In 1967, Black Panthers in California began openly carrying around (primarily) the Oakland area. This was their response to police and often engaged in events, with openly carried weapons, to intimidate law enforcement. This culminated in the Panthers literally storming the state capitol in Sacramento and barging onto the floor of the Legislature. As a result of these activities, California banned loaded open carry in incorporated cities under the Mulford Act, effective 1986.
In the late 2000s to 2010, open carry saw a resurgence nationally. At this time, unloaded open carry was permissible within California incorporated cities. Precisely because activists practiced unloaded open carry, the state banned it, creating a plethora of exemptions so innocently transporting a gun wasn’t accidentally criminalized. Today, in urban areas of the Golden State, the only way to legally carry a loaded firearm for self-defense outside one’s home or business is while immediately engaged in self-defense or making a citizen’s arrest.
California’s method of unlicensed carry (only after you’re in danger) bears striking resemblance to post-Civil War Tennessee. In Tennessee, it was permissible only to carry an Army or Navy revolver (weapons issued and used by the military) openly in the hand. This was not meant to encourage people to walk around carrying their guns—an unquestionable provocative act—but to allow for legitimate self-defense in an emergency.
Richmond, Virginia, passed an ordinance that would ban firearms at any event, permitted or not, and applies to public areas like streets and sidewalks. Such an ordinance is clearly unconstitutionally broad. Some have argued that banning firearms at protests is permissible because the First Amendment guarantees the right to “peaceably” assemble and cite various state statutes that outlaw firearms on picket lines.
Oddly enough, the 12,000 or so gun owners who showed up bearing legally registered machine guns and destructive devices to the pro-gun rally in Richmond did so totally peacefully. Rather, it has been at Leftist “protests” (read riots) and events where murders, shootings, and negligent discharges have occurred. Even during the 2013-2015 open carry kerfuffle in Texas, the open carry events remained peaceful.
It is not the conservative gun owners gathering in public that anyone has to fear. Rather, it is the rioters, the race baiters, and the communist Leftists with guns, often concealed, that are the danger to public safety. And even now, the Left has remained remarkably restrained as to firearms, preferring to use lasers and other improvised weapons.
From Nevada to Virginia, politicians have maligned openly carrying conservative (or non-Leftist, freedom loving citizens) as terrorists for exercising their right to assemble peaceably while armed. Democrats love to ignore the behavior of their side while slandering conservatives as terrorists. Nevada Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui did all she could recently to compare peaceful gun owners who show up to protests with their guns to the weirdos, wackos, and outright criminals who have taken advantage of the Left-inspired unrest to cause trouble.
Open carry faces a new challenge. In the early days of the movement, open carry was called “suicidal” because someone may snatch the gun; gun snatches from armed citizens are extremely rare and uncommon. No open carrier has been “shot first” by a criminal. Self-defense gurus poo-pooed open carry because it might make other citizens nervous. Over the years, all those myths and empty fears have been disarmed by polite, dedicated open carriers.
The new challenge open carry faces is merely an old one; the government. As violence climbed in the years after the Civil War (mostly in the South and the West), carrying concealed weapons was increasingly outlawed and harshly punished. As a result, carrying a weapon for self-defense was so stigmatized that it became an uncommon practice. For legal as well as social reasons, those who carried anyway did so quietly and concealed, despite open carry being legal in most states. Only in the last thirty years has public opinion shifted back in favor of carrying weapons for personal defense.
With this shift in favor of self-defense, the gun control narrative has collapsed. The “blood in the street” arguments have been proven false and everyone knows gun-free zones are merely a farce, ignored by criminals and mass murderers. As riots roar through the country, turning into an incipient civil war (amid an overhyped pandemic), guns and ammo aren’t flying off the shelves—they aren’t even on the shelves. Many people who never thought of buying a gun now own several precisely because the government has shown itself worthless to protect us.
And now we come to the arguments of why open carry is so vital in this hour. Governments, especially those controlled by the Left, want to ban firearms at protests/rallies/riots (if not entirely) because they know that private ownership of firearms is the only thing that can guarantee an end to rioting. These riots are part of a revolutionary movement to overthrow the legitimate government of the United States. They are both a warning and a threat; if you vote for Joe Biden and Democrats, the riots stop; if you vote for Trump, you’ll get more riots and we’ll come to kill you.
The choice is a false one; vote for Democrats and get tyranny or vote for Trump and get a violent, communist revolution. The Second Amendment exists for the sole reason of killing tyrannical politicians, their police/soldiers, and the rioting communists in the street. That’s it. Thomas Jefferson laid out the rules for when rebellion is permissible and frankly, the Right has been very well restrained, as we should be. On the Right, our trouble is that the Left knows we have the guns, how to use them, and when the switch gets flipped to 11, that we will use them effectively.
