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Getting Guns Out Of The Closet

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hide captionAmericans have carried guns in open holsters since frontier days. This revolver dates back to the 1870s.

Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images

Today, the BPP spoke to a leader of the "open carry" gun movement. Followers say it's all about openly displaying guns, where people can see them. John Pierce, founder of OpenCarry.org likens it to the gay rights movement.

"One of the reasons we make that comparison," he says, "is that open carry is really gun ownership coming out of the closet."

Pierce argues that a stigma has attached to gun ownership, which he says is really "a wholesome and responsible activity." If more people understood that, he says, the stigma would go away.

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I must be missing something here. If I saw someone -ANYONE- in public displaying a gun, I would turn around and get as far away from them as possible immediately. I even get nervous when I see guns being carried cops or security guards in public. Can someone explain to me what use a gun has that doesn't involve shooting or threatening to shoot someone?

Sent by Craig | 2:39 PM | 7-2-2008

In response to Craig's post, firearms are commonly openly carried in many states across America and it is legal in the vast majority and becoming more common.

To answer your question, firearms are carried legally by MILLIONS of Americans each day (mostly concealed although this demographic is rapidly changing).

These law-abiding citizens carry for a variety of reasons but all agree that self-defense is a basic human right!

Sent by John Pierce | 2:52 PM | 7-2-2008

When I lived in Colorado Springs, there was a man who attended city council meetings bearing his weapon (post 9-11). Needless to say some council members were uncomfortable about this, and it was a big issue.

Sent by Jeff | 2:57 PM | 7-2-2008

Craig said...
"I even get nervous when I see guns being carried cops or security guards in public."

Some people have aversions to all kinds of lawful behavior. However, we shouldn't make public policy decisions that risk infringing on basic human rights due to the scruples or preferences of others.

There is a large segment of America that feels modern women's fashion trends contribute to deviant behavior and the general decline of morality in society. Should we legislatively ban low-cut dresses or short skirts? Spandex? Halter tops?

The reality of "gun violence" is that the vast majority of annual firearm-related deaths fall into the following categories: criminal on criminal (gang) violence, criminals being shot in the commission of a crime, crminals shooting innocents in the commission of a crime. Accidental or negligent shootings by otherwise law-abiding people are a fraction of the deaths caused by drowning, car accidents, falls from ladders, etc.

Criminals by the very definition of the word, pay no heed to laws already in place against violent acts. There's no reason to think (and no evidence to support) they will act differently even if every gun in the country was banned.

On the other hand, firearms are used tens of thousands of times every single year to defend those who would otherwise become the victim of rape, assault, murder and other violent crimes.

It may offend our modern sensibilities, but the reality is that crime is a much bigger problem today than in the "wild west." Otherwise law-abiding people do not go insane and start off on a shooting rampage the second they strap on a firearm.

Like it or not, guns save lives.

Sent by Bob Cortopassi | 4:08 PM | 7-2-2008

@Craig: "I must be missing something here. If I saw someone -ANYONE- in public displaying a gun, I would turn around and get as far away from them as possible immediately."

I agree completely. The one thing I like about open carry as opposed to concealed is at least you know who the whackos are. Guns multiply the consequences of poor judgment. I don't want to be anywhere close when Mr. Second Amendment has a bad hair day.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:39 PM | 7-2-2008

I would prefer to know that a person is carrying a gun than to not know. However, the great American concept of liability might deter openly carrying. If I were a bar owner, would I want to accept liability for serving a person I know is armed? Do I want to accept liability for how other patrons might react to an armed person in the bar (i.e beer courage?) I have the right to refuse service to anyone. So maybe this policy should be don't ask don't tell.

Sent by amy | 4:45 PM | 7-2-2008

I'm not out to start a flame war here, I promise. I just want to clarify my motivations for making the comments I did... I'm not advocating some universal gun ban, but my comment about law enfocement probably needs elaborating: I have no choice but to trust that when a gun comes with a badge that there is a pledge to uphold the public safty - not just their personal interests. I can trust that. Why I'm supposed to trust anyone else with a gun is where I'm confused.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I'm with 100 people, and a random 50 of them have guns, am I not more likely to be shot than if I'm in a room with 100 people and only one armed officer has a gun?

