The right to ‘bare’ arms
Even better: We don’t have to exercise 2nd Amendment right
Two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon in West Bend, several dozen citizens met at a local coffee shop to demonstrate their right to openly carry legal sidearms. This “casual open-carry get-together,” organized through ICarry.org, the “premier resource” for right to carry, went off without a hitch. Holsters and weapons were polished for the occasion, the police were in attendance to monitor the situation, just in case; and the coffee was delicious.
This wasn’t a protest, really, since there is nothing to protest. Article 1 section 25 of the Wisconsin State constitution, enacted in 1998, states that “The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.”
Moreover, the June 28, 2010, federal Supreme Court ruling, affirming its interpretation of the Second Amendment, now guarantees that individuals may bear arms whether they’re in a militia or not. Openly carrying your constitutionally protected firearms isn’t a protest, but a display of rights guaranteed by the Constitution and federal courts and so, despite the police presence, these citizens simply met up at a local coffee shop in exactly the same way antique car fans — or model train aficionados — show up at local burger joints: to have fun and to compare muzzle velocity and stopping power.
The event was covered by the press and the local blogosphere.
But, during that week and in the weeks that followed, an even more remarkable demonstration was under way, completely under the radar of the national or even the local press.
In the weeks since the Open Carry demonstration, not dozens, but thousands of people entered that same coffee shop, bought coffee, and even talked to their friends — wait for it — completely unarmed.
Remarkable? I’ll say. But even more astonishing is that, during this past week alone, as many as 30,000 people in West Bend went shopping, picked up dry cleaning, drove to work, and even attended church — yes, unarmed.
So many people participated in this society-wide demonstration that nobody even noticed.
While I could have celebrated my right to openly carry a sidearm while enjoying a monster nerve-jarring latte (three shots and whole milk please),
I chose instead to celebrate an even more remarkable American privilege: the privilege of not having to carry weapons anymore.
We no longer have to protect ourselves as we did in the days of the Wild West. Not only is it safe nowadays to play poker with friends, or even walk your dog, without strapping on a six-shooter, we no longer have to fight off bears — or coyotes. Or pumas.
Or desperadoes. We don’t even need to defend ourselves against bandits now that we have a police force. In fact, it turns out that it’s a lot safer to let the police handle all of that for us.
One of the better, more recent studies on gun ownership (by the University of Pennsylvania Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology from October 2009) found that, in Philadelphia at any rate, those who carried guns were 4.5 times more likely to get shot, and 4.2 times more likely to get killed than those who don’t.
Recent numbers from the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics (2007) indicate the greatest number of deaths from handguns are, in fact, suicides.
Gun lobbyists will argue with any numbers related to the defensive use of handguns, but you can’t argue with dinner. Just remember that every day you’re able to eat a cheeseburger without reaching for your Ruger LCP or Glock 19, you’re part of a much larger, much quieter demonstration: a daily celebration of nationhood where you have a right to bear arms, but don’t need to.
I'm not happy about the secondary headline that my editor added -- probably assuming the pun in the original headline needed clarification. I didn't want to say that not-exercising ones Second Amendment rights was "better" but that it's an even greater privilege not to have to carry a weapon when picking up a cup of coffee.
It'd be okay to note that a counter-demonstration was in the works but was scrapped because of safety concerns. It involved a phalanx of 10-year olds wielding super-soaker squirt guns, but there was some parental concern that a few of the kids might actually shot by the honorable yahoos who needed to show off their... pieces. So the squirt guns got scratched.
I guess the Open Carry folks got their message across after all.