Side note: If any of you are wondering, I was overseas for a short stint. That is why the site was quiet for a short time.
And in that time period, I’ve observed the growing effort behind the Open Carry (OC) issue, specifically the Open Carry Texas (OCT) group out of Huston whose ‘in your face’ approach has both advanced awareness of the state’s gun laws, but overall hurt the national effort to protect/advance citizens’ Constitutional gun rights. Central to the issue is Texas’ OC laws wherein residents are permitted to OC long-rifles, but not handguns. Thus handgun owners in Texas are only permitted to carry concealed after legally obtaining a concealed carry permit. Residents view this measure as not only a conflicting law that provides this-but-not-that legislation, but an infringement on their 2A rights.
Recently, OCT announced it planned to conduct another OC protest through Huston’s 5th Ward, a predominately African-American neighborhood, while carrying their assorted long-rifles. Promoted as a canned food drive and an effort to “educate” the people of their 2A rights, the proposed date of the rally was on Juneteenth Day when the US celebrates the abolition of slavery. Further confusing the issue, some members distastefully likened gun control to slavery in previous protests, and the group’s founder MSG C.J. Grisham (Ret.) apparently lacked either common sense or consideration to the inappropriateness of the chosen venue and date. (Salzillo 2014)
It wasn’t until the group received national attention for the inappropriateness of its planned OC march that Grisham rescheduled the event citing, “somebody’s got to stand up and sit in the front of the bus”. (Eddings 2014)Again, not the most eloquent response when asked why your event conflicts with the recognition of the Civil Rights movement. Grisham elaborated further stating OCT plans their rallies based on the venues that will garner them the most public attention, not to legitimately address the political issue politically and change the OC laws. This is reminiscent of the Westboro Baptist Church group that espoused their own warped ideology at often public and family-oriented venues.
But then OCT is no stranger to controversy, and the trending of aggressive political posturing has led many within the national pro-gun community to speculate if the group is causing more damage to the advancement of 2A issues than good. During the annual NRA convention this year, OCT aggressively confronted gun control activists (including women and disabled victims of gun violence) trading a variety of verbal barbs recorded on a number of videos, rants against veterans whom simply express concern about the group’s activities, and has held meetings at social locations like Home Depot, Target, Chipotle and Sonic that have little/no relevance to political influence. And while Progressives and anti-gun members certainly are no angels themselves (often espousing government-sponsored targeting/killing of gun groups), the actions and verbiage by OCT has certainly provided anti-gun groups like Mothers Demand Action further fodder to stoke gun control efforts. (Follman, Gun Activists with Assualt Rifles Harass Marine Veteran on Memorial Day 2014)(Follman, Gun Activists with Assualt Rifles Harass Marine Veteran on Memorial Day 2014)(Swanson, Open Carry group holds rally at Home Depot in North Richland Hills 2014)(Swanson, Texas’ open carry movement raises passions, threats 2014)
These confrontational and provocative actions within the gun community has caused pro-gun groups outside of Texas to express concerns; because while today’s gun owner is judged little on the individual themselves, they are indeed judged harshly by the actions of others within the community. (Knight 2014) So much so that even the weighty NRA initially voiced concern saying the actions of such extreme pro-gun rights groups were “weird” and “scary”, and that they in fact risked alienating people. But when OCT and other extreme elements within the American pro-gun community threatened to sever ties with the organization, it backed down recanting its previous statements. (The Bellinggham Herald 2014)(Reilly 2014)(Boerma 2014).
Personally, I am a little leery of extreme groups like OCT because while their intent to promote 2A awareness is admirable, their approach is vastly off base. Such groups with ‘in-your-face’ tactics often care little for the consideration of the general public, and act in a manner that is easily interpreted as threatening. For a minute put yourself in the shoes of the non-committed gun owner, or general public. You’re having dinner with your spouse and 2.5 children when men (some in full tactical kit) walk into the restruant all carrying various long-rifles (some in an unsafe manner) with shirts and flags asserting strong political views. You don’t know the mental state of these men, you don’t know why they’re here with these weapons, you don’t know what their skill level is with those weapons, and you don’t know what they’re going to do. And in a time where every school and mass shooting is immediately highlighted in the 24-hour news cycle, you become acutely aware to the potential/perceived threat to you and your family. This is what OCT is doing by choosing public venues rather than ones that could advance legitimate political goals. This is somewhat unsurprising given that its founder, C.J. Grisham (then still on active-duty), made national attention when video surfaced of him being arrested while hiking with his son and openly carrying his personal AR rifle (he claimed doing so under threat of coyotes, but residents notified police due to an unknown person in the area openly carrying). The courts later reduced his “obstruction of police duty” charges to a $2k fine only after it was discovered by a third-party investigator that Grisham likely used the event to gain publicity and financial gain for his gun rights activitism. (KXXV 2013) Grisham was also very quietly “retired” from active-duty following the entire incident. A good CBS interview with Grisham can be viewed here.