Sent by Craig | 4:57 PM | 7-2-2008

The gay rights comparison doesn't hold up. Same sex couples seek the right to express their affection in public in the same way that opposite-sex couples do.

Gun owners are seeking the right to do something that non-gun owners don't do at all. It's not analagous.

Sent by Maura | 5:05 PM | 7-2-2008

What is the position of this group on modifying the attitudes of those within the gun community that willingly perpetuate gun-owner sterotypes?

There is an admittedly small but vocal group of gun-owners that are bosth confrontational and perfectally willing to let an open-carry be a threatening gesture.

This is similar to how a small group of willfully antagonistic pit bull owners have placed an unfair stigma on that breed.

It seems to me that action on this level is as important as changing the opinions of the public in general.

Sent by SpotWeld | 6:13 PM | 7-2-2008

@Dave Wiley: "I agree completely. The one thing I like about open carry as opposed to concealed is at least you know who the whackos are."

Are you calling Malcolm X a wacko? Are you saying people who don't carry guns are not wackos?

Now, I don't carry a gun. I don't own a gun. I never will own a gun. I don't feel safe around guns. But that's my issue. For other people, it's different.

For example, my mom's house in Cleveland has a tenant --let's just call him Bill-- who owns a gun, and I thank God that he did. You see, Cleveland Police barged into the house without announcing who they were (technically, that's illegal), carrying a warrant that was for a different house (again, that's illegal). After the police fired around 5 rounds blindly into the house, Bill fired a warning shot out the window. The police backed away from the house and only then announced themselves as police officers and presented the warrant.

Now, the Cleveland Police Department continue to this day to claim that they committed no crime --the house is in a Black neighborhood, so that's par for the course-- but, had Bill not had a gun, he would be dead right now. BTW, Bill is a Korean War veteran. He's many things, but he's not a wacko.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 8:01 PM | 7-2-2008

i suphose spandex halter tops in the hands of criminals could be dangerous...and on the body of a law biding citizen might prove to be useful as a sling shot aimed right between the eyes...in self defense of course....wow, what an amazing analogy...weapons of choice vs. wardrobe of choice...and in case there is any confusion, "dressed to kill" has nothing to do with GUNS...

Sent by janet | 9:25 PM | 7-2-2008

Guns make me nervous, but people who want to display their gun on their person while in public spaces makes me much more nervous. While gun owners may reason that the gun is for protection, I can't help but feel that it is more than anything a symbol of power. Being a Seattleite I must admit that I don't know many gun owners, but the ones I do know, the ones who are proud enough of their gun ownership to actually brag about it to me, are also the people that I would feel the least comfortable with owning a gun- I can't help but stereotype a little bit.

Sent by Sarah L. | 9:51 PM | 7-2-2008

I live in Perth Australia and we seem to get alone fine without guns. I understand the situation in the states is a lot different; the horse has well and truly bolted so getting any kind of meaningful gun reform is next to impossible.

Have your concealed weapons. But open-carry come on, is it really necessary, it not exactly the Wild West these days. The guy in the interview should conceal his piece and quit worrying about his other obviously Napoleon sized piece. There's really no point to prove.

Sent by J Young | 11:02 PM | 7-2-2008

@Matthew C. Scallon: "Are you calling Malcolm X a wacko?"

Wacko is a pejorative shorthand, of course. In this instance I mean someone who is more than usually paranoid, more concerned with their own safety than the safety of all those around them, willing to unnecessarily risk life and limb for a principle, or some combination of the three. A wacko, for short. Other than the famous Life magazine shot, I don't know that Malcom X liked to walk around armed so I wouldn't put him into this camp.

As to Bill, I would say anyone willing to fire a "warning shot" as police, whether they are in the right or not, is a couple of grains short of a full charge. I'm glad it worked out okay for everyone, but this would not be my strategy.

"Are you saying people who don't carry guns are not wackos?"

