Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I’m about to make a significant number of my fellow firearms enthusiasts upset. But to mitigate the effect, at least somewhat, let me say what I believe. I believe the only reason to strip someone of their right to own a firearm is a felony conviction involving violence. There is a huge difference between someone who is 18 and writes a bad check for $500 and someone who is 18 and sticks a gun in a shopkeeper’s face. I believe there should be a mechanism to restore firearms rights that would be fully funded by Congress (the current statute permits restoration by the ATF, but a Democrat-controlled and Republican-compliant Congress has refused to fund it). I believe that every state should be a constitutional carry state, and that concealed carry should be a right, not a privilege.
That is not the way it is, however. Yet some states that restrict concealed carry unnecessarily, allow open carry. I can understand, in those states, why a person might choose to open carry. But, if you have a concealed carry permit, carrying openly just is not smart. It may be your right, but it’s not wise to exercise it. You have the right to kick a hornet’s nest. But it’s not smart.
I’m not arguing your right to do it. I think you should have the right to do it. I’m appealing to your sense of personal responsibility.
The gun-control alarmists and their sycophant media have created a culture of fear around anyone who carries a weapon. Would anyone have believed ten years ago that a coffee shop would refuse to allow a police officer, on duty, to carry their firearm into their place of business? It has happened, and with the “defund the police” nonsense, it will happen more often as retailers eager for the “woke” dollar virtue signal. I would argue that no one who is not actively breaking the law, or has a warrant out for their arrest, has anything to fear from the police. And even those who are actively breaking the law or have a warrant have nothing to fear if they submit to arrest without resistance. But the media have certainly given us all a bucket-load of false narratives (“hands up, don’t shoot”) to convince the person not paying attention that everyone with a gun is a wild-eyed beast out for the glory of the kill. As responsible gun owners we have an obligation – I would even say a duty – to our fellow gun owners to defeat that narrative. But we cannot do that when people who should know better assert their rights solely for click/likes on social media.
The video shown here is worth your time if you disagree. In Florida, open carry is forbidden generally. However, it is allowed when a person is hunting, fishing or camping. In this video the person with the camera is open carrying an AR-type pistol. For those of you who may not know what that is, it is a rifle receiver with a very short barrel (8 – 12 inches) and a “pistol brace” that can be attached to the arm that’s firing the weapon. The pistol configuration avoids the problem with a short-barreled rifle (which is forbidden without a tax stamp and a years-long permitting process), but it looks like you’re carrying a rifle when it’s slung around your neck, as was done in this video.
You’ve no doubt seen the videos featuring the “First Amendment Auditors” who go places like sheriff’s stations and courthouses and film the back entrances, walking around until a law enforcement officer asks what they’re doing. Absent a sign, or a trespass warning, they have every right to do it. Yet, ask yourself, what valid concerns the police might have in having their sally port photographed. Might this permit someone planning on freeing a prisoner (or shooting one) certain advantages? Many of these situations can be fixed with appropriate ordinances and signage, and should be if there is a concern. The “auditors” however, are not really auditing. What they’re doing is provoking an arrest so that they can later claim their civil rights were violated and bring a lawsuit against the offending police jurisdiction. That’s why these things are always filmed.
So too our open carrier here. He filmed his interaction. Let’s unpack what he did.
He went to an area in Florida where there is a public fishing area armed with a weapon that was openly carried. He had a statutory right to do this, but doing so in Florida is not bright for several reasons.
Many years ago, I worked in Florida. I now live there. In West Palm Beach, where I was, about half of the population was over 60 and most of it came from New York City. New Yorkers are not like the rest of us. Sorry, no offense to those in the state, but the city-dwellers are just not like the rest of us. They are so indoctrinated by their left-leaning politicians that they cannot imagine anyone exercising a right to carry a firearm. Witness, for example, the Palm Beach County commissioner banning the sale of guns and ammunition during the Coronavirus outbreak. One supposes he was afraid people would start shooting the virus?
