Defending the R.B.V.A.J.*

First, I realize I’m late to the debate but that is nothing unusual.

Reading the comments over at Breda‘s and the various posts around the web I see the 2nd Amendment community is bickering among itself — again.

So much for our monolithic NRA dominated & controlled agenda,eh.

So I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts.

Scene 1 — a library in a fly0ver country small town

Guy walks into the library carrying a small handgun openly displayed in a tasteful holster. Is mannerly, polite, very discrete.

Finds his books, checks out and leaves without anyone really noticing.

So — how did he advance our rights?

Nothing really changed; no one learned anything, no one’s opinion was changed or even challenged.

Scene 2 — a library in a fly0ver country small town

Guy walks into the library carrying a small handgun openly displayed in a tasteful holster. Is mannerly, polite, very discrete.

A patron/worker notices the firearm and makes a “Man With GUN!!!” call to the cops. The cops show up, checks out the situation and the man finishes his visit by checking out some books and leaving.

Cops talk to the patron/worker and informs them it was a completely legal exercise of his rights.

So — how did he advance our rights?

Well, someone learned — from a credible source that was legal, saw a polite man detained for exercising his rights.

Pro- maybe an opinion is changed. Con — maybe an opinion is formed that even the cops are cautious and are afraid of a man with gun.

Scene 3 — a library in a fly0ver country small town

Guy walks into the library carrying a shotgun barrel down by a sling over his shoulder.


Is a complete jerk. Goes where he wants to, makes an effort to be seen.


A patron/worker notices the firearm and makes a “Man With GUN!!!” call to the cops. The cops show up, checks out the situation and the man finishes his visit by checking out some books and leaving.

Cops talk to the patron/worker and informs them it was a completely legal exercise of his rights.

So — how did he advance our rights?

Well again, people learned that it is legal. Con — he might have turned off a few people.

What is the difference?

We would put a spirited defense of the person in the first two scenes and rightfully so.

So why aren’t we putting up such a spirited defense of the person in Scene 3?
Why aren’t we defending the “Right to Be a Visibly Armed Jerk*”?

Let me be frank…I do think that being polite in the long run is very helpful to our cause.

Heck some people don’t think we should even Open Carry because we might offend someone. Others say we should limit where we Open Carry because we might offend someone.

My take on the situation is we shouldn’t be throwing 2nd Amendment advocates under the bus regardless of which side they take.

Period.

Because, seriously? You come into my library carrying a shotgun and acting like an asshole, I’m going to call the cops on you too.

That being said — what is the difference in the scenarios?

Are we saying that people don’t have a Right to Be a Visibly Armed Jerk?

That our 2nd Amendment rights depend on the display of our manners?

Walking into a library with a shotgun might find me about to draw on you out of fear you could be a maniac spree killer. Why in God’s name would you want to carry a shotgun in there?!

Isn’t that falling into the same mentality as the antis who say that ANYONE other than cops carrying a gun ‘could be a maniac spree killer’ and there fore isn’t to be trusted?

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” — George Bernard Shaw

If we don’t defend the 2nd Amendment rights the same way we defend the 1st Amendment rights we are going to lose.

I don’t agree with the decision to Open Carry a Shotgun in a children’s area of a public library….but I will defend his right to do so.

I am not questioning anyone’s credentials on supporting the right to keep and bear arms. I’m think that everyone in the discussion is solid on that issue.

I am questioning our tactics.

I think we are missing a golden opportunity to discuss the issue.

The Library incident happened — people didn’t like it, people were nervous.

So we need to ask them a simple question:

And then?

Guy walked into the Library carrying a shotgun

And then?

Guy was a jerk.

And then?

The police were called

And then?

They let him go.

So you are saying the guy broke no law, people got upset over an inanimate object yet the guy hurt no one, right?

Or

Hey did you hear about the Whack Job in the Library

Yeah, heard people freaked out and the cops were called. And then?

