This past twenty years have been good ones, all in all, for the Second Amendment Human Rights Movement.
Even as the ratio of civilian firearms to citizens reaches 1:1 (double the per-capita ownership rate in 1968), the violent crime and firearm murder rates have dropped by half. The Supreme Court rejected decades of addled legal opinion with prejudice in the Heller and McDonald cases. And states with “Shall Issue” laws zoomed from eight 30 years ago to over 40 today (and “constitutional carry” states moving from 1 to 3 in the same time).
The orcs are desperate for a victory – even a symbolic one.
And some shooters are giving it to them.
In the 1970s, the anti-gun movement set about an effort to stigmatize gun ownership. Civilian firearms ownership had long been a natural part of being a free citizen in this country. Great example – Minnesota didn’t even require a permit to carry a concealed handgun until 1974.
But in the wake of 1968 – with its high-profile assassinations (none of which would have been prevented by any level of gun control) and, more signally, cities full of black people rioting, the left embarked on an effort not only to ban guns legally, but stigmatize them socially. TV programming and movies started uniformly portraying gun ownership as unnecessary and dangerous at best, a sign of impairment or derangement at worst. And it sank in; by the mid-eighties, polls showed a majority of people favoring gun control, and a strong-plurality-to-majority having a low opinion of civilian firearms ownership.
And the news and entertainment media still keep that tack alive and well – although the rise of alternative media have effectively outflanked Big Left and Big Media; public attitudes about guns and gun owners have largely flipped.
But it took some convincing. One of the most important things to convince people of? That gun owners were real people, just like everyone else.
When I first started hanging out with the Human Rights crowd twenty years ago – GOCRA and Concealed Carry Reform Now (CCRN), one of the first rules given to activists was “no camo”. Don’t wear camouflage to CCRN/GOCRA events, gun shows and protests and hearings at the Capitol. Not just hunting camouflage, mind you – the paramilitary stuff was also a no-go. The movement needed to combat the impression thatbeinga shooter made someone inherently an outsider, self-consciously casting themselves out from society. We were fathers and mothers, students and lawyers, white and blue collar, Democrats and Republicans -peoplejust like everyone else.
Behind this was a simple bit of human psychology; the first step to taking someone’s rights away from them is to dehumanize them. To appear to be human makes that hard, if not quite impossible; at the very least, the other side has to expend much more effort, an unseemly amount, to keep dehumanizing you.
If they can’t turn you into a cliche that they can make people dismiss, then your playing field is more even.
And in the world of politics – which is where our laws get written – that’s important.
But a group of shooters is doing their best to give the Orcs a new set of cliches on which to focus their rage.
The Open Carry activists at Starbucks, Chipotle, and most recently at a Target in Fort Worth have given the Orcs not so much a “cheap win” as a cheap, unearned boogeyman – the bearded, t-shirt-clad white guy sauntering around coffee shops, fast-food joints and stores, doing their business while carrying not just handguns but “assault weapons”.
There is method to the madness, for open-carry activists; if you don’t use a right, you can lose it.
With all due respect, it’s a lousy method. It gains the good guys nothing – least of all in Texas, where the right to carry is as solid as any place in the United States – and hands the orcs something they haven’t had in years; cheap public relations victories.
The open carriers’ response is “why should we let fear of their public relations victory interfere with our exercise of our legal rights?”
Because politics is as much emotional and rhetorical as factual, that’s why. Law-abiding shooters have won the war of facts over the past thirty years – but we also won the war of emotions and rhetoric. We – the good guys, the law-abiding Real Americans who own guns – are 2-3 orders of magnitude less likely to commit any crime than non-gun owners.
But then, we were before 1968, too. It wasn’t the factual war that led to the nadir of the late seventies and early eighties; it was the war for rhetoric and emotion; the false, propagandized fear of guns that the media implanted in the middle-American psyche.
The good guys un-planted that irrational fear, at least in most Real Americans between the Hudson and the Sierra Madre. We did it even though we had the media and the political class fighting against us.
And it could all reverse – even if the War of Facts continues in our favor, as it will.
Giving unearned victories to the Orcs is no way to eliminate them from the political battlefield.
So I’ll just say this; if I did have a gun and a carry permit, I’d carry concealed. And I urge everyone else to do it too.