So there I was, sitting at a lunch counter at a funky retro-50’s diner on Congress Ave. The guy to my left was a Chinese national. The guy to my right was a transplanted New York lawyer. The lawyer was sharing tales of his Chinese travels. I was keeping myself to myself when the lawyer’s food started moving (see: above). The waitress said it was some kind of dried fish. Yeah re-animated dried fish. Anyway, a conversation started and the next thing I know the lawyer’s going all anti-gun. It was like a lightning round game show or, if you prefer, chasing chickens . . .
He argued that the “well-regulated militia” part of the Second Amendment establishes the right to keep and bear arm as a collective right, designed for common defense. Nothing to do with personal liberty. I reminded him that all of the rights in the Bill of Rights are individual rights, as per the Supreme Court’s Heller and McDonald decisions. He said “the Founding Fathers didn’t envision semi-automatic weapons.” I cited private ownership of cannons.
Machine guns? Why not? Registration? No thanks. “If you have nothing to hide why would you be against registering your guns?” Because tyranny. Why do you need a gun? Why do you need to make it hard for me to get a gun? It was really that quick. Which was fine by me. My steak sandwich arrived in short order; I was more interested in making sure it was dead than debating someone who reminded me of me.
The conversation, such as it was, ended with a not entirely unexpected yet surprising confession. “I just don’t want to live somewhere where there are guns around me,” he said. “You do know you’re in Texas,” I asked, even though clocking his moveable feast made me wonder if I was the one who was hallucinating. “I know we’re in Austin, but there are millions of guns all around you.” He looked around. “It just doesn’t feel right,” he said.
I resisted the urge to help him connect the dots between the previously disclosed fact that I’m a professional gun blogger and the entirely logical supposition that a man in that line of work would most likely be carrying a gun on his hip – especially in the great state of Texas. Hand-on-heart, I don’t think the idea that I was packing heat occurred to him.
And that’s why open carry is such a big deal for defending and extending gun rights. As long as armed Americans are forced to conceal their firearms, the people who would deny them their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms can maintain their anti-gun belief system thinking they’re winning – even when they’re not. They will not change their minds.
Alternately, anti-gunners who regularly and routinely encounter guns openly carried by their fellow Americans – without spree killing and ballistic psycho-drama – will gradually shift their perspective towards respect for gun rights. They may pitch a hissy fit at first, as some whites did when African-Americans first “invaded” previously all-white enclaves (e.g., professional baseball and Ivy League schools). But once they experience repeated exposure, over time, they’ll go back to their squirming fish dishes.
Note: open carry won’t convince antis to take a position for gun rights. It’ll be a move towards gun rights. Towards tolerance. Once a person sees a pig herd sheep, or a law-abiding American with a gun on his hip eating at a lunch counter, they can’t un-see it. They know it’s not just possible, it’s OK. Nothing bad happens. Gun rights are alright. As Farmer Hoggett said, “that’ll do, pig.”
Meanwhile, what the antis don’t see can hurt us. As great as it is, concealed carry prevents pro-gun peeps from spreading a positive message of individual gun rights for personal and communal safety – especially to the next generation.
Open carry is the way forward. We must make it the law of the land and then, despite potential tactical disadvantages, practice it. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose, cross your fingers and eat what’s in front of you. And sometimes, thankfully, you don’t. Know what I mean?