Thus, the Right must be disarmed. Ostensibly, it seems like a good idea to keep guns away from protests, but as we know with “gun-free” zones and gun control in general, criminals and troublemakers never obey. If the Right is disarmed, Leftist thugs like Michael Reinoehl who murdered a Trump supporter in Portland will still be armed and still be killing conservatives. The Leftist revolutionary dream is a massacre of Trump-voters like the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rwanda.
Banning guns at protests only keeps openly carried weapons away because police can see them and arrest the carrier (duh) or gives police another charge to tack on. It doesn’t keep the thugs away. With the Leftist DA’s failing to prosecute rioters engaged in seditious and treasonous acts but prosecuting 17-year old boys who were chased down and nearly killed by three men with criminal histories, is it any wonder that enforcement of “no guns at protests” laws will be selectively enforced?
No does any of this affect actual revolutionary violence. Some point soon, the violence will turn into open warfare. Revolutionaries ready to kill conservatives won’t care about the laws that weren’t really designed for them anyway, and if they’re busted, the DA will never follow through. Nor will the other side care when snipers ambush a horde of rioters. Like the October 1 shootings, someone will mag dump into a crowd and silly laws will no more prevent that than all the metal detectors at Route 91 stopped that massacre.
Back in California, in 1992 LAPD was totally overwhelmed (and uninterested) in putting their butts on the line to stop minority neighborhoods from burning. Tired of years of abuse and lack of support from a hostile black community, LAPD backed off as businesses were looted and burned. Many racist crowds turned on Korean-owned businesses whose owners were without police protection.
Spawning the “roof Korean” meme, many of these owners and their friends and family armed up an guarded the businesses. These people legally openly carried, unloaded, on the street, or stood watch on the roofs of their stores. Today, stepping onto the sidewalk with a firearm would be illegal, unless the owner had a reason to legally use deadly force. Merely standing around armed in front of the premises to deter looters would be illegal and might be twisted into a crime even if it was done in a privately owned parking lot.
Twisting a clearly written law was done to the McCloskeys in Missouri when they stepped into their front yard and pointed guns at a hostile crowd that breached their gate. In the Show Me State, such a display of force was clearly legal and within their Castle Doctrine laws, yet a Leftist prosecutor still went after the couple. In Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse is being prosecuted for murder despite multiple videos documenting what is probably the clearest case of self-defense ever recorded.
No open carry means that Kyle probably would have been unarmed and killed. The McCloskeys would have had to wait until the mob tried to kill them or break into the house before making their weapons visible. Armed citizens patrolling their business districts in the absence of police would be impossible. Guns banned at “events” and “protests” means innocent people who just don’t want to get mugged in downtown Las Vegas or Reno are disarmed under the threat of arrest. Meanwhile, actual terrorists get to keep doing what they are doing unmolested.
Americans need open carry to protect themselves against the mobs that police can’t or won’t protect them against. If standing outside your home or business with a gun is criminalized, deterrence is pointless. Politicians who claim to want peace are only allowing intimidating to escalate to violence and then a use of force.
In California this year, retired peace officers took to guarding several businesses with openly carried weapons because they are the one class of people who can openly carry in public. Average citizens don’t have that ability. After the wildfires and flooding in Montecito in 2018/2019, Santa Barbara deputies looked the other way at shotgun armed homeowners warning off thieves. Do politicians really mean to deprive us of that ability? Nevermind a citizen’s militia.
A handgun can only do so much. Yes, openly carried firearms are about comfort and political statements and we can conceal carry just as well, but why should I hide my gun because a legislator says so? It’s easier for me to access and easier to carry a larger gun openly. Carrying a cased rifle is also pointless or even legally impossible. For instance, in Nevada, even with a concealed firearm permit, it is illegal to conceal anything but a handgun. For long guns, open carry is the only way.
Furthermore, open carry at a rally or protest (or in general) is a form of speech the same way wearing a pro-gun t-shirt it. As an open carry activist, I have had more conversations about open carry simply by not hiding my holster under a shirt than anything else I could do. Part of standing outside the governor’s mansion, the statehouse, or anywhere else with guns is to remind our political opponents and our would-be masters that we possess the ultimate veto. I think the “you’re scaring people” argument of the Texas open carry days is a dead horse. The rioters are scaring people.
Laws regulating open carry and disarming citizens in public spaces as a response to 2020’s violence is nothing short of tyranny. The Second Amendment was intended for this hour. If legal open carry is taken away or regulated to death, when open civil warfare begins, it will initially be done with clandestine hits. The guns will still be there, just hidden. Nothing will change, but the stakes will be higher.
Now is the time for every gun owner and armed citizen to back open carry. Concealed carry is a personal and a tactical choice, but our long guns and ability to turn back mobs is threatened if politicians can take away our ability to carry openly. Open carry is so much more than wearing a gun on one’s hip. Today and in the near future, it will be absolutely vital to be able to carry your rifle visibly.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West