In shooting circles, a “negligent discharge” is the unintentional firing of a weapon, almost always as the result of careless behavior. For those of us who subscribe to this point of view, there are no such thing as gun accidents, just incidents of gun negligence.
One of the more common kind of negligent discharges occurs when a shooter attempts to holster a pistol with his or her trigger finger still inside the trigger guard. As the shooter pushes the gun into the holster, the side of the holster comes in contact with the finger, driving it back into the trigger. The resulting sharp report is stunning, and is soon followed by the pain that comes from the bullet carving a crease down the outside of the shooter’s leg on its way to the ground. In somewhat rarer instances, shooters with their finger in the trigger guard sometimes manage to shoot themselves in the buttocks … and you have every right to read that with your best Forrest Gump accent.
Open carry advocates, as a gun rights subgroup, are the continuing negligent political discharge of the shooting community. Their disastrous nationwide campaign to normalize the open carrying of firearms alienates Americans from coast to coast, even among those who champion the concealed carry of weapons.
You only need to look at examples of the media incompetence of these groups in the past year to understand how this theoretically pro-gun movement has managed to cause the public to recoil in horror and actually set the movement back on its heels. It is enough to make you wonder if the group isn’t the operation that “Crash the Tea Party” wanted to be, executed by the otherwise inept anti-gun harpies.
Other than small-scale displays primarily consumed by the local news, the open carry movement is known to most people for precisely two awkward public displays: an August 17, 2009, protest in Phoenix and one this past Sunday on the Potomac’s Virginia shores.
The Associated Press headline sums up what everyone remembers about the Arizona incident: “Man carrying assault weapon attends Obama protest.”
The actual story of a peaceful rally, coordinated with the local police officers to make sure everything was absolutely legal, was and is utterly irrelevant. A dozen men with guns showed up to protest outside a venue where the president was speaking. How exactly did they think this was going to be reported and received by their fellow citizens? It was a bit of self-indulgent show and tell that alarmed and disturbed people who heard about the incident, as I wrote at the time:
As much as I support the open carry movement in theory, I have a very hard time seeing open carry at a political event full of people as anything other than a very bad idea. It is needlessly provocative (and I suspect in many instances, purposefully so), and potentially dangerous.
While the protesters themselves may not have any intent to use the firearms they are carrying, open carry in dense, emotional crowds opens up a whole host of possible scenarios that could end in disaster.
Regardless of political ideology, reasonable, intelligent people have a very hard time understanding what good can come of bringing firearms to political rallies or protests. Even among those of us who own them and champion their utility, the idea of using weapons to make a political statement is distasteful. Most of us understand that the media’s laser-like focus on the displayed weapons completely overwhelms any other message the protesters may be attempting to champion. You would hope that open carry advocates learned from that debacle.
They didn’t learn anything.
The second train wreck took place this past weekend in a pair of parks in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. In a sad display, critics in the on-hand media gloated over the fact that they outnumbered the armed protesters significantly. The rag-tag group of malcontents featured violence-championing militiamen, extras from a casting call for the People of Walmart, and a bizarre activist from California who attempted to merge a Revolutionary War-era replica of a tri-corner hat with SWAT-style paramilitary web gear. It created a display that would have any normal person recoiling in horror. And it did.
Such rallies, featuring a mix of fringe personalities seemingly more interested in getting on camera than appealing to the sensibilities of their fellow citizens, do a great disservice to America’s gun owners. Worse, they reinforce stereotypes of gun owners as part of a potentially violent subculture precisely when it is politically advantageous for our shared political opponents.
As a result of these poorly executed and often dimwitted displays, open carry is now under threat precisely because of how open carry advocates have conducted themselves. A Bakersfield, CA, news story makes that fact painfully clear:
The California Assembly is moving closer to banning gun owners from being able to carry their unloaded weapons openly in public.
Over the last few months there has been an increase in the number of open carry rallies and meetings in Northern California. On Tuesday a committee moved closer to ending such practices.
As concealed carry grows across the country and more Americans adopt shooting sports, the open carry movement alone seems to be moving backward.
Like the aforementioned shooter with his finger in the trigger guard trying to holster his weapon, all these open carry advocates seem to manage is shooting themselves in their own posteriors, time and time again.