Monday, November 11, 2013

"Open Carry" Intimidation

(UPDATED -- see below)

When we see pictures on the news, of third world countries, of men toting around assault rifles in public and brandishing them at peace activists and government officials, we automatically think terms like "intimidation," "extremist," "rebel," and "terrorist."  Yet, for some reason, when we see nearly the exact same thing in America, somehow a certain subset of people think "freedom" instead.   See HERE of a telling comparison I've made.

A couple days ago, four members of the Arlington, Texas, chapter of Moms Demand Action privately met at a restaurant over lunch to talk about their program.  Some pro-gun extremists found out, so they decided to intimidate the ladies by showing up with their fellow gun lovers.  But they didn't just show up -- they came armed to the hilt with hunting rifles and assault rifles.  Look at that image and tell me that isn't intimidation.  The picture to the right which was taken by one of the Moms Demand Action members.  There were forty pro-gun extremists, and some of them even brought along some small children, I guess to give the impression of a "family event" for their armed ambush. 

See below for another image that was posted on the Facebook page of those extremists.  As stated on the "Moms Demand Action - TX" Facebook page:
Moms, restaurant employees and patrons were all shocked. One patron commented to one of our organizers," I grew up with guns, but no one would ever do this. This is like Deliverance." 
Brandishing loaded assault rifles and threatening four older ladies is the epitome of extreme, in my mind.  Is this really what our country has come to?  Texas is one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation?  What are these people so afraid of that they feel threatened by four older women?

I think these extremists have their priorities wrong.  They should be fearing the same thing that the older ladies feared:  guns falling into the wrong hands.  Every gun crime makes law-abiding gun owners look that much worse.

This same weekend, in Texas, a house party in Houston turned bloody as a mass shooting unfolded.  In all, 22 people were injured, and two teens were killed, ages 16 and 17.  But the gun guys aren't interested in actually DOING anything to stop such shootings.  They would rather intimidate old women.

Sadly, wanton shows of force by the pro-gun guys is becoming all-too-common.  

At the end of October, also in Texas, a couple "Open Carry" activists illegally carried loaded antique handguns in public.  See the video below.  When Texas Rangers confronted the men and arrested them, the men's pro-gun buddies showed up in force, verbally abusing the officers and waving their Gadsden "don't tread on me" flags.  What did these men hope to achieve by displaying their guns and resisting arrest?  What did their buddies think they were achieving by abusing the officers?  Did any of this circus actually serve to help their "open carry" cause?  I don't think so.  The video made the rounds on the pro-gun sites, with statements suggesting in the usual vitrolic anti-government language that this was an over-stepping of law enforcement.  I think the opposite.  These men wanted only one thing: intimidation of society with their guns, and I'm glad law enforcement was there to put a stop to it.

Earlier in October, an "Open Carry" rally was held at the historic Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Billed as "Come and Take It San Antonio!" it was a statement all about anti-government sentiment and fearmongering about the government coming to confiscate all guns -- the most enduring pro-gun myth promulgated by the gun lobby.  Hundreds of pro-gun extremists showed up, weapons held high.  Some brought small children with them.  Said one of the pro-gun demonstrators:
“A rifle on our back is part of our everyday life, just like a cell phone is part of our everyday life.”

Really? They feel so afraid of their fellow citizens that they think carrying a rifle around is as normal as carrying a cell phone?  It's horrifying to me that anyone could be so blinded by gun-worship that they would see it this way.

Naturally, tourists to the Alamo that day were also shocked.  According to another article:
For the tourists who just happened upon the rally — 2.5 million visit the Alamo annually — there was initial trepidation among some. 
Mark Roberts, 63, of London, Ontario, was among a group of Canadian tourists caught off guard."We're not used to seeing guns carried openly in Canada, so that was almost like a culture shock," Roberts said, noting that it appeared well organized. It was more unnerving for his wife. 
"I didn't like it at all because you don't know who you're dealing with," Julie Roberts said. "You don't know who these people are."
Again, what, exactly, are these extremists trying to achieve?  No one is trying to take away their guns, especially in Texas!  But paranoia runs deep in these people.

But intimidation by the "open carry" crowd isn't only in Texas.   Increasingly it is across America.  

Consider the following cases:

November 5, Phoenix, Arizona:  A man brought his 12-year old son to the international airport in Phoenix.  Only two days after the shooting at LAX, he thought it would be a fine idea to show up with his assault rifle openly strapped to his back.  His son, too, was packing, with a handgun on his hip.  He clearly knew the shocking effect it would have on the people around him, and police showed up to surround him and escort him, but he knew his bounds.  Sadly, it was completely legal to do so there.  From an article:
“I was outraged by it and others around me were outraged," one woman told KNXV.  .... 
“The vibe that I received from them was that they were rather smug about what they were doing that they knew the law. They knew what they could and could not do,” the woman who witnessed the incident explained. “I think there are circumstances where people should be able to carry guns and have guns, but I don’t think this is one of the good ones.”

