Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dissidents carry openly to a political event, act responsibly, and don't even shoot anyone: if you have the press's prejudices, this is newsworthy.

Update: "Chris" is exactly who I think he is, a libertarian-leaning paleocon, affiliated with We are Change.

By now you've probably heard that at least twelve people exercised their right to openly carry firearms to one of the satellite demonstrations associated with President Obama's Monday Morning visit to Phoenix. Somehow, if gun owners carry openly and have the gall to act civilized and not even shoot anyone with whom they disagree, it's national news. It flies in the face of everything reporters, editors, and the still-anti-RKBA establishment expect from gun owners.

A few remarks:
  • I'm 95% certain that "Chris", the man carrying the AR-15, is someone I know. If he is who I think he is, I'll try to get him to answer a few questions here. No guarantees, but don't be surprised if you see something about it here. And if he is who I think he is, he's a levelheaded, well-spoken professional, the sort you'd want to be carrying.

  • Reports of an "assault rifle" are exaggerations, a manifestation of reporter ignorance. "Semiautomatic assault rifle" is a glaring contradiction. "Assault is a behavior", or so the mantra goes, but we have to acknowledge that "assault rifle" is a class of infantry weapon. By definition it is selective-fire. AR-15 rifles that are both assault rifles and legally ownable by private individuals (i.e. not licensed firearms manufacturers or police departments) are very rare.

    Note that the M16, which is the military assault rifle version of the AR-15, was designed based on studies of real combat in WWII and made for closer combat than the M1 Garand, which, by the way, isn't an assault rifle (confused yet?). If one wanted to assassinate the President, far better choices of weapon exist, and could be obtained from Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop. None of these necessarily fall into the political scare category of "assault weapons"--which aren't assault rifles, either--except by choice of magazine or if someone chooses a folding stock. A folding stock would, by the way, make it less appropriate for assassinating the President.

    I'm still of the opinion that all reporters who might end up covering a story such as this should be required by their employers to both go shooting and be familiarized with firearms.

  • It's not very often that police conduct is remarkably good. In this case, the Phoenix PD or Maricopa County sheriff's deputies--it's not clear who was involved--are to be commended. Rather than caving in to obvious demands to arrest or remove those exercising their right to open carry, on invented "disorderly conduct" or some other excuse, they merely explained the law to complainers. Classy. Very classy. Contrast this with the abuse and occasional assault open carriers have faced in other parts of the country.

  • Many commentators (here's a representative example) have leapt to the conclusion that those carrying openly at this event must have been doing so to intimidate others. With no evidence whatsoever, they have slandered these men and women by declaring their intent malicious. It's true that some others present may have felt intimidated, but that B feels intimidated by A does not mean that A is out to intimidate B. It's also possible that B's feeling of intimidation is due to some defect of B's thinking. Hoplophobia, for example.

    Note that there were no reports of menacing conduct by any of the 12 carriers! That someone else is merely visibly armed is not grounds for feeling intimidated, that is, unless one would otherwise have physically attacked those who are armed. If they were brandishing the weapons or threatening to shoot people over the content of their speech, that would be different. Short of that, any feeling of intimidation is irrational, especially given that (legally or not) anyone in the crowd could be concealing a weapon!

  • For the benefit of readers from out of state, it's worth noting that open carry is a common form of political expression in AZ. It's especially common at Bill of Rights Day and Independence Day parties. If an Arizonan is afraid of mere open carry it is a sign that said Arizonan doesn't get out much--that his social circle is so limited (he's probably a far leftist who only associates with far leftists!) that he hasn't encountered peaceful open carry, and possibly, given that in every crowded public place in Arizona except the universities it's likely that someone is carrying, either openly or concealed, that he is deranged. Open carry and concealed carry are both so common in Arizona that anyone afraid of mere carry is either ridiculously sheltered or deranged or both.

    There's an old, silly argument, that used to be part of ACLU policy--those days are long gone, and ACLU-AZ now explicitly acknowledges RKBA as a civil liberty--that the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and those guaranteed by the Second are incompatible. In Arizona we know that empirically to be false, from years of evidence. There's no better illustration of that than today's events. People carry, openly, to an event where others can be emotional, over a perhaps irreconcilable difference of opinion on public policy--it'll be reconcilable when the "public option" crew learns some economics so we can have a reasonable discussion on fair and reasonable terms--and nothing bad comes of it. (Perhaps the police presence had something to do with it--keeping the hoplophobes from trying to do something stupid to the guys who are carrying!)

    But sometimes, too, carry is itself an act of political expression. In the U.S.A., and foreigners I've met have difficulty understanding this until they learn quite a lot about our history and our political culture, the two are intimately related.

  • I'm not going to write too much about the semiotics of open carry in a free society, at least not right now, because I do not wish to speak for the demonstrators. But I'll throw this idea out there. In recent weeks, opponents to the Democrats' crowd-out plan for health care have been assaulted by union goons at "town hall" meetings at least twice, the worst of this incident being the beating outside a St. Louis "town hall" meeting of button vendor Kenneth Gladney, including kicks while he was on the ground, at the hands of one SEIU official and at least two members of the union wearing union t-shirts.

    In light of this, open carry to one of these events is a way of saying "bullying is off the table." That's not the only possible meaning, and it may not be why the group of 12 was carrying in Phoenix yesterday morning.

    Given the strange racialist nature of the Gladney incident--Gladney was the target of a Black minister/union organizer's rage because he was Black--at least one person among the dozen carrying openly may have wished to make an especially strong statement. I don't like to identify people by their ethnicity/"race" on Goldwater State as I believe strongly that this is something we need to move beyond, but it might be relevant that the gentleman who was carrying the AR-15 is also Black.

It isn't often that responsible conduct by gun owners gets covered in the mainstream, popular news. I'd say I'm enjoying the coverage, but they're trying so very hard to demonize this peaceful conduct--and this is the same popular press which glorifies left-wing protest--that it's painful.

Remarks? Think I'm way off on this one? Have any peculiar insight? Leave a comment. Traffic from Blog For Arizona is welcome. As usual, anonymity is highly discouraged. And if you say something silly, including referring to me as a right-winger or a Republican or something similar, I'll gladly call your ridiculous assumptions ridiculous and otherwise deserving of ridicule.

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