The government regulates the concealed carrying of semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. “Open carry” refers to the right to openly carry a firearm–especially a loaded rifle or shotgun–in a public place. In general, this right is protected by the 2nd Amendment. A number of groups have been demonstrating their “open carry” right on Texas and other states by walking around in public, openly carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun.
Below, I’ve got a 7 minute audio of the president of an open-carry organization talking to the police department about an open-carry demonstrator who was arrested and jailed for “disorderly conduct” and “disturbing the peace” by walking around with his rifle.
On the one hand, I understand that seeing a stranger walking around with a rifle can be alarming to a lot of people. For example, if I see some stranger walking on the sidewalk outside my house with with a rifle, my impulses will (in decreasing levels of probability) be: 1) get my own rifle; 2) keep a close eye on the man outside with a rifle; 3) photograph the man with the rifle; and 4) call the cops to ask them to find out what that guy’s doing with that rifle.
On the other hand, I also support the 2nd Amendment and the right of open-carry. I therefore understand that the stranger has a right to openly carry that rifle–even on the sidewalk outside my home. So, I’m not calling the cops to have this guy arrested. If I call the cops at all, I’m calling them to have this guy investigated to see if he’s some nutcase with a rifle who might harm me or my neighbors. I think it’s reasonable for the cops approach this guy and ask what he’s doing with the rifle. If the stranger seems rational and has a credible explanation for his conduct, let him go about his business. On the other hand, if he seems irrational or unstable, maybe it’s time to arrest him and chat further down at the police station.
This isn’t an easy issue for the police (or the public). On the one hand, Americans have the right to keep and bear (openly carry) “arms”. On the other hand, so few Americans exercise the right to openly carry their “arms” that, when they do, most other Americans view that conduct as so unusual as to be alarming. If the cops don’t investigate, and the armed stranger shoots somebody, the cops will be blamed. If the cops investigate, and the demonstrator is reasonable and without malicious intent, everyone can go home happy. But if the cops investigate, turn the guy loose and then he shoots somebody, the cops will be blamed. If the cops investigate and the demonstrator or the cops are belligerent, the demonstrator will probably be arrested and the cops will be blamed for falsely arresting of a man exercising his constitutionally-protected rights.
I’m no fan of the police state and therefore no fan of the police. But I recognize that open carry demonstrators put the police in a rock-vs-hard-place position where it’s virtually certain that somebody is going to blame the cops for something. So, it’s incumbent on all three sides–the demonstrators, the police and the public–to be reasonable and not succumb to fear or belligerence.
The open-carry demonstrators’ ultimate purposes are:
1) to remind Americans of their right to keep and bear arms–even in public; and,
2) cause law-abiding Americans to feel fairly comfortable in the presence of men or women openly carrying a rifle or shotgun.
But those demonstrators must know that, for now, their conduct is unusual and, for some, alarming. These demonstrations are intended to achieve a positive political effect. Therefore, the demonstrators must appear to beas reasonable and non-threatening as possible. Open-carry demonstrations aren’t the place to wear your camouflage clothes and Rambo-headband. Demonstrators would have a more positive effect if some of them showed up in a suit and tie. With good clothes, the demonstrators indicate that they are not merely the “great unwashed” but include some members of the middle- and upper-middle class. The cops will feel a lot more comfortable arresting a man carrying a firearm who looks like a bum, than they will about arresting someone who dresses like a man who can afford a lawyer.
More, open-carry demonstrators must expect to be investigated by the police and must be determined to remain reasonable during that investigation.
In fact, open-carry demonstrators should even look forward to being investigated because–if the police investigate and “approve” of the demonstrator’s conduct, that sends a positive message to both the police and the public that it’s OK to openly carry a rifle or shotgun.
Similarly, the police must be understand that, because openly carrying a rifle or shotgun is a constitutionally-protected right, they must not only be vigilant to discover if the stranger with the rifle poses a danger, but must also behave in a very professional, highly reasonable manner. Real confrontations with open-carry demonstrators should be avoided wherever possible. Investigations should not be allowed to turn into ego contests. Arrests should not be made except where no other option remains.
