Open Carry in the Kids' Library?

There is a temporary restraining order action currently active against Michigan Open Carry, Inc. for a series of open carry demonstrations that took place at the Lansing, Michigan, downtown public library. Members carried rifles and handguns -- not just into the library, but into the children’s section of the library.

I have spent much of the last twenty-five years defending the right to keep and bear arms -- and I have been a significant player in making this an intellectually defensible position in the courts. I know that not everyone agrees with me, and even those who agree that there is a right to carry a gun for self-defense start to get downright weak in the knees when you have someone carrying a shotgun over his shoulder into a library.

It seems that in our political system, the pendulum, having once swung way too far one direction, just has to swing too far in the other direction.

Twenty years ago, the gun control crazies looked sure to eventually achieve all their goals, including house-to-house searches to confiscate all existing handguns and many rifles. Many gun control advocates did not support such extreme measures. But the extremists on their side were just cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Gun control is now such an unfashionable idea that most Democrats run from it. But today the other extremists show an utter inability to understand how crazy they sound -- and act.

You are probably aware that in the vast majority of American states, concealed handgun licenses are now easy to get, as long as you do not have a felony conviction, a recent violent misdemeanor conviction, or a mental illness history. In most American states, it is also legal to openly carry a firearm on your person.

In Arizona, and a few other Western states, open carry of handguns in cities is remarkable but not terribly shocking. In most of the country, it is a bit surprising or worse. Even people who are generally pro-gun do not like to see guns in cities, except on uniformed police officers and security guards. Yes, this is an irrational convention, because so many Americans have concealed carry permits. (Just because you do not see that someone is armed does not mean that they aren't.)  But it is a convention nonetheless -- rather like the one that says it's bad manners to show your genitals in public even though everyone's got a set.

The open carry movement has two goals: one, to persuade state legislatures to repeal existing laws banning open carry; two, to “normalize” open carry. I have sympathy with the first goal, for several reasons. One is that situations come up where a person may need to be armed, and yet may not qualify for a concealed handgun license -- perhaps because they are only 19 or 20, and most states require you to be at least 21.