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There Are 240 Million Americans …

who do not own guns.  What are the implications of that?  The implications are that you have to care what non-gun owners think about you, and think about gun owners and gun rights, because if you lose the support of the 240 million Americans who do not own firearms, the Second Amendment will be no more than a 200+ year old ink blot on a piece of old parchment.  I can’t think of any better way to lose the support of the majority of Americans that do not own guns than to make those people think the people that own them are not above using them as a means to gain political influence.  This has third world banana republic connotations to a lot of people.

Now, I suspect the gentleman involved in this last incident did not have making an implied political threat on his mind when he went to the protest with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder.  If I had to wager, I’d wager he was looking for media attention.  But it will be spun in the media to the 240 million Americans who do not own gun as a political gesture, and many will take it as a threat.  If Americans think that expanded gun rights means turning this country into a banana Republic, they will stop favoring expanding them.

Understand this, because it’s important: we are outvoted.  We only succeed when the vast majority of American believe in the right to bear arms.  We only beat back gun control because the vast majority of Americans aren’t passionate about gun control, and don’t vote on the issue.  We do vote on the issue, but we’re a minority of voters.  Compared to the electorate as a whole, we’re a small minority of voters.  There is no escaping that we have to convince others to support, or at least not oppose our position.  So you have to care about how gun owners, as a group, fare in the Court of Public Opinion.

Some might suggest I believe we ought to get back into the closet.  That’s not really accurate.  I don’t sugggest that.  But part of breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions about gun owners being deviant or abnormal is to act normal.  Normal people do not walk around with AR-15s slung over their shoulders.  You might have the right, and I don’t think it should be illegal, but you won’t get people to see gun owners as normal by engaging in that activity.  It would be roughly akin to trying to get the public to accept public nudity by running around in public nude.  It’s not liable to change anyone’s mind.

UPDATE: It’s been suggested that 240 million is a bit much because I’m includind every American and not just registered voters.  I think this is a valid point.  Number of registered voters is 170 million.  Others point out that the numbers are likely understated,  I also agree with that.  Even arguing the numbers are more like 70 million gun owners rather than 57, you’re still not at a majority until you’re over 85 million.  That’s also assuming all gun owners are registered to vote, which they aren’t.  That’s also assuming that gun owners all vote like gun owners, which they don’t.  NRA has run studies on this issue, and figures it has influence with about 33 million Americans.  That’s nothing to sneeze at, certainly, and it’s why we even had a vote on National Concealed Carry at all, but it’s not enough to guarantee our political fortunes.

AARP has 35 million members, and backs nationalized health care.  If AARP can’t ram through ObamaCare with 35 million members, why is that?  Why do we think we can get away with doing whatever the hell we want, and damn what the public thinks with 4 million?

78 Responses to “There Are 240 Million Americans …”

  1. Edwin says:

    I hardly ever agree with you politically, but this one stance we can both agree on.

    A lot of the various blogs I subscribe to via RSS have posts and threads about the AR-15 in Arizona. While I agree with some view points this is what I’ve been posting.

    “This doesn’t help their cause at all. Yes they can do it legally, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

    Instead of taking their guns away, which is a clear violation, someone in their ranks who is more sensible needs to step it up and tell them to knock off the knuckle head crap.

    And this is coming from a new gun owner.

    I also wonder how stuff like this would play if it was George Bush as the president. There’s a small part of me thinking that there would be much more outrage against a person daring to bring weapons in the proximity of the commander in chief. Or they’d just be arrested according to the Patriot Act as suspected terrorists endangering national security.

    Someone I know who is wise told me this.

    “You know, there are a lot of good reasons to have a differing viewpoint from the one the president is promoting. Folks are certainly entitled to disagreement. As Jefferson would put it “not every difference of opinion is a difference of principle”. That said, asshats like this and crazed nutbars like the birthers do a masterful job of marginalizing not just themselves, but the rational opposition as well.

    If Republicans want to be taken seriously, they really do need to do a better job of distancing themselves from the knuckledraggers.””

  2. Texas Mike says:

    As an aside, I question the accuracy of a phone poll asking about gun ownership. How many readers here would answer this question?

  3. Sebastian says:

    I linked to this survey in particular, but there are others. I’ve never seen a number that’s more than half. In some areas, it will be more than half, and in some areas, well under one quarter. The number goes up when you talk about households instead of individuals. Household number are about half, averaged across the country.

    But a large percentage of those people who do own guns aren’t identifying as gun owners politically. Hell, technically my sister is a gun owning household, but I can promise you they don’t vote that way.

    When it comes down to people who really care about the Second Amendment, and I mean care enough to weigh it heavily in the voting booth, you’re talking a very small number of voters. Probably 12 million or so. That’s nothing to sneeze at, because I doubt many other single issues can drive those kinds of numbers. But it’s not a recipe for absolute electoral success if the rest of the voters turn against your position.

  4. BC says:

    That’s an awfully long-winded way of saying, “Stop being such goddammed idiots,” Sebastian. :)

  5. Robb Allen says:

    240,000,000 is bogus. How many of those are eligible voters?

    Take out the felons and the children, how many left are active voters?

  6. LFS says:

    I agree with Rob, you are way over counting the people who don’t vote at all. What you are after is the number of likely voters who are not passionate about RKBA.

    I have not made up my mind about AR-15 guy. But I know one thing we can’t count on is understanding the broad American public’s view of abnormal behavior.