Which leaves the public. Who’s going to convince Joe and Sally Six-pack that it’s OK to see several people walking around with rifles?
Maybe the courts.
In the audio below, some one or more members of the public were allegedly alarmed by the sight of an open-carry demonstrator with a rifle. Therefore, the cops arrested that demonstrator based on allegations (maybe from the public; maybe from the police) that the demonstrator had “breached the peace” and alarmed the people by openly carrying his rifle in public.
By itself, that allegation is a bunch of crapola. Unless the demonstrator was acting in an otherwise unreasonable manner, you can’t convert a constitutionally-protected right into a “breach of the peace” and expect that conversion to stand up in court. (At least you couldn’t do that before this country turned into a police state–and you still might not be able to do it, legally.)
Assuming the demonstrator behaved in a reasonable manner, the question becomes, who alleged a breach of the peace–the public or the cops?
If it’s the cops, sue ’em–they should know better. They’re guilty of false arrest.
If it’s one or more members of the public, sue him (them) in order to make an example of their ignorance. Sue and show the world that if someone interferes with the right to keep and bear arms, and causes a man or woman to be jailed based on a false accusation of “breaching the peace,” it’s going to cost him $25,000–maybe more. Once a couple of private citizens are successfully sued for causing people exercising their constitutionally-protected rights to be arrested, a lot more people will start reading the Constitution and lot more people will begin to recognize the right to openly carry rifles and shotguns as established and fairly unremarkable.
Personally, I doubt that I’ll ever be comfortable in a room (say, a restaurant) where one guy has a firearm and I don’t. If that S.O.B. goes crazy, we’re all in big trouble. On the other hand, if I were in a restaurant where half a dozen strangers sitting at different tables had firearms, I’d be a lot more comfortable. I’d know that if any one of those guys was crazy enough to start shooting, the other five would gun him down in fairly short order. Not many people are crazy enough to pull a gun in room full of others who are also armed.
It seems counter-intuitive, but the more guns there are, the less murders take place. When we see stories about some lone gunman shooting a bunch of children in a school, we can reasonably wonder if the gunman is simply such an evil S.O.B. that he chose to shoot innocent children–or if he’s such a cowardly S.O.B. that he only had balls enough to go shooting at the one place where he could be sure he wouldn’t run into any return fire. In other words, do the lone gunmen shoot kids because the kids are innocent, or because kids are sure to be unarmed?
A lot of people might dismiss that question as absurd, but there’s plenty of evidence to support the principle that killers prefer to murder the unarmed.
For example, I recently received an email that compared the homicide rates in Chicago and Houston. The two cities have similar populations and demographics, but according to the email, Houston is full of gun stores and firearms, while Chicago has no gun stores and no concealed firearms:
|Concealed Carry gun law||
|# of Gun Stores||
184 – Dedicated gun stores plus 1500 – legal places to buy guns- Walmart, K-mart, sporting goods, etc.
|Homicides per 100K||
|Avg. January high temperature (F)||
(Liberal conclusion: Cold weather causes murder.)
According to that email, the homicide rate in “gun-free” Chicago is four times the homicide rate in “gun-plentiful” Houston.
Implication: Most killers are cowards who may be willing or eager to shoot the unarmed, but unwilling to be shot themselves. Therefore, the killers don’t kill very much when they know their victims or the people around their victims may be armed.
In any case, here’s the 7-minute audio of the phone call to the Harlingen, Texas police asking why an open-carry demonstrator was arrested. If I were making that call, I’d follow up by asking who decided to charge the demonstrator with “breach of the peace”. If the demonstrator acted reasonably, I’d encourage a lawsuit against either the cop or the member(s) of the public who claimed “breach of the peace” and thereby precipitated a false arrest. It’s not enough to play defense in these matters. If someone causes a false arrested, don’t shoot ’em, sue ’em.