Both Caleb and Tam have had more to say on the whole Starbucks thing. Someone also left a comment this morning pointing there’s a lot of local variation when it comes to acceptability of seeing firearms in public (though, I would suggest we’re being far too suburban, in that I doubt rifle OC is common in suburban or urban Atlanta, Nashville, Little Rock or Houston, even during hunting season). I get that. I have an old post that speaks of having to pay attention to the context around you before deciding what the wise course of action is regarding OC. If rifle OC is normal and accepted in your area, knock yourself out. That’s not most places in America.
A useful analogy might be to put this in a fire awareness scheme. People die in fires. A fire can strike anywhere, unexpectedly. But you don’t see people carrying big fire extinguishers around with them everywhere they go. You don’t even see firefighters doing, and if you saw a firefighter doing it, you’d probably assume there was a fire somewhere in the area. You might even become a bit alarmed. Don’t get me wrong, I like fire extinguishers. I keep a big CO2 fire extinguisher in my house, and I keep a smaller extinguisher in my car. But it’s too much of a burden to carry one around on my person for the rare chance I might need one to put out a fire.
A rifle is about as burdensome to carry as a fire extinguisher (assuming you could make a sling for one). I’d dare say someone carrying a fire extinguisher slung over his back, just in case there is a fire, would be seen as a little weird. If you asked and that person told you “I’m carrying this to make people more aware of the risk of fire, and to show people that carrying a fire extinguishers is normal, and could save your life,” you’d probably still think the person was a bit of a whack job. Why? Because everyone can see that carrying that thing is a huge pain in the ass, and most people understand the risk of fire in most public places is pretty low.
And going back to firearms, most of us don’t carry because we’re all that worried we’re going to be victims of crime. If you’re an average middle class suburbanite, the chance of you being a victim of violent crime is pretty small. You may actually be more likely to die in a fire. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us are carrying out a sense that it’s better to be responsible for yourself. It is a statement of rugged individualism in a society increasingly composed of people who are just fine with dependance on the state for the basics of life. What brings someone to decide to carry a firearm is a rather complex thing, and I don’t think there’s an easy or quick way to communicate it to people who haven’t arrived at that place yet, or perhaps never could get there.
I do think if people see rifle OC enough, they do get somewhat used to it, but I think the best you can hope for is to take people from “That person is dangerous!,” to “Peh, what a tool.” Maybe that’s progress, but I think the desirability of the result is questionable enough to make me wonder whether the energy people put into activism via OCing rifles might be better spent on other endeavors within the gun rights movement.