Life is pretty good for supporters of openly carrying firearms in Texas. Not only does the state permit individuals to openly carry loaded rifles and shotguns, but both major candidates for Texas Governor, Wendy Davis (D) and Greg Abbott (R), want to expand open carry to include handguns. The law does stipulate that persons openly carrying ?rifles and shotguns must do so in a manner that is non-threatening and that does not alarm others. That relatively vague caveat is subject to interpretation. Open carriers tend to argue that the law provides them with wide latitude to display their weapons, whereas law enforcement officers, interested in maintaining public safety, tend to have a more restrictive view of what is legal.
However, although Texas lawmakers are pretty supportive of pro-gun activists, that has not stop the open carry advocates from casting themselves as victims of persecution. Gun rights activist, C.J. Grisham, a Fort Hood soldier and the founder of Open Carry Texas, for example has tried to define himself as a victim of police prosecution. After responding to a citizen complaint, when police tried to disarm Grisham he reached for his rifle. ?He was convicted of interfering with a police officer and fined, but he continues to maintain that the police acted improperly and his excuse for reaching for his weapon, is that:
It was instinct. In the context of my actions, it is important that people understand that I am a soldier because I have that training.
In his encounter with the police Grisham is belligerent and provocative, but he does state:
I didn’t escalate any higher because I knew my son was there.
Apparently the thought that he did not escalate any higher, because he respects law enforcement’s efforts to maintain civic order, does not cross his mind. Perhaps a reason for that is because many open carry activists view the government as the enemy and by extension the police as enemy foot soldiers.
Rallying behind the slogan, “come and take it Texas”, the open carry leaders seem desperately interested in provoking a confrontation so that they can claim victim-hood or martyr status. The “come and take it” slogan was a battle cry used during the the first skirmish in the Texas Revolution, the Battle of Gonzales. The only problem for the self-styled revolutionaries of the open carry movement in Texas, is that they are essentially waging a revolution against an imaginary enemy.
The movement of mostly suburban and small town white folks arming themselves in self-defense from the police is almost comical. Sure, they could probably draw inspiration from the revolutionary actions of the Black Panther Party for self-defense in the 1960s that openly carried rifles and shotguns in Oakland, California. Except that unlike the BPP of yesteryear, the suburban warriors of Plano, Richardson, Alamo Heights, Sugarland, and Round Rock, really have no significant experience with police repression, so they must instead try to bait police into even noticing them, much less oppressing them.
So for example, gun activists have taken to parading around shopping malls toting AR-15 rifles, in the hopes of engaging the police in a response. Sure, people like Derek Poe, owner of a tactical supply store who was cited for disturbing the peace when he carried an AR-15 in the mall, can argue that they are carrying long rifles for protection, but the argument is not easy to make. Few people would consider a crowded shopping mall in broad daylight a place where carrying an AR-15 is necessary for safety, but some shoppers might fear the mindset of a person who feels he needs a long rifle to shop for gift cards or blue jeans. The purpose of ?brandishing weapons for such audacious displays, is to provoke a police response so the gun owner can then scream “tyranny”, as he is issued a citation or slapped with a misdemeanor charge.
Open carry demonstrations in Texas have become almost a weekly event with shows of force criss-crossing the state in hopes of baiting law enforcement officers into a confrontation. To date, the interactions have mostly been peaceful, but with gun-toting activists taunting police officers and invoking the rhetoric of revolutionaries, the potential for a misguided pro-gun activist to snap and open fire remains a real possibility. The right to openly carry rifles and shotguns in a non-threatening manner is well established by Texas law. However, citizens trying to protect that right by seeking to push the envelope and invite confrontation are doing their cause more harm than good.
Edited/Published by: SB