Open Carry Issue in Pennsylvania

Yesterday we covered the incident with the Milwaukee Police Cheif in Wisconsin.  Now it looks like we have another media relations issue brewing here in Pennsylvania with some of our open carry activists over a planned picnic.  Reporting in the Hazleton Standard Speaker:

The gun rights group that held a picnic in Hazle Township Community Park last year in a public demonstration of their right to openly carry firearms is planning a spring picnic at the park.

This time, they’ve selected a date that they believe will guarantee a large public crowd.

Members and supporters of the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association have scheduled their picnic for May 16 – the same date as the local American Red Cross’ Celebration of Life Walk, which is held annually at the township park on American Armed Forces Day.

The double date is not a coincidence, the gun owners say.

They make it sound like it was intentional, but it wasn’t.  I confirmed on the thread at PAFOA that they scheduled their picnic that date before they knew about the Red Cross.  The problem is, once they knew about it:

The small and large pavilions are both being rented by the American Red Cross, as it seems they hold an annual run/walk at the park every Armed Forces day. This is one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and take the other pavilion, as it will give us some great exposure to the many people who will no doubt be there for the other activities going on.

And then this:

Red Cross Walk/Run… Yep… they walk through the entire park, but when they pass by the middle pavilion, they run!

Which was dutifully picked up on by the media, and reported.  They also reported this:

Do I have to carry, or open carry if I come?
No. There is no requirement that you carry, or to carry in any particular manner if you do. However, because of the holiday (Armed Forces Day), and The Red Cross walk/run in the park, we believe this will be an excellent opportunity to portray gun owners and carriers in a positive light to the general public. Because of this great opportunity, we are encouraging folks to open carry if they are comfortable doing so, but again, you are absolutely welcome regardless of your decision on if/how you carry.

It would seem that when this story hit the media, a lot of groups participating in the Red Cross walk freaked out and said they would pull out.  Red Cross is now suggesting they will cancel the event.

Whatever the intent of this picnic, and I do believe the intent was originally just to have a picnic, the story now in the media is “Gun owners distrupt Red Cross veterans benefit event.”  It’s not fair, but that’s the situation, and things said on a public forum fed right into that narrative.  Being a gun rights activist will make you enemies, especially in the media, and if you don’t have a plan, they’ll pretty quickly make you look like jackasses.

Open Carry needs to be a casual thing.  If a bunch of PAFOA members want to get together and plan a picnic, great.  If someone people want to carry openly, no problem there.  It’s not illegal in this Commonwealth.  You have a right to do it.  But as soon as you make Open Carry into a form of overt activism, as soon as you being salivating over the chance to expose your guns to a bunch of kids and veterans, you’re going to give the media a chance to smear you, and by association all gun owners.

They gay rights movement didn’t succeed because of gay pride parades (NSFW, or anywhere really).  If anything, it succeeds despite the fringes of its movement, not because of it.  Gays won acceptance because they came out of the closet and started talking to people about it.  Not because they got half naked and put on leather and got in everyone’s face.  I am generally supportive of equal rights for gays, but I don’t like having someone’s sexuality waved in front of my face.   Most people feel that way about this and other issues.

If this had just been a picnic, there never would have been a controversy, even if it was known by organizers and attendees that people would show up open carrying.  My stance on open carry is just do it.  Making plans to shove it in people’s face isn’t going to make you friends, and gives plenty of ammunition to our enemies, as we have seen here.

18 thoughts on “Open Carry Issue in Pennsylvania”

  1. It seems the open carry pinic should be rescheduled for another weekend. Tell all except the news media. Let the red cross cancel out. The news media will show up and nobody will be there.

  2. That’s just an asshole thing to do, harp. If I were a gun owner in the town who supported cancer research and vets, I would think that the organizers were jerks for seemingly trying to cause problems for an established charity on purpose. Then, if it was all for nothing, I’d really think they were asses. I understand activism and showing people that gun owners are in the community. But, when things like this backfire, it’s important to take the high road so we can even keep the support of our own.

  3. The question is better, does the Red Cross have the right to control al the other pavilions being rented? The answer is no. If the Red Cross can not handle this with their members having to share the park. There is a problem of sharing.

    It is a good chance that at all times that other pavilion renters may object to OC in another pavilion, does that mean OC can never rent a pavilion?

    No it doesn’t. The walker/runners of Red Cross need to get over their hoplophobia. The entire exercise of OC is to remove that fear. Sebastian’s actions caters to the fear. Others can try other tactics.

