A Philosopher's Blog

Open Carry Protests

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 4, 2014
Colt AR-15 Sporter SP1 Carbine

Colt AR-15 Sporter SP1 Carbine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I have noted in my other essays on guns, I grew up in what most would regard as a gun culture. I learned to shoot as soon as I could handle a firearm and have been shooting ever since. I am comfortable around guns (but not too comfortable—complacency leads to accidents) and around armed people. This is due to years of hunting and also due to the fact that my family participated in the revolutionary war re-enactments that were popular in the 1970s. As such, I grew up spending some of my summers around plenty of armed folks and even participated in several mock battles. As such, I am certainly not an anti-gun person. That said, I do have some concerns about the current trend in open carry protests.

While the exact legal details vary, open carry is when a person is (obviously enough) carrying a firearm openly. This is in contrast with concealed carry—when a person is hiding her weapon from sight, typically under concealing clothing. Most states require that a person get a concealed weapons permit to legally carry a concealed firearm and often prohibit open carry in many circumstances (hunting being an obvious exception). Some states allow those with concealed weapon permits to openly carry a fire arm. Some states do not. Complicating matters even more is that local laws can vary considerably, even within the same state. For example, some cities have bans against carrying loaded weapons within city limits. As another example, Florida resident Doug Varrieur was featured on the Colbert Report for (legally) having an open air shooting range in his residential neighborhood.

In an interesting form of civil disobedience, some gun owners have started engaging in open carry protests. That is, they openly carry their guns to protest a gun law or gun related matter that they regard as unjust. For example, gun owners in San Antonio recently engaged in an open carry protest after a man was tased and arrested for openly carrying a loaded rifle in city limits. Other open carry protestors have taken to openly carrying their guns when patronizing businesses, such as restaurants and coffee shops. Some businesses, such as Chipotle, Sonic, Starbucks and Wendy’s have asked protestors to not openly carry weapons in their businesses, sparking some outrage from some protestors. As another example, some gun owners favor what has been called “constitutional carry” that would allow gun owners to openly carry guns without any license and stage open carry protests in support of this proposal.

What is very interesting is that the NRA has been critical of open carry protests conducted in restaurants and home improvement stores. The organization has even gone so far as to call such protests “weird.” The NRA also noted that “using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.” One reason for this approach is practical—the NRA is aware that these open carry protests can frighten people and thus have a negative impact on the NRA’s efforts in regards to achieving its goals. Some of those supporting open carry have condemned the NRA for this chastisement and some have even expressed the view that the NRA is not sufficiently pro-gun. The NRA thus finds itself in a situation parallel to that of the Republican Party, namely being pulled towards extreme positions and being criticized for not being extreme enough. While I disagree with the NRA on many issues, I do agree with them in this matter: using guns in this way seems to be a bit less than sensible and it also seems counterproductive in that it will tend to scare more people than it wins over. That said, I do have some sympathy for the protestors.

As I mentioned above, I grew up in “the gun culture” and I actually totally get the appeal of being able to walk down the street packing iron and swinging heat. Of course, this is purely emotional and, as such, is hardly the basis for a considered position on the issue.

Some of my concerns are practical. One is, as also noted by the NRA, that people openly carrying guns in a Starbucks or Home Depot will tend to scare people and this could lead to unfortunate situations in which a protestor is mistaken as someone who has come to engage in a mass shooting. I freely admit that if I were to see someone coming into a restaurant openly carrying an AR-15, my first thought would be “this guy could be here to try to kill us all…” Until I heard of open carry protests, that would have been my only thought—and I would be calling 911 and working on a plan to kill him as quickly as possible should it come to that. After all, as the NRA notes, walking into a restaurant or store openly carrying a weapon is weird, not sensible and likely to frighten people—or trigger a potential shooter response. And I say this a person who grew up with guns.

Another concern is that armed people wandering about in a crowded store or restaurant can be a recipe for disaster. While most gun owners know how to safely handle weapons and would hopefully not walk into a business openly carrying a loaded weapon, it is easy enough to imagine someone forgetting to properly check her gun (or even intentionally loading it) and having a terrible accident occur. I am actually a bit surprised that this has not happened yet.

