Friday, October 9, 2009

Clayton Cramer tries to whistle past the graveyard of history without scaring anybody.


Clayton E. Cramer's Column

How To Lose Friends

Perhaps this column will be an example of how to lose friends–but this is really important. There are times that being right isn't as important as being tactful. Over the last few weeks, as I write this column, there have been at least two incidents where those showing up at political events to protest Obama's health care reform program have been openly armed–one of them at an event in Phoenix where President Obama was speaking. 1

People who have not had anything to say about guns suddenly are asking questions such as, "Do Guns At Political Events Disturb You? Then Consider Skipping Arizona For Now." 2

Now, I am aware that the man carrying an AR-15 slung over his back in Phoenix didn't fit the redneck stereotype that news accounts tried to portray–many of which implied that the armed protesters were upset about a black man was in the White House. (The man with the AR-15 was about as black as his rifle.) 3

And yes, in both these situations, in Phoenix, and in New Hampshire, open carry is not just completely legal–the courts of the respective states have recognized that open carry is protected by the right to keep and bear arms provisions of the respective state constitutions.

But I want you to think back to some television commercials run some years back that emphasized the importance of both defensive driving, and being a bit less aggressive in your driving style. They emphasized that, ìYou may be clearly in the right in an accident you are involved in, dead right. î This is one of those times.

Americans have become very squeamish about guns over the last several decades–and it isn't just because the mass media have been propagandizing for gun control. There are a lot of people who have been victims of violence, or who are next of kin of victims of violence. In my experience, survivors of violent gun crimes respond in one of two ways: "Guns are evil. They must be banned!" or "I will be armed next time, and that monster won't survive." The reactions, in both cases, tend to be quite strong.

You and I can engage the first point of view with rational discussion of the failure of gun control laws to disarm the bad guys, and over time, we may be successful in persuading such a person that restrictive gun control doesn't work. But even if we win them over to our side, do not expect someone who has looked down the barrel of a gun wielded by a criminal to react dispassionately to seeing a gun over which he or she has no control in a public place. The next of kin of victims of violent gun crimes seem to be far more likely to respond with the first reaction than with the second–and it is part of the reason that under the best of conditions, gun control groups seem to have so many grieving parents and siblings in them.

I've had my share of conversations with gun control advocates over the years, and I've listened to their stories. Overwhelmingly, they didn't just wake up one morning and decide that guns were bad. There's usually a tragedy that struck close to home. You and I can look at their reaction and see that they came to the wrong conclusion–but you can understand that once someone has come to that wrong conclusion, seeing guns is going to provoke a strong and negative emotional response.

I have long felt that open carry, if you have some other choice, is a political mistake, and for this very reason. There are lots of Americans who have discomfort or misgivings about gun ownership. They may know that lots of Americans have concealed handgun permits, and that they are probably walking the streets with people that are armed. But it isn't obvious; the gun isnít proclaiming its presence. The visceral reaction that some Americans have to seeing people openly armed is not going to win you any friends–and may turn some people against gun ownership.

Let me draw an analogy that a lot of you may find unpleasant. About 3% of Americans are homosexuals. I don't approve of homosexuality, for a variety of reasons. I know that a pretty sizeable fraction of Americans share my views on this. We know what homosexuals are doing behind closed doors, and we generally accept that, however much we disapprove of that conduct, it isn't the government's job to tell consenting adults what they can do in private. Most homosexuals in America appear to know this; like you and me, they are more interested in living their lives than they are in making political points.

A small number of homosexual activists make rather a point of going the opposite direction. They hold "kiss-ins," with very public displays of affection, intended to desensitize straight America. I used to be pretty open-minded about homosexuality, but living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and seeing video of the San Francisco gay pride parades, so shocked and disgusted me that I am now pretty strongly disapproving. (And my guess is that many of you who are as open-minded as I was, would probably change your opinion, if you saw those videos.)

Open carry in an urban setting, when you have some realistic alternative available (such as concealed carry), is rather like a homosexual "kiss-in." The supporters are convinced that doing so makes Americans more tolerant and open-minded to the subject. I'm convinced that for every person who gets used to it, there are two who are repelled. In July of 2008, one of the open carry advocacy groups held an open carry event at the Zoo here in Boise, carrying loaded and holstered firearms. This is about as gun friendly a city as probably exists in the USA–and the reaction to it was about the same as if a bunch of same-sex couples had started passionately kissing and necking in front of the monkey cage. It wasn't illegal–but it sure took people that didn't think about the issue much, and made them unhappy.

Carrying a holstered handgun in Phoenix is apparently pretty common. It isn't the norm, but it isn't particularly shocking. Carrying an AR-15 slung over your back in Phoenix, however, I'm guessing is pretty unusual. Carrying one outside an event where President Obama is speaking? This is equivalent to some of the really disgusting stuff that you see in gay pride parades.

