Sunday, February 23, 2014

A few thoughts on Open Carry and the Knee Jerk Condemnation thereof...

I have been a supporter of gun rights and other civil rights work for some years.

At the end of the day, Open Carry folks are the "drag and leather queens" of our movement. In the State of Washington, where carry is still largely accepted, we do ourselves no disservice with holstered open carry of handguns. Much like the aforementioned drag and leather queens, our open carry community members are the ones most likely to be out there loud and proud and getting interviewed for the media - because they are visible. For philosophical or other reasons, there exist  individuals who responsibly open carry  - often in the belief that it is wrong to require a license or otherwise exercise prior restraint upon individuals wishing to exercise a fundamental right - carry. Further, many believe that open carry offers the same benefit to the 2A community that "coming out of the closet" does to the LGBT community.

It is far easier to demonize someone (or an entire class of someones) that you've never met or a group with whom you've had a very limited number of interactions with the so-called "bad children" of that group than it is to demonize Aunt Sally, Uncle Jim, cousin Larry or "my brothers best buddy, Sheila-Sue that likes girls and fixes his car for him." Familiarity makes that whole "all LGBT folks" or "all gun owners" demonizing MUCH harder to accomplish - the "hey, I know someone gay, a gun owner, or both and they are pretty decent folks..." thing kicks in and the propaganda starts to break down in the face of that.

The question "is open carry always bad" is a red herring, at best. The real question, the one which requires actual thought, is "under what circumstances and by whom is open carry beneficial?"  I would suggest points for consideration:

* Is the firearm you propose to carry inherently frightening to the general populace (regardless of whether that fear is rational, and no, anti-gun loons do not count as "general populace" - neither do gun-owners, for this purpose)?

* Do you have the social skills to interact politely and diplomatically (see "non-confrontationally") with the general public and/or law enforcement when questions arise?

*Do you have the necessary skills to interact with media successfully?

At this point in history, I'd suggest that at about 98% or so of public gatherings that long arms or semi-auto firearms closely based on a long-arm platform are right out under the first test - and further, that they indicate an undesirable (for our purpose) degree of attention-seeking. It is possible that, with guidance, folks engaging in such can learn "how to win friends and discombobulate the anti's" - but only in the presence of a willingness to learn AND a willing teacher. Most that I've met carrying long arms at rallies and such are newcomers to political activity and while quite passionate, are often more focused on that passion and moral righteousness ("it's my RIGHT") than on *winning*.

On the other hand, pretty much everyone else in the OC movement I've met...they are our allies, not our enemies. It's probably less than constructive to deride an entire group of potential supporters just because of their outriders.

The second test addresses more of the "whom" part - if you are hot-headed or generally quick to anger, going for a quick OC stroll through some of Seattle's more liberal neighborhoods is likely not the best possible choice. There are certainly other regions of the state where the chance of less than enthusiastic acceptance exist. Odds are quite good that even if you are acting in an entirely lawful manner, that you are going to get to interact with the Seattle Police (a good number of which are alleged to suffer from mild to severe cases of "not from around here" and may not necessarily have the skills to interact successfully with an oversensitive soul). It'll be up to you, wherever you are open carrying, to be "the calm one" and "the ambassador" in any situation you stumble into - whether with SPD or the curious/concerned lil' old southern granny asking if you are a cop and "is that really legal?" "Why?" You need to be ready to patiently work with either of the above. If you can't, OC probably isn't for you (at least in any way beneficial to the 2A community.  When you OC, you take on a greater responsibility than all the rest of us quietly CCP'ing away - because you are *visible.*

Finally, the third test (optional as long as you never talk to the media nor allow yourself to be photographed by them). Talk to someone with media experience before you go so far as to identify yourself to the media. The media are *not* your friend - they are there in pursuit of stories that sell ad revenue. The bigger and splashier the story, the happier their managers. Big and splashy is *fine* - so long as gun owners are perceived as rational, intelligent and well-informed folks at the end of the day. However, controversy sells - so the media will gleefully seek out the most emotionally wrenching, shocking or just plain dramatic elements to portray - don't give them that.

Your mileage may vary. All this represents only my opinion on things, not that of any organizations that I may or may not be associated with in theory or in reality. If you want organizations views, you should probably talk to people who *do* speak for organizations.


Mike Stollenwerk said...

Open carry in public by people just going about their business is rarely noticed, let alone controversial. The article makes a number of good points about open carriers at public events, e.g., picnics, gatherings, dinners in restaurants, etc. Yes, people really do better as ambassadors if they remain calm, low key, and logical. Open carry is the engine of the gun rights movement - Carry on!

Evyl Robot Michael said...

*nodding head* I've often gotten into the debate with gunny friends that are against OC, arguing with them on the "ambassador" benefits of OC. I may have misused the word "political" in there somewhere. I like your comparison with the out-there-queens though. OC is a delicate subject to be sure, not to be taken lightly.

Bob S. said...

I'll take the opposite approach from my fellow commenters; not that I disagree with what they said at all.

Let's assume someone we would consider one of the worst choices to Open Carry does; our response should be to anyone questioning it -- "And then?"

"He was loud and obnoxious"
And then?

"Everyone was scared he was going to open fire."
And then?

"He looked like a slob and talked too loud."
And then?

99.999 % of the time "And then" ends with "Nothing happened". I think one of the biggest mistakes we make a gun owners is throwing others under the bus. No one is perfect; everyone one of us will be seen as "that guy" by someone else. Shouldn't we support 'that guy' as long as (s)he is following the law?
Point out that fact, point out the fact that nothing happened. Point out the fact the fear was a product of the antis imagination rather than the behavior of the person Openly Carrying.

Point out how reasonable most people are by comparison. There are dozens of ways of showing how unreasonable the prohibitions against OC -- we just have to step up and use them.

I'm not against people people who do OC in a very low key way; there is room for everyone and everyone's advocacy.

NotClauswitz said...

I'm not against OC but we had it (unloaded OC, actually!) backfire on us once the One-Party State got their supermajority and could run anything through the Stupidslature that they felt like - so they shut-it down completely. Peruta v. San Diego has challenged and changed that, and now in Richards v. Prieto things have moved the bar further - which just goes to show that a rule-of-man Supermajority does not hold sway on the Judiciary...