certain kinds of guns is not even a band aid, it misses the point completely. There is a sickness that has crept, slowly but surely, into our society. We need to treat the illness, not the symptom.

One place to begin might be to ask everyone to watch this:

A well-written piece, Dr Kiracofe. Very important points made.
However what this young man did, to as he put it show that not everyone with a gun was a bad person, produced absolutely the opposite result. You cannot win people to your point of view by making them fearful.
Liked what you said about the widespread use of prescription drugs. Its ironic that we have all these school programs aimed at preventing drug use, yet prescribe drugs to the young routinely. I would not be surprised if more people are addicted to prescription drugs than to illegal street drugs. The old Rolling Stones song "Mother's Little Helper" comes to mind. Seems the latest thing is Adderall for college students who are "stressed out" about their schoolwork.
In my college years, some used no-doz, but no one would have thought of going to Student Health and asking for something to help them deal with writing a paper!

For Hollow Boy:

"There will be in the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears so to speak. Producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda, or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution."

Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, member of the Tavistock Group, from comments made before the California Medical School (1961)

So, I for one, wonder to what extent the use of these drugs has been involved in these mass killings perpatrated by unbalanced people. There are listed side effects for all of the drugs you mention. see, for example :

In 2010 there were over 200,000,000 (that's two hundred million) prescriptions for anti depressant drugs written in the United States. see;

So it seems a lot of people are on this stuff, and that about 2/3 of the population is taking mood altering drugs with listed side effects that include mania, psychosis, and suicide.

I don't know what the statistics are for drunk drivers as a percentage of all drivers is but:

"Adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010 - that is almost 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day. "

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2011)

So you have to wonder if two hundred million prescriptions for these drugs were written in 2010, how many of the people around you at any given moment, like at the super market, or at the office, or walking down the street, are under the influence of mood altering drugs and so subject to the published side effects...

I have not yet worked out the calculation on how much profit for the shareholders of the
various pharmaceutical companies (mostly "institutional investors" like Goldman Sachs and various "hedge funds") this represents. But it seems to be the most effective drug peddling enterprise in the history of the world and it's completely legal and highly profitable in spite of the fact that many of these drugs are highly addictive and poisonous according to published literature.

So much for the war on drugs...

Are we to suppose that these horrific instances of mass murder are the unintended side effects of prescription drugs, and if so is this we pay for the dividend checks received by the shareholders on Wall Street?

wonder if this will get any responses...

Mama Bitzer is thankful that nothing bad happened to her son. She also asserts that nuts should not be able to run around with guns. But what her son did was, though lawful, clearly nutty. That makes him a nut, in the Gumpian "stupid is as stupid does" formulation. So, he shouldn't be running around with a gun, according to her own view, andf maybe she could try some effective parenting to obtain that result. That way she might also be able to be thankful, in the future, should it occur to her, that nothing bad happened to the rest of us due to her son's nuttiness.

In the 1970s college campusus were filled with people arguning about whether the future woud be "Brave new world" full of narracistic people living life in a daze of hedonism or 1984 where the government controlled every move and watched everything you did said and thought.

It seems that we now have both at the same time...

As for this particular issue it is easily solved. Kroger, and any other businmess can place a sigh on the outside of the building stating their rules and people can choose to shop there or not.

Let busineses state their rules and people who violate them can take their chances.

Businesses on the fence can allow people with permits for concealed carry and those that don't want guns at all can say so.

Remember. a "gun free" zone does not apply to businesss owners or security guards.

Seems like an easy enough fix that is well within the constitution. The rules apply to governments, but not individuals. I can Regulate guns as much as I want on my private property.

@Dr. Kiracofe, I'm starting to wish the Brits had won the war.

Oh Gini, sweetheart, you're right on with your assessment of your son's "22-year-old bubble." He's not a nut. But his relative mental health now is of no importance at all to evaluate the risk he will be to others and himself once he finds himself in extreme crisis. That gun presents a huge risk of making him crazy.
Guns, --especially guns like that one, make people crazy.
Be a good mom now and take it away from him. Could he live with that?

the son is 22, not 12. take his gun away?

Nicely expressed Dr. Kiracofe. I also think Mr. Girard made an astute remark in the original article about this incident when he wondered how many concealed handgun permit holders had unsnapped their holsters and were now shopping one-handed. After the recent horrors perpetrated by unbalanced people armed similarly, Mr. Bitzer is fortunate he was not quickly dispatched by a fellow 2nd Amendment supporter.

For Ted

You may be right, but I rather suspect that the number of individuals who actually
go through with criminal actions involving guns in public places among strangers is
is quite small relative to the total population, I suppose because most people are peace loving and reasonably balanced and so not prone "to go off half cocked" in the way that two women delivering news papers were repeatedly shot this morning apparently by police who thought their vehicle resembled that of the ex-policeman suspected of violent actions in the Los Angeles area recently who is now the subject of a manhunt.

It seems statistically that most violent crimes committed with guns involve people who are related or know one another and that the crimes involving random mass murder are statistically extremely rare, even if they are also extremely disturbing and get more media attention than the far more common day to day domestic violence. I do not know exactly what the numbers are, but, unfortunately, it seems that the number of people killed or injured in domestic disputes or among people who know each other is far larger, by orders of magnitude, than those killed in the more spectacular, but much more rare instances of mass murder.

