Open Range

So, I’m in Safeway Christmas Day looking for a whistle. Safeway, of course, does not carry whistles. Nor does Walgreens or 7-Eleven or any other retailer open on Christmas Day, but when you’re desperate to finish wrapping the kids’ toys, you’ll waste gasoline driving around anyway. This white male, typical of many white males here in Ourtown, passes me in the aisle. He’s wearing a dark tee shirt, shorts and athletic shoes, and has what appears to be a Glock-18 holstered at his side. Now, what alarms me most about this guy is the outfit, not the gun. It’s about ten degrees outside and this man is walking around in a tee shirt and shorts, which immediately makes me question his state of mind. He is also open carrying in a state where obtaining a concealed carry license is about as difficult as ordering a pizza. There really is no reason to open carry in Colorado other than that you just want to be seen with your gun. Whether for political reasons or other, open carriers have made a conscious choice to raise the blood pressure of everyone around them by wandering supermarket aisles with their pistol hanging off their hip; thus making Safeway not so safe.

They know full well the discomfort and alarm they are causing. I can prove it by wandering the aisles of Safeway with my penis hanging out. I’d be drawing attention to myself, and needlessly so. In Colorado, if you can stand a background check, you can get a Concealed Carry Weapons permit and put your gun away. If you’re open carrying here, you simply want to be seen. That, or you’re trying to make some political statement about background checks leading to gun confiscation or the Apocalypse or some other lunatic nonsense.

Now here’s this poor checkout girl, age 23, struggling to raise her kid alone on minimum wage, and she just has to eat it; just has to stand there hoping this lunatic doesn’t shoot her. It’s what we all do, what the gun lobby asks of us: to place our lives into the hands of a man not wise enough to wear a coat in ten-degree weather. Why no coat? The answer is obvious: he wants to show off his gun, even on the day we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. For all of those reasons and more, I submit this was a deranged individual; a deranged individual with a gun. And all the shoppers, myself included, just went about our morning pretending not to be nervous about this gun freak.

I’m not sure who’s more paranoid: me or the guy with the gun. An unknown, unidentified individual sporting no credentials, wearing no uniform or badge. I’m just supposed to trust him, to accept on faith somehow, that this is a good guy and not a bad guy. Would he do the same for me? If I, a black man, were wandering around a supermarket at nine a.m. on Christmas day, wearing a tee shirt and shorts in ten-degree weather with a Glock on my hip: would this stranger afford me the same level of grace and acceptance he insists I benignly bestow upon him?

This is the insanity of Open Carry. It requires everyone without a gun to be an idiot; to assume these persons with guns are (1) not high or drunk, (2) are of sound mind and body, (3) are fully trained and qualified to handle firearms (a real stretch), and, most important, (4) are, I suppose, Batman and can, in fact, deduce, within seconds of spotting me, that I am not a Muslim terrorist but his neighbor from down the block on a futile search for a kid’s whistle. That last one worries me the most because most if not all of the gun-toters I am seeing believe this about the president of the United States. The color of my skin sets off their radar in much the same way my seeing their pistol sets off mine.

If you think I’m too extreme or too paranoid, try this: imagine yourself in a world full of black males who vocally embrace the extremist “white devils” message of the early 60’s Malcolm X. You go shopping, and these black males outnumber you a hundred, three hundred to one. Now, imagine a certain percentage of those black males, pants sagging and wife beater shirts, have Glocks strapped to their waist or AR-15’s strapped to their backs. Imagine all the cops are black and simply ignore these guys. Now come back and tell me how paranoid I’m being.

I have a right to not be terrorized. I have a right to not be bullied. I have a right to not have to live by the permission of some stranger with a gun.


  1. Texas just made open carry legal this year, prior to that if you had a concealed carry permit you had to keep it in your pants. No open carrying of pistols until this year.

    Almost immediately, someone who was open carrying got robbed at gunpoint, and his brand new pistol stolen.

    Another law from the same session struck down a previous law banning guns on college campuses. Interestingly, open carry is still not allowed on campus, since there was some weird overlap issue between the laws, but students will be allowed to carry pistols into high-stress situations like exams, yay. Campuses are still allowed to define a limited number of no-gun areas, and I’m hoping they’re all smart enough to include “chemistry labs full of volatile stuff” in the no-gun lists. But if they try to cover too many, the statehouse will strike it down and tell them to try again.

    • Priest Priest says:

      “Almost immediately, someone who was open carrying got robbed at gunpoint, and his brand new pistol stolen.” LOL!! ROFL!! The sad part: incidents like this will only ratchet up the paranoia on the part of guns-are-the-answer folks, make them even jumpier, more suspicious, and quicker on the draw. And I’m only reaching for a box of Cap’n Crunch.