On the one hand, I think there are legitimate grounds for such protests. The obvious legal ground is the 1st Amendment and the obvious moral ground is the moral right of citizens to engage in peaceful protests against laws and actions they regard as unjust.

Interestingly enough, if gun owners intentionally violated open carry laws in order to protest them and did not engage in violent resistance when arrested, they would be acting within the tradition of civil disobedience first advocated by Henry David Thoreau. Given the moral pedigree of civil disobedience, this would seem to be moral acceptable and perhaps even praiseworthy (though some might regard the goal as ethically problematic).

On the other hand, the use of guns in the protests is a point of moral concern. On the face of it, it might be tempting to regard such protests as forms of bullying or threat making. After all, a gun is an instrument of violence and carrying it openly can easily be seen as expressing an intention to coerce or threaten. To some, armed people “occupying” a business or gathered in front of a police station would be seen not as an act of protest but as an act of intimidation—the message being “I have a gun…so give me what I want.” Citizens do not have the moral right to use the tools of threats and intimidation against other citizens and, as such, this would seem to indicate that such protests are morally wrong. This, of course, assumes that the protests are actually intended to intimidate or coerce.

However, it is worth considering that a threat might be implicit in many forms of legitimate protests—although the presence of guns would seem to make the threat rather less implicit. It is also worth noting that the protest is about guns—so the presence of guns would seem to be relevant, on par with people advocating legalizing marijuana bringing marijuana to their protests against marijuana laws they regard as unjust. Of course, a gun is rather more coercive than a joint.

My considered view is that open carry protests are, if safely conducted, morally legitimate protests and that they could be a form of civil disobedience (the irony of this is not lost on me). However, I do have the above mentioned concerns: the safety issues, the view that such protests are actually counterproductive to the avowed causes, and the clear potential that such protests could be legitimately regarded as acts of coercion rather than acts of protest.

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20 Responses

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  1. Elias Garcia said, on June 4, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I believe open carry as a form of protest is perfectly justified.

    Where these people go wrong is the idea that they can open carry wherever they please. The stores you mentioned have every right to tell these people to go away. Private property is private property. Despite their outrage, I’m sure they’d start to get angry if people started to randomly hold picket lines on their property. Freedom of speech is a right, after all, is it not??

    Additionally, although I think the NRA is actually very ‘crony’ now, I agree with their sentiment on this. You’re only going to scare people by barging into areas randomly with a loaded weapon. Especially very neutral, non-political areas like a coffee shop or a grocery store. However, if the protest is occurring in the open street/gov’t property, I feel it’s something else entirely.

    Appreciate your post.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 4, 2014 at 11:42 am

      True, freedom of speech is the right to free expression but not a right of imposition. As you said, the open carry protestors have the right to protest, but private businesses have the right to ask them to not openly display weapons in the business.

    • apollonian said, on June 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Elias Needs To Grasp A Substantial Plan

      U say: “Where these people go wrong is idea they can open carry wherever they pls.” Well, is there freedom or not?–what are u saying here?

      U can’t figure out USA has been taken-over by ZOG?–3 Jews on US Sup. ct., 7 out of 11 Nat. security council Jews? Jew-controlled CFR, Trilateralists, and Bilderberg telling everyone what to do, Israel mass-murdering the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims, and ethnically-cleansing, Jew-controlled banking and corporations, including esp. the mass-media, including esp. the US Federal Reserve Bank COUNTERFEITING scam, etc.

      Have u hrd about the Jew Talmud (there’s no other Talmud) which excuses Jews murdering gentiles, saying Christ was rightfully executed for heresy and blasphemy, that Mary, Christ’s mother, was prostitute, etc.?–see Come-and-hear.com and RevisionistReview.blogspot.com for expo on Talmud.

      NRA is just another part of the Jew-controlled corp. culture, don’t forget.

      U evidently just don’t know what’s going on, and of course, the idea isn’t to just going-about and “barging-in” at places–isn’t that just a form of bullying?–which is actually what ZOG is doing w. the militarized police?

