Gun-rights advocates going too far    

By David Lewis

       Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

       This bit of common sense seems lost on the people who have been parading around recently with rifles strapped to their backs.

       Until the members of Open Carry Texas and its offshoots started walking into restaurants and other places with rifles and assault weapons, most people were unaware that carrying long guns in public is perfectly legal in Texas.

       It may be legal, but whether it’s a good idea is another question.

       So who are these people? The members of Open Carry Texas want to change state law to allow handguns to be carried in the open rather than concealed as required by current law. Since Texas law allows long guns to be carried in the open, the open-carry advocates are making a spectacle of themselves to prove a point.

       Open Carry Texas lists its four-point “mission” on its website:

       •To educate Texans about their right to openly carry 
rifles and shotguns in a safe manner.

       •To condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding 
citizens that choose to carry them.

       •Encourage our elected officials to pass less restrictive 
open carry legislation.

       •Foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement 
in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters.

       That all sounds well and good. But I suspect there are a lot of people who don’t want to be “conditioned” to the sight of people wandering around with guns — which could, after all, lead to “negative encounters.”

       Just ask the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is the NRA’s lobbying arm, about Open Carry Texas’ tactics. The NRA-IRA weighed in on the situation in an essay entitled “Good Citizens and Good Neighbors: The Gun Owners’ Role.” The essay, which was posted on the NRA-IRA’s website on May 30, criticizes parading around with rifles in public as counterproductive and dangerous.

       In part, the essay says: “To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary,” the NRA-ILA said in its statement. “It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”

       The essay also refers to the open carry demonstrations as “downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself.  It also says the practice “is just not neighborly, which is out of character for the big-hearted residents of Texas.”

       “We think people are intelligent enough to resolve these issues in a reasonable way for themselves,” the NRA-ILA said in the essay. “But when people act without thinking or without consideration for others — especially when it comes to firearms — they set the stage for further restrictions on our rights. Firearm owners face enough challenges these days; we don’t need to be the victims of friendly fire.”

       Open Carry Texas responded by calling the NRA “irrelevant.” Yeah, right.

       When you walk into your favorite restaurant or stop by the neighborhood grocery store, it’s very possible that you will be interacting with someone who is carrying a gun. Thousands of responsible gun owners hold concealed weapons permits in Texas, and there have been few of the problems that were predicted when permits became available years ago. 

       But keeping a firearm hidden from view for self-defense is one thing. Toting an assault weapon around is quite another.

       Almost every day, we read about another mass shooting somewhere. So what are people going to think when someone walks into a restaurant with a gun? Some businesses are asking the open-carry advocates to leave their guns at home.

       The Second Amendment protects our right to keep and bear arms. But in this day and age, it’s just common sense to not parade around with a gun in public — even if you can.

       David Lewis is editor and publisher of The Post-Signal. He welcomes comments at