  7. Cory says:

    May I just say, “To f’ing bad.”

    These people are making an important political statement. Hell NPR makes political statements day in and day out that I don’t agree with and they do it partially with my money (taxes).

    When Jefferson was inaugurated he walked to Capital Hill with armed citizens at his side:

    http://www.princeton.edu/~tjpapers/inaugural/inednote.html

    “a plain citizen, without any distinctive badge of office,” the president-elect walked up Capitol Hill for the ceremony. Unlike his predecessors, he wore no ceremonial sword. Joined by a number of his fellow citizens and members of Congress, Jefferson was preceded by a detachment of Alexandria militia officers, swords drawn,…..

    If weapons are good enough for the SS and the local police they are good enough for us. There is no magic power conveyed to somebody wearing a tin badge.

    Do we forget who we are?

    We are here to change opinion and the same old shit isn’t going to work.

    We need to be serious and responsible about pushing back in every way we can while educating people about shooting in general.

    Take a New Yorker to the range next week. It might be a very fulfilling experience for both of you.

    Cory

  8. Sebastian says:

    There’s about 170 million registered voters. So if gun owners are 57 million of that, and if we want to be generous and say that 57 million is understated, and go with 70 million, that’s still 100 million voters who aren’t gun owners. And that’s assuming all gun owners are registered to vote, which is certainly not the case. And as I said, even those who are registered to vote and are gun owners, a majority of them aren’t voting heavily on gun issues.

  9. illspirit says:

    Normal people do not walk around with AR-15s slung over their shoulders.

    It was once accepted that “normal people” didn’t walk around in public holding hands with someone of the same sex or of another race. They did it anyway, and aside from hitting a roadblock at gay marriage, both are rather normal now.

    Are there more interracial and/or gay couples than there are gun owners?

    It would be roughly akin to trying to get the public to accept public nudity by running around in public nude.

    But how many nudists are there? Or how many would there be if it was legal? I would imagine it’s a small number compared even to gay interracial gun owning couples.

  10. Breda says:

    Normal people do not walk around with AR-15s slung over their shoulders.

    Visit Camp Perry.

  11. Sebastian says:

    You can lament that we have forgotten who we are all you want, and I might even agree with you on that count, but you have to start your work from where you are, not from where you’d like to be. Even Saul Alinsky believed that.

  12. Breda says:

    “Normal people do not walk around with AR-15s slung over their shoulders.”

    Visit Camp Perry.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Breda:

    I would not argue that carrying a rifle is unacceptable in all contexts, but do you seriously mean to suggests there’s no distinction between carrying a rifle slung at a shooting match on a military base, and carrying a rifle at a public political protest? Same act, but very different messages are going to be taken away by the casual observer.

  14. Sebastian says:

    illspirit:

    It was once accepted that “normal people” didn’t walk around in public holding hands with someone of the same sex or of another race. They did it anyway, and aside from hitting a roadblock at gay marriage, both are rather normal now.

    It’s not quite a good analogy. Most people can understand why someone would want to hold hands with someone they are emotionally close to. It’s just a matter of convincing people that race and sex don’t matter. We have similar subjects in our issue. Most people can understand wanting to protect themselves and their families. Most people can understand having a hobby, and wanting to enjoy that hobby in peace. You have to challenge people on the issue in a way they can relate to your position.

    Most people can have no comprehension why someone would sling a rifle over their shoulders and head to a political protest. Any reason they can fathom is going to be bad. I’ve said before, if this was just someone who was picked out of a crowd for open carrying a pistol on their hip, not looking for attention but attention found them, I’d be a lot more sympathetic to that. But there’s only one reason to carry a rifle to a public rally, and that’s to get attention. They might think they are educating the public, and winning them over. They are not. Ordinary people who aren’t deep in this issue don’t understand it, and think it’s nuts.

  15. RAH says:

    Actually in Israel it is a common sight. I even saw pictures of young women with their rifles slung over the back at a soda fountain.

    Now their nation may require that level of preparedenss. I think most do not want to think America needs that. They were prepared that some Acorn person would attmpt a grab and had it unloaded and had several others nearby with OC handguns to make sur that nothing untoward happened.

    Yah it was PR stunt to make a statement about gun rights and waht totalitarian tactics can lead to.

    Personall I think a common reaction would be “Cool!”

    Now that behavior may be more acceptable in AZ than Pa. But I would not be defensive with work buddies. I would challenge why they think it was crazy.

    If you think it was crazy you have accepted that OC or CC and guns at rallies is a bad idea.

    Is the evil gun going to make the carrier shoot at Obama? No more than any other time,

    The incident was extremely peaceful just a PR stunt.

  16. anon says:

    “We are here to change opinion and the same old shit isn’t going to work.”

    It IS working. Support for a ban on handguns has fallen from 60% fifty years ago to less than 30% today. Support for new gun control laws are at all time lows. 40 states now have shall issue right to carry laws. The Supreme Court has recognized the right to keep and bear arms is a pre-existing individual right.

    Open carrying at political protests will absolutely change opionions. You’re right about that. I’m just afraid you’re taking soft supporters of the 2nd Amendment and changing their opinion of gun owners in negative ways.

  17. RAH says:

    I think a no gunner reaction would be ,” What? That is stupid. Then, Cool!” After they found out no problems and no arrests. they may just settle down and it is a wash. Not a better opinion or a worse opinion.

