It has often been said that, as open carriers, we are ambassadors of the firearms community. I believe this to be true, and as such we should present ourselves in the best possible light. But it seems lately we have become more than ambassadors: we have become targets.
We have become targets of the Bloomberg-backed Demanding Moms who pursue their misinformed, misguided, and misdirected efforts to pressure owners to ban open carry from their businesses.
Shannon Watts, the president of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA), has been hailed by the Left as one of the top women effecting change in America. MDA has persuaded some businesses to ask gun owners not to carry in their stores, although the businesses have stated that it is just a request, not a mandate, and that they will not ask anyone to leave. Other stores such as Staples and Kroger have refused to bend to the Demanding Moms wishes, going so far as to kick them off of their premises on a few occasions.
Secondly, we have become targets for the deranged who will stop at nothing to harm open carriers.
Some MDA supporters have advocated “SWATing” open carriers. That is, they have publicly advocated making false 911 calls saying “armed robbery in progress” when they see an openly carried firearm. Rabid anti-gun radio host Mike Malloy has said on his radio show that he will yell, make false claims, call 911, and hope the gun carrier gets killed by the police when he or she exits the store.
And sadly, in some cases we have become targets of law enforcement, largely due to actions of members of the first two groups.
A loss prevention employee of a Las Vegas, NV, Costco noticed a concealed carrier’s gun when he bent down to retrieve an item and asked the carrier to leave the store. Erik Scott, the licensed carrier, West Point graduate, and military vet, spoke with the manager and obtained permission to stay in the store and check out as he had finished his shopping and was ready to leave. But the loss prevention store employee escalated the situation and called the police anyway, despite the manager having given permission for Scott to stay, claiming Scott was acting “erratically.” A few minutes later, Scott lay dead outside the store, having been killed by the police as he was walking to his car.
More recently a shopper in a Beavercreek, OH, Walmart called 911 and reported that a man was holding a rifle, had loaded it in the store, and was pointing it at shoppers, including children. None of this was true. The security video shows that a man had picked up an unboxed air-powered Crossman BB/pellet rifle—not a firearm—and never “loaded a magazine with rounds” nor pointed it at anyone. In fact, the man was simply standing idle talking on his cell phone the entire time. However, that didn’t stop police from entering the store on high alert and shooting John Crawford to death. Ronald Ritchie, the 911 caller, later retracted his statements and said he never told the 911 operator those things, even though we have the actual 911 audio of him saying those things.
A couple of weeks ago, Michigan Open Carry member Josh Wade lawfully wore his openly carried pistol to an Ann Arbor high school choir concert his sister was participating in. While most attendees either didn’t notice or didn’t care that Mr. Wade was armed, one attendee escalated the situation by standing on a theater box, loudly announcing to all that Mr. Wade was carrying a firearm. I will note here that Mr. Wade had previously carried to his sister’s choir recital at the school in the fall without incident.
During the public comment period at an Ann Arbor school board meeting following the event, one parent claimed that if he ever witnessed a similar incident he would also “create as much of a ruckus as I can,” while another Ann Arbor resident said that gun carriers were only law abiding because they hadn’t yet become a criminal. One parent even went so far as to state that “there is no place for guns in our society.” Yes, all guns should be outlawed.
In testimony before the Maryland State Senate last week, Maryland State Police Commander Jack McCauley stated that the average experience of a police officer in the state of Maryland is 18 months. While I’m sure this number varies somewhat from state to state, it’s something to keep in mind when encountering law enforcement. If called by the public, we may not meet officers or deputies with decades of experience, and the disposition and attitude that age and experience bring. It has been widely reported, and anecdotally confirmed in my conversations with law enforcement in many states, that police today are not being trained like they used to be, and that the mindset of new officers is often different than that of more seasoned law enforcement veterans.
As a result of his lawful actions and public comments, Mr. Wade has received death threats. It goes without saying that, as firearms owners and gun carriers, we should be circumspect in our actions, and I think the overwhelming majority of gun owners are. While I as well as many other open carriers have never had a bad experience with the public or law enforcement, we need to be cognizant of the fact that there are those who would make false claims against us, and the subsequent police response that might ensue.
Those who carry guns do so for self-defense and the defense of loved ones. We should keep in mind that there are those who seek to strip us of our unalienable right to defend ourselves, and will do anything in their power to do so. As Mr. Wade can testify, being well dressed and well behaved will not necessarily prevent us from being a target of their misplaced fear and hatred.