I still believe

In open carry, despite what the comments in this post might have you think.

In that, Sebastian was linking to the post I had here about a Cal State campus being locked down because someone saw an out of uniform ROTC kid walking back to his dorm with a parade rifle. The firestorm got started because initially Sebastian misidentified the gun as an M16, then I pointed out that it was actually a de-commed drill rifle and I figured end of discussion.

Seems as I wrong, as some people took exception to this comment.

If I saw someone openly carrying what looked like an M16 around campus, I’d probably be a little alarmed too.

This sparked a discussion about why you or I would be alarmed if I saw someone, not in a uniform, toting an AR around a college campus. The side of the argument opposite mine is of the belief that you shouldn’t be alarmed by it, because there’s nothing inherently threatening about someone with a rifle, and I can understand that point to a certain extent. Sebastian and I (and others) feel as though the context of the situation (kid on campus with gun out of uniform) would be sufficient to raise the hair on my neck and cause a certain level of alarm…at least until I’d had time to assess the situation. That’s the key part; I would be alarmed because seeing a rifle on a college campus is not a normal situation, and things that are outside the norm (especially when they involve firearms) are sufficient to alarm me.

My alarm would only last as long as it took me to examine the situation, for example, if that same rifle was being carried safely and the carrier him (or her) self didn’t trip any other perceptual alarms, I’d file it under “that’s odd” and be on my way.

My part in the conversation took a bad turn when I expressed a deep sense of frustration with a commenter who has been a long-time reader of both Sebastian and myself. My frustration wasn’t based on the current conversation, but rather the history of discussions that we’d previously had wherein I oft felt like I was slamming my head into a rather stubborn brick wall. The wall didn’t notice, and I ended up with a headache.

I’ve expressed before that I believe that open carry is a good thing, and that I’d like to be back in place where the open carrying and display of firearms is considered acceptable in public; but we’re not there right now. This is where I often come to the divide with other supporters of open carry, because I don’t feel like we should all strap iron on and go play outside. Just like concealed carry, open carry is about moving in stages; we’re not going to win by tying on a hog leg and going to market.

Rather, I feel like open carry needs to be gradually pushed into public awareness, because if you want it to be accepted, you can’t go around scaring middle-class soccer moms. That means that open carry on college campuses is pretty much out the window for now (with the possible exception of Utah), and so is open carry in a lot of other places for the same reason.

Virginia is a good example of how open carry can proceed in a good manner; because they have a culture of it, and because VCDL does a great job with that local issue, they have begun to really foster an environment where open carry can thrive. It’s all about moving incrementally; and I think they’re doing a good job.

I’ve said before that I support open carry, because it’s well in line with my personal philosophy; I continue to support open carry. But I support doing it intelligently, don’t go walking around a bunch of cops with a .45 tied on and swagger about with a “this is legal you can’t touch me” attitude, because that hurts our case. Same with toting your drill rifle openly on a California campus, even though it’s a deactivated rifle it doesn’t help our case. Open carry, but do it intelligently. Don’t scare whitey.

6 thoughts on “I still believe”

  1. I think those perceptual alarms are definitely key. There’s a difference between someone – where there are numerous pedestrians, walking casually with a rifle slung across their back and someone – where there are numerous pedestrians, running frantically with a finger right outside the trigger guard.

    There’s always a chance in the first instance that they’re just about to point and shoot at a random passer-by and in the second instance that they’re running to stop something from happening, but situational awareness is certainly the key, isn’t it. Either way, I wouldn’t take my eyes off that individual until I was certain of what was happening. Not being alarmed – or at least not having some sense of heightened awareness at something clearly out of the norm is just plain ignorance if you ask me.

  2. Let me elaborate as much as possible:

    A young man [theoretically] is carrying an AR15/M16 type rifle [difficult to visually identify exact make as there are hundreds if not hundreds], slung cross-shoulder (i.e., sling on left, rifle on right or vice-versa), magazine attached to the rifle but not inserted (IDF fashion or otherwise).

    Is that viable?

  3. I wouldn’t have a problem with it per se, but the context of the situation would have to be more clear. If he’s on a college campus for example, I’m going to pay attention specifically because that’s not a normal sight to see on a campus in the US.

  4. I think you’re right about context and environment. If the school has regular (or even irregular, for that matter) drilling on campus with de-milled rifles, then I’d think that the campus Police would be aware of it and many people would be used to seeing them being carried. If someone new to the school saw it and called it in…I’d think the campus Police, being aware that there are authorized drillers on campus…would say “it’s probably just one of those ROTC guys but we’ll check it out” and do so…calmly and rationally…not by sending in the SWAT team and terrorizing the campus.

    If the campus Police were NOT aware that drilling was going on or if the student was not following standard procedure by carrying the de-milled rifle around, that’s a whole different ball game.

    Like it or not, carrying a rifle on that campus is illegal…doing so…even with a de-milled rifle…without letting someone in authority know about it ahead of time is asking for trouble.

    In a venue where it is NOT illegal, however, I would quickly condemn an untoward reaction to the sight of someone carrying a rifle in a non-threatening manner as PSH. If it’s not illegal, why should you be concerned about someone doing it…unless, of course, the person is doing it unsafely or in a criminal manner (pointing it at people or carrying it “at the ready” as if he were intending to start shooting at any moment)?

    As far as your point regarding open carry of personal defensive weapons…I agree to a point. What has gotten Virginia to this point is people actually doing it. Openly carrying defensive firearms. Some have been harassed, some have been kicked out of restaurants, some have been arrested.

    They (we) don’t go out looking for trouble and we aren’t actively trying to instigate contacts between government and ourselves, but, when it happens, we don’t shy away from it.

    That has brought the issue into the public eye and forced the Police to evaluate their procedures and reaction when they see a private citizen with a firearm. That didn’t happen by being meek.

    That would not work in a State like New Jersey or Massachusetts. The public in Virginia does not naturally fear gun owners…most of the public ARE gun owners in some form or another. Harassing someone for openly carrying a defensive firearm in a non-threatening manner doesn’t play well in Virginia outside of Richmond, some parts of Hampton Roads and the DC Suburbs.

    That may or may not be the case in other parts of the country and it is up to you and other activists in your state to decide on a course of action.

    The bottom line, though, is that Virginia has come to accept open carry as a result of people bringing attention to the issue through…open carrying…not through some sort of diplomatic negotiation.

    Feel free to use Virginia as a case in point, however, of how private citizens lawfully openly carrying defensive firearms is nothing to fear.

    Also, there is a growing Open Carry community in Pennsylvania which is taking a similar tack. Take a look at This Blog if you’re interested.

  5. As a citizen of the Old Dominion (as Ahab knows, but other might not), I like living in a state with open carry. Even in the DC suburbs its more accepted than not, though whenever it happens around here, it always makes the news, but only if the police handle the situation wrong or its an activist group.

    Heck, the DC suburbs ain’t this monolithic area. Prince William County (yes the one that’s cracking down on illegal immigrants) is very different than Fairfax, which is different than Arlington/Alexandria. Provided, PW is only marginally part of Northern Virginia, but it seems more open to carrying and guns than Fairfax is.

    Now, if only I could get the money together to actually exercise my rights…

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