Assuming the inverse, Mr Scallon? Somewhere your logic professor is softly weeping. :-)

Sent by Dave Wiley | 11:16 PM | 7-2-2008

I live in Alaska where people regularly open carry guns...it does require you to trust people you don't know. It's definately a little scary; but I open carry a gun when hiking in backcountry areas. So I see the need for the individual right to gun ownership but I don't understand the need to open carry in urban communities

Sent by Jessica | 11:53 AM | 7-3-2008

Most of the comments I see here use the common phrase 'feel safe' or 'feel uncomfortable'.

It amazes me that in this day and age that exercise of a constitutionally guaranteed right makes people 'feel uncomfortable'.

Truth be told, watching someone exercise their 1st Amendment right to free speech by burning the American Flag makes me 'feel uncomfortable', yet I would not seek to deter that individual from exercising that right.

Seeing a normal, law-abiding citizen go about their every-day business exercising their right to self-defense does not make me feel 'unsafe' or 'uncomfortable' in the least. It's not the folks openly carrying that need be feared. The 'whackos' as a previous poster so eloquently stated, don't do these things.

People own and bear arms for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their belief that they are responsible for their own well-being and that of their loved ones. The expression of that right should be as free as writing this post.

Sent by ScottW | 12:07 PM | 7-3-2008

They say guns don't kill people, people kill people... Very true - but I can also tell you that the people who tend to carry guns are on average more paranoid of being a victim of criminal behavior than those who do not.

The 2nd ammendment does defend the right of people to own guns... it does NOT protect the rights of people to carry a gun on their hip in public. That is a very debatable topic which can take a number of different courses depending on your personal biases. Just try looking up statistics on gun violence and you are bombarded with varying numbers by both sides of the argument.

I for one would feel much more comfortable around someone who was not carrying a gun. It's common sense people - if you have a gun around the likelyhood that someone is going to be shot increases dramatically... Does that mean it's necessarily wrong to carry a weapon? No, but it does make me want to keep my distance from those who feel it necessary.

And while it may be controversial to say this I agree wholeheartedly with Craig when he says law enforcement officers who carry weapons make him nervous. There are plenty of good and respectable officers out there but there are just as many corrupt or quite frankly stupid ones as well. Do a few months worth of training make you qualified to carry a weapon in public? Possibly but I'm not to keen on being around to find out.

Keep your guns at home and call 911 if there's an emergency... it just makes more sense.

Sent by Dan Kovalcik | 1:11 PM | 7-3-2008

Okay, a bit off topic, but I was wondering what the song was that was used AFTER the interview in the 30 seconds or so until the beginning of the Ramble music... it was a repetitive instrumental with a "bump bump" bass beat coming in around 6 seconds in... any ideas?

Sent by Jack | 8:50 PM | 7-3-2008

@Jack: "Okay, a bit off topic, but I was wondering what the song was that was used AFTER the interview in the 30 seconds or so until the beginning..."

Artist: MIA
Album: Kala
Track: Paper Planes

You can get this stuff from the website for that show: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=47&prgDate=7-2-2008

The tricky part is figuring out which of the three it was. In this case it is a little harder because the sample is not available for streaming and BPP selected one of the few instrumental pieces of the song in question.

And, Jack. This is the internet you know. Next time come back with an outrageous opinion or unsolicited rant. Exchanging useful information on the net is so last century. :-)

Sent by Dave Wiley | 10:19 PM | 7-3-2008

@Dave Wiley: "Assuming the inverse, Mr Scallon? Somewhere your logic professor is softly weeping. :-)"

No, actually, Dr. Stone was a big fan of reductio ad absurdium.

Also, Bill didn't fire at police. He fired a warning shot out a window toward the north. The front door faces west. And, since they didn't identify themselves as police until after the warning sot, he technically wasn't even firing a warning shot at the police. That's the point. Not only do we have to defend ourselves from criminals. Sometimes, those criminals disguise themselves as police. If he didn't carry a gun, the police would have killed him.

