Is the open-carry movement comprised almost entirely of bullies, douche-bags, and ignorant militants? Men and women possessed of an inexplicable sense of entitlement, passionately defending a radical interpretation of the Second Amendment like savage dogs squabbling over gristle? These questions are rhetorical of course. The evidence indicates that the answer all around is a resounding yes. As several recent videos demonstrate, the open-carry movement is one of shallow, dick-swinging bravado and reactionary thoughtlessness, conditioned by crude political indoctrination.
Don’t simply take my word for it. Watch as they crassly harass a U.S. Marine Veteran, goading him like crude caricatures of high-school bullies.
These people are some of the dregs of modern society. Their strongest arguments are rooted in wan appeals to a fever-dream of “American tradition”. Under scrutiny, they have all the resilience of dust in the wind. So, lacking the ammunition to win by persuasion, they resort to tactics not dissimilar from a cockerel advertising its dominance over a clutch of hens. Typically, men and women of this sort pride themselves on their independence, yet by their very nature, they are prime targets for political manipulation.
Take for instance the very cause they claim to champion – the inalienable right of each individual to own a gun. The very notion of an inalienable right – immutable, eternal, unassailable – doesn’t hold a lot of water. It’s pure linguistic trickery, likely rooted in the Western heritage of Platonic essentialism. Probably the closest we might come to defining a right as inalienable is to say it satisfies our senses of compassion and empathy in light of pertinent exigencies. The Second Amendment was written by men, and – as with the rest of the U.S. consititution – it was born of a mix between high-minded idealism and political pragmatism. Indeed, historical evidence suggests that the Second Amendment in particular was likely a concession to latter on behalf of the former. As Michael Waldman pointed out in his recent (and excellent) essay, the framers of the Constitution added the Second Amendment in order to placate anti-Federalist forces largely opposed to the very notion of a new constitution. The explicit purpose of the Amendment was to provide legal justification for the establishment and maintenance of state militias. After some fiddling, that justification was finally expressed as follows:
A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Note that it says nothing of an individual right to bear arms. Up until 2008, the Supreme Court actually ruled consistently against said interpretation. It was not until the Bush administration gave us a Supreme Court dominated by right-wing activists – men who brought us such disastrous decisions as Citizens United and McCutcheon vs. FEC – that the individual right to bear arms garnered any legal standing. This in turn was the product of a long process of political manipulation that began in the 1970s, when right-wing ideologues hijacked the NRA, which had previously supported common-sense gun-regulation.
The road to radicalization was both long and subtle – it’s worth reading Waldman’s entire piece for the full story – but the ultimate point is that the “inalienable” right the open-carry movement purports to defend is purely fictitious. It is a political fabrication, pure and simple. But more importantly, it is also ridiculous. It has nothing to do with compassion, empathy, or pragmatism. Nothing to do with promoting the general welfare of anyone, anywhere. The original intent of the Second Amendment was to pacify people wary of the potential for tyranny implicit in the foundation of a strong federal government. Given the historical context, this was not unreasonable. But with the dissolution of official state militias, the Second Amendment ceased to serve its intended purpose. In light of the massive imbalance of force and skill evident between the modern U.S. military and the most well-armed right-wing militant, it’s not even clear that it could.
None of which is even to argue against an individual right to bear arms. I own guns. I enjoy hunting and recreational shooting. Even the idea of owning a gun for self-defense is sensible. But fulfilling any of the aforementioned ends does not require carrying an assault rifle in public. It doesn’t even require owning one in private. The idea that individuals have a right to own any and all guns they want, absent any and all restrictions, is a complete and utter fiction. It has no grounding in either law or history, let alone utility. There hasn’t even been a serious political movement toward curtailing even the most outlandish interpretations of Second Amendment rights. Indeed, the political influence of the NRA and other radical gun interest is so great that even the most conservative of gun-laws – supported by 90% of the U.S. public – can’t find sufficient support in congress. The gun rights movement in general and the open-carry movement in particular is a fight against a paranoid delusion of government overreach. It is a cause for developmentally stunted men and women, hoping to act out their childish action-movie fantasies and preserve their petty sense of entitlement. Which a long and strenuous way of saying something simple:
The radicals in charge of the modern NRA, the political cowards that bow to their will, and the men and women of the open-carry movement can all go fuck themselves.