    Now if an idiot OC at an Obama rally and then there was shooting, justified or not, then I think reaction would be negative

  18. Mad Saint Jack says:

    There is another angle here I am wondering about, which is the poor job the MSM did.

    Seems that there where 5 men open carrying and the MSM missed them.

    Also in the CNN video the reporter says he saw a white man
    with an AR-15 shouting anti-Obama slogans. There are no photos or proof of this second rifleman. I am wondering if CNN was making crap up to feed the “racist gunnut” meme?

    Am I the only one who is bothered by this?

  19. Breda says:

    No difference to me, none at all. The man was free to carry his AR and so he did, end of story.

    And I say all this as a former hoplophobe – the mere sight of a gun used to make me frightened and panicky. But the more exposure to guns I had, the more I educated myself on the issue, and the more gun owners I met (all completely normal people, mind you) the less afraid I became. If people continue to act like gun ownership and/or carrying a gun is some sort of scary taboo, that is exactly how it will be perceived by casual observers.

  20. Sebastian says:

    Yeah, I really don’t get folks saying that what we’re doing isn’t working. Gun rights are in the best shape they’ve been in since I started following the issue in the early 90s. That started happening long before people were using their guns to make a political statement.

  21. Oakenheart says:

    240 million or no, the concept of RIGHTS is that a majority of people cannot strip the minority of their rights! At some point the complete mess this country is in has got to be straightened out, and it is NOT going to be done by sitting around singing kumbyah and hoping things get better. At some point we’re going to have to educate these people about the fact that government’s job is supposed to be protecting the little guy from being trampled by the majority. I think these OCers are doing a great thing. How many uninvolved, deluded sheep out there just learned that OCing is perfectly legal in many states? How much traction can WE get from pointing at the irrational statements by the MSM from this? Instead of looking at how this event could hurt, how about trying to use it as an educational opportunity and getting our side out there.

  22. Sebastian says:

    I would challenge folks who think this isn’t hurting us to take the article to either a coworker, or a neighbor… someone you know and feel comfortable talking to…. but who is not an activist in the gun issue, or someone in the community of shooters. Ask them what they think about what this guy is doing. Then see what their reaction is when you tell them you agree with what he’s doing.

    The only way we’re going to win over the long run is for our issue to be a mainstream issue. If it’s a fringe issue, we’re going to lose.

  23. Little Steve says:

    Good post. I think the bottom line is that guy did not NORMALLY carry an AR-15. He put it over his shoulder on that day strictly to get media attention, possibly also in a misguided attempt to support the RKBA but more likely just to get his 15 minutes of fame. So was he saying something worthwhile? Was he helping our cause? I believe the answer to both of those is “NO.” He just gave ammunition to the anti’s to scare non-gun owners who are still a majority. And if non-gun owners ever decide to be an anti-gun/non-silent majority, we are in big trouble.

    I’m also not for what he did being declared illegal, of course … but as gun owners who care about the RKBA, which anyone who has invested in an AR-15 should be, we should look at ourselves as agents of that movement and take our actions into consideration.

    I would most likely have had a firearm with me if attending an anti-healthcare protest, but if I did it would be concealed and just a normal part of what I was carrying that day, not a statement to get me on Hardball with Chris Mathews.

  24. Robb Allen says:

    I’ll one up you Sebastian. How about you go talk to any of my coworkers? You know, the ones who before they met me knew practically nothing about guns. Each and every one of them, the instant they found out I was into guns, because ‘curious’.

    See, I’m a normal guy. With gun tattoos. And in their eyes I have an armory suitable for taking over a small, third world country (which by our standards is actually a rather small amount to own). I don’t proselytize, but any chance I get I bring up something I may have done that is related to shooting. By knowing this about me, my coworkers seek ME out to talk about guns.

    That conversation isn’t going to happen if I only talk about plinking with my air rifle. My outward discussions of ownership of things many of them actually thought were illegal has opened more eyes than just sitting here only talking about what everyone is comfortable.

    If I could open carry, I could engage even more people because their curiosity would lead them to me. And if I open carry a 22, a .45, a S&W 500, a 30.06, or a BMG, what’s the difference? Paul Helmke is the one I expect to mention which guns are permissible and which aren’t, not gun rights activists.

  25. Sebastian says:

    240 million or no, the concept of RIGHTS is that a majority of people cannot strip the minority of their rights!

    That’s all well and good, but generally speaking they can. No right will last if the majority of people oppose the exercise of the right. We are just now getting the courts to outline the contours of the Second Amendment, and I’d rather not have federal judges thinking they have to draw narrow, lest people show up at political events armed.

    Once those contours are more defined, we’ll be in a safer space in regards to the right being protected and recognized in our panoply of American rights. Then we’ll be less subject to the will of the majority. Until then, we have to care.

  26. Sebastian says:

    That conversation isn’t going to happen if I only talk about plinking with my air rifle. My outward discussions of ownership of things many of them actually thought were illegal has opened more eyes than just sitting here only talking about what everyone is comfortable.

    I’m not advocating we never push people’s comfort zones… when you deal with someone on the personal level, you have a lot of room to talk to them and make them think about the issue in ways they haven’t thought about it before. You can get into a lot of topics that way.

