I had thought that the open carry debate had been beaten to death. But I saw a Fox News segment about homeless camping in Austin, Texas that triggered me. Maybe the events of 2020 and so far in 2021 warrant a reconsideration of the messaging conveyed by open carry.
The Fox segment explained that Austin had, some years ago, repealed its prohibition against camping in public places whereupon the homeless took advantage to bring California to Austin. Voters became so outraged that the ban has recently been reinstated.
Even Democrats voted strongly in favor of reinstating the ban. If even Democrats could recognize one threat to their vested interests, perhaps some of them will be ready for another shock to their delicate sensibilities.
The first thought that popped up was that open carry might message would-be immigrants from blue states to reconsider moving to Texas. If they really like the ban on carry in California, maybe they should stay in California. That notion was soon followed by other ideas.
We had been lulled into complacency by a generation-long steady declind in violent crime since the early 1990s. This came to a screeching halt a year ago with George Floyd’s death.
Looting and arson have died down, but shootings, homicides, and other violent crimes are soaring in major cities. The wokenistas would like to close their eyes to these changes, or attribute it to systemic racism and white supremacy. They would like the policy changes that have resulted in the spike in crime to continue (as long as their neighborhoods remain safe).
Would occasional displays of open carry disrupt their complacency?
Suppose Austin residents had begun open carrying shortly after the repeal of the camping in public places prohibition. Open carry would announce that this precinct has become more dangerous than it was in the past.
There was a shooting in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis; open carry following such an incident would send this message.
There are shootings every week in major cities. Residents in neighborhoods where such shootings are commonplace are fed up. Perhaps an open carry movement might spring up in these areas (where legal) to signal that the residents are taking control, particularly if their police precinct is abandoning them.
The George Floyd incident sparked cries to defund the police and, these have not died out. What message would open carry give to voters and politicians contemplating a defunding?
Suppose a spark of activity in a city were followed by occasional open carry. Would that trigger discussion about self sufficiency and personal defense in the face of police defunding? Would that discussion give pause to politicians contemplating such a move?
If cities adopt a defunding measure — no matter how modest — would ramping up an open carry campaign fuel such debate over self-help?
There’s no point in re-hashing the entire open carry debate. Nevertheless, one point warrants reconsideration here. Many will argue (I among them) that introducing open carry in a place where it’s not already practiced incites neutrals to be offended, sometimes even terrified. There’s a lot of merit to that argument.
Here in Pennsylvania we have long had unlicensed open carry…but it’s almost never practiced. I certainly don’t want to disrupt that situation where I live. I’m not sure the gun-owner base would protect the right of open carry against Democrat legislators. However, something has changed.
South Carolina has recently passed a law authorizing open carry in the Palmetto State. This was a well-publicized, news-making event.
A rational observer shouldn’t be shocked to begin seeing neighbors there begin to open carry. It may cause some surprise at first, but that initial reaction ought to be followed by the realization that it was to be expected.
We’ve just added five states to the constitutional carry list this year; Texas, Montana, Utah, Iowa and Tennessee have joined the club. While permitless carry isn’t directly connected to open carry (all four five states have varying forms of open carry on the books), they are both gun rights issues. Now would be a good time for more openly carried firearms.
And no, a backlash to seeing guns in public isn’t likely. Legislatures that have recently adopted constitutional carry aren’t going to entertain new gun control legislation just because some voters complain about seeing guns openly carried.
Finally, the mainstream media will have a hard time ignoring widespread open carry. They have only two choices: cover the story or, ignore it. How could ignoring the story serve their agenda? If it’s not in the news, then it didn’t happen. So it apparently isn’t an issue. Individual Democrats can gripe to their friends about seeing people carrying openly, but if the media isn’t fanning the flames, these Karens’ complaints will go nowhere. We just carry on open carrying.
Conversely, the media covers the story. They have to weave it into the narrative on urban crime. How do they do that? Speculation about open carriers doing the shooting will ring hollow.
More likely, they will air interviews with open carriers who will say they fear for their lives while walking in their own neighborhoods. That can only inspire viewers to wonder whether this might be a good idea. Better that my neighbor carries in public in case some hoodlum starts a gunfight.
I see this year as a moment of selective opportunity in particular states, cities and neighborhoods. The passage of prominent open carry, sanctuary and constitutional carry bills, bans on homeless camping, shootings, defunding of police and other politically-charged events should drive more locales to consider looser gun laws, including open carry.
For a worthwhile discussion of carrying openly, read Massad Ayoob’s piece is a good place to start.