October 2013, Portland, Oregon:  A man with an assault rifle, body armor, and ammunition walks around on the streets.  Claims he is training for a "military training mission" and openly welcomes confrontations with police.  Has had multiple run-ins with police.

September 2013, Nebraska: A man "expressing his Second Amendment rights" enters a convenience store, armed with an automatic shotguns, ammo belt, and trenchcoat, leading to police response and the lockdown of a neighboring school.

August, 2013, Nashville, Tennessee:  A man walks downtown with a bulletproof vest and an assault rifle with silencer in a case, leading to public fears and police response.  He had been detained five other times for carrying weapons in public.

August, 2013, Wisconsin: Two men with assault rifles openly carry them to a farmer's market "to make a point."

July, 2013, Vancouver, Washington: A man carries assault rifle near family fun center, restaurant, and fireworks stand to "educate the public," prompting calls to 911 and police response. 

July, 2013, Beaverton, Oregon:  A man, dressed in camo and armed with a pump-action shotgun, carries his gun in a "low ready position" on the street to "practice his Second Amendment rights."  When police arrives, he puts a round in the chamber.

January, 2013, Charlottesville, Virginia:  A man "expressing his Second Amendment rights" carries an assault rifle into grocery, causing a panic and leading to police to arrive and draw their guns on him.

January, 2013, Utah:  A man openly carries an assault rifle and handgun into a JC Penney store "to make a statement."

January, 2013, Springfield, Oregon: A man with an assault rifle openly carries it on streets.  People become upset, and police have to respond.

January, 2013, Portland, Oregon:  Two men with assault rifles walk through neighborhoods.  People flee and businesses lock up.  Police have to respond.

And these are just a few of the cases I've noted.  I haven't even done some sort of search for them.

Over and over again in these cases we see how these pro-gun "open carry" activists alarm the public, requiring police response, and smugly confront police, sometimes seeming to purposely bait them, and then justifying it away as some sort of public education attempt or an attempt to "normalize" the open carrying of guns in public.

But their real purpose isn't any of that.  The political cartoon to the right says it all.  Their real purpose is to intimidate normal citizens and, most especially, anyone who is working to reduce gun violence, like those four moms in Arlington, Texas.  It's also a sad and public display of the paranoid fear they feel toward their fellow Americans.

As you can see by these cases, the number of "open carry" demonstrations has vastly increased this year, ever since the Sandy Hook shootings.  The pro-gun crowd is afraid.  All the mass shootings, which are increasing at an alarming rate, are turning the tide in the gun argument.  The gun guys are outnumbered by people who are fed up with the daily carnage in America, and it's got them scared.  The days of unfettered access to guns is coming to an end.  Our culture simply can't handle 100,000 shootings a year, including 32,000 deaths, at the end of bullets.  Reasonable legislation is on the way to require background checks for ALL gun sales, and other limits.  The people who parade around with their guns in public are the same ones who would rather trump their interpretation of "rights" over the right of the people to live without fear.

Honestly, the "open carry" crowd are doing me and other gun violence prevention advocates a great favor.  They are their own worst enemy.  Every gun they wave, every Gadsden flag they fly, every shout they utter at the police, is another example of their motivations.  Every time they act this way, they put on display their extremism for the rest of us to see and use against them, yet they are too blind to see it.  They are the face of a gun culture that has run amok.  It's time to change.

ADDENDUM (11/11/13):  A related post, from Common Gunsense blog.

UPDATE (11/11/13):  A Forbes online article points out that the "open carry" protesters may actually have been breaking the law by their show of force.  From the article:
While the group is certainly entitled to protest (although there are questions raised about them doing so on private property without invitation as was the case here), they are not, according to Texas law, entitled to do so by openly showing their weapons
While Texas permits licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons, Texas does not permit the open carry of guns
, except for long guns that are not being used in a menacing way (added). Indeed, it is the desire to change this law that the Open Carry Texas group is all about.
The updates at the end of that article are very interesting.

UPDATE (11/11/13):  Hear about the intimidation of the Moms Demand Action moms from founder Shannon Watts.

UPDATE (11/12/13):  "Open Carry Texas", the organization that intimidated the women at the restaurant, continues its high-jinks by protesting for open carry of handguns on the state capitol during a Veteran's Day memorial.  Two people were arrested for trespassing, including the president of that organization.

UPDATE (11/12/13):  Apparently the leader of "Open Carry Texas," Kory Watkins, has been dabbling in politics when he isn't carrying assault rifles everywhere he goes in public. According to an article:
At age 30, Watkins has been working his way up the political apparatus. According to his campaign site: he was ”secretary on the Volunteer Committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party, and was also a delegate to the Republican State Convention in 2012.” He is popular with the Ron Paul crowd saying, “I will work to abolish the Federal Reserve and the central banking system” – and receiving a listing as a ‘Liberty Candidate‘ on
And he has made insurrectionist, anti-government statements, taking (of course) a hard-line Libertarian, Tea Party stance, particularly regarding the Second Amendment and his interpretation of "rights." 