    The problem is, when you step into the political world, and when you go to an Obama rally with an AR-15 slung over your shoulder that’s what you’re doing, you’re in a soundbite universe, and the breadth of your believe system isn’t going to get conveyed.

    The problem I have with open carry as a form of activism (not be confused with open carry in general) is that the sight of a gun doesn’t really convey any educational information, and I don’t think the people who need educating are likely to ask about it. I think if folks want to open carry because it’s more comfortable, or what have you, knock yourself out. But I don’t think it’s educating anyone, or helping them change their minds about the issue. I think you need to convey more information than that to reach the fence sitters.

  27. Edwin says:

    It is, and it’s seen as a form of intimidation. We should be able to talk about the issues rationally without the need to intimidate others.

  28. Mad Saint Jack says:

    As to the population I remember the stat being thrown around that 50% of American households have a gun in the home. So the number of gun “owners” might not be a complete picture of support.

    And I just have to point out that Hot Air posts that the AARP has lost 600,000 members during the HCR debate.

  29. Sebastian says:

    And I just have to point out that Hot Air posts that the AARP has lost 600,000 members during the HCR debate.

    That’s good news. AARP has a lot of members, but it’s never been clear they command the same kind of voting loyalty that the NRA does. That’s why a lot of DC insiders still consider the NRA the most influential lobbying group. But the point is, AARP can’t help Obama ram through a radical overhaul of the health care system with several times the membership of NRA. There are limits to even a group that large’s political power, and AARPs need to win the middle just as much as we do if they want to win. They can’t right now because they stirred up a hornet’s nest with the radical nature of the health care reform package.

    So far we have not managed to hit a hornet’s nest with gun rights, and I’d like to keep it that way.

  30. LFS says:

    David Adams over at VSSA makes some good points on this issue:

    http://virginiashootingsportsassociation.blogspot.com/2009/08/msnbc-fixated-on-protestors-carrying.html

    “a right not exercised is a right denied”

    But there is something else he touches on, and that is the MSM has been helping the Democrats portray the normal constituency as angry mobs. The MSM can do that all they want, but everybody knows the truth and it hurst the MSM’s credibility. Couple that with holding up Code Pinkers and their ilk as normal Americans for the last 8 years, and I tend to wonder if the general public actually cares about the characterizations put forth by the MSM. There’s good reason for everyday Joe’s not to trust the MSM, so their labeling open carriers as nutjobs is probably nowhere near as effective as it may have been in the past.

  31. Sebastian says:

    But there is something else he touches on, and that is the MSM has been helping the Democrats portray the normal constituency as angry mobs. The MSM can do that all they want, but everybody knows the truth and it hurst the MSM’s credibility. Couple that with holding up Code Pinkers and their ilk as normal Americans for the last 8 years, and I tend to wonder if the general public actually cares about the characterizations put forth by the MSM. There’s good reason for everyday Joe’s not to trust the MSM, so their labeling open carriers as nutjobs is probably nowhere near as effective as it may have been in the past.

    No, it’s not as effective, and I think people understand that the media sensationalizes. I think people are much more sophisticated consumers of media these days. But that’s not to say the media has no influence, and we still live in a soundbite world, for the most part. You can bet the Brady Campaign, and all the other gun control groups, are going to be using these incidents to fund raise.

  32. Mjolnir says:

    Well, the NBC channel 12 news did a good piece on this, even interviewing a Phoenix PD officer and the Mayor of Phoenix, both of which supported the gentlemen that exercised their 2nd amendment right.
    “Doing nothing accomplishes nothing”. These guys did something peacefully and responnsibly. Blaming them for bad media attention is attacking them not the ones demonizing them. We’ve been silent too long, relying on The NRA to fight our battles for us. It’s not working as well as you say. I’m an Arizonan and I applaud these guys!.

  33. Sebastian says:

    So let me make sure I understand this:
    “I’m not getting everything I want right now, so if I just get in their face louder, surely we’ll win!”

    I’m not seeing that as a winning political strategy.

  34. illspirit says:

    Most people can understand why someone would want to hold hands with someone they are emotionally close to.

    True, but fifty years ago or so, a black man walking down the street with a white girl was enough to get lynched. Aside from, say, Snuffy and anonymous internet people, it’s not often you hear that we should be killed en masse. So in that sense, we’re already ahead of the curve. :p

    Most people can have no comprehension why someone would sling a rifle over their shoulders and head to a political protest. Any reason they can fathom is going to be bad.

    Also true. But what about after the first dozen times they see someone with a rifle and none of those bad things come to pass? People also thought the streets would run red with blood if concealed carry was allowed.

    At any rate, my analogy wasn’t so much about comparing the acts psychologically as it was the math. If there are only a few hundred thousand or even a couple million nudists, it should be easier to normalize something which half the households in the country are familiar with.

  35. Cory says:

    OK Sebastian – starting where we are I don’t see these events as irrational. I see them as political statements given the times.

    We should again be people that look at a person opening his gun case at the airline ticket counter and say, “What kind of rifle is that?” rather than, “WTF is he doing with that thing?!?”

    Or maybe advocating for precision air gun shooting clubs in high schools again…. The list goes on.

    I think these people are making valid political statements. I can think of no better place to “keep and bear arms”

    And a well dressed black gentleman at the AZ rally with an AR-15 over his shoulder is truly priceless (it went well with the tie)! I’m tired of gun owners being blasted as right wing, white supremacist wing nuts when there is nothing racial, ethnic or religious about the desire to be free. Sort of takes the wind out of the sails of the MSM news anchor usual point of view don’t you think?