    I have no right to dictate that OC has to withdraw its picnic to not offend others. Neither does the Red Cross, who is not doing that. The walkers are the ones who are whining and no one should cater to their fears.

  4. Ah, Sebastian, here we go again.

    If you want one of these pro-2A things to go exactly as you want them to, then you need to organize and run them. There are literally thousands of folks who simply disagree with your methodology.

    If you’re thinking that we can re-establish the 2A in this country and somehow only ruffle the feathers of the Bradys and VPC, forget it. It ain’t gonna happen.

    Unlike you, I was around when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Despite any impression you might have gotten from school, the nation did not suddenly stand and applaud. To this day, there are people who think that it was a mistake. Getting the 2A back to where it used to be isn’t going to be any different. The only real difference is that the resentment will be centered in a different area/region.

    You’re concerned about confronting and/or upsetting non-gun people. Where was all this concern over the last forty years when we were the ones being demonized and made to feel wrong over exercising an enumerated Right? There’s no way we can accomplish this without getting some folks’ knickers in a twist. And this event isn’t a machine gun shoot or some other in-your-face analogue to a Gay Pride parade, it’s the same as gay people talking to the straights. This is only a first or second step, that of letting people know their neighbors exist and are in favor of being armed.

    One of your criticisms is that they didn’t know about the Red Cross event when they reserved the park, and are now suggesting that they did. So what? If fate dumps an opportunity like that in my lap, I’m gonna run with it as far as I can. How often does circumstance grant someone an almost captive audience? The Red Crossers won’t be 100% anti-gun, you know. You’ll only hear from the ones who are Outraged to be sure, but not all of them will be. And please remember, the Outraged aren’t going to agree with us no matter what, so it’s a waste of effort trying to supplicate them.

  5. The Red Cross isn’t asking them to leave. They are saying they are going to cancel their event because participants are uncomfortable. That’s not about rights at all. It’s about the Red Cross being concerned they will lose money on the event if their sponsors all drop out.

    Hazel Township did the right thing rights wise and granted the permit for the use of the pavilion. That’s as far as the rights issue goes. Now this is a social issue, and a media issue.

    And yes, you have to cater to people’s perceptions. This is not Philadelphia. This is an otherwise pro-gun part of Pennsylvania. If people here are freaking out about this, we have a problem. The media will happily exploit this to make them look bad.

    So no, I don’t agree you get to just give people who are uncomfortable around guns the middle finger, and tell them to deal with it. “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” This attitude is going to take us backwards.

  6. I would note in the first article, Red Cross doesn’t seem all that concerned. They seem to be quite willing to share the space. It wasn’t until their sponsoring groups started pulling out that they had an issue.

  7. Both previous posters miss the point completely.

    OC is completely legal in PA and always has been. As such the only thing the OC movement here can “fight for” is creating a positive public image for gun owners. Unfortunately with incidents like this, they are failing miserably at their only job.

    If this movement is going to accuse everyone else of being hoplophobes, and writing it off as “their problem”, they need to stop pretending they are activists fighting for the good of gun owners and admit they are just a bunch of people out looking to ruffle feathers without any concern as to whether they are doing anything positive.

  8. If you want one of these pro-2A things to go exactly as you want them to, then you need to organize and run them. There are literally thousands of folks who simply disagree with your methodology.

    What the hell do you think I’ve been doing? I know people disagree, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to persuade. I think it’s hard to influence public opinion if you don’t take any heed to what public opinion is, and just say “I’m going to do it because it’s my right.” There are legal rights, and then there’s what’s right. And I think it’s wrong to make people uncomfortable just for the sake of trying to (poorly in my opinion) make a point.

  9. I sent an email to Greg directly but I will summarize here. The best thing that the PFOA can do to make the image of gun owners better is to raise a ton of money for this event.

    I am in the non profit world. There is no way they will cancel the event. BUT if the PFOA, with the combined help of internet using gun owners, could raise a sizable amount of money for the walk in Hazelton there is no way anyone can turn around and be mad. Especially the media. The article in the standard says that the Hazelton chapter of the red cross was looking to raise 10,000 at their walk. So if Greg could get 1,000 together from friends and family and internet people then he would be contributing 10% of their entire event’s donations. That would be awesome!

    It is real easy to do. Sign up to be a walker with the hazelton chapter of the Red cross. Once you sign up there should be a way to promote your fund raising online. Use this online method to direct people from all over to give money. Plus you would be helping veterans. Win win!

