“Gun-toters who are truly law-abiding and mentally competent have nothing whatsoever to worry about.”
Some Second Amendment advocacy organizations are putting their members on alert among concerns that anti-gun organizations are using social media to encourage members to target open carriers with police action.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has posted a series of messages on its page encouraging its followers to immediately call police if they feel uncomfortable in the presence of an openly-carried firearm.
The Buckeye Firearms Association caught a screen grab from the Coalition’s Facebook page:
This is a screenshot taken today (9/2/2015) of the Coalition’s Facebook page, doubling down on their original call to action:
This isn’t a new trend. Gun control advocacy groups have a habit of asking their followers to target gun owners and carriers:
It is not the first time supporters of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and other gun control advocates have pressed for the public to call cops on legal gun owners. An October 2014 National Review article found that the Facebook pages and websites of groups including the coalition, Moms Demand Action and GunFreeZone.net included numerous comments from the public advocating that people call the police and intentionally exaggerate what they see in the hopes of getting cops to stop those open-carrying guns.
The Coalition in particular has a habit of advocating for one thing, and then walking back that advocacy when challenged on it. After Second Amendment advocates called them on the carpet for their tactics, the Coalition offered this statement to Fox News:
“In an era in which individuals are being allowed to carry loaded guns on our streets with no permit, background check or required training, it is common sense for concerned citizens to call 911 when they see an armed individual whose intentions are unclear,” Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “These [open carry] laws guarantee that we—and law enforcement—will have no idea about the criminal and/or mental health background of these individuals until they actually commit a crime; and by then it could be far too late. We have full confidence in our men and women in blue to assess these situations.
“Gun-toters who are truly law-abiding and mentally competent have nothing whatsoever to worry about. Their conversations with law enforcement will be brief and professional,” he added. “As for those who are dangerous and have something to hide which would not withstand the scrutiny of a background check or permitting process, they should expect to face some tough questions as a result of these 911 calls. And that makes us all safer.”
Are they inciting their members to act maliciously against open carriers? The tone difference between the Facebook posts and the official response to Fox is striking. The problem with both statements is that they flow from a “guilty until proven innocent” premise that encourages paranoia about people who choose to carry firearms.
“Gun-toters who are truly law-abiding and mentally competent have nothing whatsoever to worry about”—except when they do. Police inquiries into improper or threatening displays of firearms are no joke; using “I was nervous about this person’s actions” as a premise for complaining to law enforcement could have dangerous consequences—especially if the complainant stretches the truth.
Will every anti-carry advocate stretch the truth? No, I don’t think so; I also think there are valid reasons to ask for help from the police if you see someone menacing the public with a gun. But there exists a fine line between protecting yourself from deadly assault, and protecting yourself from the very idea of legal gun ownership.