Nonetheless, two bloggers/commenters for whom I have respect (Pandora and Dorian Gray) have raised issues that people need to think about with respect to the recent open carry incidents at Presidential and Congressional events.
Dorian Gray writes [and I am leaving out all the penis stuff this time DG]:
All the things a gun is used for are violent. The discharge of a weapon is by definition violent. Do you scratch your pussy with it? If and where you chose to display one to prove some arcane point has meaning.
If someone feels the need to “display openly” a firearm to prove they have a right we are already fully aware they have, what does this mean? What does this have to do with Health Care? Why not “display openly” at a tennis match or movie theater or a tractor pull or whatever it is you shitkickers do? This is a threat.
[Well, OK, I couldn't get rid of the pussy comment without losing the meaning.]
One of mike w’s problems is that he demands we all trust every gun owner, and that’s just not realistic. I have no idea who these people are – they are strangers – and, yes, I would be intimidated if I attended a meeting and there were people openly carrying guns – because I DON’T KNOW THEM!
Why is that so hard to understand? Guess what else? I don’t approach strange dogs either.
Let's try to listen to this all pretty carefully.
DG begins with the point that all the things a gun is used for are violent. I'm not going to split hairs with target shooting or collecting antique firearms--I take his point. Guns are meant to damage and/or destroy that which they are aimed at.
I will take issue, however, with the idea that all violence is necessarily evil or a bad thing. Unless DG is a complete pacifist (and I have seen no such indication in his writings), then I wonder if he would deny that certain forms of violence are necessary and justifiable. The law recognizes the fact that if you break into my home at night I do not have to retreat, and that I am--as a citizen--empowered to use deadly force against an intruder. If you punt that and say I should call 911, all I am doing is passing off that empowerment to an agent of the State, who will respond ... carrying a gun.
I have, in the early rounds of international terrorism in the 1980s, carried a loaded M-16 on guard detail at US military installations in Europe. I was specifically tasked with defending a housing area for US military dependents. Had somebody attempted to roll through there with a suspicious dumptruck crashing the fence, I would not have hesitate to use violence to protect those folks.
DG says that where you choose to display a weapon has meaning. He's right. There are essentially three different kinds of meaning that the open carry of a firearm can signify. In no particular order, they are (1) Intimidation; (2) Deterrence; and (3) a Political Statement.
Yes, there are clear cases of intimidation: I have been on the streets of Chicago and have passed gang members openly flashing weapons. Technically, these were illegally concealed weapons, since they would hide them if a cop passed through the area, but when they asked a citizen for a cigarette or walked in such a manner as to push you to the side of the curb, intimidation was clear. Yet there is an important distinction to be made here: intimidation requires the weapon to be carried with a certain attitude and an (at least) implied demand that you change your behavior to suit me because I have a weapon. Or else....
Does the mere presence of a weapon openly carried by a person who is not otherwise acting in an intimidating fashion constitute using open carry for intimidation? Only, I think, if you do not allow for the possibility of deterrence.
(2) Deterrence. I know several openly gay women who live in environments where they feel that open carry serves to deter people who might otherwise take out their prejudices on them. Several have written quite eloquently on the subject [unfortunately, because all of their work I read on paper and cannot find on the net I will have to give you a raincheck on links here]. I know women at college campuses--including campuses in Delaware--who often find themselves forced to walk across campus alone at night to get back to their cars. Many of them openly display cannisters of pepper spray, seeking to deter potential attackers. Sometimes I cannot help wondering whether the open carry of a firearm would not be more effective.
The whole point of the original Black Panther Party in San Francisco and other areas during the 1960s was that peaceful open carry would reduce police harassment tactics in the inner city--and in many areas it did.
Civilian Gun Self Defense Blog exists to chronicle cases across the country wherein the responsible use of firearms by American citizens--either in defense of their homes, or through open/concealed carry--and what is somewhat unique about CGSDB is that it covers stories where the use of a firearm went well ... and times when it didn't [Man shot intruder, turned out to be neighbor]. It is worth reading, because it discusses the cases in which not only did someone carry a weapon, but someone used it.
You don't get deterrence from concealed carry, because no one knows you have the weapon.
I'm not at all sure where you live or what kinds of entertainment you frequent, DG. But where I grew up in rural Virginia it was not (and still is not) unusual to see a farmer with a pistol on his hip shopping in the Farm Bureau. Gun racks in our trucks usually have shotguns and rifles in them. In the days before Gun Free School Zones my vocational agriculture teacher in high school kept a pistol in his office, and every year just before hunting season brought in a small arsenal of weapons to conduct gun safety class for us. That was the early 1970s--no parental permission slips necessary.