      Perhaps u need to understand a PLAN–and that is to REMOVE ZOG dictatorship, re-establishing Constitutional gov., esp. in form of states rights and sovereignty, removal of illegal aliens/invaders, isolation, suppression, and REMOVAL of Israeli terror-state, decisive neutralization of their cohorts and agents here in USA.

      • Elias Garcia said, on June 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm

        1. You need to stop drinking the cool-aid. All you do is give gun-right activists a very very bad name by associating your crack pot theories with anyone advocating protection/expansion of the 2nd amendment. You do more harm than good.

        2. The right to bear arms does not give you the right to violate the property rights of another individual. Your understanding of rights is extremely flawed. If someone doesn’t like the fact you’re carrying a weapon while on their land, they have every right to ask you to leave. If you don’t, we would call that ‘trespassing.’ If that happens on public land/gov’t property, that’s something else.

        3. See point 1. There are much more pressing, and actually real, issues that you could actually be focusing on.

        • apollonian said, on June 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

          Elias Sets Us All Straight, By Golly, Ho Ho Ho Ho

          Ho ho ho ho–Elias, who said anything about “violating prop. rights”?–ho ho ho–talk about “crack-pot.”

          My “understanding of rights is extremely flawed”?–ho ho ho ho–how so, Elias? Why don’t u tell us all about “rights”?–what are they, in ur view? Ho ho ho ho

          “[D]rinking cool-aid”?–ho ho ho–u should take ur own advice, eh? Hoh o ho ho–u’re a live one, for sure, ho ho ho ho

          But we all thank u, indubitably, for ur kind explanation of “trespassing,” for sure, ho ho ho ho ho

          • Elias Garcia said, on June 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

            Lol, alright, I’m done. You literally didn’t answer a thing I said. Should of known better trying to talk to people like you. “ho ho ho ho”

            • apollonian said, on June 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm

              Elias, u were “done” before u started, bucko, hoh o hoh o ho ho

  2. apollonian said, on June 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

    “Open Carry” Mere Part-Parcel Of Overthrow Of ZOG, Re-Establishment Of Constitution

    Note the citizens have all the rights, and it’s impossible in reason to taking or not allowing citizens’ Constitutional or natural rights–which is only done, actually, by criminal manipulations as we see, ZOG doing terrorist attacks against its own people, as on 9/11, and by further criminal frauds as Sandy Hook, Dec 2012, then Bost. Marathon event soon after, etc.

    And note the great use of carrying fire-arms in face of criminal police-force, in so many cases, anyway, which regularly murders the people in accord w. their training rec’d fm Israel for treating the people as Palestinians, cops murdering almost TEN TIMES the number killed by “terrorism.”

    Further, being armed will be necessary in face of coming and on-going currency-collapse; law and order are breaking-down, this actually a deliberate program for ZOG, encouraging war btwn the races, for example, etc.

    As far as the NRA and the other comments regarding appropriateness of carrying arms, that’s mere psychologic and cultural–note USA is no longer homogenous white Christian land, there being so many foreign/aliens nowadays, the people no longer seeing things in the integral fashion of old whence carrying weapons wouldn’t be seen as inappropriate.

    Fact is that ZOG is at war w. all humanity, currently using cluster-bombs in Ukraine, including the people of USA, esp. the Christian people; hence ZOG must be overthrown, the Federal Reserve Bank removed, etc., and citizens taking care for their protection, hence being armed, is absolutely necessary. Open carry protests are integral part of this on-going and necessary process for protection of citizenry, its rights, and overthrow of ZOG, re-establishment of Constitutional gov.

