Monday, May 31, 2010

Jim March Responds to Bread and Beyond Open Carry Hysteria

As the Arizona Daily Star tries to push the public outrage over citizens exercising their right to "open carry", we at the Intercept present a point of view that counters the push to disarm the public. Enjoy!
I was one of the attendees at the last open carry dinner at Beyond
Bread in Tucson. There's a fair chance you noticed me, as it's rather
uncommon to carry a replica 1873 Colt "Peacemaker" single action
revolver and even less common to carry one with a holster bearing a
prominent yin-yang symbol. This was mainly a way to divorce myself
from the common stereotype of the "right wing Christian Conservative
gun nut".


Where do we start...

OK. Us "gun nuts" fully understand that we're a minority view - esp.
those of us who tend to pack daily, be it open carry or on a carry
concealed weapon (CCW) permit. The vast majority of the people at
that dinner (myself included) have CCW permits and mostly pack

We exist, we're fully legal, and the statistics from our behavior in
AZ and the other 40-ish states where we legally exist show that we're
not criminal threats to anybody. How you "feel" about us is one
thing, the facts of the matter are another.

You should be aware of a very, VERY firm rule we have for such events,
whether there's just one of us or hundreds: no gun comes out of a
holster, no holster comes off a belt. Period. Unless we're actually
threatened with deadly force and on a night like that? Heh. Pretty
unlikely :).

OK. So why were we there?

Three reasons which I'll explain in detail:

1) Hanging out with friends while "being ourselves".

2) Making sure that open-carry doesn't become a "police thing only" in
terms of either law or culture.

3) Acclimating our fellow citizens to the idea that yeah, there's
armed citizens among you, get used to it because it's our civil right.

Let's talk about 1 and 3 together. Where do you think we got the idea
of being "public" like that?


Quoting wikipedia:

On March 20, 1990, sixty LGBT people gathered at the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in New York's
Greenwich Village to create a direct action organization. The goal of
the unnamed organization was the elimination of homophobia, and the
increase of gay, lesbian and bisexual visibility through a variety of

The direct-action group's inaugural action took place at Flutie's Bar,
a straight hangout at the South Street Sea Port on April 13, 1990. The
goals included a desire to make it clear to (straight) patrons that
queers would not be restricted to gay bars for socializing and for
public displays of affection, and to call attention to the fact that
most "public" space was in fact heterosexual space. Through parodying
straight behavior (such as "spin the bottle") at these events, queers
refused to be invisible while publicly questioning the naturalized
status of heterosexual coupling activity. Visibility actions like this
one became known as "Queer Nights Out."


Yup. I shit you not: we're coming "out of the gun closet" :).

Look, people have a basic urge to be themselves, and to not live their
lifestyle in hiding. Which is why gays come out of the closet a lot.

Why would you expect "gun nuts" to be any different?

More to the point, how is your discomfort at seeing folks strapped
really any different than prissy folks at a "straight bar" being
revolted by gays holding hands and tastefully kissing now and again?

There's no violence either way. There's no difference in "violence
level" between guns concealed or open carry for that matter. What's
different is perception.

Which varies over time. Gays are proof - 30 years ago in Tucson, any
two gays kissing in public would likely be arrested for disturbing the
peace, if they didn't get beaten to a pulp by law enforcement. Today?
Not so much.

Well if it works for them...?

Point 2 involves police attitudes and the law. See, if we don't have
an open carry right that's both legally and practically respected, we
end up with the situation in Texas, Florida and elsewhere in which
*accidental* exposure of our hardware gets us arrested and our carry
rights stripped away. One breeze catching a jacket and we're hosed.
And if some in law enforcement get their way, that's where we'll go -
because some cops see their open-carried gun (usually with a belt
badge worn next to it if they're plainclothes or off-duty) as "their
thing" - as a symbol of police authority. And they hate the idea of
sharing that symbolism with non-cops like me.

In a lot of states, open carry is technically legal but brings massive
police harassment, false arrest and sometimes even beatings.
Michigan, Wisconsin and Connecticut are all notorious for this sort of
thing, with frequent civil suits by gunnies falsely arrested or
harassed. Arizona doesn't have this problem YET but to keep it from
cropping up, we need to make sure that legal open carry is at least
slightly practiced and known.

Rights are like muscles - exercise 'em or lose 'em.

The goal is NOT to scare or offend people. We realize it may have
that effect sometimes, and we regret that. But we also have at least
as much right to exist and practice our beliefs as gays do, so we've
borrowed a major page from the playbook of "ACT-UP" and the like.

I know that connection is downright weird but it happened because
there's a younger, more Libertarian crowd of gunnies, some of whom are
actually gay, others like me who support gay rights, who have created
this admittedly bizarre cross-pollination of political action
techniques. Not to mention the Pink Pistols, literally the "Gay NRA":

In conclusion, I'm reminded of a conversation famous among us gunnies:

Anti-gunner: "why don't you damned gun nuts go off and form your own
country where you can all be armed any time you want!!!"

Gunnie: "we did - what the hell are you doing here?!"


Jim March

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