I was eager to read his opinion on this topic, because despite being friendly on the gun issue, he’s a bit of an outsider to it. He didn’t really commit one way or another, but he brought up an interesting point:
Beyond the legal and practical issues, of course, there is the question of whether open carry activists are helping or hurting the cause of gun rights by popping up in coffee shops and restaurants with weapons on their waists. Respectable, law-abiding people carrying guns openly in public places could help normalize gun ownership and armed self-defense among people who are unfamiliar with both. The experience of a Walnut Hill, California, pizzeria owner who decided to welcome gun carriers is consistent with that hope:
“Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I would feel in that type of situation, and it really turned out to be a total nonissue,” Ms. Grunner said.
“The families were great,” she said. “These were very gracious people.” The fact that customers wore sidearms, she said, “just faded into the background.”
Then again, the sight of people with pistols on their hips could serve to confirm prejudices about gun owners among people who believe they fetishize their weapons and seek to project a macho image. The goal of encouraging support for liberalized concealed carry policies depends to some extent on normalization yet at the same time assumes open gun toting will make people uneasy. I’m not sure people can be simultaneously reassured and alarmed.
This statement, in combination with some other statements folks have made in the comments, makes me wonder whether your opinion on open carry is largely driven by your perception of what the dominant thinking is around you, and that perhaps the open carry folks have a more optimistic outlook on the attitudes of their fellow Americans than non-open-carry supporters.
From my point of view, I think most people, if forced to take a side, probably wouldn’t support carrying a gun in public if it meant they were going to see guns everywhere they went. I don’t want the public thinking about how they feel about it, because I worry we’ll lose support. But I suspect open carry folks believe that if the public is forced to think about it, the public will eventually take their side, and we’ll gain support. Which side is right? Probably depends greatly on the surrounding culture. I suspect neither side is right in every circumstance, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. The Starbucks incident may end up being a watershed moment in the debate.