I left West Palm due to an incident at a grocery store. I had picked up the last two Kiwi fruit in the store. My wife at that time (now my ex-wife for reasons that will become apparent) was making a fruit salad. As I walked over to get a cantaloupe, an elderly lady reached into my cart and took my Kiwi fruit.
I don’t like Kiwis. I never have. I can tolerate them, but if I had to walk across the street to eat one I wouldn’t. To me, it was no big deal. But because of the encroachment I say “Hey, those are mine!”
“So,” the woman with a heavy New York accent said, “you haven’t bought ‘em yet!”
At this point Broom Hilda swooped in, forcefully replevined the fruit from the octogenarian, and told her if she took anything else from our car she’d break both her hands. It occurred to me that when you are living in a place where people have to threaten fisticuffs with the elderly that maybe you shouldn’t live there any longer. And, later, I came to the same revelation about Broom Hilda.
So, the first reason is that there are just too many people from the northeast that populate Florida and that think guns are “icky.” They claim to be scared of them, and their first instinct is to call 911 and make a man-with-a-gun call. Which brings us to the second reason.
Have you been paying attention lately? People have been killing police officers. Even with vests, helmets, and protective gear, people have been shooting and stabbing our officers on a weekly basis. As a result, some police officers (not a majority) have adopted the shoot-first-apologize-to-the-heirs-later approach to dealing with armed suspects, no matter who that armed suspect is. And, please, that’s not a knock on the police. If I saw someone with an openly-carried rifle, my first reaction would be to put my hand on my carry pistol and prepare for action. You can’t tell the difference between an open carry activist/agitator and an Antifa scumbag from 50 meters. I think it best to err on the side of caution.
The men in the video were lucky. They were greeted by professional officers who made an appropriate felony stop, validated that they were statutorily permitted to open carry because they was fishing, and after appealing to reason and responsibility, (to no effect, by the way) let them go. Both had GoPro cameras, both were filming. Both refused to permit the police request to take their weapons. Both forcefully asserted their rights. Were they looking for a settlement like this one?
But what effect did their actions have?
Do you think they made allies out of the police, or do you think they made them angry? Do you think, at the end of the day, they advanced the cause of gun rights by doing what they did? And what of the next Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, or Santino William Legan? What message might they take away from this?
Now, consider this situation. Instead of professional law enforcement, what if these guys had gotten a rookie cop fresh from the academy and unfamiliar with the open carry while fishing statute? What if the cop sensed the pair’s frequent hand movements as a sign of aggression and fired weapons? Would the assertion of their rights been worth the loss of their lives? Would the event have made them martyrs, or Darwin Award winners? At the end of the day, would they have advanced their goal of “normalizing” open carry? The answer, of course, is no. They would have set it back, perhaps by a large measure.
The last reason I oppose open carry is this. Openly carrying a firearm surrenders your advantage in a hostile situation. Most people have terrible situational awareness. They don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them. They are busy getting a Diet Coke out of the cooler, and they don’t notice the two guys come in to the store in hoodies, when it’s 95 degrees in July. But those guys, who are looking to steal, and are armed, certainly see him. To them, he’s either a nice way to add to their illegal firearms collection, or, more likely, someone to be dealt with quickly and fatally so as to avoid being interrupted. Imagine reaching into the convenience store cooler for a soda and the last thing you know being shot in the back by someone you never saw?
My position: carrying openly is like wearing a shirt that says “SHOOT ME FIRST!” It tells the bad guys you’re a threat, and it surrenders the tactical advantage to the bad guys.
I fully support a person exercising their constitutional rights. It doesn’t bother me that Westboro Baptist Church says horrible things and protests funerals, because if you prohibit that it becomes a slippery slope, and already YouTube has cracked down on firearms videos. Additional editorial suppression of firearms is sure to come if we don’t allow people we disagree with to speak freely as well.
But I do not believe that agitating for the right to open carry while fishing (which is clearly meant for rural, not urban areas, even though the statute doesn’t say that) is smart and advances the agenda. People need to think, and act, responsibly. That’s especially true when they’re carrying a firearm, and are therefore representing all of us who do.Published in