What do you mean?

Well and then what happened after the cops were called.

Nothing.

So the guy broke no law, people got upset over an an inanimate object, had bad manner yet managed to control himself and not go on a murderous rampage?

Folks….we need to take advantage of the jerks of the world instead of castigating them.

We need to challenge the perceptions of those who would object to the exercise of a fundamental right — regardless if it with the firearm we would pick or not.

Just my opinion and you know what they say about Opinions.

11 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by elmo iscariot on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Are we saying that people don’t have a Right to Be a Visibly Armed Jerk?

    That our 2nd Amendment rights depend on the display of our manners?

    I don’t think you’ll find anybody on Breda’s side of that dustup who thinks it should be illegal to Carry While Assholish, or who thinks asshole activists should be prosecuted. The reasonable criticism I’ve seen is all of the “if you’re trying to help the cause, you’re doing it wrong” variety. If you’re doing this to be an activist, then it isn’t about what is and isn’t within your rights. It’s about carefully managing people’s perceptions of the situation so that we can _keep_ it legal for a non-activist to be an asshole while carrying.

    You’re absolutely right about the irrationality of getting upset over guns, but the problem with that mindset, from an activist’s point of view, is that you’re never going to have the debate where you “ask them a simple question”. The people involved, the people who read about it in the paper, the people who hear about it from acquaintances… the overwhelming majority of them will form an emotional conclusion, internalize it with little or no discussion, and use it to inform their sympathy for future gun control or gun rights propositions. Those who make a point of discussing it with a well-informed gun rights advocate may be turned around, but they’ll be a tiny minority.

    Activism is all about evoking the emotional response in spectators that best advances your cause. If you’re pissing off the people whose support you want and arguing that they _shouldn’t_ feel that way, you’re doing it wrong.

  2. Posted by Bob S. on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Elmo,

    I also think that no body on either side thinks that prosecution is excusable or it should be illegal.

    In part, that perception is even worse. Legal we can handle — it is much harder to fight against a social prohibition.

    from an activist’s point of view, is that you’re never going to have the debate where you “ask them a simple question”.

    We are all the activists that I’m talking about. We are the ones who need to be asking the simple question. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

    The person who has formed an emotional opinion — those are the ones we have to ask the simple question.

    And then?

    Getting someone to think logically may or may not be possible but we have to try. Challenge their emotional response is what I’m getting at.

    Yes, they are upset that a “shotgun was carried in the library” — and then?
    Nothing happened. Getting them to admit that or recognize that nothing happened is what I mean by taking advantage of the jerk’s action.

    Activism is all about evoking the emotional response in spectators that best advances your cause.

    Not sure if I agree with that definition. Activism can and should also be about getting people to think un-emotionally about something. To get them used to the idea of normalcy.

    That can be done in a non-threatening manner — by law it has to be.
    It can be done in a logical way — If you don’t think the idea of carrying a shotgun is a good idea, then what is to stop people from arguing that carrying a handgun is a bad idea?

    If you’re pissing off the people whose support you want and arguing that they _shouldn’t_ feel that way, you’re doing it wrong.

    Who was pissed off at the library? Seems more people on our side are ticked off then the people at the library.

  3. Posted by Sailorcurt on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Thank you for posting this.

    I was getting too annoyed by the whole thing to be rational so I just dropped out of the conversation.

    And deleted some feeds to blogs I’ve been reading for a while.

    The thing that annoyed me isn’t the suggestion that it might be a good idea to try to be civil and not “scare the white people” as Uncle puts it…but that a news story ACCUSING people of acting improperly is all the evidence we apparently need to condemn, deride and insult those whom we would normally consider our allies.

    Pretty slim evidence upon which to begin calling fellow activists names and self-righteously proclaiming to be the final word on appropriate activism techniques and methodologies.

    Another thing that annoyed me is the apparent concession of some that there are appropriate places to exercise our rights and inappropriate places.