  10. Jeremy,

    I agree – except on one point. PAFOA shouldn’t have to pick up the responsibility of one poster on a forum. Unfortunately, because it was organized in a public way on the PAFOA website, the organization name is being dragged through the mud over this. That is completely unfair for the posters on the forum to do. But, the individual who organized it absolutely should follow your advice. (I, too, come from a non-profit background, so I suspect that’s a big reason why we agree!)

    When I was talking to someone else about this, I also suggested that the organizer reach out to the Red Cross to offer up a compromise that should make their supporters happy. The picnic won’t be open carry, and gun owners will help do outreach for the fundraiser, and all can use the park without issue. Don’t make a big deal about telling people to carry concealed, just send private emails explaining that completely outside the issue of rights, this is an effort to be a good neighbor.

    The real risk in this has nothing to do with legal rights. It has everything to do with reinforcing a very wrong stereotype that gun owners are not nice people. If you take pride in the thought of disrupting this kind of a fundraiser for cancer patients and veterans, then I would say you probably contribute to that stereotype. I know of many other gun groups who actually are involved in these kinds of cancer fundraisers who do it successfully and do promote a positive image of gun owners in their communities. Something obviously went horribly wrong here, and I think we gain far more out of being the bigger people and stepping up to make it right.

  11. I don’t think that would be a bad thing to do, per-se, but I don’t think it will fix the problem. The media is not interested in helping the movement look good at this point. After the big fight last year over the park issue, you have likely made enemies in the media, and probably in Hazel Township local government. They saw this as an opportunity to make a media spectacle of your picnic, and they were given plenty of ammunition.

    You could try to raise a lot of money, and the media could choose to ignore that fact. The Red Cross might still stand to lose more money by losing some of its participants and sponsors. You can bet they will be out during the event looking for reasons to ding you.

    The other side is very good at what they do. They will use every opportunity to put you out in front of the general public as jackasses. Like I said, it’s not right, but that’s what they’ll do. This would be much much easier to defend if it was just local activists looking to have a nice picnic. But that’s not what it is. The comments above turned it into a form of protest/activism, and that gave the media their opportunity.

  12. The real risk in this has nothing to do with legal rights. It has everything to do with reinforcing a very wrong stereotype that gun owners are not nice people.

    That is exactly right.

  13. Jeremy,

    To be clear, this is not a PAFOA event, it was simply organized by people who use our discussion forum as a planning place. We were not even aware of it until our name came up in a Google Alert for this article.

  14. Bitter and Sebastian,

    I agree with both of you. While raising money for a good cause is always appreciated in my book, it would also insulate the PAFOA from the media.

    Now instead of the media being about to say that greg was not available for further comment and therefore making him look evil and guilty, Greg’s further comment could be that while he is sorry that his family picnic of law abiding gun owners is causing such a stir, he is trying to do the help the cause by raising money himself for the Hazelton chapter of the red cross.

    The other aspect of this would be to get across the fact that he has raised A LOT of money for the RC. This could be accomplished by putting the world out to all gun blog readers across the net. I would gladly give $10 to support this.

  15. Daniel,

    I am very aware that this does not have anything to do with the PAFOA officially. I apoligize if my above comments were not clear to that fact.

    Also, do you accept NJ residents into the PAFOA? My family has property near pottsville. As soon as I get the chance I am going to get my FL non resident CCW which should cover me properly in PA.

  16. Also when you rent a pavilion and organize a group having a picnic it is never casual. There is a lot of organization and setting a date, no one has to coordinate with other renters.

    The purpose is dual to have fun and enjoy other eo open carry and to show a god face to the world. The second purpose is important also.

  17. “You’re concerned about confronting and/or upsetting non-gun people. Where was all this concern over the last forty years when we were the ones being demonized and made to feel wrong over exercising an enumerated Right?”

    Remember how upset you were, and how it motivated you to action? Do you think that people who open carry makes uncomfortable aren’t going to be upset, and motivated to action as well?

    Open carry, if you have other options, is right up there with naked guys having sex on the top of a float in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Yes, the crowd cheers, but it doesn’t help their cause with civilized people.

  18. Just wait Sebastian, you’ll get quoted in some MSM article in the following manner!

    “One gun blogger is quoted as saying “My stance on open carry is just do it.” Such words can be intimidating to others, making them feel uncomfortable if they choose not to open-carry.”

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