It is shocking and disturbing not because President Obama is black, but because there is a long history of assassination attempts on the President, starting with the January 30, 1835 attempt on Andrew Jackson's life,4 on former President Teddy Roosevelt,5 on President Truman, President Nixon,6 President Reagan, and former President George H. W. Bush. 7 All of the successful assassinations–such as the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy–were carried out with guns.

There are places where open carry is perfectly sensible. No one is terribly shocked to see Americans armed while hunting, while target shooting, or in rural areas, in many states. I can remember a time when I would hike in the forests or the deserts of California with a Colt Government Model in a hip holster.

There are circumstances where concealed carry is not legal, but open carry is allowed. In some states, people started to carry openly as a way to remind the legislature that it needed to pass a concealed carry permit law. In a few cases, I know of people who were over 18, but under 21, and thus ineligible for a concealed carry permit. Yet they had reason to be concerned with their safety, and chose to carry openly, because they had no legal alternative. I'm not talking about those situations when I criticize open carry–I'm talking about the situations where open carry is considered disturbing, you have the option of having your gun concealed, and you choose to carry openly.

If we reach the point where we need to be armed to engage in the terrifying scenario that the Second Amendment was written to make possible–the overthrow of a tyrannical government–then I expect everyone who loves his country to be armed and ready. But as a form of political statement, in cities, and especially in proximity to the President–this is just dumb. It makes gun owners look crazy, and drives some people who are indifferent into opposition to gun ownership. Don't be stupid.

My reply:

re: Your Shotgun News column.

"Don't be stupid" yourself, Clayton. As a firearms owner, you haven't got any friends.

Clayton, I must start by saying I have admired your work over the years. But the fact of the matter is that you are all wet on this, homosexual analogies most especially.

By what objective standard do you place hope on winning friends and influencing people to the Founders' view of the right to arms? Opinion polls? True, the numbers supporting the individual right to arms has risen recently. But don't you think that's because people who feel uneasy about the future marginally shift toward firearm's freedom simply because they want to ensure their own access to guns if they need them? Even liberals are buying guns these days. That doesn't mean they are willing to sacrifice anything for YOUR liberties.

There is an existential fear abroad in the land now, and it doesn't come entirely from Obama or his socialist weasel gun-banning friends. It comes from trillion dollar deficits, printing money to monetize the debt and an understanding that we are at least two separate countries now, not one.

We are far more fundamentally divided as a people than we were in 1775 or even 1861. If we cannot agree on the sanctity of life or whether all blessings flow from leviathan government then does anything else we DO agree on really matter?

And how has being polite and working within the political system been working out for our side these past 75 years, hmm? Each time we were shoved back and robbed of some small slice of our traditional God-given liberties, we backed up, grumbling. So why shouldn't the enemies of the Founders' republic continue doing that? We haven't shoved back, now have we?

You want a homosexual analogy? How about the circle-jerk relationship between the GOP and the NRA? How'd you like that endorsement in New York the other day? These guys are french-kissing each other every day of the week, and what has it gotten US, the vast majority of firearms owners over the years? What bill of firearms infringement HASN'T the NRA tried to float a compromise on instead of fighting all out?

The time has come, my public relations-mesmerized friend to lay down the marker. I was once asked by a gun-banner for the short version of my notion of gun control. I thought for a moment and said, "If you try to take our firearms we will kill you."

The people who seek to slake their appetites with our property and liberty -- even at the threat of our lives -- will not stop until convinced of the personal cost of their gluttony. It seems to me that exercising one's legal right to carry openly is very good way of getting the point across without risking violence.

A brief study of history should convince you that the affairs of men are decided -- for good or ill -- by determined minorities. Just as the Founders discovered in their struggle, for they only became a majority AFTER THEY WON. Thus it will be with us.

The other side believes in "democracy," majority rule, and they believe because they have won the last two elections they can tell us what to do, where to go, how to act, and insist that we pay for the privilege and grin while we're about it. The result? Tea parties. Raucous town halls. And yes, people legally packing heat at public events.

Open carry scares people? Good. It ought to. Perhaps they'll be reminded of the fact that when "democracy" turns to tyranny, firearms owners still get to vote. And they should understand that they don't want to go down that road.

But how will they get the message if we don't deliver it because we are made too timid by some misplaced need to be liked? Free men don't need to be liked. They don't ask to be liked. They don't care if they're liked. They do insist upon being respected. The reason we find ourselves in this position right now is because we haven't insisted on exercising our rights. We haven't demanded respect from people who have been picking our pockets and shoving us around.

If someone tells you they are scared by open carry as a protest against future infringements, tell them that's OK. It is really the least of their worries. It is when we no longer feel that political protest is worthwhile that they should really begin to worry.