    Also one other point after Kenneth Gladney had the sh*t kicked out of him at the St. Louis Health Care rally perhaps the decision to open carry was not such a bad idea.

    Cory

  36. Mad Saint Jack says:

    Here is Ron Paul’s reaction on MSNBC (where nobody saw it).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on30EgX1GwA

    I’m starting to think that from the viewpoint of a pure open carry advocate, this is a PR coup. They have never had much media air time.

  37. LFS says:

    “You can bet the Brady Campaign, and all the other gun control groups, are going to be using these incidents to fund raise.”

    I’m sure they will, but the Brady Campaign aren’t the focus. An old hand in the IT biz once told me that the reason DEC became irrelevant was that they focused on beating IBM, not winning over customers.

  38. FatWhiteMan says:

    I do understand what you are saying but in the case of this gentleman in Arizona, you cannot convince me that he fits a stereotype as normally presented by the agenda-driven media. If anything, the media attention has served to bust such a stereotype–at least as the type presented to the masses by the media most of the time.

  39. AntiCitizenOne says:

    Ron Paul should have said this to the Ed guy on youtube when he mentioned someone grabbing Kostic’s gun…

    Policemen carry their guns out in the open as well, and are just as vulnerable as Kostic – and your question really is…?

  40. Sebastian says:

    I’m sure they will, but the Brady Campaign aren’t the focus. An old hand in the IT biz once told me that the reason DEC became irrelevant was that they focused on beating IBM, not winning over customers.

    I think that’s a good lesson too, but the Brady Campaign won’t be the only ones.

    • Bitter says:

      No, the Brady Campaign won’t be the only ones. We’re already seeing that with Bloomberg. And he’s now driving money into the version of “winning over customers” by inserting himself into local campaigns. When other groups figure out something that works more successfully than what the Brady Campaign has done, they will use it to beat us.

      I really have to wonder if the fervor for being perceived as extremely dedicated has put blinders on folks here. I’m mean even in a small town like where I grew up that has a gun rack in every pickup, walking around with a rifle openly carried on your back would get the cops called (by other citizens, not them inserting themselves) and would also probably generate more than a few locked business doors (with owners inside standing at a ready position to draw down on the person). One of the reasons why open carry of pistols is at least somewhat better than this situation is because there is some norm that people might assume – police officers carrying off duty. Until I got involved, that’s what I presumed when I saw it. I was neutral on the issue of guns, but because I could at least consider one possible normal situation, I never panicked.

      For those of you who believe that gun owners carrying rifles on their back should be considered perfectly normal behavior in every day life, I would ask whether you are willing to open carry a rifle on your back into a bank. (This assumes open carry is legal and there are no laws about carrying into banks.) If not, why not? Because it’s not normal? Because it might scare people? Now, why would a presidential event be any different, especially in the context of threats on the President’s life by others? (We know he was targeted by evil-doers because the Secret Service actually started his protection as a candidate early due to threats.) There are extra motivations for doing bad that the average citizen might see in both situations (cash & crime or political intimidation). If you’re willing to do so, please have someone go with you to record it. I look forward to watching the video, either to laugh or to be pleasantly surprised.

      I’m a fan of being open as a gun owner or shooter. But being a good diplomat for the cause means working around people’s comfort levels. Working around doesn’t always mean going out of your way to accommodate. It means being aware of general boundaries and breaking them down one at a time. Just like you don’t start new shooters on a high-recoil gun without good ear protection and padding, the best general rule for exposing people to the issue is a bit at a time, much like the idea of starting new shooters on a .22 so they learn and understand the basics first.

  41. Ian Argent says:

    I’m on the fence about this. IMHO it was a publicity stunt; but it seems to have not backfired – yet. I have been given to understand that one reason CA’s so uptight about guns in public is due to militant protestors open-carrying back in the 60’s. (There’s a racial aspect to that).

    At the same time, this *isn’t* the 60’s – and gun rights are moving forward. Was this guy too far ahead of the curve?

    In the end, I think he should have stuck with carrying a handgun. I think there’s a justifiable concern about personal safety when one side is beating up their opponents…

  42. Sebastian says:

    Ian:

    Open carry was outlawed in California (for unincorporated areas) by none other than Ronald Reagan, and it was in response to the Black Panthers staging armed marches.

  43. Sebastian says:

    sorry, outlawed for incorporated areas. It’s still legal in unincorporated areas of California.

  44. hillbilly says:

    Just a quick comment.

    Imagine the following was written in the early 1960s, and change a few terms.

    “We can’t have people openly violating laws on buses or at lunch counters. We can’t get this radical over our rights, even if they are rights. The white people outnumber us by the millions. They out vote us.

    We’ll never convince the white people to accept us if we keep having people on “our side” doing stupid things like sit-ins at lunch counters, violating state laws on public buses, or blocking public roadways with organized marches.

    That kind of radical behavior will only cause more backlash against us, and won’t accomplish anything.

    It’s sad we have such radicals messing up our public image like this.”

  45. Mad Saint Jack says:

    AntiCitizenOne-

    Ron Paul did make a similar point that the court house shooter, that the host mentioned, was a law enforcement failure.