As I said before, I'd never carry a gun myself, but I'm glad that people like Bill do.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 1:31 AM | 7-4-2008

Artist: MIA
Album: Kala
Track: Paper Planes
You can get this stuff from the website for that show: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=47&prgDate=7-2-2008

Thanks Dave, with that info I was able to find the MP3 at Amazon.

Sent by Jack | 5:15 PM | 7-4-2008

@Dan Kovalcik:"The 2nd ammendment does defend the right of people to own guns... it does NOT protect the rights of people to carry a gun on their hip in public."
"the right of the people to keep AND BEAR arms shall not be infringed."

Sent by Joshua B. Kellogg | 3:30 AM | 7-5-2008

@ Joshua B. Kellogg...

Actually the full passage states: "A WELL REGULATED MILITIA being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

So if you want to get technical about the wording... A rigid interpretation of the 2nd ammendment doesn't specifically protect individual rights to posess or bear arms unless they are part of a militia...

Furthermore, if you study the history of the 2nd Ammendment you will find that it has been an object of high contention by the Supreme Court since it was originally written. Early on, however, the court decided on the following:

Regarding a meaning of "shall not be infringed", the Supreme Court stated in Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275 (1897),

"The law is perfectly well settled that the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the "Bill of Rights," were not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guaranties and immunities which we had inherited from our English ancestors, and which had, from time immemorial, been subject to certain well recognized exceptions arising from the necessities of the case. In incorporating these principles into the fundamental law, there was no intention of disregarding the exceptions, which continued to be recognized as if they had been formally expressed. Thus, the freedom of speech and of the press (Art. I) does not permit the publication of libels, blasphemous or indecent articles, or other publications injurious to public morals or private reputation; the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Art. II) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons;..."

So I stand by my statement... the 2nd ammendment does not intrinsically guarantee the right to carry a gun on your hip.

Sent by Dan Kovalcik | 5:57 PM | 7-5-2008

Actually, the 2nd amendment does protect an individual's right. "The right of the people....... shall not be infringed" is pretty clear. This was recently decided on by the Supreme Court.

Sent by Notos | 4:50 PM | 7-6-2008

@ Notos - Absolutely Correct.. but they only just recently decided on this and if you read the opinions of the court regarding the "militia" bit ... it was exactly that wording over which they argued.

It's been awhile since I read the opinions but if I recall correctly, there were a few dissentions which actually argued the "only for militias" arguement. (Don't quote me on that though)

Sent by Dan Kovalcik | 9:00 AM | 7-7-2008

Craig said: "Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I'm with 100 people, and a random 50 of them have guns, am I not more likely to be shot than if I'm in a room with 100 people and only one armed officer has a gun?"

By this logic, when you walk onto a car dealership lot, your chances of being run over increase exponentially.

Sent by D. Fense | 1:49 PM | 7-8-2008

@D. Fense: your analogy is really lame. I suppose it would work if you were talking about being in a gun shop, but we aren't here. The better analogy is being in a parking lot with a bunch of teen drivers screeching around corners. I'd rather be a pedestrian with one such driver in the lot than with 100.

Sent by Marc Naimark | 8:23 AM | 7-9-2008

The guest was quite "interesting". Why might it be that this visibly armed dude never gets complaints to his face about that gun he's wearing? Can't imagine why that would be...

And somehow a guy with a mask over his face is scarier in a bank than a GUY CARRYING A GUN. Sorry for shouting.

Sent by Marc Naimark | 8:25 AM | 7-9-2008

@Dan Kovalcik
re: Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275 (1897)
"the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Art. II) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons"
Operative word: CONCEALED
It has long been accepted that concealed carry may be regulated to insure only those trusted individuals would be allowed. All others would be required to carry openly, thereby alerting law enforcement and the general public to the increased risk.

Incidently, I keep reading of individuals who are "more comfortable' if firearms are concealed. Concealment is what has lead to this condition. As 'open carry' fell out of fashion and social acceptance, the general populace became sensitized to sight of firearms. The only way they will become desensitized is through exposure.

Michael J Welker Jr

Sent by Michael J Welker Jr | 6:35 PM | 7-20-2008

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