Put your guns away: Open carry and the American experience

Open carry protest

GLASGOW, July 4, 2014 — As Americans are inundated with the stark images of open carry activists visiting stores and restaurants with semi-automatic weapons strapped to their backs, we are left to wonder where exactly the wheels began to come off.

The U.S. has long stood alone among industrialized, western democracies with its sloppy, unabashed love affair with guns. The Second Amendment to America’s Constitution has created a frightening rift among the population with regard to the role of firearms in American life, and what an appropriate interpretation of that amendment looks like. Can we agree that carrying semi-automatic weapons into shops and restaurants is a bit much?

Apparently not. Today, Americans are more apt to shout each other down or troll one another via social media than to participate in any meaningful discourse. The world is a busy place, and opinions vary widely as to what is right, wrong, and who ought to decide it all. The number of gun deaths in the U.S. last year, 11,419, should serve as an invitation to sane discussion, but it has not.

Not every open-carry activist is crazy, nor are law-abiding gun owners responsible for every gun death which occurs in the country. The issue lies not in individual choice, but in the way guns are inexorably woven into the fabric of American life. It is this curious phenomenon that presents the greatest obstacle to reducing gun violence, coupled with the belief of so many Americans that owning and brandishing firearms is almost a civic duty.

American culture has long celebrated the victory of the kill, be it in entertainment, video games, or the so-called sport of shooting animals. By connecting the violent taking of life with a the glory of conquest, a dangerous disconnect is born in our subconscious. As a society, we must decide whether we truly value the lives of others or not. If people believe they need guns to feel safe, America may already have passed the point of no return.

For gun activists, the NRA, and those who champion the Second Amendment, no justification is considered necessary for why they carry weapons. They believe the Constitution not only protects their right to do so, but promotes it. Many in this group believe that they constitute the last line of defense against an impending maelstrom of lawlessness.

Others mistrust the government so much that they are convinced only their guns ward off the liberty-shredding tentacles of state tyranny. A person who possesses this vision of the world may well be beyond reasonable discussion.

A neutral discourse on the merits of so many people carrying guns around is unnecessary in almost every other western, industrialized democracy; gun ownership remains a fiercely debated topic in the US. Whether guns are used to settle arguments, defend one’s home against potential invaders, or kill innocent beasts, people are increasingly unwilling to consider an America with less weapons.

The unfortunate trend appears to be even more deaths (many accidental), more violence, and the accompanying burden on the legal system, which trickles down to the taxpayer. It is indeed a needless cycle of wasted life, money, and time.

Is there some visceral joy in firing a weapon? What are the rest of us missing? We find ourselves, as a culture, enjoying such rapid advancements in technology and interconnectedness, and yet, when it comes to this one subject, we remain completely disconnected. Disagreements devolve into vitriol more quickly than they used to, and the ensuing arguments and confrontations are more frequently engaged in by people with firearms, with predictably grim results.

It is time to discuss the Second Amendment, what it means today, and how best to incorporate and determine its value and meaning moving forward. It is possible to have an opinion about guns, rights, and personal ownership without carrying semi-automatic weapons into crowded commercial areas. Open carry activists are not helping their cause by these displays, and the resulting unease only serves to widen the chasm between two opposite camps which must find a patch of common ground soon.


Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.

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  • Carlos Lasoya

    Russ – decent article. However, you should do some research. With violent crime and murder they are actually the lowest since the
    60s. Go to the DOJ’s website; it’s public info. They’ve kept the
    national crime rates since 1960. The media/video games/movies do not
    help the public’s perception.

  • Ranger

    The reason we have the problem we do with guns is not due to the gun owners. Since the Gun Control Act of 1968, it is the legal gun owner and the NRA who have been pointed out by the media as those responsible for crimes committed with guns. The media very rarely looks at mass-shootings as crimes, but as “gun violence”. The OJ Simpson-Nicole Brown situation never created a screaming media for knife control, even though it was news for the longest time. It is the mainstream media and their hatred for guns that has lead to this. Open carry is legal in about forty-five states. Half of those states require no permit to do so, such as VA (where I used to live) and my home state of AL. Five states have constitutional carry (WY, VT, AK, AR, AZ) meaning no permit to carry open or concealed. Open carriers do not pull out their weapons in public and handle them. Open carriers carry just like uniformed cops and military; on belts with holsters. The Texas situation is unique in that their law is so outdated that open carry only applies to antique black powder pistols or rifles. If modern weapons were allowed to be open carried in TX, the rifles would be left at home. They are trying to get the attention to show how stupid the law is so that it will be changed.

  • SFCRetired

    If you take three cities out of the equation; New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles; the three with the most draconian gun control laws, the death rate is considerably lower. Does that not tell you something?


    There is no meaningful discourse viz the attenuation of fundamental rights. As Justice Scalia wrote in the D.C. v. Heller majority opinion, fundamental rights of the people are not subject to any free-standing ‘interest-balancing’ test. That debate was had in 1791, and settled in what was to become the freest society in world history, definitively unencumbered by overweening, intrusive top-down control.

    Fundamental rights are above and beyond discussion about reining them in – the are fundamental, they are unalienable, and they are sacrosanct.

    Open carry has been relegated from “vogue” to “gauche” by the unfortunate influence of the false constructs of progressivism and political correctness on our society.

    Well, here’s a clue: Rights trump political correctness. It is the very immutability of fundamental rights that is the source of American liberty.

    If you don’t want me to open carry at your invitation-only private party, I’ll be happy to oblige by not attending. But don’t tell me that I can’t open carry in areas that are just as much mine as yours, because I will tell you to shove it.

  • TexTopCat

    Does this author not know that almost every modern gun is “semi-automatic”? What does the author expect, only guns designed prior to 1900?

  • jmark80

    What will be the most interesting and telling point of this article is whether or not the author will bother to read the thoughtful, well constructed and thorough responses such as those by “Teebonicus”, or if he defines rationality and sanity only with the views he himself holds.

    To the author, it is not us who is beyond the discussion. It is folks like yourself who go out of your way to avoid data that does not conform to your agenda, and who completely fail, in a stupendous act of willfull obstinance, to ever absorb anything we are saying.

    Perhaps if you spent more time listening, you would find understanding instead of asking “why” in one breath while in the next dismissing the answers. It is no coincidence that the folks who stand in opposition to your position tend to be far more informed about firearms and their usage than those who stand on your side of the fence. If you were a truly a man of intelligence, you would ask yourself why that is.