There was an awful lot of hand-wringing about demonstrators openly carrying firearms outside the RNC, from everyone from union bosses to cronies of billionaire plutocrats like Shannon Watts. Even comic pseudo news sites like The Onion and Reuters got into the act. There was a little bit of regulatory silliness — for some reason, tennis balls and canned goods were banned from the area around the RNC, but to his credit, Gov. Kaisich refused to unilaterally suspend civil liberties.
As a result…nothing happened.
The New Black Panthers (considered a group of dangerous radical extremists by left wing outfits up to and including the OLD Black Panthers,) Biker groups supporting Trump, rifle-carrying activists, who announced that their intention was to support the police, and pretty much anyone who wasn’t a prohibited person had the freedom to strap on a sidearm or shoulder a rifle and openly carry those firearms right outside the Quicken Loans Arena.
Not to say that there weren’t any incidents or arrests. In the free-for-all atmosphere outside the RNC, stuff was bound to happen. Whether it was the )three-way urine-spraying fight between the KKK, Black Lives Matter activists, and the Westboro Baptist Church, the dude who set himself on fire while trying to burn an American flag, or these, um, gentlemen, there were definitely a normal level of stupidity and arrests. But there weren’t any gunshots, there weren’t any gunfights in the streets, and peace prevailed.
Part of that is, no doubt, to the credit of the Cleveland PD and police from other cities who clearly did a good job of keeping the peace. But another part of that, in my mind, is the very fact that Americans….are responsible with firearms. You can’t have a country in which there is, essentially, one gun for every man, woman, and child, without the citizenry having at least some knowledge and respect for the tool. Maybe there’s also something to the idea that people behave at the maturity level that is expected of them. We expect a higher standard of behavior and personal responsility from citizens who exercise their right to keep and bear arms. That’s not a bad thing.
My personal beliefs on open carry — described earlier — haven’t changed. I won’t openly carry a sidearm in public outside of a range until I feel confident that I have the skills and awareness to fend off a gun-grab. I remain skeptical that open carry of rifles is a good idea for political demonstrations. But these are questions of self-defense and political tactics. The test is not the conditions under which I think you should exercise your rights, but the conditions under which you think you should do so.
That, my friends, is the difference between a constitutional republic that protects liberty, and the mere mob rule of a majoritarian democracy.
Alas, some people prefer the latter. Let’s hope they don’t win this year.
Speaking of which, the DNC is going to take place next week in the city of Brotherly Love. While Pennsylvania has preemption of firearms law, there are some special statutory laws that only apply: in a “City of the First Class” (so defined under Pennsylvania law as having more than one million residents,) a citizen may openly carry a firearm, but only if they have a license to carry firearms from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (or a state with which Pennsylvania has reciprocity – check before you go, as usual.) I haven’t seen anyone talk about an open carry demonstration in Philadelphia…but I know that the Keystone State has a strong and successful open carry activist group, some of whom live in the southeast.