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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

NRA In Gunfight With Open Carry Texas

 Happiness is a Warm Gun?

Guns, guns, and more guns -- conceal and carry, open carry -- is there really much difference in the manner in which weapons are toted into public? Who can say how many people in mass can assemble in public and openly carry large rifles? It seems the NRA thinks this is "bad manners" although it doesn't speak against throngs openly carrying handguns.

The National Rifle Association has fight on its hands – and this time it is calling out a fellow gun-rights group for being too extreme. Read that again... "for being too extreme."

"The NRA last Friday posted a 1,400-word unsigned column urging a group called Open Carry Texas to lay off its publicity stunts during which owners of large rifles tote them near and inside stores and restaurants. The nation’s largest gun-rights organization called the carrying of large rifles in public spaces 'downright weird' and said the Texas group puts all gun owners’ rights at risk with their actions."

 It seems recently Open Carry Texas demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns. The advocates' actions in public places -- part of a push for less restrictive gun laws, including legalizing the open carry of handguns in Texas -- have prompted public criticism.

Open Carry Texas said: 

“'The NRA has refused to learn for themselves how Open Carry Texas conducts itself other than what the liberal media and (former New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg funded gun control extremists have falsely portrayed,' Open Carry Texas posted to its Facebook page. 'The more the NRA continues to divide its members by attacking some aspects of gun rights instead of supporting all gun rights, the more support it will lose.'” 

(Reid J. Epstein. "NRA Splits With Open Carry Texas Amid Chipotle Beef." 
The Wall Street Journal. June 02, 2014)  

The NRA expressed its view by saying:

"Now we love AR-15s and AKs as much as anybody, and we know that these sorts of semiautomatic carbines are among the most popular, fastest selling firearms in America today. Texas, independent-minded and liberty-loving place that it is, doesn’t ban the carrying of loaded long guns in public, nor does it require a permit for this activity. Yet some so-called firearm advocates seem determined to change this ....

"Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners. That’s not the Texas way. And that’s certainly not the NRA way.”

Unlicensed open carry of handguns is legal in about half the U.S. states, and it is relatively common and uncontroversial in some places. Yet, while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.

Although Texas has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, openly carrying handguns there remains illegal. Long guns like rifles can be carried openly but must be done so in a way that does not cause alarm. But gun holders can be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone around them feels threatened.

The activists' demonstrations, while peaceful, have upset some witnesses.

Sonic, Chipotle, and Chili's joined Starbucks, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, and Applebee's in banning firearms from their premises after protests by Open Carry Texas.

What is troubling to me is the nature of the dispute between the National Rifle Association and Open Carry Texas. The argument seems to be purely political in nature.

The NRA contends "the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause can be downright scary" while saying "it makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates."

The obvious NRA objection is that Open Carry Texas will hurt the cause of gun rights advocates that comprise their membership. It is "scary" to the NRA not in respect to the potential harm and loss of innocent human life but in respect to losing political support for their own cause. 

Come on now, folks -- the name of the organization is the National RIFLE Association. Should they change the name of the group to the National Handgun Association as it defends open carry of handguns, not rifles?

The NRA knows radical demonstrations aren't likely to attract much support for gun rights causes or pro-firearm candidates come November's midterm elections, thus the group rebuked the behavior of what it categorized as an "attention-hungry few."

"I personally am an endowment lifetime member of the NRA and an inductee into the Golden Eagles program," C.J. Grisham, president of "Open Carry Texas," told a CBS News Dallas affiliate. "And I will rip up my cards and burn my certificates on camera if they don't change their stance."

"What they're doing is caving into a national gun control effort to denounce us, and it's working," Grisham said. "I've encouraged them to come out and see for themselves what our rallies are like instead of listening to the media narrative at the national level, and they've refused to do so. The NRA is really talking out of ignorance."

Terry Holcomb, Sr., president of "Texas Carry," took his response a step further, suggesting an ouster of people like NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who's largely become the face of the organization  in recent years.

(Lindsey Boerma. "Texas Open-carry Gun Groups Threaten to Leave NRA." 
CBS News. June 3, 2014)

It's a gunfight. And you can be sure all of this will bring new dialogue to views whether guns are evil, whether people need to hide guns, whether the Second Amendment still applies, and whether... whether... whether... ad nauseam.

Still, some optimists believe more than politics is involved in the controversy.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America that is now part of Everytown, a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities, said that the NRA attack on the Texas open carry campaign was “extraordinary. This hasn’t happened before – that extremists have pushed the NRA so far that they’ve had to weigh in against them.”

Watts said that there were signs of what she called a “new softening” in NRA attitudes, not just towards the contentious tactics being displayed in Texas. She pointed out that in the past year five states have passed legislation designed to keep guns out of the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence, and for the first time the NRA had remained silent on the issue having previously opposed such reforms.

(Ed Pilkington. "NRA Calls Open Carry Texas Activist Demonstrations 'Weird' and 'Scary.'" 
The Guardian. June 03, 2014)

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