The armed demonstrations of “Open Carry” activists sets back gun rights movement.
I’ve owned and shot firearms since my age could be measured in single digits. I’ve actively engaged in firearms competition since I was in my teens. I’ve carried a lawfully concealed firearm on my person pretty much every day of my adult life.
I’ve been an NRA instructor since my 20s, and have personally taught a great many people—many of them women overcoming the horror of sexual assault—how to handle firearms safely and, if necessary, to effectively stop a deadly attack upon themselves or their family.
I’ve been an NRA Life Member for something like a couple of decades, and consider myself a Second Amendment absolutist. Not only do I think universal background checks would be a bad policy to adopt, I think all current background check systems are a laughable and useless infringement on the rights of the law abiding that have zero impact on denying access to guns by prohibited persons, and should be banned forthwith.
I think that anything other than Constitutional Carry, in every state, as well as the District of Columbia and every territory that answers to American sovereignty, is an inexcusable affront to the very fiber of the United States Constitution.
I also think that anybody engaged in the practice of “Open Carry in YOUR FACE!!!” (henceforth “OCIYF!”) is behaving like a jackass.
Actually, I think they’re worse than that, but I’m trying to keep this a family-friendly post.
What, you might ask, is “OCIYF!”? It’s an activity, usually orchestrated among multiple participants, to openly carry firearms for the deliberate purpose of drawing attention to themselves, usually by means of frightening a populace unfamiliar with the sight or practice of open carry. They typically to do this to increasing degrees until they compel action against their “OCIYF!” activities, at which point they express outrageously outraged outrage.
To augment the fear and reaction they induce, for example, they do not limit their open carry to a handgun in a secure holster—a sight every citizen is familiar with in their day-to-day lives, if only as worn by police officers. Oh, no, that won’t attract them the degree of attention they so desperately and petulantly seek.
Instead of taking a low-key, holstered-pistols-only approach that would serve more than adequately to assert their “right” to open carry, they instead escalate to the open carry of long guns that look to the low-information citizen precisely like the weapons with which we arm our soldiers to slay our Nation’s enemies, and that are precisely the weapons the gun control lobby fights most vigorously to turn public sentiment against. Good job, geniuses.
Ask the “OCIYF!” crowd what their goal is and they’ll tell you it’s to “normalize” public attitudes toward the open carry of long guns in the casual course of running day-to-day errands.
How utterly stupid. It has never been normal in any part of American history (outside of lawless frontier territories) for the citizenry to arm themselves with state-of-the-art long guns while simply running errands around town, much less while engaged in the momentary luxury of purchasing a cup of coffee or a mid-day meal.
The “OCIYF!” crowd, then, is not truly trying to return to a more enlightened gun-rights age of American history where the carry of long guns was unremarkable, for no such time ever existed. Rather they are attempting to bring on their fantasy vision of an American culture they’d like to see emerge. Ironically, a fantasy vision they make increasingly unlikely with every demonstration that frightens the populace whose electoral will ultimately determine whether the Second Amendment has teeth and is respected or instead becomes a kissing cousin of the Tenth.
Further, it’s not merely the “sheep” among American citizens that take alarm at the sight of one or several people swaggering into my local Starbucks or Chipotle, ARs dangling awkwardly from single-point “operator” lanyards, muzzles dancing recklessly at a floor covered in people’s feet and young children.
I’ve described my gun rights “cred.” If I’m in that Starbucks, and such an “OCIYF!” crowd strolls in, they’ve brightened themselves considerably on my personal “threat radar.” As is my practice any time such brightening occurs, my first move after having identified the threat is to assess imminence, followed by immediately vacating the area.
That, gentlemen, is the degree of alarm experienced, and evasion performed, by someone with a life around guns, more than a few rounds down the barrel of an AR, an effective personal defensive weapon on my hip, and many years of training and practice in its use.
What do you imagine goes through the mind of a young mother there with her small daughter, the office clerk from the nearby bank, the elderly couple sitting in the corner? None of these perfectly normal people are likely to have either the physical or mental capability of engaging such a perceived threat should it become realized. It wouldn’t surprise me at all that they were wondering if today was the day they were going to die.