UPDATE (11/17/13):  More incidents of "exercising rights" to the horror of locals.  In particular is this case from Leith, North Dakota, where white supremacists have been trying, literally, to take over the tiny town and form an all-white community of it.  From an article:
Leith City Councilman Lee Cook said he was outside his home Saturday with Gregory Bruce, the city’s website administrator, looking for a location to install surveillance cameras due to concerns for his family’s safety since Cobb moved to town. 
Within about 10 minutes, Cobb and Dutton approached them carrying a rifle and a shotgun, staying on the street but coming right up to Cook’s property line, Cook said.
“We weren’t more than 10 feet away,” Bruce said. 
Cobb, 62, and Dutton, 29, held the guns high and then lowered them, but didn’t speak and did not point the guns directly at the men, Bruce said. 
“Dutton, he had the gun in a position where he was ready to shoot,” Cook said. “I just looked right at him and didn’t say a thing and picked up the phone and dialed 911.” 
Cobb and Dutton then continued walking through the streets of Leith carrying their firearms with a woman believed to be Dutton’s wife, Deborah Dutton, following with a cellphone camera, Bruce said. 
It took at least an hour before the Grant County Sheriff’s Office arrived, Cook said. 
“They just walked around like they owned the town,” Cook said. “The whole point was, they’re trying to drive people out by terrorizing to them.” 
Bruce said Cobb and Dutton followed a local woman around town with their guns and yelled obscenities at her. 
“It’s all intimidation,” Bruce said.
The men were arrested for terrorizing, but "open carry" is allowed in North Dakota, so this sort of blatant intimidation is the natural outcome.

And then there is this case, from another tiny town:  New Castle, Virginia, where extremists convinced the tourism board to have an "exercising rights" day to parade around with their guns.  Good luck getting tourists there now!

ADDENDUM (11/26/13):  HERE is a good article about how the open carry movement is a scare campaign designed to incite confrontation. From the article:
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In a post Aurora-Newtown environment, it's a reckless and irresponsible stunt to strut around in public with an assault-style weapon and think police should assume you're well-intentioned.”
At another stop this fall, also taped and posted to YouTube, an exasperated responding officer pleads with Branstrom, again carrying his rifle, this time in a school zone. “Do you realize what you’re doing could cost us, me, my second amendment rights? Because this is so egregious to the general public that it’s going to cause them to make decisions legally that are going to restrain us.” ..
And so, the logic of open carry goes, regular exposure to armed “good guys”—on the street, at the farmers’ market, at Starbucks—will act as immersion therapy for the needlessly frightened. And if it doesn’t work? If people are still alarmed by the sight of the armed?
“Grow the hell up,” Idehen suggests in one of his many online videos hosted on the NRA’s website. “You don’t have a right to feel safe by taking away or severely limiting people’s means to protect themselves. We aren’t in kindergarten anymore where you’re allowed to wallow in your false sense of importance by limiting other people because of how you think it makes you feel.”
ADDENDUM (12/4/13):  See HERE for a sickening video, wherein a pro-gun advocate urges "open carry" citizens to resist police, openly calls for insurrection, and even advocates attacking police if they feel that their interpretation of the law doesn't match the police's.  "Do you have enough of a spine to draw that line?" she asks.  She even attempts to compare such gun carriers / police-attackers to Revolutionary War patriots.

UPDATE (4/29/14):  White supremacist, Craig Cobb, who attempted to take over the small town of Leith, North Dakota, with his hate-fueled buddies and openly intimidated residents with guns, has now been convicted of felony terrorizing, but was given only four months probation.  Residents are scared.  From an article:
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, who had wanted a 4-year prison term for Cobb, said outside the court that it would take a long time for the town to recover. 
"When are we going to be safe from him? He has made his mark on our lives," Schock said. .... 
The terms of Cobb's probation bar him from having contact with victims, but Cook, one of the victims in the case, said he had been given no information on where Cobb will be going. He and mayor Schock said they worry whether the town will be safe — especially since Cobb gave three of his Leith lots to white separatist Tom Metzger, National Socialist Movement Commander Jeff Schoep and white supremacist Alex Linder. 
"It's a failure of justice," Cook said. "This guy gets off. He made our lives a living hell and now he's walking the streets again."  .... 
"They were out looking for a reason to shoot us," Cook said. "Just like the guy in Kansas City who gunned down a 14-year-old boy — they're buddies." 
Cobb has acknowledged a friendship with Frazier Glenn Cross, who is accused of killing three people at Jewish sites in Kansas earlier this month. Cobb told The Associated Press earlier that he spoke with Cross just three days before the killings but that the allegations against Cross have nothing to do with him.