05 February 2015

"Open Carry" or Only in America

On facebook today, I received and declined the opportunity to support an "Open Carry" law in Texas. Declining the request was fairly easy: I live in Illinois. So this argument, in this legislature, is simply not my fight. None-the-less, I began to think about the subject.

Open carry is based on the idea that the Second Amendment grants every adult American the right to be armed. So, everyone has the right, so the argument goes, to carry a firearm, as long as it is not concealed. "Open Carry" laws recognize that right, and prohibit the State from interfering with it.

This is where my English and South American friends reach escape velocity incredulity. Yes, that is really what I am talking about here. The idea is that all citizens are part of the State's, "well-regulated militia" that may be armed, and specifically with clearly visible weapons.

Reactive fire, that is responding to an attack, is a police nightmare. Policing agencies spend many hours, and a good bit of money training using "good guy - bad guy" images to teach officers when to fire and at which targets. Open carry makes the job harder. The police may not assume that an armed person may be a legitimate target if almost anyone may have a holster or shoulder carrier with a gun in clear view.

It gets worse. If you have a shooting incident, and some of the civilians are armed, they may decide (especially in a panic situation) to deploy and possibly fire the weapons they are carrying. The potential for chaos, stampede, and accidental casualties is huge. And now the police have to try to distinguish between well-intentioned citizens and the criminals.

So where do I come down on open carry? I think it is a bad idea. But what I think may not matter much. Here in Illinois, and in a number of other States, "strict constructionist" conservative jurists have been forcing States to accept what advocates call, "gun owner's rights" based on the Second Amendment. So, even in States where the polity does not particularly want an armed society, we are getting one.

Among the great American myths is the frontier. When the society was too constraining, be it England, France, Germany, Ireland, Boston, New York, or even St. Louis, the frontier myth says it is time to move on. Lerner and Lowe captured the feeling in their Musical, "Paint Your Wagon." When it is time to move on, one paints the wagon, loads the essentials, harnesses the mules, and moves along. We have become much too settled a nation for that now, or have we?

The lunatics have captured a good part of the asylum. Congress is completely dysfunctional, the idiots are refusing to vaccinate kids, and theocrats have captured the public face of what was once Christianity. Maybe it is time to paint the wagon. I am old, way too old to start over. But none-the-less, I have been reading up on how to manage mules.

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