By Jorge Amselle
Many people, me included, appreciate and support laws that allow for the open carrying of all types of loaded firearms in public. I may open carry on my way to check my mail or on my way to the shooting range just because it is more comfortable. In Virginia I don’t have to be fearful that if I am carrying concealed and someone happens to notice my gun anyways that I will be in trouble since I am carrying legally either way. There is also a lot of discussion on the tactics of open versus concealed carry which I won’t get into here.
That said, some folks have decided to open carry not out of convenience but simply to make a point. They believe that gun owners need to inure the public to the sight of guns and for a legitimate reason. People believe that anyone other than a police officer with a gun is a bad guy and whenever they see someone with a gun or what they think is a gun all hell breaks loose. In Boston a shopping mall was evacuated and the SWAT team and a police helicopter were called in all for a man carrying an umbrella.
Funny right? It wasn’t so funny for Erik Scott who was shot dead by Las Vegas Police officers as he was exiting a COSTCO because store security called 911 reporting that he was carrying a gun. Yes he was, legally and with a permit. YouTube is full of recorded confrontations of individuals with police who are stopped and harassed for legal open carry. The fact is that the vast majority of civilians carrying guns concealed or otherwise are the good guys.
Gun owners have a vested interest in communicating that message to the general public so they don’t call the police in a panic every time they happen to see someone minding their own business and who happens to be carrying a firearm. For many gun owners this is a life and death situation as police must respond to these calls unaware as to the circumstances or the armed suspect’s intent. I can’t blame police as that would put me on edge as well but over reactions can and do occur and sometimes lawful citizens are detained, harassed, arrested or killed as a result.
In response to this some gun rights activist have begun open carrying as a form of protest, sometimes on their own and sometimes in groups. The idea is that if your neighbors or people in your community start seeing you carrying a gun on a routine basis they will become accustomed to it. In Texas they don’t allow open carrying of handguns, just rifles and shotguns. A group calling itself Open Carry Texas would like to see the law changed and recently held a counter protest to a meeting of Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
The problem is that OCT didn’t bring placards or signs stating their position, they brought guns. This was a legal protest and they certainly got a lot of attention, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. As reported in Slate and National Review this type of confrontational In-Your-Face protest doesn’t tend to produce much in the way of reasoned argument or changing of opinion. The only result of this protest was to leave the gun control proponents frightened and more committed than ever.
I don’t question anyone’s commitment to gun rights but I do question the tactics used. Confrontational protests of any type seldom yield positive results and more often than not result in a backlash. It wasn’t the image of Occupy Wall Street protesters ruining public places that resulted big bank regulations, nor was it the image of obscene homosexual street theatre that changed the public’s mind on gay marriage. Dirty drugged out hippies burning their draft cards also did not turn the public against the Vietnam War, and it wasn’t the tactics of the Black Panthers that brought about Civil Rights for African Americans.
In California open carry of loaded guns used to be legal, until Black Panthers started marching around with loaded guns back in the 1960s and that law was changed quick. Then only the carrying of unloaded guns was allowed which gun rights activists immediately took advantage of and began doing so as a confrontational form of protest and filming their encounters with police. The result was not an expansion of gun rights but rather legislation banning open unloaded carry. Not what I would consider a success.
Again, I support open carry but slow and steady wins the race. Gun owners need to present a determined front but trying to force people who are afraid of guns to accept them by showing up to a protest armed is not ever going to work.
Jorge Amselle is a certified firearms instructor and writer covering all aspects of the industry from military and law enforcement firearms and training to the shooting sports. His youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/amselle.