Richard Greene

Demonstrations on behalf of ‘open carry’ gun rights have some limits

Open Carry Tarrant County supporters march in front of the Arlington Police Department Jan. 10.
Open Carry Tarrant County supporters march in front of the Arlington Police Department Jan. 10. Special to the Star-Telegram

According to a number of surveys, more than 9 million Texans own one or more guns.

I am among them.

Reasons for gun ownership include hunting, sport/recreational shooting, personal/home defense and demonstrating support for the Second Amendment.

My reasons for owning guns are the same except for the hunting. I don’t have anything against hunting; I just prefer to take pictures of wildlife instead of shooting them.

So I think I understand the support for gun rights and legislation that is being pursued across Texas and locally.

But there’s one thing I don’t understand. That would be the practice of marching up and down public streets, demonstrating at City Hall and assembling at the state Capitol with all kinds of long guns — including military-style ones — strapped over shoulders and otherwise being bandied around.

So, I thought I would show up at a recent demonstration in downtown Arlington and see if I could learn more about why some activists are compelled to fully arm themselves and dress up like vigilantes to get their points across.

A group of gun rights supporters had assembled at the parking lot of Arlington City Hall with plans to “march” on the police station a few blocks away. A number of people gathered there to demonstrate support for police officers.

There were about 15 of the gun-toting variety, and I was among the 35 police supporters awaiting their arrival.

When they did show up, it was pretty much a nonevent. Nothing much happened other than some intermingling, making it difficult to know who was on which side.

Except for one guy with a rifle of some kind. He was dressed in a white ski mask, and even he was having his picture taken standing between two people holding their “we support the police” signs.

For anyone not following the news (even though this ongoing story is one of the top 10 of 2014), it might be difficult to figure out what was going on at this scene on a cold and rainy January day.

The event was just the latest in the initiatives on the Arlington front of Open Carry Tarrant County’s assault (intentional metaphor) on the city’s sidewalk ordinance.

The rule is designed to moderate the practice of demonstrating and handing out literature to motorists on streets and busy thoroughfares.

The gun group won a round in federal court a few months ago. The judge has now reconsidered his earlier ruling, citing lack of evidence that the ordinance will be enforced in an unconstitutional manner.

The city’s position is, and has always been, that the ordinance is about safety for motorists and pedestrians.

The gun group’s attorney has characterized the next step as undecided. He’s quoted in the latest news story as saying they might “call it a day.”

Whether they do or not, I think a Facebook posting from a friend of mine who is also a highly trained and practiced expert marksman raises a good question.

He writes, “I am curious as to how many of the rifle-toting ‘constitutional’ carry supporters in our state could pass the current background check required to carry a concealed firearm. Makes me wonder about the real motivation of some of these people.”

Regardless, there is no question that a great many people are unnerved by the public appearance of the armed demonstrators wherever they gather.

The City Council is on the right track. A sense of personal security is every bit a right in the category of public safety.

The traditional standard of one’s rights ending when encroaching the rights of another seems to be very much in play as this saga continues to unfold.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.