  46. sburch79 says:

    RE:Hillbilly
    I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but I think there is one distinguishing factor between this and race rights. They were doing peaceful resistance. And while the people carrying guns were nothing but peaceful, to people who don’t understand guns or gun rights it may not seem that way. It is hard for the media, or anyone for that matter, to construe a sit in as violent. It is pretty easy for the enemy to construe bringing a loaded rifle to an Obama rally as violent or intimidating. That said, I don’t know what the best way to advance our cause is. You don’t want to be to meek and not push forward. If we did that we wouldn’t have Heller. (Gurra gave a speech at my school and said that NRA actively tried to kill his case – they were afraid he would lose.) But we don’t want to re-ignite the gun control movement either.

  47. Tom says:

    Might as well be reading MSM.

  48. Cory says:

    To sburch79

    You mention, I think the marches for racial equality as being peaceful.

    This is not the truth. The KKK was severely harassing these marches within the deep South and the harassment stopped when the Deacons started carrying weapons during the marches.

    Please see the excellent video titled “No Guns for Negroes” at the Jews For the Protection of Firearms Ownership site. www . jpfo . org/

    Wow you just about made the best point possible.

    Do gun owners face this kind of intimidation? I don’t know. Ask Randy Weaver. Ask a Class III dealer. Ask a firearm store owner. Ask a CA resident that was there during the change in law that made him a felon if he still had an AR-15 SP1 (me).

    Cheers,

    Cory

  49. Robb Allen says:

    Tom, while I disagree with Sebastian on this issue, I’d not go that far.

  50. Sebastian says:

    Yeah, ouch :)

  51. Paladin says:

    I happen to support and encourage the open carry of firearms at every opportunity – under normal conditions. While I carry concealed to the Tea Parties and so forth, I don’t think it is wise to carry openly at a political rally of any kind. I agree it’s legal and it should be legal. I agree that the more the “regular” people see firearms carried by peaceable citizens on a regular basis, the better – as it desensitizes them to the issue. Both Mr. Kostric (OC, 9MM) and the black guy with the AR15 slung over his shoulder turned out to be excellent, reasoned, well-mannered spokesmen for our cause. Thank God no violence ensued or we Rightwing Extremist, Evil-mongering, Un-American citizens clinging to our guns and bibles would’ve been blamed.

  52. sburch79 says:

    Cory – Did not know that, but good for them. I still think the point stands though. They were hanged, shot, their houses and churches burned, and they had a very sympathetic public and federal government. I don’t think we suffer anywhere near that much and we most certainly do not have that sympathetic of a federal government. I don’t mean to discount the problems that some have faced (apparently including you), but if the goal is to goal is to gain more rights then the approach needs to be carefully thought out. Most people don’t think of horrible government interaction when they think Ruby Ridge or Waco – they think crazy people with guns. They might not be right, but right doesn’t really matter. What matters is what the majority of the populace perceives. My worry is that the majority of the populace will not see this as a man exercising his rights so much as a man who brought a gun to a health care debate to intimidate people who disagree with his political opinions. If I’m wrong – then maybe there is more acceptance toward open carry than I realize. If I’m right though, we might end up with the equivalent of “free-speech” zones for guns around politicians or worse.

  53. sburch79 says:

    sorry – that was supposed to be a break not a bold

  54. Scott_K says:

    Sebastian said:

    “I’m not getting everything I want right now, so if I just get in their face louder, surely we’ll win!”

    I’m not seeing that as a winning political strategy.

    Ever heard the slogan We’re Here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!? They’re winning.

  55. Sebastian says:

    But are they winning because of that? Or because through gays coming out of the closet everyone realized they knew a gay person?

  56. RAH says:

    This is way overthought and too much worry about what other people think. It went well and good PR makes non gun people think that is was OK.

    The BMWAR was a good spokesman and was very nicley dressed which was very reassuring, Plus the rifle was slung over his side and unloaded.
    The OCer’s anticipated a violent Acorn type to try to grab the rifle and prepared against that possibility. They also notified the police the night before for public safety concerns.

    If we are free and have 2 A rights then OC at a political rally is Ok , appropiate ? Maybe.

    The point of all these protests is that we object as free people to government asserting control over our bodies to deny them the authority to decide what can be done as medical care. No better assertion of our right to be free of government control of our persons is carry a gun openly.

    In that the message is that the 2A will back up our other rights.

    The real political result is not the immediate reaction but down the road and can not be determined this close to the event.

    I think that the media and audience will start to get used to seeing people exercise their rights. When rights are exercised openly others often will be encouraged also to exercise their rights.

    An old saying is that a right not exercised is a right denied. If we self censor as Sebastian suggests we have accepted the arguement that gun carry is a bad idea.

    The BMWAR was an excellent spokesperson. Now did that push the comfort zone a little, yes. Too much, I do not think so.

    As far as I could see the people were trying to get close to him as did the media . Did he scare the white people? As Says uncle would say. By the evidence of the videos of those around him, no they were not scared.

  57. hillbilly says:

    Sebastian Said,
    August 18th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    But are they winning because of that? Or because through gays coming out of the closet everyone realized they knew a gay person?

    Are they winning because of that? Or because gun owners came out of the closet, and everyone realized they knew a gun owner, and a shooter, and somebody who actually believed in his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights?

  58. hillbilly says:

    My absolute last point on this one on this site.