  3. […] Open Carry Protests June 4th, 2014 — “As I have noted in my other essays on guns, I grew up in what most would regard as a gun culture. I learned to shoot as soon as I could handle a firearm and have been shooting ever since. I am comfortable around guns (but not too comfortablecomplacency leads to accidents) and around armed […]” 4 Comments […]

  4. georgefinnegan said, on June 4, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve owned guns all my life. My father was a sniper in the military. I’ve been hunting in Northern Pennsylvania when it really did seem like the wild west – I feel lucky to be alive today! I have also had a loaded gun pointed at me and I know how I react. I don’t believe that I need a gun for personal protection. Moreover, I don’t feel like I am part of the ‘gun culture’. Since the 70’s, the NRA turned into a lobby group for gun manufacturers and have gotten people to believe that they need to have all sorts of weapons. To me, a gun is a tool, not something to salivate over, the way too many people I know regard them. They are the ‘gun culture’ and I am not part of that.

    Freedom of speech has traditionally been truncated when public safety is concerned. We aren’t allowed to yell ‘FIRE!’ in a theater. Openly carrying a gun in order to protest whatever they think they want to protest falls into the category of public safety concern – it shouldn’t be allowed. Guns are made to kill – it doesn’t take much to think that it’s unsafe to carry one into a Starrbucks or Walmart – particularly when it’s someone who thinks they have to take things that far in order to make a point. Moreover, since they don’t do mental health background checks on people buying rifles and shotguns, no one can be certain that the person holding the gun is sane or is someone looking to do a massive amount of damage.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 5, 2014 at 6:22 am

      Good point. The concern about safety is a compelling reason to reject the right to protest by openly carrying weapons. After all, a person can protest without being armed. The main reply to that seems to be that displaying the weapons can be seen as part of the protest, somewhat like carrying a sign or other item to make a point. But, of course, an accident with a sign would tend to be less serious than an accident with a loaded weapon.

      • apollonian said, on June 5, 2014 at 9:40 am

        Who’s Kidding Who?

        Sorry Mike, but there aren’t enough of u fascists to enforce ur delusions against us–ESPECIALLY under present conditions of ZOG program of mass-murder of the people in accord w. AGENDA-21 de-population, “climate-change” lies, and killer cops trained in Israel to oppress and brutalize the people as if we’re Palestinians now.

        Armed citizens against these killer cops are precisely the very specific reason for armed citizenry–u Mike, are just the smug, phrase-spouting intelligentsia attempting to justify/rationalize ZOG, counterpart to the Bolsheviks of a century ago.

        Mike: get a clue, buddy–there will be MORE of these armed protests–they’re just the beginning. Down w. ZOG. ZOG is FINISHED.

        • apollonian said, on June 5, 2014 at 11:47 am

          “The concern about safety is a compelling reason to reject the right to protest by openly carrying weapons.”

          –Just another instance of Platonic/Straussian “noble lie,” “safety” the excuse for dictatorship, in accord w. Orwell.

          • apollonian said, on June 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

            –And that’s aside fm the question-begging fallacy: (a) first the “safety” concern isn’t specified, (b) then how it trumps right to self-defense and being armed–typical sort of reasoning fm Prof. Mike.

  5. ajmacdonaldjr said, on June 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    The people participating in these open carry “protests” must be working for the anti-gun lobby, since it only strengthens their position. No one can be so stupid as to believe these “protests” can accomplish anything other than outlawing open carry in restaurants and everywhere else. Well, maybe people can be that stupid.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      They might be doing more harm to their cause then good. As you note, the results of people going to businesses carrying long guns seems to be mostly negative: they seem a bit crazy and scary to most folks. But, they did get the NRA to walk back the statement about the protests being weird. So maybe the result will be that open carry will be the law. Gun laws seem to have no correspondence to what the majority favor-so I would not be surprised if open carry is legalized.

      • apollonian said, on June 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

        Open carry is ALREADY legalized–ever hrd of the 2nd amendment? Going onto people’s private prop. is mere calculated gamble–sometimes it will work okay, sometimes it might not be appreciated–ho ho ho ho–u just HOPE the gun-rights patriots will be made to look bad–purest wishful thinking on part of moronic leftists and traitors.

  6. apollonian said, on June 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    AJ: maybe the “open carry” folks KNOW they have the momentum, eh?–and “outlawing” open-carry works two ways doesn’t it? “Stupid”?–well, u believe the Jew holohoax, don’t u? So question is who are u as a judge?


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