    If it’s inappropriate to stage a demonstration in a library, why does it magically become appropriate in, say, a park? On a street corner? On a fishing pier?

    I am not willing to make that concession…and neither was Michigan Open Carry.

    The bad guys don’t recognize and respect imaginary “safe zones”, so they shouldn’t exist. That’s my opinion…anyone else is more than welcome to disagree with me; but if the entirety of your rationalization for disagreeing with me consists of name-calling and derision, you’ll have to forgive me for not giving your opinion much weight.

    Not to mention the fact was that the entire issue revolved around Libraries in Michigan setting policies that were contrary to state law.

    I doubt that it would be very effective to protest the illegal action of a library by staging a demonstration at Starbucks.

    Anyway, this whole thing is ridiculous. Some “holier than thou” gun bloggers really could stand to step away from the pulpit for a bit.

  4. Posted by mike w. on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    That our 2nd Amendment rights depend on the display of our manners?
    I don’t think anyone was saying the jerks shouldn’t be allowed to exercise their rights. The loud ass preacher on the sidewalk is exercising his rights. I can openly disagree with the manner in which he chooses to do so without that meaning I don’t support his rights.

    From a more practical standpoint I DO think they somewhat depend on manners. Some of the gun control laws we have on the books today came about because of reaction to the Black Panthers. Action >> reaction.

    If non-gunnies see OC’ers as rude, arrogant, scary jerks they will write us off and will likely be sympathetic to more gun control. Perception and 1st impressions are everything. Every person we turn off is someone we might have turned to the pro-rights side.

    I could OC my AR-15 to the pediatrician, amusement park, daycare, etc. and scare the shit out of folks. If my actions create an immediate negative emotional reaction amongst virtually everyone I am doing it wrong. I really is a matter of common courtesy and of winning hearts & minds. You win folks over with a calm, rational, approach. I see no reason why we should be creating enemies and potentially swelling the ranks of the gun control advocates if we can help it.

  5. Posted by Bob S. on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    SailorCurt,

    Thanks — That was the impression I was getting…that some places are okay to Open Carry and some aren’t.

    Why?

    That it is okay for some people to Open Carry because they are good ambassadors but others shouldn’t do it because they can’t smile enough.

    Mike W.

    I don’t think anyone was saying the jerks shouldn’t be allowed to exercise their rights.

    I’m sorry but isn’t that whole “if you are going to do it, don’t be a jerk” saying don’t exercise your rights if you can’t be nice?

    I agree with you about not agreeing but defending their rights — what I was seeing in places was shall we say a less than vigorous defense of that right.

    Why? Because they didn’t fit our perception of what an activist should be or present themselves?

    I think everyone is supporting the right to Openly Carry. I just think they aren’t doing a good job of it.

    Some of the gun control laws we have on the books today came about because of reaction to the Black Panthers. Action >> reaction.

    And that is where I’m saying we are making a mistake. We need to defend the people — address the issues and work on public perception instead of feeding it.

    Many people on the pro-gun side said a shot gun shouldn’t be carried openly in a library.

    Using that logic, isn’t it just as valid for an anti to say that a pistol shouldn’t be carried openly in a library?

    Or that a pistol shouldn’t be carried at all?

    If my actions create an immediate negative emotional reaction amongst virtually everyone I am doing it wrong.

    Again — show me where that virtually everyone had a negative emotional reaction?

    I’m missing it. One or two people? ten?

    And what is wrong with talking to those with an emotional reaction and showing them that it is just that…an irrational emotional knee-jerk reaction?

  6. Posted by elmo iscariot on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    We are all the activists that I’m talking about. We are the ones who need to be asking the simple question. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

    No, you were perfectly clear; I think I wasn’t. I’m distinguishing between the _activist_ who acts like a jerk in the library, and the _advocates_ (all of us) who would subsequently ask one simple question. All of us who care and know enough to question people’s gut reactions to this situation? We’re a nearly microscopic minority. Even if we set up Google alerts so that we can jump in on every online conversation about every OC demonstration, we’ll still only reach a tiny fraction of all the people influenced by them. The demonstrations must stand by themselves, carefully managed to gain the sympathy of bystanders. Like a joke, any demonstration that needs to be explained to work is a failure.