      BTW: lest any pro-gun folks brand me as anti-gun: full disclosure, I’m an NRA member. I think Wayne LaPierre is a lunatic and I believe many of the NRA’s extreme positions are indefensible. Theirs is the face of intolerance and de facto White Power. It grieves me to give money to them, but I also believe they lobby for an important right that needs protecting. So I hold my nose a lot and wish, frankly, that more independents and liberals would join up so we could vote the fringe out of there in favor for some common-sense gun legislation.

      I’m not saying “take your gun away.” I’m saying keep it in your pants. The notion that open carry is a deterrent factor is an insidious lie that will, I promise you, get some people hurt. Do you really think the Muslim jihadist or the Christian fundamentalist lunatic gives a damn whether or not people inside the target area have pistols? And, isn’t it interesting how the fringe keep pushing their war on Islam, insisting on the term “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” while conveniently NOT branding the Planned Parenthood shooting “Radical Christian Terrorism?”

      What really scares me is how easily most low-information folk can be manipulated. I mean, of course they can; that’s the whole point of politics. But it seems ignorance is winning ever fight these days. Open carry has been legal here for a long time, but now it’s this wave effect; the new fad–the gunslinger goes to Walgreen’s. As if some lunatic bent on killing everyone in the store gives a damn.

      And, because all we see are white males loking up (arming themselves), I assure you, more and more brothers are doing the same *in reaction to* the open carriers. But brothers are not open carrying because they’re likely to be shot first and questioned later. Here, and I suspect in many places, the open carry laws are intrinsically racist; Open Carry For White Males laws.

      • We really need an alternative to the NRA for people who want to lobby for gun-related stuff but don’t want to be a pawn of the gun companies. Time and again, independent surveys of NRA members show most of them support various restrictions on purchase and ownership, but the NRA hasn’t been the voice of its members for decades now. Giving the NRA any money is telling them you’re okay with what they’re doing, and giving them “proof” of support for their insane and greedy ways.

        • Priest Priest says:

          Yes, I completely agree. Sadly, this is not likely to change. Any rival organization would certainly be killed in its crib, gunned down by the lunatic fringe. And, truthfully, the idea of getting more sane people to join the NRA in hopes of voting the fringe cases out or rallying the majority is a pipe dream. The NRA fights dirty.

      • Ty says:

        “…full disclosure, I’m an NRA member. I think Wayne LaPierre is a lunatic”
        “It grieves me to give money to them”

        OK…you had me…until you lost me.
        Not sure how you can rant about open carry laws when your money is what brought about the open carry law in the first place. You know what the NRA is all about these days. Why not find another gun lobby to support?

        The NRA isn’t a necessary evil. The 2nd amendment isnt going anywhere anytime in the near or distant future (unfortunately). But more than that, you’re not Reed Richards \having to make the “greater good” choice of letting Galactus exist. Even though the NRA probably won’t die anytime soon, that still doesn’t mean you have to give them your Quantum and Woody royalties.

        I don’t think The Watcher or Eternity can come to your defense on this, Sir Priest.

        • Priest Priest says:

          “Why not find another gun lobby to support?”

          Name one.

          • Priest Priest says:

            British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Forum Waffenrecht, Gun Owners of South Africa, National Arms Association of Spain 🙂 Sold!

            Actually, my own personal interpretation: the second amendment refers to keeping a rifle (or bayonet) around the house in case President Washington sells out to King George. The founders surely never imagined automatic weapons or, say, flame throwers. As for the NRA: Ty, I hear ya. There are positive aspects of the NRA that get drowned out by their fanaticism. I also believe, n some level, their fanaticism has elements of theater as in, push way, way too hard and irrationally to protect this smaller subset of goals.

            If you’re a gay Republican or a Catholic unhappy about donating to the church because of their extremism and scandals, that’s okay, too.

            Oh, wait, just found a bunch of other gun rights orgs, they were under a subcategory. None of them have the influence of the NRA. And I get discounts on car rentals.

  2. Ralf Haring says:

    “Actually, my own personal interpretation: the second amendment refers to keeping a rifle (or bayonet) around the house in case President Washington sells out to King George.”

    Mission accomplished. Washington will never sell us out to King George. Now let’s get rid of the second amendment and join the 20th century.

    • One fairly cogent analysis making the rounds on facebook is that the 2nd Amendment was intended to help put down things like the Whiskey Rebellion. But with the presence of a standing army, the citizen militia is no longer necessary.