I have also lived in cities (Charlotte NC comes to mind) where it is not that unusual to see--even today--average citizens exercising open carry. They have to be careful: there are a myriad of places where it is illegal or unacceptable to the proprietors for them to carry, and the overwhelming majority are that careful. Incidents are few. Likewise, in Arizona, open carry is a lot more common that most people around here would believe.
Around here--or at a public political rally--DG, open carry definitely falls into category (3): political statement.
And maybe it's a stupid one, but intimidation? First off: intimidation doesn't require firearms, as could be pointed out by the incident with the members of the New Black Panther Party appearing at polling places in Philly last November. I have been scouring the news looking for the stories about pro-health insurance reform folks giving interviews about how William Kostic in NH or "Chris" in Phoenix have made them scared to show up and voice their opinions. Hasn't happened. All I have seen is the usual suspects in the commentary community pontificating on how it must be meant to be intimidating. Well, if so, it does not appear to have been working, does it?
As a matter of fact, the out-of-control shouting and intimidating behavior has been coming (primarily from the right) by people, 100% of whom were not openly armed.
Brian Shields made a great point in this thread (paraphrasing); the people open carrying weapons know they cannot afford to do anything provocative or illegal or they will be the first ones arrested and have their weapons confiscated. Which is also evidenced by the care that Kostic (insured he had permission of the property owner to stand there) and Chris/Ernest Hancock [advised the police in advance of their appearance and worked out the details to there would be no incidents] took to avoid a problem.
Had Kostic or Chris done anything provocative--such as brandishing rather than carrying a firearm--they would have been arrested instantly.
In fact, these individuals open carrying--as you point out in the penis envy parts of your comments--invite ridicule rather than fear, don't they?
Pandora, your reaction is, I think, rational and even widespread. I also think it creates a false dichotomy. You have every right to feel whatever fear you think is rational to protect yourself, but there is a limit to which you can project that fear on society.
I know a lot of people--good middle-class white suburbanites--who would be decidedly uncomfortable seeing large groups of young, boisterous African-American men swaggering down the street, either in Philadelphia or on Delaware State University's campus. Barack Obama discussed his grandmother having similar fears. There is an element of rationality to some of those fears--our society has inculcated people to fear young Black men as potentially violent. So should the activities and attitudes of such American citizens be curtailed based on their ethnicity because there are good people who feel uncomfortable sitting down beside them in a McDonalds?
What about the mullahs who suddenly stood up on that airplane to say their prayers, prompting people to scream terrorist last year? Because they exercised provocative behavior should airlines be able to say no praying mullahs allowed?
I would like you to consider that your reactions to gun owners exercising their right to open carry [completely independent of their motivations for doing so] are patterned by a prejudicial belief that is framed by the modern media and not substantiated by the facts.
Do some research, Pandora, and tell me what percentage of gun violence is actually perpetrated in the entire US over the past forty years by American citizens exercising the right of open carry. Not people with illegal weapons. Not people carrying concealed weapons. How many deaths, injuries, crimes, or violent altercations can be laid at the feet of people choosing to carry firearms openly?
When you find that statistic, please tell me whether it supports your worry that it is not safe to trust gun owners.
I'm much more concerned about the people with explosives in the trunk of their car than I am with somebody who announces himself or herself as armed.
Your dog analogy, by the way, is instructive. I don't really (personal admission) like or trust most dogs. My wife has been attacked twice in her life by vicious, poorly trained dogs. So we are very careful when running or walking to be aware of our environment and exercise reasonable precautions around dogs on other people's property or around people walking dogs that either do or do not have muzzles on them.
But I do not advocate that society should cater to my fear and keep dog-owners from open walking their dogs.
Nor would I assume that someone accompanied to a health care rally by his well-trained German Shepard was trying to intimidate me.
I accept my responsibility to remain situationally aware of all potential threats, and I accept the fact that I cannot force everyone else in the world to act as if my fears and perceptions should govern the way everyone else behaves.
[And I remain ready to kick the shit out of any Doberman who attacks my kids. Ooops, a little personal tendency toward violence creeping out there.]
This is not a particularly eloquent or well-organized post, but it is one from somebody who genuinely disagrees with you and who is trying to listen and engage in some real dialogue, rather than exchanging condom sizes.
Hopefully, it will give you something to think about, as both of you have given me something to think about on many occasions.