    Not sure if I agree with that definition. Activism can and should also be about getting people to think un-emotionally about something.

    Activism intended to provoke rationality is great, don’t get me wrong. But aggressive and confrontational OC demos need to be balanced out by rationality. Big difference.

    I have a very high opinion of humanity, but let’s be honest: expecting people to always be rational is irrational. People can’t deconstruct and learn the background to all the thousands or controversies they’re exposed to, so most of us develop a “smell test” for controversies that we aren’t intimately invested in. If John Doe who doesn’t care much about sexual freedom sees photos from the Folsom Street Fair, he’ll likely have a negative impression. It doesn’t matter whether the organizers have carefully deconstructed the interplay of sex norms and conformity in relation to the visibility of sexual minorities and can rationally defend the fair in a debate; if the goal was to increase public support, the demonstration will have failed. (Not that it _is_ always the goal; Folsom is arguably more about intensifying support and commitment _within_ the demonstrating group, something it and confrontational OC demos seem to do quite well.)

    Who was pissed off at the library? Seems more people on our side are ticked off then the people at the library.

    I put a disclaimer at my blog, and probably should have here, too: I’m commenting on confrontational OC demonstrations, not on the specific demo at the library. I don’t see enough reliable coverage to decide that the demonstrators were being confrontational. In particular, one of the big criticisms, that bringing a shotgun to a library is a bit excessive, seems to have extenuating circumstances: the demo was specifically in protest of a library’s illegal policy, and the person in question was legally forbidden from carrying a handgun.

    And that is where I’m saying we are making a mistake. We need to defend the people — address the issues and work on public perception instead of feeding it.

    Many people on the pro-gun side said a shot gun shouldn’t be carried openly in a library.

    Using that logic, isn’t it just as valid for an anti to say that a pistol shouldn’t be carried openly in a library?…

    Man, I agree with you completely, but the fact is that public perception of guns at the moment is very far from reasonable, and we need to work at pushing that perception in the right direction at a rate the public can deal with.

    Think of it this way: I firmly believe that gun control simply doesn’t work, and that we’d have no problem just tossing the whole disastrous experiment at a shot, and I can defend that position pretty effectively in a debate. But no matter how right I am, a Nationwide Constitutional Carry and OTC Machine Guns Bill simply has no chance whatsoever of passing, because it’s too far outside the public’s perception of normal. But a nationwide reciprocity bill? A Supreme Court ruling mandating shall-issue permits everywhere? A step-by-step dismantling of the NFA restrictions on SBAs, SBRs, and suppressors? A legislative and judicial attack on the Hughes amendment? We can get a hell of a lot done, but we have to make sure our pace doesn’t push so far outside the mainstream’s comfort zone that it pushes back. The antis have achieved as much as they have by pushing in increments that seemed like small things all by themselves; we need to do the same thing to take back that lost ground.

    The great majority of people are good enough on guns that OC of pistols is _just_ outside their comfort zone; there’s legitimate disagreement on whether it’s productive at the moment, but it’s undeniably close. Carrying slung long arms is, rationally or not, something people are much more uncomfortable with. An individual citizen who just wants to exercise his rights can just say “hell with ’em”, and carry away. An activist doesn’t have that luxury.

  7. Posted by elmo iscariot on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Sorry about the wall of text, brudder. Lots of ground to cover here.

  8. Posted by Bob S. on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Elmo,

    Please never apologize for commenting in depth. I love it. Write away my friend.

    You are right. There is a lot to cover here.

    Taking the protest of Open Carry in General
    Again — show me the huge numbers, even moderate numbers of average people who are in an emotional turmoil over the protests.

