By Ben H.
I’m all for open carry. I enjoy seeing people carrying their guns in public; hell, I’ve done it. It was a pleasant experience, I met some fine people and a few curious folks received some friendly information and education. People driving by honked and waved. Over all, it was a resounding success and I would do it again. After some recent OC flub-ups, though, I got to thinking about what OCers are doing right, and what we’re doing wrong . . .
Open carry rallies should be, first and foremost, about educating the open-minded middle-grounders. Neither preaching to the choir, nor harassing hoplophobic antis does us any good, and after participating in one, I realized that the focus of open carry walks should be to engage curious folks in a friendly, inviting, fun spirit.
The real purpose of open carry isn’t to create a society where everyone carries rifles everywhere, all the time, but to create a society where people are comfortable with guns and don’t react to them with knee-jerk fear. Some open-carriers are screwing that up for us, though, and we not only need to have grown-ups present to put these folks in check, but we need to understand that open carry is a powerful and positive tool if we use it correctly.
To properly open carry, we need answer a few simple questions.
What are we trying to accomplish and how do we do it?
The purpose of open carry is to bring education of our rights and the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. We do this through engaging people in friendly conversation, and answering any and all questions with a smile. Tell stories of positive gun ownership, including the brave Auto-Defensas in Mexico, and explain that the reason it doesn’t seem as though these types of guns are necessary in America is precisely because these guns are present in America. A simple line I like to use to really get my point across that civilian ownership of these guns is effectively preventing the types of violence seen in other countries is that “South Texas doesn’t look like north Mexico because Americans have access to these firearms.” If a person is being rude, however, just smile and give them kindness in return. Flies and honey, folks. Flies and honey.
What are we up against and how do we fight it?
We’re up against a biased if-it-bleeds-it-leads media in support of anti-gun radicals and politicians who use lies, slander, and dirty tactics to achieve their goals. Any chance they get to show pro-gunners in a negative light, even out-of-context, they will do it and they don’t care if they get caught red-handed, because they have the media to cover for them. Grow some thick skin and wear your happy face at all times. Besides, that’s why you’re there – to have a good time and help others to do so. Call up local news channels and invite them out to your event. Post videos of your walk on Facebook to show your not-quite-gun-loving (yet) friends that gun owners are not the frothing-at-the-mouth gub-mint hatin’ hillbillies the media paints them to be. Show families carrying together. We’re normal, happy people, not the wack-a-dos the antis make us out to be, and unfortunately we sometimes have to prove it.
What are we doing right?
The walk I participated in was excellent. We had beautiful weather, friendly people, and folks approaching us and asking questions were treated with respect and friendliness. There was a very inviting aura surrounding the walk and I think folks really picked up on that. Some of our kids were there with us and playing around. Open carry walks that are conducted in a spirit of invitation and education should be emulated; this should be the standard operating procedure for all open carry demonstrations. The local police were notified ahead of time, the route was planned. No question was too “stupid” to answer, but be ready with knowledge of your firearm, some of its history, some American history, and the laws. All-in-all, it was very relaxed, friendly, and fun.
What are we doing wrong and how do we fix it?
*sigh* Guys, we’re not Alpha-Level-Spec-Op-Tactical-Operator-Ninja-Commandoes; let’s not dress like we are. Leave the tactical gear at home. Militarized police forces are doing their part to set people on edge and create an environment of fear and distrust, so let’s not follow suit.
I would actually say that we should dress a little on the nice side for the occasion. Guys, shave before an event, or if you wear a beard (and why wouldn’t you?), trim it up. We shouldn’t look like a rabble of armed weird-os, we should look like the gathering of warm, friendly people we are. Eddie Izzard said, “It’s 70% how you look, 20% how you say it, and 10% what you say.” First impressions are lasting. Dress to be approached, not to repel.
Wear your long gun across your back, not at your side, and not in “condition one,” or whatever. I would even dare to go as far as saying the more wood, the better. I happen to think my Arsenal SLR-107FR is a sexy rifle, but then I’m a gun guy. Non-gun people have been blasted with “evil black assault murderdeath machines” by the media, and black guns may be a little intimidating to some. Bringing beautiful military surplus rifles with nice wooden stocks, or some warm-and-fuzzy muzzle-loaders might make approaching you a little less daunting to curious people, and then you can give them a cool history lesson about that particular gun.
We’re there to engage, not to intimidate. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have people who are “designated spokespeople,” individuals who are charming, knowledgeable and well-spoken who are there as go-to people for tougher questions, to talk to the media should they show up, and to deal with rude antis.
About those rude antis, though: best to ignore their jeers and just video them. As much as I’d like to get 100% of the people on our side, some people have decided to completely shut off their minds and just cannot be reached. Let them make themselves look like asses while you turn your attention to more enjoyable people. Never let yourself come to verbal blows with these people; even if you win, we lose because we “look scary.” If you see a fellow OCer starting to drop to their level, check him. Be the adult and get him away from the situation. Calling the police on these people should only be a last resort, but it’s an option that’s there. If you need to bring the police into it to get vicious antis taken away, get that on video, too. And thank the police.
There’s been some negative press concerning open carry events, and I think it’s mainly because we’re doing it wrong. Open carry has the potential to be one of the most powerful cards in our hand if we will just play it right. Be presentable and approachable, smile, don’t play the antis’ games, educate and enlighten. Always be a good steward of a responsible, armed, and free society.