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NRA questions the wisdom of pro-gun protests in Texas

Gun rights advocates hold open carry demonstration
Gun rights advocates hold open carry demonstrationPhoto by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Recently, the NRA posted an article on their Institute for Legislative Action page, questioning the wisdom of gun rights advocates holding rallies outside Texas businesses. These open-carry demonstrations, the NRA suggests, may do more harm than good:

Let's not mince words, not only is it rare, it's downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one's cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

Some gun rights advocates have agreed with the NRA’s response. Even while they may support open carry laws, and the right to be openly armed, they believe it is poor judgment, in that it may turn a neutral voter into an antigun voter, and may spark more calls for gun control laws. Others, however, have viewed the NRA declaration as backing down.

The argument that these demonstrations could turn neutral voters into anti-gun voters is true enough. In much the same way, gay rights demonstrations may turn neutral voters into anti-gay voters. But is freedom supposed to be defended through stealth, and rights guarded through timidity? Just because a demonstration may turn a neutral voter into an opponent, that is not a just reason to lay aside one’s principles.

The NRA’s statement essentially calls for moderation, that there is no reason to show up at a restaurant armed to the teeth (which most people don’t do, anyway), and that through such unthinking recklessness, gun advocates unnecessarily endanger gun rights. But “for whom?” should gun owners moderate their behavior for? What would moderation look like, when one side says they have a right to own and carry firearms, and the other side disputes this right, says that the “public good” demands they take it away, and that the state permits them to rob gun owners of their property? There can be no compromise between people with such opposing views.

If someone has an inalienable right to something, they cannot compromise, or give in to moderation. It makes men into cowards if they were to say, “I have a right to do this, but I won’t do it, because I’m afraid it might provoke someone into restricting my rights.” Freedom is not won through timidity, and rights are not defended by laying them at the altar of compromise for fear of offending someone.

In the article, the NRA declares, “… just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done.” Why shouldn’t someone openly carry a firearm into a restaurant? “It's just not neighborly”, the NRA says.

If you have a right to do something, but you shouldn’t exercise that right because it’s not neighborly, then why even have that right in the first place? What use is it to have a right to do something that you should be, at the same time, prohibited from doing, because it is not neighborly? It’s a self-defeating argument. The only thing you have gained is that you have rights that you can’t take advantage of, because if you do, your neighbors will band together and take away your freedom by force. That is certainly not neighborly of them, either.

And what do you gain by being neighborly? If they won’t respect your right to openly carry a firearm, and you won’t risk offending them by openly carrying a firearm, what have you gained? You’ve only given up a little freedom; in hopes that they will be ‘reasonable’ and won’t demand you give up the rest. You don’t preserve freedom by voluntarily giving up small bits of it, hoping that by being neighborly you will appease the person who wants to take it away completely. To do so would be like a sheep offering up its leg to the wolf, hoping that snack will appease the predator’s appetite. Indeed it may – for a short time. The wolf will grow hungry again, and the sheep only has so many legs to give.

This is not simply about open carry in restaurants. The fact is that most people don’t go into restaurants openly armed with guns. And, hopefully, most people who bring guns to protests bring unloaded guns, have the safety latch on, and keep the weapons pointed to the ground. No, this is about a bigger struggle between one side who believes they have an inalienable right, protected under the second amendment, to own and carry firearms, against another group of people who believes that they have a right to take away your rights and your property to protect “the public good”. Between such opposing groups, there can be no compromise, no amount of neighborliness can make such contrasting views coexist.

Being neighborly, showing timidity, out of fear of offending someone, should not supersede one’s being right, holding to their principles, and being free. Freedom and rights comes first, being neighborly comes second.