    I see the usual suspects talking up a storm — but dozens, hundreds of negative response to each local event. Don’t see it in the media .

    On the other hand, how many responses does the RKBA generate condemning, pooh-bahing Open Carry events?

    Dozens? Easily. Sometimes we can be our own worse enemies.

    but the fact is that public perception of guns at the moment is very far from reasonable,

    Says who?

    What evidence?

    Let’s look at the national response to Magazine capacity limits after the Tucson shooting.
    The Antis proposed it and America did what?
    Yawned.
    Shut down the idea.

    I would love to see some evidence that the ‘great unwashed masses’, as some bloggers derogatorily refer to most of America as, aren’t reasonable on gun rights.

    Sorry but I’m not seeing the issue. Are states repealing Concealed Carry? Passing bans on Open Carry?

    Where are the people who are unreasonable on the issue? Aren’t we being a little dismissive of the people.

    The great majority of people are good enough on guns that OC of pistols is _just_ outside their comfort zone; there’s legitimate disagreement on whether it’s productive at the moment, but it’s undeniably close.

    Again — I’m not seeing this.

    Now I’m in Texas where we can’t Open Carry but I monitor many of the events and comments made. I’m just not seeing that people aren’t comfortable with Open Carry.

    And again — the main point I wanted to make is this is the golden opportunity for discussion with those people who might be on edge.

    This is a golden opportunity to completely demolish the antis claims that gun owners aren’t trust worthy.

    The Advocate who is a jerk about it didn’t murder anyone, didn’t assault anyone, didn’t do anything illegal, immoral or threatening.

    Kinda hard to paint a picture of someone on a hair trigger when over and over again absolutely nothing happens, isn’t it?

  9. Posted by elmo iscariot on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    Taking the protest of Open Carry in General
    Again — show me the huge numbers, even moderate numbers of average people who are in an emotional turmoil over the protests.

    No, this is actually something I’ve come around about. Previously I was on the it-scares-the-white-people end of the spectrum on OC, but traveling outside the insane mid-Atlantic hoplophobe enclave and actually spotting people casually OCing has made me reconsider. I’m pretty well convinced now that open carry of handguns in places with broad support for gun rights (which means almost all of the country); and in the few places like California that ban concealed carry, where OC is the only option; is harmless at worst and productive at best. I think it’s a close enough matter that smart people can disagree, but am on you side in that debate.

    So when I say it’s “just outside the mainstream’s comfort zone”, I don’t mean “so don’t do it!” I mean that makes it a pretty good place to push, because you have a chance to incrementally redefine what’s normal for your “audience”. The reaction is likely to be “Whoa, what the hell? Well, he seems nice enough… I guess it’s no big deal, is it?” We _want_ to be doing things just outside the comfort zone. Very far outside the comfort zone, we risk the mainstream pushing back. Inside the comfort zone, we aren’t making progress.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that I, who am pretty hardcore about gun rights and think it should be legal to carry a slung Ma Deuce if you feel like it, have always gotten a bad impression from the hardcore OC activists who run demos intended to grab attention… and I was turned around by the dad casually OCing at a restaurant. That guy probably figured nobody even noticed him, but he actually started an approving discussion at a table full of my generally-liberal friends.

    Based on my own experience and my perception of how the American mainstream thinks, I tend to think OC activists are good for the gun rights movement, and will do the most good by being scrupulously polite, treating OC activism as a lifestyle, not a series of planned events, and stick wherever possible to handguns*, which are more likely to be seen as a normal everyday weapon. Reasonable people can disagree on each part of that, in my opinion, and no effective national gun rights movement will ever have (and should never have) a universal agreement on the best way to move forward.

    [but the fact is that public perception of guns at the moment is very far from reasonable, ]

    Says who?

