It seems difficult these days for members of Open Carry Texas, a pro-Second Amendment group, to keep themselves out of the media.
That is probably by design, since the organization is hoping to convince elected officials of the virtues of passing less-restrictive open-carry legislation.
But it’s highly dubious that the attention OCT has been attracting lately will do much for its cause. And its tactics are getting tiresome.
Earlier this month, several long-gun-carrying members of the group’s Tarrant County chapter drew national headlines when they entered a fast food restaurant to place an order and were mistaken by a passer-by as potential armed robbers.
Other local establishments have asked members of the organization to refrain from bringing their guns inside, citing complaints that other customers were made uncomfortable when members did so.
In Arlington, OCT’s local chapter doesn’t seem to be making many friends by alleging in a federal court that the city’s decades-old ordinance restricting groups from distributing information at certain high-traffic intersections violates free speech.
While it’s perfectly legal in Texas to openly carry long guns, these misunderstandings are not surprising and such requests to respect the wishes of businesses and their customers are not unreasonable. Any hesitation by members to comply sends a message of aggression, which is contrary to OCT’s stated mission.
And while free speech is a most cherished constitutional right, and we should view any attempt to limit it — however practical it may seem — with great scrutiny, Arlington’s ordinance applies to all organizations, not just gun rights groups. Further, challenging a law with a clear public safety purpose makes the group seem indifferent to civil order, a virtue that most Second Amendment supporters purport to achieve.
Fortunately, several statewide Second Amendment organizations seem to appreciate how public perception of guns in America is influenced by the public behavior of gun owners, especially when that behavior is viewed as negative, hostile or confrontational.
A joint open letter by leaders of Come and Take It Texas, Texas Carry, Gun Rights Across America and Open Carry Texas conceded that, “We must be willing and able to recognize what works and what doesn’t.”
And current tactics do not appear to be working.
The battleground for the open carry debate is the state capitol, not local restaurants or even busy intersections.
The cause of all Second Amendment proponents is best served by remembering that.