Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Open Carry, in light of Starbucks

When I first came out as a gay man, first to myself and then to the world, I was firmly among those very critical of the "visible gays" of the day - the drag and leather queens. My thought was something along the lines of "dammit, if it wasn't for those freaks, folks would accept us and all would be good in the world."

I was just a tad naive and ignorant.

Turns out that the drag and leather communities were the vanguard of the movement for LGBT civil rights, not only blazing flamboyant trails across festive new horizons in their defiance of the status quo but at the same time doing more for charity and their fellow man (Sisters, anyone? The Imperal Court system? Knights of Malta? ) than the vast majority of more workaday and less fabulous members of the community.

The visibly out have, for good or ill, been of huge benefit to the LGBT community - organizing events, raising money for AIDS and arguably pushing the boundaries of acceptance out far enough to make room for those of us charitably described as less flamboyant.

The Open Carry movement are the drag queens of the gun community. Like it our not, they are our most visible face - the ones that the broader community can easily identify as gun owners and say "all gun owners are like THEM." As a result, their actions resonate far more powerfully and their mis-steps do far more damage than those of the average gun-carrying Joe or Janette.

It's a visibility thing.

Sure, we have the leaders of the NRA and SAF fighting legislative and court battles and that work is clearly hugely important. But Joe public doesn't often run into Wayne LaPierre or Alan Gottlieb at the local coffee shop or beer blast and talk constitutional law - and that average Joe or Jane is the one voting in elected representatives that make laws.

Again, the work of the "big kids" is darned important stuff - but so is coming out of the gun owning closet (as somebody else once said, "closets are for clothes, not people"). It's harder to hate and fear a class of people and attempt to oppress them when you have someone in your life - sister, cousin, brother, son, friend - that your actions will be grinding a boot in the face of.

It's the grassroots victory. It's harder to be scared of guns and gun owners when you've known Uncle Bob is peaceful/generous/kind and carries a gun since you were old enough to manage single syllable words. It isn't easy to hate the person who stood up for you when the rest of the family told you to go to hell.

And that brings us to our Open Carry community. There is a difference between a drag queen in a Pride Parade, a protest, a show or a living room..... and the drag queen that's hiked up her skirts and is taking a dump in your kitchen sink.

I support, even while occasionally wincing, those who choose to responsibly Open Carry handguns lawfully in public spaces. I do not believe that it serves gun owners to be a shamed and ostracized minority consigned to hiding in surplus closets bought from the LGBT community. Accepting the definition of the other side that gun ownership is somehow freakish and only to be reluctantly admitted because we are somehow morally unclean doesn't precisely advance public acceptance.

On the other hand, some help we just don't need - the sort that's about as useful as a rip-roaring case of syphilis. Our equivalent of the drag queen taking a dump in the sink is our friends that don't just push the envelope, but set it on fire before pissing on the ashes. I'm speaking of our allies who fail the "ambassador qualification test." and run around in urban areas with long guns scaring the crud out of the fence-sitters and neutrals that might otherwise eventually migrate to our side.

There is a difference for most non-issue folks between seeing a guy or gal with a gun on their hip ("Oh, probably a cop" or ) and the guy or gal toting a shotgun/AR/AK/etc into the local coffee shop, diner, or library - one tends to cause folks to ask questions (at most) and the other tends cause folks to seek cover while calling for folks with the armored butterfly net.

Scaring the crud out of folks makes enemies, not friends - and doesn't exactly help us at the ballot box or in front of legislative bodies. Folks who fail to realize this are either terminally ignorant or saboteurs to the cause of Second Amendment rights. 

For the occasional hard of thinking among the Open Carry community:

1) Camo bad outside of woods.
2) Long guns bad in urban areas.
3) Tactical holster scary. Don't be scarier than you have to be. Screws things up for everyone.

None of the above excuses Starbucks and their overbroad (and in my opinion ill-advised and weak-kneed) response. They had the perfect neutral position and blew it when a number of more nuanced positions were available to them, but instead politely requested responsible gun owners to stop doing business with them - a request we should equally politely oblige.

But that doesn't mean there isn't sufficient splatter to go around.

Finally, yet again, in an effort to reach out to the hard of thinking reading this:

1) Appreciation Days, even for the warmed-over flavorless gruel of neutrality, are good. Make it profitable for people to be nice to us - or at least not kick us in the teeth. Be nice, get money is a winning formula.

2) Thanking folks for their neutrality or support tends, barring stupidity, to generate more of the same.

3) Being an out, proud, and non-scary gun person is a vital element in winning hearts and minds.


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