      A more controversial analysis states that the 2nd Amendment was largely a sop to southern states, who wanted to be able to raise armed militias to put down slave uprisings in particular.

      • Priest Priest says:

        I actually agree with that interpretation. The 2A has, of course, been perverted to mean many things.

        Even fuller disclosure: I don’t actually own a gun. But I live in a state where, no kidding, they sell pistols at the drug store (Longs Drugs). I’m neither anti nor pro gun, but I’d like to know if I needed one for self-protection that I can exercise that right. In NYC, only crooks can have guns. Even law-abiding people who get one from their cousin in Indiana are, technically, crooks. It’s extremely hard to get a pistol permit in NYC and all but impossible to get a concealed carry permit. So, as in Chicago, you’re really at the mercy of the thugs.

        I assume sweeping common-sense gun legislation would resolve to fewer guns for crooks. The insanity is, as long as the NRA and others block even the most reasonable legislation, that inures to the benefit of the crooks because more guns are out there exchanging hands. And, as long as that’s going on, I want the right to defend myself. Now, realistically, how many life-and-death gun battles have any of us actually been in? Open Carry is, to me, Kabuki theater: Crazies won’t care and smart crooks will just steal your guns.

    • Priest Priest says:

      LOL! I agree, I really do. But, let me ask you: have you ever had a real gun pointed at you in anger? I have. You will never feel more helpless that when your very life is in the hands of some twitchy moron high on crack. And I feel like I can speak out on this issue because (a) I don’t actually own a gun but wouldn’t hesitate to get one if I felt I needed one and, (b) I can’t be labeled as a pacifist liberal because I *am* the NRA. And there’s likely thousands of folks just like me, the secret society of sane people in the NRA.

      • Dave Van Domelen says:

        The problem with guns as a defense is that once you have a gun pointed at you in anger, it doesn’t matter if you have a gun on your person or not. Unless you’re one of the best quick-draw artists in the world, you’re getting shot at before you can bring your own to bear…at which point your main defense is hoping the other guy has horrible aim.

        Sure, I can *imagine* situations where being armed is actually an improvement, but I can also imagine being bulletproof. Unless you spend all your time on a hair-trigger and are determined to be the one that draws first, you might as well not be armed. And, of course, if everyone’s trying to be the first one with their gun out, guns will come out at the slightest imagined provocation. (Fortunately for avoiding perpetual standoffs, most people will think having the gun on them is a magic talisman and won’t realize the need to get it out first for it to do any good.)

        The only real defense is to be well-off enough to never have to go to any of those places where someone’s likely to draw on you, and then be smart enough to not go those places. Second best is to be rich enough to pay people to be armed on your behalf and draw fire away from you.

        Laws to reduce the number of guns in circulation will be slow to have an effect, yeah. And they’ll disarm the non-thugs first, since the criminals will work harder to stay illegally armed. But eventually you have to admit the ship is sinking and start baling, or resign yourself to drowning. SO MANY gun deaths come from law-abiding citizens to were too well-armed for a heated argument to end without shots fired, even disarming the non-criminals will help. As overall violent crime has gone down, it has stayed nearly flat in the states with the highest gun availability, because the stuff that would have been shouting matches or minor scuffles is escalated to aggravated battery or manslaughter because someone was carrying who had no good reason to be.

        • Priest Priest says:

          All good points. This is the fundamental truth about guns: it’s mostly about who gets the drop on whom. It’s like those Spy vs. Spy bits from Mad Magazine: your gun is completely useless if you’re the last one to pull it out, which is why holster manufacturers emphasize how quick you can draw your firearm.

          Whatever training I’ve had is secondary to my ability to not let someone sneak up behind me, which means I have to be on alert all the time. When I lived in NY, I lived that way–on alert all the time. It’s a hard habit to break.

          “…guns will come out at the slightest imagined provocation…”

          Yes, which is what bothers me so much about Open Carry: the quick-draw. Concealed carry requires you to blow your cover, so there’s a moment where you think, “do I really need to brandish my firearm?”

          “…most people will think having the gun on them is a magic talisman …”

          Most gun-toters *do* think that way. I don’t, which is why I don’t tote 🙂 In the case of a robbery, I am not Batman. In the case of a religious nut or terrorist attack, odds are my gun will be useless or taken away.

          But, here’s a more reasonable scenario: let’s say I live in a small cabin off of Route 24 in the middle of nowhere, Teller County. There are, maybe, a handful of state patrol and a few county deputies covering hundreds of square miles. I live alone. Biker gangs love to roam the area. So do bears. And bears on bikes.

          Or I’m driving through the No Man’s Land between Denver and Colorado Springs in the middle of the night and I blow a tire.