Clayton, this isn't about media PR anymore. It is not about being liked. We are two peoples with two distinct and violently different world views, two visions of the future that are mutually exclusive. The other people need to understand that they will continue to push us around at their peril.

My friend Billy Beck put it succinctly. He said that all politics in this country now is merely rehearsal for civil war. If you wish to avoid that war, as I do, you'll help me convince the other side that one is possible and that it has personal consequences for them. Otherwise they will stumble into starting one, and the results will be ghastly.

And if you, or they, think that another civil war in this country is not possible, they, or you, are whistling past the graveyard of history. And there are open graves within, waiting to be filled by the foolhardy and the timid, as well as those of tyrannical appetite. THAT is what should scare people, not some law-abiding citizens exercising their legal rights in public.

Mike Vanderboegh


Roderick said...

The gay rights movement didn't get gays from from being a reviled minority to widespread acceptance by staying in the closet. They achieved their success by being vocal, aggressive, and confrontational. "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" worked. Gays being out and about didn't result in rains of fire and brimstone, and people started ditching their prejudices because of it.

I kind of like the sound of "We're here, we're armed, get used to it"...

Anonymous said...

My apologies... This was my first visit to your site and I initially thought Cramer's article was one you wrote and therefore thought somewhat ill of you... Glad I stayed around long enough to resolve the misunderstanding.

Love the thought behind 'The Doctrine of the Three Percent'.

De Oppresso Liber

thedweeze said...

I read Mr. Cramer's article earlier and scratched my head.

I didn't think to forward it to you. Sorry about that.

But it does bring up a question: is it advantageous or not to have these sorts of articles out there? Yes, it will increase the terror done to us by our Gummint, but might serve to increase the shock when Lines Are Crossed.

drjim said...

Excellent reply, Mike!

Travis Lee said...

Some people on all sides missed the whole POINT of protesters showing up armed.

Pro-gun people think it's a misplaced gun control protest, as do most anti-gun people.

I view these incidents as the last warning to our politicians, before some brave folks communicate their desire for better representation from behind a scoped rifle.

Perhaps some of them are too obtuse, or stupid to understand that, but SOME do.

III more than them said...

"Men" are objected to, even before they become men. Boys aren't allowed to act "male" in grade school... they are medicated, detained after school, expelled, in some cases prosecuted....

Seems the left can't handle boys becoming men, and certainly NOT men being men in defense of what's right.

When we show up in open carry, ANYwhere, then eyebrows go up, and the mouths fall agape. The democratic masses, still flush with their electoral victories, believe that all opposition should cease. One of their shills actually said, after this last elections, "I don't see why they (Republicans, and Conservatives by extension) have a voice any more." Having the stones to make our convictions clear is misrepresented as "compensating", irresponsible or threatening. Our presence at public forums is treated with disgust and horror when our legal sidearms are also in attendance.

We are to shut-up. We are to stand down and let them do as they please. We are to accept their opinion of us as true, and slink away in repentance.

Horse feathers. What they demand is not only impossible, it is immoral. No apologies are needed, and none will be given. If they are uncomfortable, concerned or jealous over power, well, tough shitzus. We're jealous over our rights, and the rights of our grandchildren. They'll be peaking freely long after I'm dead.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking we should have a national Open Carry Day.

Happy D said...

And I was just starting to warm up to the guy. Don't tell him the real reason I stumble to the protest on a cane. He might have a panic attack and die.

Let us let him whistle on by I think he goes in to the graveyard to smoke crack.

Welcome aboard bacsi III

Anonymous said...

Like the previous anonymous poster, I was relieved when I got to the end and realized who was being quoted.
I guess that's what I get for trying to read blogs at o'dark 30 w/o coffee :P

MamaLiberty said...

I carry all day, every day, everywhere. When people ask about it, I tell them.

The most effective statement is this:

I carry a gun because I am the only one who is responsible for my life and safety.

Sometimes I get to explain that. Sometimes I don't. But it always seems to make people thoughtful.

Anonymous said...

When people ask me why I carry my rifle with me everywhere I go, I just tell them that I don't know what day I'm gonna need it.


Anonymous said...

Besides all of the above comments, conflating gays with open carry doesn't make much sense. I can see some surface similarities. But if you happen to rub more then two brain cells together and look a little deeper, the similarities end.

Gays openly protesting are protesting for only their STYLE of life.

Gunnies openly carrying are protesting for their very life. And the freedom and lifestyle of everyone else.

But at the end of the day, "Faint heart ne'er won fair lady." For either group.

B Woodman

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agreed Travis Lee.

I fall into the same category as MamaLiberty relative to carry. Open or concealed, I do what I choose for the circumstance. There is an old saying that "a Right unused is soon lost". No one has ever questioned me about open carry. Of course, I am an old biker who they don't really want to be around anyway.


