As the old saying goes, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Tulsa’s massive, creative and game-changing new park — A Gathering Place — has become the center of a political controversy that highlights just how divided our society has become.
Shortly after the $465 million, 66-acre park opened, gun-rights advocates targeted it for political demonstration after learning firearms were being prohibited. They argue that the park’s partnerships with government agencies make it public, while its chief financier — billionaire George Kaiser — says it is private property.
While gun advocates do raise an interesting legal question that will surely earn a mess of lawyers (on both sides) a mess of money, the fact that a positive community development cannot escape America’s constant political squabbling over guns seems sad.
A Gathering Place … for petty politics
In the above video, gun rights advocates argue the public/private question with Tulsa police on A Gathering Place’s opening day. One of the men in the video, Tim Harper, became the focus of a Tulsa Frontier story comparing his claims of peacefulness with documented allegations of violence against him.
Tensions have escalated from there.
Saturday, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association held a rally at A Gathering Place, and the organization’s leader explained its position.
“(They) are going to come into compliance with state law one way or the other. We ask them to do it so we don’t have to force them to,” Don Spencer said, according to the Tulsa World.
The park’s officials released a statement in response:
The community responded with their thoughts, including an emphatic response that firearms at the park are not conducive to creating this welcoming environment. We have, however, made it clear that our policy is lawful and that any entry into Gathering Place with firearms, whether concealed or unconcealed, will constitute an actionable trespass. We thank all our visitors for their understanding and compliance with the enforcement of these regulations.
It certainly makes sense that different parts of any community would have different priorities and values, but the disagreement over firearms — in a place devoted to creativity, exploration and children’s enjoyment — seems unfortunate in what it says about the world.
Is there any place left in society for Americans who do not want to be caught in the middle of petty political fights?
Perhaps, but it seems that A Gathering Place in Tulsa is not it.