Carrying Responsibly

No doubt people have read the article from the Arizona Republic about Obama’s speech at the VFW national convention.
Unfortunately, the story about the convention seems to be taking a back seat compared to the national health care debate and, unfortunately, a fellow that the Republic describes thusly:

A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at 3rd and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip, and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault weapon) on a strap over his shoulder.

First off, can the health-care folks (on both sides) give it a bit of a rest? The president was speaking to the VFW. Your efforts would probably be better spent rallying your supporters and waiting for a better opportunity. Just saying…
Next, I’d like to address the folks who carry. I’m a strong advocate of carry, both concealed and open. I routinely open carry a pistol in public places, like the movie theater, grocery store, and so on. So far, I’ve had only positive interactions with people.
Now, while one certainly has the right to carry in public in Arizona, this right also comes with responsibility and common sense. It should be common sense that openly carrying a firearm, particularly a rifle, near a function where the President of the United States is speaking will cause a fair bit of alarm and attract attention (almost certainly unwanted) from the public, the news media, the police, and the Secret Service (( You know, the guys on the roof with rifles who are interested in keeping their principal alive and unpunctured. )).
One certainly can openly carry firearms, including rifles, at such events, but it’s probably a bad idea. The best response one can reasonably hope for is being portrayed poorly in the media. Most likely, one’s actions will also reflect poorly on other gun owners. If one is particularly foolish, one might get arrested. At worst, one might get shot.
Fortunately, the police in this situation recognized this individual as a person not presenting a credible threat and, while closely supervising him, let him go about his business. Major kudos to the police and Secret Service. I don’t think we’d see such a reasonable, measured reaction under Bush.
I don’t fault anyone for wanting to carry a gun at public events — tensions have been growing high and there’s been a lot of strong words exchanged at such events. I’d just rather see people do so in such a manner that doesn’t call attention to the fact that one is armed (e.g. concealed), nor reflects poorly on other gun owners.

7 thoughts on “Carrying Responsibly”

  1. I have to somewhat disagree with you. I think open carrying at events like this is appropriate. However, I agree that a rifle (any rifle) was not a good choice.
    It would be better for many people to OC regular pistols and keep carrying. It’s training. When people see lots of other carrying pistols openly and nothing happens they will become used to it. But it should be done in such a way that it is not alarming.
    OCing at high profile events expose more people to it.
    The gotcha is that it should also be done in a non media whore fashion. To the point that if a reporter asks you why you are carrying, you turn the question around and say “why are you wearing pants?”
    It needs to be portrayed as a normal everyday non-event.
    PS sorry if I ramble…

  2. Richard,
    While we both agree that the rifle was a poor choice, I’m afraid I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that open carrying at such an event is appropriate.
    As I mentioned, I routinely open carry during normal day-to-day actions (e.g. movie theater, grocery store, etc.). Never a problem. If it’s attracted any attention at all, I’m completely unaware of it. As always, I’m always pleasant and polite to anyone I interact with (e.g. asking an employee where a particular item is, checking out, etc.), so I hope this conveys a positive view of armed citizens.
    However, at political events, things are much more high-strung, there’s much less opportunity for reasonable, pleasant discussion with people, and it’s likely that the presence of a firearm will be construed as a means of intimidation. One’s every actions will be scrutinized by the media, and likely with no positive benefits.
    Except in limited circumstances, I believe that guns should not be used as props or a means of political leverage. The primary purpose of carrying arms is for self-defense. At major public events, such as when the President is around, I feel that one can best serve this goal without poking the attention-whore hornets nest by carrying concealed.
    As Uncle puts it bluntly, “don’t scare the white people“. By acting in a manner that the average person considers “nuts”, one harms the overall gun-rights movement. I’d suspect that the average person is neutral on the whole carry issue, but thinks its a bit nuts to carry any gun in any way near the president. Thus, I think it’s best to carry concealed in such a situation.
    The last decade or so has been rather positive for gun rights, but very little has been accomplished by major, in-your-face media whoring. Rather, things have been done relatively quietly (even the narrowly-defeated national CCW reciprocity bill and the now-expired AWB attracted little public attention) and by reasonable, everyday people.
    Yes, open carry is a good thing, and helps desensitize people to the “ZOMG! A man with a gun!” situation, but I don’t think that the country is quite ready for people to be openly carrying arms near a Presidential event…yet.
    That said, it is a mark of progress and freedom that people can peaceably open carry arms at a political protest within moderate proximity to the president. When Bush was president, peaceable protesters were confined to “free speech zones” which sat very poorly with me.

  3. In case you are interested, there is an account with photos from one of the guys in the group that was OC’ing near the rally at the following address.
    My apologies for the long url, not sure if your comments will take html formatting. Anyways, if you look at page two, the individual states that they called the Phoenix PD the night before and told them that they would be coming and would be armed. The police assigned them an escort and there weren’t any problems. As an interesting side note, none of the stories that I saw mentioned that there were a group of individuals OC’ing, but it is apparent from the posted pictures that several people were.

  4. Aaron,
    Thanks for the information. I actually saw that URL a few hours ago.
    While it sounds like the group did everything right in an attempt to minimize the impact on the police (and for that, I am very pleased) and conducted themselves in a polite manner, I still think that using guns as props for a political protest is inappropriate. Even so, they were well within their rights and I encourage them to peaceably speak their opinions.
    That said, the group did a damn fine job at attracting attention away from the healthcare protesters. If that was there intention, well done indeed!

  5. I realize that this is out of date, but we respond when we see something, not necessarily when it was posted.
    Generally a good posting; I just wonder why the snarky remark in the last sentence of the next-to-last paragraph? On what empirical evidence was it based? The sentence added nothing whatsoever to the overall post, and in my opinion detracted from it. Substantially.

    1. TNBrushman: Don’t worry about the late reply. Happens all the time.
      The remark you refer to was not intended to be snarky, it was intended to be serious. While there isn’t really any directly comparable situation (i.e. protesters openly carrying firearms immediately outside the building where the president was giving a speech), one might recall that it was not uncommon for protesters at events where then-President Bush spoke to be limited to “free speech zones” some distance away from where the president was speaking.
      While I understand certain practical matters relating to the security of the president and other VIPs (for example, having a secure location for the vehicle to park and the president to move from the vehicle to the building), having “free speech zones” for peaceful protesters located at so great a distance (I seem to recall news stories of them being a 1/3rd to 1/2 of a mile away from where the president was speaking) from the event that the protesters are essentially out of sight is repugnant to the first amendment.
      During the event described in my post, there were, among others, openly armed (though peaceful) protesters across the street (as opposed to a half-mile away) from where the president was speaking, yet they remained unmolested by the police and Secret Service. They were no doubt observed throughout the protest, but they were not arrested, asked to leave, or force to a distant “free speech zone” as was common even with unarmed protesters when Bush was president.
      I trust this clarifies the remark in question.

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