I used to think open carry was as dumb as rocks. Why in the world would a gun owner want to wear his gun where everyone could see it? If there was going to be trouble of a ballistic nature, any trouble-maker with half a brain would start by shooting the guy with the gun. As trouble-makers always start the trouble, they’d have the first-mover advantage. Sound gunfighting tactics demand concealed carry. End of story. But here’s the thing. Advocates of open carry aren’t talking about defending themselves. They’re talking about demonstrating their Second Amendment rights. They’re placing their safety at risk to make a political statement. Check this from charlotteobserver.com . . .
“The Constitution doesn’t say I have the right to keep and bear arms if I keep them concealed,” said Eric Shuford, an instructor at the Wake County gun range, who reports seeing more interest in open carry.”‘It says I have the right to keep and bear arms.”
Now you gotta admit, as a [hopefully] non-violent protest against gun control laws, carrying a gun in the open is extremely effective. It’s riveting street theater with an unavoidable, indeed inescapable point: we are here and we are queer. I mean, we’re here and we have a right to bear arms. Point taken?
The parallels between the gay rights and open carry movement are striking. Stonewall was a seminal event in the gay rights; the moment when homosexuals told the world that they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore. For open carry activists, “mad as hell” isn’t really an option. The open carry movement simmered into existence, There’ve been informal gatherings of Open Carry advocates around the country for the last five years or so.
And then, in the summer of ’09, California’s Open Carryistas started meeting at Starbucks. Operating on the principle that an activist should never waste a crisis (especially if he can invent one), Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence publicized the meetings. He called for Starbucks to ban guns from their stores. All media hell broke loose.
Strangely, Starbucks didn’t cave; the coffee chain continues to allow guns on their premises where legal. The Brady Bunch were collared by the law of unintended consequences: the protest emboldened Open Carry advocates nationwide. Starbucks as Stonewall. The movement gained force, pace and critical mass.
As TTAG has pointed out, the Supreme Court’s McDonald decision doesn’t really change anything. Chicago’s handgun ban may be toast, but the Mayor and minions are busy cooking-up a full English breakfast of restrictive ownership measures. The laws preventing Open Carry advocates from exercising their Second Amendment rights (in the open) remain in force.
And so the battle continues, here and there. On July 10, a handful of gun-toting members of South Bay Open Carry will pick-up trash on Hermosa Beach wearing unloaded guns. [download press release here] Clever eh? Mixing gun rights with eco-friendliness and community spirit. But open carry supporters like these aren’t just trying to change their image—from gun nuts to neighbors—they’re attempting to “normalize” guns.
Just as gays decided to come out of the closet and demonstrate that they were/are a “safe” and productive part of their communities, Open Carry advocates want the wider society to view legal guns as a normal and safe part of America. Their demonstrations force non-gun owners to confront the object of their prejudice. And get over it.
To reach that goal, Open Carry folk face a long road ahead. There will be blowback; the California assembly recently passed legislation to end California’s open carry law. Despite the risk of “calling attention to gun owners,” the demos seem to be working. Check out this exchange in hermosabeach.patch.com between the news org (Patch) and the police Chief Greg Savelli:
Patch: What do you say to local families who are concerned about potential violence in the area if more residents practice open carry?
Savelli: I do not anticipate there being any violence related to this event. When approached by this organization I recognized the majority of citizens are not aware it is legal to openly carry in public.
Frankly, I was not fully aware of the laws. Since that time, it has been my hope that the community becomes more informed through forums such as this. Without this education, it is my belief that residents would call and make a report of a “man with a gun” and our officers would be dispatched not knowing the full circumstances.
When and if an officer approaches them while they are openly carrying a weapon, I recommend they immediately acknowledge their weapon is unloaded and that they will submit to verification if so desired. This makes it clear from the start they are law-abiding members of the community and willing to comply with the law.
There are conflicting reports as to whether openly carrying weapons (loaded, as in other states, or unloaded here in California) decreases or increases incidents of gun violence. It is our desire to monitor the advancement of this movement and any changes in the law to ensure the community keeps pace with the changes.
Open Carry and an open mind. Seems like a good fit.
As Americans continue to contemplate the conflict between their Second Amendment rights and gun control legislation, one can only hope that the Open Carry movement opens the door to honest and informed debate. Anyone who takes his Second Amendment right seriously should consider joining. As dangerous as open carry might seem tactically, inaction has its own dangers. As we have seen.