I’ve been following Michael Yon for quite some time, since he was an independent journalist embedded with US armed forces in Iraq and then Afghanistan. He’s a bit of a loose cannon, and I certainly don’t agree with everything he writes1, but this post makes some good points: Be a Palm Tree: Tobacco, Rebel Flag, 2nd Amendment.
The basic thesis is that back in the day smokers never took the complaints of non-smokers seriously. They arrogantly assumed that their rights as smokers trumped the rights of other folks to, for example, not be enveloped in a smog of carcinogens when stepping into an elevator. As a result of their rigid position, when the public sentiment turned against smokers and smoking it turned hard and they lost basically everything. He extends the same idea to the defenders of the confederate battle flag, arguing that if they’d been satisfied to fly the flag on their private property and wear it on hats and belt buckles, their probably would have been little uproar, but their insistence on flying the flag over (or very near) state buildings set up the backlash we’re seeing today.
And then Yon gets to what I thought was most interesting: open carry.
Open carry refers to carrying a firearm openly (i.e. not concealed) and in many states (like Virginia, where I live) it is legal in most places and does not require a permit. The open carry movement is a loose coalition of gun rights organizations who, under the mantra of “use it or lose it,” engage in open carry to prevent the right from fading into obsolescence. Yon, as a person who grew up around guns, is strongly supportive of the 2nd Amendment and is supportive of open carry in general, but he has a problem with open carry extremists:
Those of us who have seen people shot both intentionally and negligently – I have seen plenty – do not like to be in the presence of goofballs with guns in their hands. Even trained US combat troops regularly shoot and kill fellow troops through negligence. British forces also do this… Hundreds of troops have been killed and wounded since 2001 by gunshot ‘accidents,’ which the military calls negligent discharges… US military commanders do not allow most troops to carry loaded weapons on any but the most dangerous bases: we typically take more casualties on bases from negligent discharges than from insider attacks. And this is from trained troops.
So, when Yon reads about a open carry advocate carrying a shotgun into a Walmart and then loading and racking a shotgun. That’s not a made-up example, and the local police chief (the incident took place in Gulfport, MS) was not amused:
“If I were in a situation where I’m in the store shopping with my family and I see an individual loading a 12 gauge, and racking it, I’m not coming to the conclusion this is good,” said Papania. “While the actions of these two men are sanctioned by state laws, what they did negatively impacted our community.”
Yon also goes further, and cites basic common decency. Although folks (like Yon) who grow up around guns do not bat an eye at responsible open carry, there are lots of Americans who did not have that background and are scared at the sight of a firearm. Common courtesy says that you shouldn’t go out of your way to further intimidate, harass, or scare folks like that. Let them be.
All of this leads Yon to conclude that “Fanatics are being allowed to hijack 2nd Amendment issues.” I agree with Yon on that, and also on his final words from the post:
Many of us want to keep the 2nd Amendment strong. We must pay attention to our political environment, and to history. We must be the Palm Tree, and understand that no right is absolute, and that our rights never trump the rights of others.
7 thoughts on “Open Carry Overkill”
As a follow up to the original story, Mississippi law does not sanction what those two men did. The two men were later arrested for their actions and charged with disturbing the peace. It is also a likely violation of Mississippi’s law on exhibiting deadly weapons in a threatening manner.
Good to know, Observer, and not very surprising.
I read this sort of post as an invitation to commiserate about the most theatrical excesses of one’s political allies, and I love it. So often we just calcify into defending our side at all costs, refusing to admit any error even in tactics. But the extremists from the left are embarrassing and counterproductive enough that it would be fantastic to have more discussions start like this one, and invite moderates to find some common ground. There’s nothing about the core platform of Occupy Wall Street, for example, that I oppose–in fact, some of the issues which matter most to me are in there. But the only story they left people with was comical. Even radical feminism seems like an interesting academic exercise which sometimes produces valuable insights, so I’m happy to have people exploring those hypotheses, but every time I see a conservative sharing some clickbait look-what-feminists-are-doing-now piece, I know I’m going to feel like a parent trying to explain what a toddler meant by the urgently mumbled gobbledegook that just baffled someone.
And I think I’ll have a little more to say about that in a followup post soon…
Here’s another good example of conservatives willing to take on their allies:
Trump and His Apologists. It’s the Wall Street Journal, and–after castigating Ted Cruze in particular for failing to criticize Trump (in the hope that he might inherit some of his fans)–the article concludes:
While their behavior is certainly inappropriate, your comparison is invalid.
A gun can only cause harm with intent. Those clouds of tobacco smoke are indiscriminate.
The tobacco smoke is a slow matter, and not guaranteed. A gun pointed in the wrong direction and NDed is going to injure someone right now.
I think a better comparison would be a free speech activist carrying Hustler pics through a kid’s playground.
Michael Z. Williamson-
Not 100% what you’re responding to, but it is surely not the case that “a gun can only cause harm with intent.” After all, that is what the word “negligent” (as in “negligent discharge”) means.
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