The text of the Second Amendment may well be the most familiar language in the U.S. Constitution — at least to many Texans.
And given the state’s “come and take it” ethos, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that gun rights advocates are enthusiastic about ensuring the protection of a freedom many believe fundamental to American-style democracy.
While many Americans acknowledge the importance of the right to bear arms, the majority choose not to exercise it. In fact, slightly more than a third reported having a gun in their household, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center.
The Pew study also found that 58 percent of people who did not have a gun in their household said that having a gun would make them feel uncomfortable.
It’s that feeling of discomfort that some gun rights proponents, like members of Open Carry Texas, are targeting.
But they’re going about it the wrong way.
In recent months, there have been a number of demonstrations by groups like OCT, which mobilizes crowds carrying shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s out in the open.
Having members appear in public with rifles slung over their shoulders is crucial to the group’s self-professed mission: to “condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them.”
This past week, the Tarrant County chapter of OCT tried to take its message — and its members’ antique black-powder pistols, replica pistols or long-barreled guns (which are perfectly legal to openly carry under Texas law) — to a meeting of the Arlington City Council.
But they were met by Arlington police officers who asked them to stow their weapons in their vehicles before heading inside to speak, citing worries by some city leaders that the presence of weapons in the meeting could understandably daunt other attendees. They obliged.
Shortly thereafter, though, the council voted unanimously to ban weapons or simulated weapons — even those permissible under state law — from being brought into City Hall or other city buildings where public meetings are being held.
Contrary to the views of some, the potential impact of such a weapons’ display on attendance and participation in public meetings is a legitimate concern.
And the City Council’s decision was intended to help preserve democracy, not hinder it. Even the staunchest gun rights advocate should recognize that.
If the purpose of the demonstrations is to make the public more comfortable with an openly armed society, groups like Open Carry Texas are missing the mark — pun intended.