    I think we’re just talking about different scales here. The average American isn’t interested in magazine bans or banning concealed carry, and that’s excellent. But most Americans also think the feds should enforce background checks and restrictions on machine guns, which I think is pretty unreasonable when you look at the evidence. Most Americans are comfy with the status quo on guns, aren’t interested in more restrictions, and are somewhat receptive to easing restrictions. That’s wonderful news for us as a movement, but when you examine the matter from base principles and can conclude that we’d be no less safe if I could have a suppressed MP5 overnighted to me from Amazon, the mainstream looks pretty unreasonable. This doesn’t mean the people are stupid; it just means they’re human. Again, people can’t analyze ever thing they’re exposed to, so even the smartest of us tend to lean pretty hard on semirational “smell tests” sometimes. We’re fortunate in that most Americans’ smell tests on guns are better calibrated than most other Westerners’, and because of that I think we have a decent shot of getting much, much closer to a “reasonable” perception of guns in my lifetime, as long as we pace ourselves.

    [* – Again barring extenuating circumstances. I’d welcome a rifle and shotgun OC movement here in NJ, for example, where carrying handguns is banned in practice but there’s no law against carrying long arms.]

  10. Posted by Linoge on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    First up, I cannot speak to anyone else, but I have no problems with adult human beings behaving however they want to – I simply have no use for folks who are assholes for the sake of being assholes, whether we are talking about Threepers who are spoiling for a fight, or open carriers who are making an issue out of it, or folks who abuse cashiers for the fun of it. This, however, is less a matter of “you should” but rather a question of “I will not”… and, in this case, I will not associate with those kinds of individuals, regardless of whether they are ostensibly in my boat or not – I hold myself to a higher standard than that.

    Secondly, as best I could, my post had as little to do with the specific incident in Michigan, for one simple little reason: this entire situation has absolutely nothing to do with open carry. Oh, sure, this little debacle was prompted by people openly carrying, and Breda’s proposed rules are applicable to open carry, and so forth, but it really goes deeper than that to the basic core of “Don’t be an asshole”*. As we get more information about the Michigan story and clear up its finer points, we see that the open carriers there probably were not violating that particular admonition… but that does not change its applicability and importance.

    Third and finally, just as we should be careful not to apply the doom-and-gloom-prognostications that are so very popular amongst the anti-rights nuts, so too should you be careful befriending all “fellow travelers”. Were I a person of darker skin tone interested in reducing perceived ethnic inequalities, I would still distance myself as much as humanly possible from the Black Panthers. If I were born 20 years earlier and more interested in my own genetic heritage and its homeland, I would likewise distance myself from the IRA as much as humanly possible. Just because we are going the same place does not mean I want to share a ride with them, much less take the same path.

    On a related note, this is what happens to all movements when they start winning… Humans invariably need something to fight against, and when external threats have been subdued as much as they can be, people start finding internal ones. I am certainly not going to say it makes sense, but history is replete with examples… and I guess you can take comfort in the knowledge that we are winning that much :).

    And, of course, I say all this as an open carrier… but one who does not openly carry into establishments that post their premises (especially now that all postings are binding), one who does not make a big deal out of it, and one who has had a surprising amount of success spreading The Good Word despite not making a big deal out of it.

    * – In this particular case, for me, the sentiment could probably be better expressed as, “Behave however you like, but man up and accept the consequences,” but that is sadly not as succinct as the original version.

  11. Posted by Lou Hinshaw on 15.02.11 at 08:11

    I just saw a thing where Yamamato did not want to invade the USA because “there would be an armed civilian behind every bush” and I don’t know ow accurate that is, but when I joined the Service, my shooting caused an instructor to say that I shot like I had been raised doing it. I had.

    In my home town, people seldom locked doors, even on the stores, back then. Kids might swipe something but always got caught because they were always seen. Adults would have been shot.

    If you want to slow a satellite, speed it up. If you want to solve the gun problem, arm everyone.
    Long philosophical arguments notwithstanding, the history of the USA shows it works.