    When the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” came out, who were the “First Amendment Activists” yelling that such a controversial display of First Amendment freedom was “too strong” and didn’t win over any allies, and was simply too shocking?

    When the crucifix in the jar of urine known as “Piss Christ” came out, or when the Madonna smeared with elephant crap was shown, or when Mapplethorpe’s borderline kiddie porn photos were shown, or when the first XXX bookstore opened up in the little sleepy midwestern town, or when Larry Flynt went to trial on obscenity charges, where, exactly, were the First Amendment “activists” saying, “Hey, slow down! You’re scaring people! Yeah, you’ve got a “right” and all, but why be so in-your-face with it? You’re not winning over the other side at all. Back off!”

    Who were the “First Amendment” activists talking like that in any of the above situations?

    I mean, what about that movie that came out that showed the assassination of President Bush? Who were the “First Amendment” activists decrying that?

    Just curious, is all.

  59. Sebastian says:

    The First Amendment’s legal bounds are well established by this point, and the courts are serious about protecting those bounds. Even the most conservative scholars don’t favor turning the clock back to censoring art.

    This is not true for the Second Amendment. At least not yet. Maybe not ever if we let the lunatic fringe take control of the narrative.

  60. Robb Allen says:

    And that, Sebastian, is my major bone of contention with you on this subject. You seem to feel the need to “control the narrative” as if it belongs to only one group and should only be molded in one way, the only true way.

    You’ve failed to convince me with any sort of real facts that these types of events have had a negative impact on gun ownership. Gun ownership and acceptance is on the rise and it’s not because solely of the NRA or any narrative they manage.

    The legacy media is going to portray us as crazy idiots regardless if we’re doing community service helping blind ladies do their grocery shopping. They are going to reprint the Brady’s talking points verbatim as news.

    And yet with years of this going on, we’re still making headway, even with a few people who might veer off the narrative path you think is right for them.

    You’re pulling the same tactics Helmke does. “This MIGHT happen” is his shtick. I realize you’d like the entire world to think that gun owners are 100% normal people, but that’s a lie. Many of us are nucking futs. Most of us not only don’t share the same views or values as the next guy, we can’t even get them straight in our own head.

    The free market works by letting ALL the ideas come out, even the goofy ones. The MSM is quickly losing its monopoly on shaping public opinion. I’m not saying they’re not still effective, but that’s not going to remain so for very long. And when the tide turns, we need to be already having the conversation on OUR terms, not the terms which have been defined for us by people who want to see us fail.

  61. Sebastian says:

    I don’t really expect to control the narrative. I’m just an advocate for a point of view. People can choose to be persuaded or not. Not really much I can do. I certainly won’t advocate using the law to enforce my position, and still believe Texas and Florida should allow open carry despite these types of incidents.

  62. Ian Argent says:

    I don’t think we will know whether it was a good idea or not for quite a while yet. One event is not a trend, one way or another. Neither is 2. this was the second, and an exscalation from the first in weaponry, but a de-escalation in confrontational speech (no ambiguous signage).

    Be interesting to see what’s next; both from the media and from the grassroots of both sides; as well as the hotheads.

  63. Sebastian says:

    What next is really the worry from my point of view. We’ve been very fortunate in these two instances that the people in question weren’t seriously off the wall, and in the most present case was clearly not a whack job. But they got the attention they were seeking, and my worry is others will follow.

    But I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball. I suspect it will all turn out fine. But that’s not to say I don’t think this is tempting ruin.

  64. BeMasher says:

    My friend pete a pro-gun blogger made the point that given the topic of the protest it was irrelevant for him to carry his AR-15 with him. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that he had it, just not really the best idea.

    I do have to say that at least he looked and acted like a respectable person even in the act of something that I think a large portion of non-gun owners would look down upon.

    The thing that bothers me most about this whole thing is how the media spun it, like they always do with anything gun-related, calling it an assault rifle which has the negative connotation that it’s only useful for killing people.

    I believe his particular actions wouldn’t have been seen as negative had the media not frowned upon it like they did. But then it’s not like we can really do much about the media other than not over step our welcome as gun owners which in the end I believe he did.

  65. Mjolnir says:

    Why on God’s green earth would you not want others to follow suit? These guys did everything right. I f we follow suit we’ll prove our point. Leaving our arguments to the NRA to fight for us in court is not gong tochange public opinion. People need to see us…gun owners, exercising our rights peacefully. How else do expect to counteract 3 decades + of conditioning by a leftist controlled educational system? honestly. I believe you have the best of intentions Sebastion, but really, at what point to we make a stand against these folks and try to normalize what was normal 40 years ago? and iN Israel as some commenters have opined…is still going on. People should not be afraid of citizens openly carrying any type of firearm. They should feel more comfortable that the criminals no longer have a monopoly on the situation….I’m jus’ sayin’

  66. Mjolnir says:

    And so…do we allow then MSM to control public opinion…we have for too long. we need to take it back, we need to show the people we are serious and that the MSM is really nothing more than State sponsored media. Cause that’s what they are. Alot of people are waking up…more every day. should we be idle? should we take the initiative we’ve been given or ignore it? Frankly, I believe these gentlemen have set a precedent that every citizen that cherishes their freedoms should follow.

  67. Ian Argent says:

    Be interesting how the media would spin someone open-carrying an over-under or a deer gun.

    Well, I can guess the second one would come off as a “high-powered sniper rifle”

  68. Skullz says:

    I woke up this morning and the world was backwards!