It may be that part of the difference is that the instances of domestic violence often spring from sudden intense anger or passionate rage, while the mass murders seem to be more the product of deliberate, premeditated intention, often planned over an extended period of time rather than in a sudden burst of anger or rage. There are also instances of gang related shootings that sometimes have a specific target but randomly kill or injure others in the drive by style shootings. To the extent that these gang style shootings are intended to maintain claims to territory by manipulation of fear they may be viewed as terrorist in nature, not necessarily as a result mental illness or rage, but more the product of thuggish brutality.

Then there are examples, such as this morning's misguided, ill advised and improper use of firearms by law enforcement personel, who are usually trained in the careful, thoughtful, proper and appropriate use of lethal force in enforcing the law. The truck of the newspaper delivery women was riddled with so many bullet holes, one can only wonder if so many bullets came from automatic weapons.

When we see behavior like this on the part of police in Los Angeles we can be thankful that here in our town our police behaved in a more appropriate manner when called to the Kroger store the other day. Mr. Bitzer and the rest of us can be thankful that our police, in this instance, were cautious, observant, respectful and professional in their interactions with him.

But, returning to your point about Mr. Bitzer, it is quite clear that while misguided, his intention was not to manifest thuggish brutality to invoke fear. In fact, it appears that he conducted himself with calm, courteous and completely cooperative composure throughout the incident, and so, perhaps, was less likely to be dispatched here in our calm and courteous community than he may have been on the streets of Los Angeles.

And we can all be thankful for that.

Which brings us to the topic of kindness and courtesy and the benefits of behaving in a polite, civil and thoughtful manner. It seems to me that one of the things that may have gone wrong with our society is precisely the loss of common courtesy and consideration of others. Something Mr. Bitzer has no doubt pondered lately.

Take a look at Jini and her Daughter's facebook:

Some serious candidates for white trash of the month family going on here.

Comment above about "being trash"... Let those without sin throw the first stone...

Don't worry about my sin, worry about the sort of parenting that results in one bringing a loaded AR15 into Kroger just to cause a stir.

Mighty Righteous, aren't we? My son is 22. Anyone who has raised children to this age can remember incidents involving their children they wish had not happened. I ask you to remember such an event in your past, and not judge other people. I do not condone my son's actions. I did not know about it in advance. I would have advised against it. Grown children live lives parents can only imagine and pray they make it through to another day, week and year. I'm sorry you feel it so important to pass judgement on my family. Have a good day....

Hey White Trash, at least they appear to be doing something for the local economy by running a pub. What are you doing?

I don't know about "White Trash", but I live in my Mom's basement, sleep 'till noon, deliver pizza at night using her car, smoke a lot of weed, and spend my leisure time trolling this and about 50 other forums. And I'm proud of it, Dawg. I bet you got some sort of pathetic job or something.

The term "white trash"is just as offensive a slur as the n-word. Or anti-gay slurs.
Apparently lower income rural Southern white people are the one remaining group that it is acceptable to manifest bigotry toward. Folks who too so often have gotten the short end of the stick in our society, because they may live in a trailer court and work at lowpaying, underappreciated jobs in our communities. People whose ancestors may have served proudly under Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson and now must listen to "politically correct" liberals say the statues of these men are offensive and should be torn down.
Will not say more,as this is not the topic of this thread, but had to speak out.

It's Mother who is living in a bubble. This young man needs some help. Once again, we have a parent who just can't deal with a son or daughter who is less than perfect. She is in denial.

Awwww.....did da bad man wit de big bad gun sceere you? What a bunch of whiners and wimps. How do you slugs live with yourselves?

Suck it up hippies.

White Trash: descendants of people who served proudly under Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Well, actually, Karl should not even have a driver's license, based on his record in many counties. Mommy should spank him, ground him for a month and let him clean tables in the pool hall until that folds in the next year or two.

R.I.P.: Jackie Gleason

@Billysixpack, you'd probably be the first one to wet your pants if you thought a gun was about to be aimed at you. You might think that those of us who are urging some measure of rationality in gun control policy are "hippies," but you'll note that our point of view tends to be on the right side of history. It is a shame that you know-nothing right-wing types are so threatened by the idea that things other than might can make right. Wipe the spittle off your chin and pick up a book.

white trash: post your facebook page so everyone can judge you and your character accordingly, hey it was your idea

i went to missouri recently they have no firearms allowed signage posted everywhere they do not want firearms, seems like an easy fix

gun toter: the pen is mightier than the sword.....think about that

all of you blaming poor parenting: really? don't you think a parent should be able to let their 22 year old think for himself? if you have kids at what point will your kids do something stupid? frat party? date rape? dui? buy/sell/do coke, pills, meth etc etc? i'm definitely far from perfect, i am not blaming my parents i have a brain, i can think logically, and have certainly needed to learn from my mistakes in life. Not excusing what he did just not blaming his mother

i'd be happy if we went back to the original interpretation of the 2nd amendment. You want to own assault weapons.....join the national guard or coast guard otherwise what the heck do you need an assault rifle for?

Dr. K: wow thats a lot of scary stuff to digest

:you'd probably be the first one to wet your pants"

Been there and didn't do that. We are talking about today. Hippies and libs are the ones showing their ignorance and lack of basic rational thinking. This is a right and not a privledge that can be brushed aside just because a few pot heads or holier than thous think they know better. What is bothering you the most is that you have no control over others on this issue.

To bad big dog. Guess you need to stay on the porch.