Open-carry demonstrations: Good or bad idea? (VIDEO)

This coming Saturday, South Dakota Open Carry is holding an open carry demonstration in Sioux Falls, where the organization’s members and other Second Amendment advocates will be visibly carrying a variety of firearms in and around the city in support of the state’s open carry law.

According to the group’s Facebook page, all responsible citizens are welcome so long as they follow all local, state and federal laws while they partake in the 5-mile walk around town and they keep their long guns slung around the shoulder and their handguns holstered — at all times, no exceptions.

Jesse Rierson, the Vice President of SDOC, spoke to local news affiliate Keloland.com about the purpose of the “organized peaceful carry walk,” which is to remind the community and the non-gun owning public that law-abiding gun owners are not the cause of gun violence in this country, rather criminals and the mentally deranged are the primary culprits.

“The people that go and shoot up schools and malls, those are the ones ruining it for everybody. Not the ones who are exercising their rights and being peaceful,” said Rierson.

Rierson also echoed one of the organization’s motto’s, which is that a right not exercised is a right lost.

“If you don’t do it, people are never going to get used to it. People are never going to learn their rights,” Rierson said.

However, some see open carry demonstrations as being problematic, especially for law enforcement because they are the ones who have to respond to calls and complaints from concerned and sometimes ornery citizens.

“I know that some feel, ‘it’s my right, and nobody should be shocked,’ and unfortunately in the society we live in today, people that drive by and see that don’t know if they truly are a responsible gun owner or if they’re an irresponsible person looking to cause harm,” Sioux Falls Police Capt. Greg Vandekamp told Keloland.com.

“It’s a very delicate situation for us as law enforcement. Laws of the land and the concerns of the people,” Vandekamp added.

Rierson said that he understands why people call the police, but still it frustrates him.

“It does frustrate me, but I can kind of understand and that’s absolutely not our goal. We’re not out there to generate a police response. We’re not out there to scare people,” Rierson explained.


For reference, here is SDOC’s complete Mission Statement:

1. The normalization of open carry reverses the demonization of guns. We would like to see a social shift in how many view weapons. Many people’s opinions regarding firearms are a reflection of what they see in movies, (i.e., only criminals and Police Officers have guns) the reality is far different. Repeated exposure to everyday law-abiding people carrying firearms reduces the irrational fear of them. The answer is education and understanding.

2. We would like to see laws, regulations, policies , rules, procedures, and or any legislative action by any Agent, or Body of Government prohibiting law-abiding citizens from carrying a weapon repealed. The Right of Self-Defense does not stop when we go to the Post Office, take our family to a Park, or pickup our children from school.

So, all of this raises several questions: Given the fact that they often confuse the hell out of some people (who in turn phone the police) are open carry demonstrations and protests really worth doing? Are they the optimal way to change society’s perspective on the Second Amendment? As a culture, should openly carrying a firearm — say an AR-15 — in public really be the norm?

Me, personally, I totally support open-carry demonstrations. But I do question their efficacy. I say this because only 1 out of 3 Americans own firearms. Moreover, and this varies state to state, but between 3 percent and 7 percent of the entire population has a license to carry a concealed firearm (Florida is believed to have the highest with 7 percent). And of those who have a CCW permit, not everyone regularly carries.

My point simply is that carrying guns in public — whether open or concealed — may never be “normal” because there aren’t enough people who actively carry on a consistent basis. Sure, there are towns and small cities across the country where carrying a firearm is more common and therefore more accepted, but in big cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, seeing a civilian toting a sidearm will never be the norm. Sure, onerous gun laws are a big reason why, but even putting those aside, there just aren’t enough active carrying gun owners to really move the needle.

I suppose I’m being a pessimist. And I don’t believe we should stop holding open-carry protests. But I do think we should be realistic about our expectations with respect to open carry demonstrations and their long-term effect on changing the way people view gun owners.

From my experience, taking non-gun owning friends and friends of friends to the range for some recreational shooting is probably the best way to win hearts and minds.

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