Provocateur said...

This is what government and it's enforcers understand: Power, Force, Violence, and Death.

Disobey any of their laws, statutes, codes, regulations ... and you will find out just how quick they will respond to your disobedience with power, force, violence and death.

Behind every unconstitutional law. Behind every immoral law. Is man with a badge and a gun willing, at behest of the government, to use power, force, violence, and death upon you. And he will go home feeling justified and may even high five his contemporaries, because his oath to honor and defend the constitution doesn't mean squat to him or his contemporaries.

Anonymous said...

Were suppose to play politics. When everyone at the table is a schill for the house? Sadly, Beck's right. Sadder. Crammer can't see it.
If you want peace, prepare for war........mthead III

Chris K. said...

I don't bother explaining anymore. If in this world of mob rule they don't understand it, they never will. There aren't words that will convince them.

Qi Ji Guang said...

Second to what Roderick said. And then there is the whole Stonewall riot thing that really got the movement going under way. Cramer apparently don't know much history.

I read this whole Cramer article over at Shotgun News yesterday and realized that this BS could have been written by a Brady drone as well. I have never seen more anti-gun propaganda being broadcasted by someone who claims to be on "freedom's side" before.

"We're here, wer'e armed, get used to it". ABSOLUTELY. That is what the 2nd Amendment is about. When potential tyrants know that their would be victims are armed, resistant and determined to keep it that way, it discourages them from doing shit in the dark.

III said: QUOTE"Men" are objected to, even before they become men. Boys aren't allowed to act "male" in grade school... they are medicated, detained after school, expelled, in some cases prosecuted....QUOTE

Yes, that seems to be the trend today at all of the public indoctrination centers. Well, they better know the unintended consequences of these increasing acts of thuggery in the schools. They are lucky that the families of the children they brutalize are not seeking alternate routes of justice. Once you push people over the edge, then things will start to happen that are beyond your control. I know that if I had a son in the public school system and he gets brutalized by some JBT trash, I won't be seeking justice through a court of law.

Boston T. Party said...

Since I doubt that Cramer OC's at all, he really wasn't the one to criticize those who do.

One of your best essays, Mike, thanks!

Legal Alien said...

I have been visiting this site for a while and enjoy reading the posting here. This is my first comment.
I started reading Clayton's article and initially thought that he was making a reasonable point.
Then I read your very eloquent response and also Roderick's comment and came to the conclusion that you are right. It has gone far enough. We have to be "IN THEIR FACE".
I have not been in the USA that long to have endured all the agony that you guys have gone through with the creeping encroachment, but I faced my fair share back in the days in sunny South Africa, before Mandela.
Like Roderick said . . . . . I like the sound of "We're here, We're armed, get used to it". . . The gay community forced general acceptance of their lifestyle on the public with their actions. We are stronger, we have bigger numbers, we can do it too.
I love the country that I have now adopted as my new home.
A legal alien and future citizen

Mark Alger said...

Might I humbly suggest that one principal reason the American People have seemed so apathetic in years gone by is that too many of those who have thrust themselves into leadership positions have taken their counsel of Cramer's fears?

And might I also humbly suggest that, perhaps, the recent nascent groundswell of opposition to the enemies of liberty is due to the American People's having awakened to the fact that THEY no longer need to compromise with people who consider freedom to be (in the words of Jesse Helms) a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?


Like I said...

We haven't made any progress by trying to hide the fact that we own guns and consider keeping and bearing them a basic human right. It will be a long time before the media gives us a fair shake, much less a positive spin on firearm ownership.

I think it's great that ppl. are openly carrying EBR's to public events whilst behaving themselves. Let's get the public used to the notion of bearing arms and the peaceable act of doing such, and the hysteria will eventually dissipate.

Si se pueda!

Anonymous said...

I disagree. You carry to keep people away NOT to "make friends".
When you are alone and need to shop at night in those dark parking lots you do not want anyone 'being friendly'. You want to send the message to stay away.
Guns and being armed keep you safe and sends the message not to mess with you, and it is respected. When the people use to be the law enforcement before the DC govt created the police, there was NO crime ! Crime only flourished once there were police and the people were disarmed ! Think about that ! As for those who have had "bad experiences' I find they are the ones who then want to be armed, and only feel safe if they are, not the other way around as this article says.

Anonymous said...

First erroneous statement is that these two open carried where political figures were speaking - not so.

Who is being squeamish here, the antis or Mr. Cramer? Frankly, I do not see the difference.

Anonymous said...

I suffered that tragedy and my family is armed all of the time because of that event.

Regarding the man carrying the AR-15' that left me feeling empowered.

Why do airshows often feature military aircraft? To display power of course. What if more civilians showed up armed at political protests featuring anti-freedom politicians?

Regarding rational political discourse, if my government is not going to listen then I am done talking!