    It’s got to be close to the end of times when a 2A blogger is worried about guns at political events and the…

    White House Backs Right to Arms Outside Obama Events

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803416.html?hpid=topnews

    {Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said people are entitled to carry weapons outside such events if local laws allow it. “There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally,” he said. “Those laws don’t change when the president comes to your state or locality.” }

    Read it again, Sebastian. The White House backs our 2A rights – and in this case, you do not.

  69. Sebastian says:

    Yes, because I said the government should make open carry illegal. That’s exactly what I said!

  70. Sebastian says:

    Gibbs is stating the facts, that it’s a legal activity, and withing the scope of a constitutional right. I don’t take any exception to that. If the authorities had thrown this man in jail, I would have cried foul. But that’s not what happened.

    The White House would probably like this issue to go away, because it’s a distraction from their health care agenda. Whether that’s smart or not on their part is questionable, since the more people seem to learn about his plan, the more they hate it. They might have been smarter to let the distractions continue.

  71. Ian Argent says:

    Isn’t that the current White House all over, though? When given the chance to choose between two fairly trivial PR choices, to choose one that is against their interests?

    At any rate, what we have to worry about right now isn’t the White House (we know where the One stands); it’s Congress and the view of the public. The White House can try and shape the views of both, but it hasn’t been working out well for them.

    So far, it seems to be working for us. It’s still a high-risk play; and I’m unclear if the rewards justify the risk. For those of you comparing it to the civil rights push, in particular the gay rights push; look at how pushing too hard on gay marriage got pushback in the form of state-level bans on marriage; and as Sebastian mentioned up-thread, what open-carry got CA under Reagan.

    I think the guy in NH was just at the line; though I would have preferred he had not carried quite such an ambiguous slogan on his sign (the “rattlesnake” flag would have worked as well, IMHO). Carrying a longarm, especially an EBR, legal or not, is *just* over that line. It remains to be seen if the line moves, and which way.

    Ideally, I think I’d like to see more legal open-carry of handguns at the protests until that’s “normal”. *Then* move on to long arms if it still seems appropriate. (It may not be necessary depending on the results of incorporation and the suit just brought about “bear”.) But I’m a walk-before-run and a suspender-and-belt kind of guy.

  72. thebastidge says:

    “It would be roughly akin to trying to get the public to accept public nudity by running around in public nude. It’s not liable to change anyone’s mind.”

    I disagree. Over time, exposure to shocking but essentially (or at least immediately) harmless behaviour does wear down resistance.

    Witness homosexuals being affectionate in public. Witness fashions such as tattoos, piercings, etc. Some people go to disgusting extremes, but less extreme fashions are very accepted these days. Witness clothing that exposes more skin. Witness vulgar language in public. Witness multi-racial couples.

    All of these things would have gotten you a public ass-whipping in the 1940s. Some of them would have gotten you thrown in jail.

  73. Ian Argent says:

    I’d hate to get the equivalent of Prop.8 for firearms out of gratuitous open carry.

    I don’t know if that’s where we are in the debate (over-extended and reading our optimistic intel reports). In fact, I don’t think we are, acceptance of firearms for both “keep” and “bear” seems to be much wider and deeper than that for gay marriage (and much less partisan/polarized, FWIW); and the Thune amendment vote shows that, IMHO.

    At the same time, there’s one, maybe 2 people we can’t scare at all – Justice Kennedy, and, to a lesser extent, Justice Scalia.

    So, I’m going to hang out in the middle with the armadillo and watch the fireworks :)

  74. J King says:

    OK, so we gun owners are the minority, but what are we doing besides complaining about it on the various blogs?

    Let me relate a story of a church in a small community in the Midwest.— A bunch of the men, military, ex military, LEO’s and a few others, with the church as a sponsor, organized a youth shooting camp. Spend a day learning about firearm safety, basic marksmanship fundementals, and range time on .22 rifles and shotguns. This year, our third, we brought along the service rifles; AR’s M1A, M1 Garands. And everyone thought the old rifles were REALLY Cool!!

    Educate em, take em to the range, shooting guns is FUN! And we will increase our numbers as a byproduct.

    MisterLady17

    • Bitter says:

      What are we doing about it? Uh, this site is run by an NRA EVC who spent last summer and fall hitting nearly every gun club in the region to speak to gun owners, visited commercial ranges to drop off materials, and has taken multiple new shooters to the range. In fact, one of the first posts on this blog was about taking someone new to the range.

  75. TCK says:

    You do realize that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? Why do so many ‘normal’ people (including people who never go anywhere w/o a concealed firearm if it’s legal) refuse to, or even outright oppose open carry? Because… they’re afraid of being labeled as abnormal…

  76. Sebastian says:

    TCK:

    Perhaps I should have used better language than “normal” which implies the converse as “abnormal” Better wording would be that it’s unusual, which means people have no context to understand it (speaking specifically here of open rifle carry).

    To me it’s kind of like gays complaining that people think they are freaks and sexual deviants, and in order to get people to realize that being gay is perfectly normal, decide to get dressed up in leather, and lead their partner around the neighborhood by a dog leash.

    Perfectly legal behavior, and I could give a rat’s ass if someone does that, personally, but it’s not doing anything to help the cause of people seeing gays as their friends, neighbors, and as normal, every day people that you know.

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