Fact is, while protesting to ensure our 2A rights is commendable, there is a definitive line between political involvement and social meddling. There is also a realistic and considerate approach in how to engage with society and our elected officals on sensitive issues like gun ownership amid events like school shootings and other points of disagreement. In both these elements, despite their professed insistence to the contrary, this is where OCT and larger groups like the NRA fail. And by jabbing your thumb in society’s proverbial eye socket with the self-same, narrow-mindedness that Progressives espouse, it will do little to persuade the larger segments of the public whom are either indifferent or uncommitted towards the pro-gun movement. In fact, it may well have the exact opposite effect. The point is to appeal to an individual’s logic and reason, while presenting them with sufficient factual evidence that they can come to their own conclusions that are (hopefully) favorable to your own. If any of you are considering attending such activities, please use your rational thinking and evaluate who leads such a group, where they are coming from (and what’s their angle), and how it is the group goes about spreading its message. Because while you may think you’re assisting in the advancement of 2A rights, you may actually be doing more harm to us all.
Boerma, Lindsey. NRA official: Shaming open-carry Texas gun groups was “a mistake”. 4 June 2014. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nra-official-shaming-open-carry-texas-gun-groups-was-a-mistake/ (accessed 25 June 2014).
Eddings, Amy. Open Carry Texas Postpones March Through Fifth Ward. 24 June 2014. https://ringoffireradio.com/2014/06/open-carry-texas-postpones-march-through-fifth-ward/ (accessed 26 June 2014).
Follman, Mark. Gun Activists with Assualt Rifles Harass Marine Veteran on Memorial Day. 30 May 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/guns-open-carry-texas-harassment-marine-veteran (accessed 25 June 2014).
—. Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women. 15 May 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/guns-bullying-open-carry-women-moms-texas (accessed 25 June 2014).
Knight, Steve. Off Target: Open Carry Effort Could Hurt Gun Ownership More Than Help. 7 June 2014. http://www.tylerpaper.com/TP-Outdoor/200906/off-target-open-carry-effort-could-hurt-gun-ownership-more-than-help#.U6zyBRZGWUx (accessed 25 June 2014).
KXXV. Jury Gives C.J. Grisham $2,000 Fine With No Jail Time. 20 November 2013. http://www.kxxv.com/story/24026766/jury-gives-cj-grisham-2000-fine-with-no-jail-time (accessed 26 June 2014).
Reilly, Mollie. NRA Apologizes For Calling Open Carry Protests ‘Weird’ And ‘Scary’. 3 June 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/nra-open-carry-protest_n_5441189.html (accessed 25 June 2014).
Salzillo, Leslie. Another Texas WTF – Open Carry Gun Extremists Plan March Through ‘Black Neighborhood’. 24 June 2014. http://m.dailykos.com/story/2014/06/25/1309370/-Another-Texas-WTF-Open-Carry-Gun-Extremists-To-Prance-Through-Black-Neighborhood?detail=facebook (accessed 26 June 2014).
Swanson, Doug. Open Carry group holds rally at Home Depot in North Richland Hills. 1 June 2014. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140531-open-carry-group-holds-rally-at-home-depot-in-north-richland-hills.ece (accessed 25 June 2014).
—. Texas’ open carry movement raises passions, threats. 7 June 2014. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140607-texas-open-carry-movement-raises-passions-threats.ece (accessed 26 June 2014).
The Bellinggham Herald. NRA right the first time on ‘weird’ open-carry events. 9 June 2014. http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/06/09/3688410/nra-right-the-first-time-on-weird.html (accessed 25 June 2014).