          Or, I’m overnighting in a motel in Amarillo (yes, David!) where I am hassled at 3 in the morning by drunk white guys pounding on my door.

          “The only real defense is to be well-off enough to never have to go to any of those places where someone’s likely to draw on you…”

          And then your big fear is kidnap 🙂

          “And they’ll disarm the non-thugs first, since…”

          …the thugs are much less likely to register with the sheriff’s department 🙂

          “But eventually you have to admit the ship is sinking and start baling…”

          The ship has already sunk, Dave. I mean, I’ve never thought so much about owning a gun before, not even when I lived in bad parts of NYC. I’m much less afraid of crooks (or bears) than I am of the gun-toters, many of whom I see ordering alcohol in restaurants.

          I’m getting Chinese food the other day and this twitch is sitting in his car with, I kid you not, this huge glass bong (or whatever you call those things) getting loaded. I promise you he had a gun in the car, which he was about to start driving while high. The nearest deputy was a mile away chatting idly with another deputy. I didn’t rat out the bong guy because, here in CO, you can’t talk to a deputy or police officer because, just *talking* to them means they’re going to demand your ID and run you for warrants. I don’t have any warrants, but I’m tired of that crap, being treated like a criminal just because I wanted to ask about parking zones or something, so I don’t talk to cops or deputies, period.

          “SO MANY gun deaths come from law-abiding citizens …”

          If I had a gun, I’m quite sure my foot would be the first casualty. I’ve taken firearms classes, I’m pretty handy with a rifle, but I’m also a large, black malcontent that people generally don’t mess with because I look like I might hurt you. Which is what fills me with anxiety, not over the bad guys but over the alleged “good” guys and soccer moms; nervous people who might be firearms qualified but have taken no classes on how to tell a gang banger from a comic book writer. Seriously: I’ve been mistaken (by idiots) for a gang banger. I’m 54 years old for Pete’s sake.

          A couple months back I went down the block at 1AM and rang this moron’s doorbell to ask him to please do something about his barking dog. There were obviously people in the house, but they didn’t come to the door nor did they call out a window or anything. I know they know my car because I see these people all the time. Now I read about this idiot who fired shots through the door at some kid pulling a prank. Shooting through your door is illegal; the homeowner was charged with assault; he should have been charged with attempted murder.

          It is the itchy trigger finger mopes that worry me the most. The guy guzzling beer in Old Chicago with a 1911 strapped to his hip.

          Bottom line: it’s a mess, I agree. But the confiscate-all-the-guns approach is much like trickle-down economics. There are tons of illegal guns in the bad guy supply chain. I’m almost willing to bet you could confiscate every single *legal* firearm in the U.S. and not see a major decrease in gun violence. People will find ways to get guns.

          I say disarm all the bears.

          • Dave Van Domelen says:

            Nah, the ship hasn’t sunk. I’ve dealt with a few graduate students from Cameroon…they can’t go home because they’re on the wrong side of the civil war and would probably get shot. THAT country has had the ship sink. Somalia’s resting on the ocean bottom. Syria is burrowing into the mantle. We just have a significant leak we should do something about.

  3. Priest, we need you to be a voice on these radio and TV talk shows, to promote some sensible ideas about the gun epidemic.
    Here in Michigan, it’s an open carry state, with a handful of exceptions. Within the past couple of years, there’s usually some kind of public demonstration (always a suburban locale) where pro-gunners want to assert that open carrying “everywhere” should be the standard. In Michigan’s state legislature there is a pending bill that would allow people who have concealed pistol licenses to bring the gun into otherwise “gun free zones” like day care centers, sports arenas, entertainment venues that host at least 2,500 people; bars, churches, hospitals, casinos and dormitories or classrooms at colleges. With the heavily GOP-leaning state legislature and a GOP governor, it may well pass. And if it does, I doubt that Michigan’s urban enclaves (i.e., Detroit) will be afforded any resources to push back against the already problematic gun violence that heavily informs day-to-day life here and has contributed to me being a nervous wreck. An editor of a local newsweekly recently published an editorial about the tradition of popping off your guns at New Year’s midnight. Even while ostensibly critiquing it, he still managed to assert that listening to it while perched near a window at home “is exciting… I always remember to open the window at midnight and listen.”
    Part of me wanted to strangle him.

    • Dave Van Domelen says:

      The National Religion of Ammunition definitely needs a Martin Luther to post some theses to the NRA facebook page….

  4. circi says:

    You know… I am incredibly curious as to the purpose of the kid’s whistle. Haven’t seen or heard them in decades 😀

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