Americans can’t seem to exist without a tribe to join and a tribe to loathe. We are directionless without rivalry, without a constant us vs. them, Ravens vs. Niners, iPhone vs. Samsung, vampires vs. werewolves.
And the division of the moment? Guns.
This week, President Obama pushed a gun-control agenda in Colorado, the home of two of America’s worst mass shootings. He spoke the day after a study commissioned by the National Rifle Association endorsed guns in schools to keep kids safe.
Back in the DMV, it got even wilder. Maryland’s House of Delegates voted for one of the country’s strictest gun-control laws the same day a restaurant owner across the river in Virginia stuck his chin out and offered a discount to any diner openly carrying a gun.
Open Carry Wednesday at the Cajun Experience restaurant in Leesburg gives 10 percent off for every weapon carried. The owner, Bryan Crosswhite, began promoting armed eating on the restaurant’s Facebook page soon after he tried a Groupon promotion to boost sales.
He crowed to television reporters that his restaurant is the safest place in Virginia on a Wednesday night.
The local lawman takes issue with that.
“No, sir, I don’t plan to go” to the restaurant, Police Chief Joseph Price told WRC-TV (Channel 4) news. “And having carried a firearm for the better part of my adult life, I clearly know alcohol and firearms do not mix.”
Even in Virginia, the gun divide runs deep. Don’t try toting a gun into Buffalo Wild Wings in Manassas. The corporate office in Ohio adopted a no-gun policy because the company is “focused on the comfort, safety and enjoyment of all of our guests.”
There you have it: the gun-control debate boiled down to gumbo vs. wings.
Oh, yeah, you can add kiddie pizza to the peace side. But I was more disquieted than comforted at the Chuck E. Cheese’s in Alexandria, where kids are greeted at the entrance by a huge sign with a picture of a gun crossed out. Politics aside, I should hope that Stick E. Cheese’s would ban guns. Have you seen some of the sketchy dads go at it over whose kid was next at Skee-ball? Scary.
And it gets complicated. The wings place, stumbling over its own rules, made news this week when it booted a bunch of cops because of the corporate no-guns policy. The manager later apologized and said police — especially Virginia law officers — are an exception.
Seems silly to think some corporate out-of-stater can mess with those Old Dominion ways.
And that’s exactly what the Prince William Board of County Supervisors said to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments this week after the council publicly advocated stricter gun control.
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) wrote a scathing, don’t-tread-on-me manifesto to COG.
“It is not the purpose or the mission of COG to engage in this debate,” Stewart said. “I can guarantee you that residents of Virginia do not want, expect or welcome Maryland lawmakers representing Virginians on the issue of our Second Amendment rights. What . . . do they know about controlling gun violence?”
Whoa there, Virginian: Don’t you know you have brothers in arms in Maryland?
Maryland’s legislation would be among the strictest in the nation, requiring that buyers be fingerprinted and go through classroom training, target practice and background checks before they can purchase any firearm other than a hunting rifle or a shotgun.
Those changes are in addition to stricter rules governing the mentally ill and bans on certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
But don’t think for a second that the entire state of Maryland is one big gun-free zone, where everyone eats Buffalo Wild Wings. No, it’s much stickier than that.
Wednesday’s vote on the landmark gun bill broke down along geographic lines, with every delegate from Baltimore and from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties voting for it.
And, cheered on by scores of gun owners in the balconies, almost every delegate from the Eastern Shore and from Western and Southern Maryland opposed the bill.
The extreme rhetoric is what is driving so much of this divide.
Sure, it’s fun to make a monster out of the dad who collects guns or the mom who wants to ban them. But the issue is far more nuanced than that. The NRA knows it, and the gun-control folks know it.
Just about everyone loves a little bit of gumbo, a little bit of wings. There’s plenty of room at the table for all of us, if we’d just sit down and talk.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.