On Open Carry – Social

So Open Carry (of handguns) is coming soon to Texas.

In the past when speaking on the topic I’ve framed it as two matters: legal and tactical. These days I’ve added a third facet: social.


A big reason a lot of people open carry is for the sake of normalization. I get it. If you see guns every day, it’s just part of life, it’s just normal. It’s the same arguments for multiracial couples (like my parents), homosexuals making PDAs in public, and so on. The more you see it every day, it becomes “normal”, it becomes “no big deal”. Desensitization.

Where trouble comes in is what can go with it, and how people go about it.

I don’t know if he still does it, but blogger Robb Allen used to do Open Carry Fishing events. Under Florida law you cannot open carry in general, but you can when hunting, camping, and fishing. So he organized events where people would go fishing and openly carry while doing so. It was no big deal, there was no thrusting of “his rights” in other people’s faces. Basically, he was polite, reserved, a gentleman.

Then there’s folks like Open Carry Tarrant County and shenanigans like this. No dude, you’re not being nice, you’re being a dick. Yeah, your points are valid, but your social skills suck. You failed Persuasion 101. No one is going to listen to you when you are rude, intimidating, argumentative, and carry yourself like an overbearing asshole. In fact, precisely because of that behavior you wind up setting the whole movement back and doing far more damage than any anti-gunner ever could. You also give them precisely the fuel and “ammo” they need to rally the “unwashed sheep” against us. Gee, thanks but please, stop helping.

Pro tip: what matters isn’t the message being sent but the message being received. Allow me to put my graduate and postgraduate education in Human and Speech Communication to use. Does it matter that Jimi Hendrix was kissing the sky? or that people heard he was kissing this guy? Does it matter how Cory Hart wears his sunglasses at night, or the fact still to this day no one knows what the hell he’s singing in the chorus? They all know what message they are (trying) to send, but what long matters is the message actually received. Consider how many times in your life you thought you were crystal clear in your communication, yet someone still misunderstood you? And likely, you thought it was their fault for not understanding you. Nope, sorry but it was your fault for not sending a message that they would clearly understand. You failed to understand your audience, you failed to shape your message in a manner your audience would understand, and you failed to either pay attention to the feedback they sent or failed to solicit feedback from your receiver/audience (and then perhaps also failed to pay attention to that feedback). You carry a gun because you believe personal safety is your responsiblity, right? Well then take some responsibility for your communication and actions, and failings therein.

In the end, failures of communication lie with the sender of the message. And often that comes from not shaping the message to the audience.

When I talk about some computer programming problem, how I talk about it depends upon the audience. If I’m speaking with another programmer, I’ll probably get very technical, including speaking in jargon. If I’m speaking with my wife, I can get semi-technical because she may not be a geek but she’s been with me for many years and knows how things go. If I’m talking with a 6-year-old, I’m certainly not going to use jargon and certainly will have to choose different words and a different approach. In each case I’m working to send the same  message, but I must take my audience into account in how I shape and send my message to ensure successful receipt of the information I am trying to convey.

So if I want to convey that carrying a gun is normal, I must first consider my audience. Consider the people around you. Many of you live in an urban environment that is likely filled with people who don’t think carrying a gun every day is normal. So you must consider you are starting from that deficit. Now if you want to win someone over into thinking it’s normal, well, consider what THEY consider normal. In their mind it isn’t normal to walk around all day caressing a gun and thrusting it in people’s faces. So what might they consider normal? Maybe not drawing attention to it, because chances are they didn’t notice in the first place, and so long as you don’t make it some centerpiece, they likely won’t either. And if you don’t draw attention to it, maybe if they do notice and see you otherwise just going about your business…. well sure it may surprise them and make them a little guarded, but like any good desensitization they’ll consider it less and less of a threat if the accompanying behavior is also less and less of a threat. If all they ever see is people acting – what they consider – normal, then eventually it will be.

But getting up in people’s faces is not going to win them over. It doesn’t matter if it’s your “right”, because even with our beloved First Amendment, no one likes someone else getting in their face and yelling at them. You being an asshole is a sure-fire way to make people think all gun-owners are assholes. And how does that help the cause?

Look, if your tactics at promoting “gun freedoms” wind up getting us less freedoms, your tactics aren’t working. Feedback: pay attention to it.

If you’re going to open carry as a social statement, then remember all that goes with it. Let your social statement show that you are a responsible, law-abiding, respectful, courteous, and kind citizen. Yes, you need to be a Boy Scout here: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent.

Or consider it another way. If you carry openly, their going to see the gun and judge you upon that (and whatever irrationalities they may hold about gun owners). That’s going to be a difficult race to win. If you carry concealed, they’re going to see you first, and judge you upon you. If you’re being a Boy Scout in both situations, in the latter you’ll start from less of a deficit. And don’t you think you’ll get further if they first know you’re a normal guy and then learn you’re a gun owner? Don’t you think they’ll be more open to your advocacy?

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