Commenter Beard reached out and asked me what I thought of the folks who are practicing open carry at healthcare townhalls and other political events these days.
Over the years, my position on gun rights has hardened somewhat; I’ve moved from “oh, there are a lot of reasonable restrictions…” to “no, there are very few reasonable restrictions.”
So looking at the phenomenon as purely a gun rights issue, I think the people are idiots and counterproductive but within their rights. They are idiots and counterproductive because what they intend to do is inflame reaction. We’re not talking about someone wearing a gun as a matter of course and showing up at a coffee house somewhere. We’re talking about someone (a black someone, by the way) who straps on a holster and handgun and then slings an AR15 shorty over his shoulder – and one with a magazine in it.
Folks, that’s exhibitionism, and while on one hand I get it that “Martin Luther King is only as powerful as the crazy nigger with the Molotov cocktail standing behind him” (as I believe Abbie Hoffman was quoted), on the other real progress in civil rights was made by men and women who dressed in their Sunday best and quoted scripture.
But this isn’t just an issue of gun rights.
It is an issue of many people’s insecurities about the role government intends to play in their lives, and their feeling that we’re at a “this far and no further” moment. There’s an obvious locus between people who believe passionately and seriously in gun rights, with all that entails – personal responsibility, individual empowerment – and people who don’t like the idea of a National Health Service and are worried that the current healthcare plans might take us there (just as there’s an obvious locus between people who don’t believe in gun rights and who do believe in a NHS).
So I’m not shocked by this.
But I do disapprove of it – strongly. And I do encourage my shooting friends not to do it, and when at events like this, to take the armed folks aside and talk to them, shooter to shooter.
Let’s have open-carry days and weeks as a way to firm up gun rights, and to demolish the notion that gun ownership is somehow abnormal or marginal. But I’d be very damn careful about bringing a gun to a political argument.
Why? Two strong reasons.
First, as a shooter I’m someone who considers the responsibility I take on by being armed to be massively significant. Bringing a gun to someplace where argument or even – god forbid – shoving might break out is asking for tragedy to happen. The worst possible place I can imagine being is armed and facing a situation that is emotionally heated and where shoves or fists are possibly going to be thrown. I’m not someone who is likely to get punched or shoved – but I can tell you that I’m not going to shoot someone for shoving me, period. There’s a reason states with CCW often forbid carrying into bars.
Second, as a citizen, because the point of being one of the few armed people in a larger group of unarmed people can only be – on some level – to intimidate. It’s not about defending yourself; you’re not really at risk in a public group setting like this. It’s about making a statement, and that statement is in part “don’t eff with me.” One point I hope I’ve been absolutely constant on is that anything that drives people out of debates is bad. And somehow I can’t see myself walking into a meeting with a M4 over my shoulder, a few magazines in a tac vest, and a handgun on my waist and sitting down and telling someone that I welcome disagreement – and being taken seriously.
Now the liberals who have their boxers in a bunch over this have absolutely no standing with me, and should have none more broadly on this issue; for where were they when the Jews are shut down at Concordia or UCSF by violent protest, and we were told “it’s just kids”. When conservative or right-wing speakers are forced offstage or their speeches canceled ‘to preserve order.’ that’s just fine. Sorry, no it isn’t…or, if you think it is, you don’t get to whine when the other side ups the ante.