Open Carry Movement Seeks to “Normalize” Gun Carrying in Public
Until recently, the sight of a person openly carrying a rifle slung on the shoulder or
a handgun holstered on a belt was rare, yet now it is legal to do so in every state.
While most Americans consider the open carrying of guns socially unacceptable, it is becoming more common. And it is intentional. A group of zealots around the country has started a movement (www.opencarry.org) whose goal is to normalize the carrying of loaded guns everywhere in public life.
Open carry proponents are becoming more emboldened by the media coverage their events generate, and the absence of any organized counter effort to remind Americans that the open carrying of firearms:
- Creates deliberate confusion for the public and law enforcement as no one
can be sure that the carrier is doing so legally, or is a criminal with violent intent
- Threatens the safety of children and others from accidental shootings
- Creates difficulties for police who are trained to assume that anyone armed is a potential threat
- Provides no protection to open carriers who primarily carry in safe, suburban and rural areas where the threat of violence is essentially zero
- Pits the rights of a paranoid minority against the safety of the majority of Americans who recognize that the risks of openly carried handguns far outweigh the potential benefits
Case in Point: On June 9, 2010 a 34-year-old open carrier from Milwaukee, Wisconsin found out the hard way that walking around with an openly displayed handgun is no deterrent to a determined criminal. The man, who routinely openly carried his handgun in the neighborhood, was robbed at gunpoint, and as a television reporter noted, “. . .now the robber has two guns.”
Open carry proponents in California made news in 2009 when they began meeting in popular restaurants and coffee shops to display their guns. Unlike California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee shops, which chose to prohibit the open carrying of handguns in their establishments, Starbucks inexplicably caved to the demands of a handful of gun-toting extremists, and allowed guns in its stores, though it has the right to prohibit firearms on its premises. In 2013, Starbucks responded to the actions of NGVAC working with our faith partners and Newtown groups and officially “unwelcomed” guns in its coffee shops. It was a huge victory and shows that corporate America is listening.
All businesses we are aware of ban guns in their boardrooms and corporate headquarters, yet don’t take the same precautions for their customers and employees. Property owners always have the right to ban guns on their premises regardless of state and local laws but corporate American and local businesses have caved to the gun lobby. When they say they “follow local laws” that is a cop-out.
Few of us would patronize a business that allowed smoking. Why should companies and businesses which allow an even greater risk–loaded lethal weapons–be given a pass?
National Gun Victims Action Council is a network of gun violence victims, survivors, faith leaders and ordinary Americans using our economic leverage to enact gun laws that promote public safety, preserve the right of all Americans to the pursuit of life and liberty, and respect the legal gun owner’s Second Amendment right.
All photos on this page by Steve LaBadessa of Time Magazine, 2010.