The open carry debate rages anew, and a different way to look at the question.

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On Monday, Rob Pincus posted a note on the I.C.E. Training Facebook page about his opposition to open carry (OC). This is one of Rob’s personal ‘hot button’ issues, and he doesn’t shy away from the debate. (Rob doesn’t shy away from much, actually, but particularly so with regards to this topic.) It garnered a lot of attention, making the cut at both Gunnuts and Say Uncle (amongst others.)

Given my association with Rob and I.C.E., it wasn’t terribly surprising that I should receive an email asking, in essence, if I agree with everything he says. Sometimes yes, sometimes a little less so, but not for the reasons you might think.

On the self defense aspects, I think OC when concealed carry (CC) is available (which is darned near all of the country these days) is silly. I won’t debate that point of view at this time, but for now I’ll just say that I don’t believe OC has any advantage over CC from a tactical standpoint.

On the social and political fronts the situation is a little less clear. I often wonder if the civil rights activists of the 1960s and the gay rights activists of more recent memory would have made the gains they did without their open and sometimes controversial exercise of their rights. Just fifty years ago restaurants and theaters were routinely segregated; thanks to the confrontational activities of civil rights advocates, today integration is so normal that we don’t even think about it. The same could be said for abortions and being openly gay.

Whether you agree or disagree with those subjects isn’t important to this discussion – what is important is that what was normal was changed, thanks to people who were willing to stand up for their rights and risk ridicule and arrest to mold society’s opinions.

To say that such activity was acceptable for them, but not for Second Amendment advocates, seems on the surface to be a little inconsistent.

OC activists insist they’re doing the same things for the same reasons, and it would seem to be a hard argument to dismiss. I do think, however, that there is a big difference between open carriers and civil rights marchers: the rights being defended here are already well established (if not in fashion), and are subject to a different standard of comportment. It’s called “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Rosa Parks was doing something that the law said she couldn’t. Open carriers are doing something that the law already says they can. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it is.

If OC advocates were carrying guns in areas where laws unjustly say they can’t, then I’d support them fully. The problem is they’re not, and in my opinion that removes the civil rights rationale from their argument. Carrying a gun openly in a city like Portland, where it is against the law, is advocating for change and pushing people to recognize other’s civil rights. Doing it in an area where it’s allowed, even if uncommon and misunderstood, is usually just grandstanding.

I understand the argument that rights which are not exercised are ripe for abrogation, and that OC is a strong exercise of Second Amendment rights. That doesn’t mean one needs to do so from a posture of defiant confrontation, which seems to be the norm for open carriers. We already possess those rights, and it’s incumbent upon us to exercise them responsibly and intelligently. Like it or not, that means not scaring the public.

Yes, people who are scared of the sight of guns are irrational. I agree. Yes, cops who don’t know the nuances of the law are ignorant. I agree. Getting belligerent in public isn’t going to change either of those. Want to advocate for actual social change? Open carry in a city where it’s illegal; get arrested like the civil right marchers did, then use that to help publicize your case for the repeal of unjust and unconstitutional laws.

That’s real political activism. Being a contentious loudmouth on YouTube isn’t.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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