Long gun protests are counter-productive because they antagonize through an implied threat of violence, whether the threat is intended or imagined. In most cases, adding long guns to protests against gun control is nothing more than flamboyant punctuation of our indignation. The media’s fake moral outrage and the public angst over spree killings manifested against guns has rightly fired up most gun owners. With the NRA, GOP, and Trump turning their backs on us, it feels like no one is fighting for the one right that protects them all. The gains of the past two decades seem to be slipping away through our fingers.
All of us are angry. Righteous indignation can produce a lot of good results, but blindly reacting to these protests in haste is only destructive to our side. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel as if a sufficient quantity of moral indignation will sway the arguments and undecided minds in our favor. It is satisfying to proclaim to the world that we will defend our right to bear arms with our lives, if necessary. We can show the misguided and deceptive that we feel as vehemently over our side of the debate as they do, but willing to make the final sacrifice for liberty’s greater good. But we’re preaching to the choir.
Implied by the long guns in our rallies is the very fact we will resist gun confiscation by force. Demonstrations of resolve work to wear down an opponent who is unwilling or unable to overcome the resistance the other poses. It’s usually non-violent and political in nature, something the anti-gunners are winning at. The mushy hearts and minds unable to fathom defending themselves against tyrant or teen killer are scared by angry men with guns.
Facing off with long guns against deluded and naïve gun control supporters is counter-productive because it subconsciously sends the message “We’ll kill you too.” These hoplophobes and hoplopaths take the implied threat personally. Media and the gun control apparatus exploits the imagery of AR-15s, Gadsden flags, and “come and take it” signs as support for their argument that gun owners are dangerous. The ignorant and ill-informed take away that impression because it is an overreaction to what is nothing more than the misguided expression of grief, fear, and a desire to end senseless violence.
We are seen as unreasonable; these children are protesting for their safety, and we’re showing up with rifles? We must remember the people in the middle aren’t aware of what’s behind these astroturf protests and walk-outs. They are unable to see the connection of exploitation of the tragedy to push “assault weapon” bans and more. By standing off across from the with rifles, we become the threat to them. Like it or not, the weapons that have been demonized are seen as not a guarantee of freedom, but tools threatening death to them.
From time to time, long gun carrying groups hold open carry protests outside of state legislatures or local government offices, usually in response to gun control measures. The implication in these protests is that the rifles the participants are shouldering could easily be turned against legislators. The message is: “If you try to take away our guns, we will resist you and kill you with these very guns.” It is a subtle and indirect threat that the ultimate power of the people, as our forefathers exercised and intended to preserve for us, is to resist and remove an abusive government.
For gun owners, long gun protests only work if the other side can be persuaded by what is essentially an implied threat of armed violence—usually the government. The sheep holding signs and wearing orange don’t see a message of resolve the same way a politician in the statehouse sees hundreds or thousands of armed citizens on the lawn. Legislators know they can be voted out or worse, should they ignore the will of the people. For moms, students, and snowflakes, long gun counter-protests don’t persuade, they polarize the same way someone asking to have a conversation about “common sense gun laws” polarizes us.
Both groups at these events are like a married couple yelling at each other over their relationship. The messages being sent to the other side are contradictory and totally ignore what the other side is trying to say. What goes ignored is the subconscious reasons both sides are there; anti-gunners expressing moral outrage over violence (directed towards guns) and gun owners expressing their opposition to more gun control. It’s an exercise in satisfying the need to act out loud and in public to express inner turmoil—sometimes it feels good to tell the other guy off. But neither group is listening to each other.
Two messages are being sent and neither is on the same wavelength. “Do something about all this violence,” often manifested as “more gun control, now!” because politicians and the media portray guns as the sole cause and solution of mass killings. Gun owners are saying “We resist you and your support/proposal for more gun control!” with the unstated insinuation being “…by violence, if necessary.”
I’m against the idea of any sort of counter-protest now. Why validate the other side (in their own minds) at all? By showing up to their usually underwhelming victim-disarmament celebrations, we send the message that they’re getting under our skin or that they must be doing something right if those gun nuts show up. We have to stop reacting to them and make them react to us. Gun owners have to get out of the feel-good mindset of counter-protesting and hitting the enemy in ways they don’t expect and can’t counter. For instance, where are the discounts on CCW classes or range time for teachers? We’ve got more than enough vets, servicemen, and cops on our side.
But it worked in Texas! Well it didn’t in California. In Texas, long gun open carry rallies, protests, and walks were generally done to show how idiosyncratic it was that Texas allowed long gun open carry but prohibited unconcealed holstered handguns. The rifles and shotguns had a direct connection to the message being sent; not a superfluous and colorful addition that convinces no one of anything they didn’t already believe.
For the public who was unaware of the debate and before media coverage of the phenomenon was widespread, the sight of men and women carrying, and slinging rifles was startling. Some were alarmed and alienated by behavior, as the intense pressure from groups like Moms Demand Action showed. Negative media coverage harmed open carry in Texas.
Open Carry Texas and similar groups did not win open carry for Texas; licensed open carry was passed in spite of the rifle-toters by the work of extremely dedicated lobbyists who convinced legislators that handgun open carry was not a threat to Texans. If the long gun open carry activists did anything to gain handgun open carry, it was creating a desire to end their silly antics.
Malevolent hoplopaths organizing anti-gun protests and their true believers are the enemy, but the drones duped into the crowd are not fully aware of the consequences of the proposed actions. Children, indoctrinated in public schools, and the poorly informed public are swayed by a biased media that salivates over the photo-op of a lifetime. They see a man with a rifle and see a threat that further alienates them from our side. Their minds will never be changed if gun owners play into the stereotypes that they are fed.