Wining hearts and minds, eh?
Another rationale offered by the “OCIYF!” crew is that they are merely strengthening their Second Amendment rights through the exercise of those rights. Indeed, they’ll be happy to imply that it’s not they who are the problem, but rather that the problem lies with those of us who don’t engage in “OCIYF!” who “hide” our Second Amendment rights—after all, if we don’t use our gun rights, we’ll lose our gun rights.
Here’s some breaking news for you “OCIYF!” people:
YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT TO CARRY A FIREARM INTO A PRIVATELY OWNED BUSINESS.
None. Zero. Zilch. Zip.
The Second Amendment forbids the Federal government—and since McDonald also the individual state governments—from infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Key word: government.
The Second Amendment does nothing whatever to constrain the rights of private property owners to determine for themselves whether to allow the carry of guns—concealed or open—on their property.
To put it even more simply, when you are on someone else’s property you are there as an invited guest. You stay at their pleasure, and under their rules, rules that only they are entitled to define. Make your host unhappy for any reason whatever and they are entirely within their rights to order you to leave. Refuse to comply and you’ve become a criminal guilty of trespass.
So anytime you hear the words “Second Amendment” or “gun rights” emerge as a rationale from an “OCIYF!” crew that has herded into a totally inoffensive Starbucks or Chipotle, you can be certain from the start that they have utterly no idea what they’re talking about.
Furthermore, having companies such as Starbucks and Chipotle make national headquarters-level pronouncements that the carrying of guns is no longer welcome on their properties is a wholly predictable outcome of “OCIYF!” activity.
Both Starbucks and Chipotle were initially entirely neutral on the “guns on our property,” issue, stating simply that their stores abided by the local laws where they were located. Really, they didn’t care, or they didn’t care enough to make any formal decisions about the matter. Abide by the law, live-and-let-live, and all was good.
I’ve personally been in scores of Starbucks and Chipotles while lawfully armed, and never had the slightest complaint from management, staff, or customers.
Why did I encounter so little resistance, and the “OCIYF!” crew so much? Because I didn’t constitute a substantive threat to the one thing both those businesses, indeed any business, does care a great deal about: their business. And, by extension, the willingness of their customers to come, buy, and come back again.
Forced to choose between the half-dozen “OCIYF!” gang banging their AR’s off the furniture every other Saturday on the one hand and the many thousands of regular non-threatening customers on the other, only a fool would believe they’d make any choice but the latter.
Incidentally, much the same applies to being out in public—think of it as the public’s “private property.” It’s certainly true that there are some places in the country where open carry in public might go unremarked. In such areas, the “host” is not averse to open carry, by definition.
Conversely, there are others where even though open carry is legal a group of non-uniformed men traipsing around in public with ARs is likely to result in a police response. It is precisely these types of areas that the “OCIYF!” group targets for their demonstrations, deliberately to encourage such a response. Just as the case when they crowd their armed selves into a Starbucks or Chipotle, they have the same misguided and childish goals when they do so in a public forum they know to be deeply troubled by such armed demonstrations.
I don’t expect there’s much chance of rationally changing the minds of the “OCIYF!” crowd. A person who hasn’t learned commonsense good manners and self-interest by the time they’re old enough to purchase firearms isn’t likely to do so thereafter.
I’m instead talking to all the other gun owners out there who, like me, have fought for more than a generation to turn back the tide from the dark days of the 1990s, to bring gun ownership and armed self-defense out of the shadows and back into the light of respectability, to bring lawful concealed carry from a handful of states to nearly the entire country, to make the use of firearms an easily defensible recreational activity for the entire family.
In other words, I’m talking to all of you non-“OCIYF!” folks who have spent much of your lives successfully normalizing guns again in American life.
If you’ve watched the news stories about Starbucks and Chipotle making corporate-level decisions to ban lawfully carried guns from their businesses, and had the vague sense that there was someone peeing in the pool—well, you were right.
Someone is. And they’re called “OCIYF!”
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.