Having failed for decades to achieve any of its broader aims, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has decided to experiment with a new tactic: annoying peaceful gun owners into submission. “If you see someone carrying a firearm in public — openly or concealed — and have ANY doubts about their intent,” a recent missive from the group proposed, “call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene.” Thus did one of the nation’s leading “anti-violence” outfits casually mark 12 million people as targets.
Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for CSGV, sees no problem with this approach at all. “In an era in which individuals are being allowed to carry loaded guns on our streets with no permit, background check or required training,” he told Fox News, “it is common sense for concerned citizens to call 911 when they see an armed individual whose intentions are unclear.”
Why, too, does he lump all carriers under a single umbrella? Practically and legally, there is a considerable difference between a person’s carrying a firearm concealed or openly in a holster, and a person’s “flourishing” that firearm in a threatening way. I have no more time than anyone else for the Open Carry Texas types, who, under the guise of defending their rights, walk aggressively onto private property with their AR-15s set at a low ready. But this is not the typical behavior of either concealed- or open-carriers, most of whom are respectful, conscientious, and tranquil in nature, and who as a class are far, far more law-abiding than the population at large. All 50 American states have now passed laws that lay out what constitutes legal “carrying,” and what constitutes illegal “brandishing.” It is not the proper role of the man on the street to attempt to rewrite those rules.
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In an attempt to pour cold water on this dangerous prospect, Everitt argues that “gun-toters who are truly law-abiding and mentally competent have nothing whatsoever to worry about.” Indeed, he proposes, “their conversations with law enforcement will be brief and professional.” In some circumstances, this may indeed be true. But what of the rest? To call a first responder and to alert him that you are scared of a man with a lethal weapon is inevitably to set his heart racing and to raise his adrenalin level to the breaking point. If there is a better way to increase the chances of a mistake, I would like to know what it is.And that’s rather the point, isn’t it? It is difficult to avoid concluding that, somewhere deep down, CSGV and their ilk are aiming to antagonize both the cops and the citizenry at large. At best, the hope is that the police will become tired of being called out over nothing, that the carriers will become frustrated at being constantly targeted, and that the communities to which they both belong will decide in consequence that protecting the right is not worth suffering the hassle. At worst, the aim is to provoke a lethal confrontation and thus to illustrate in blood that the naysayers have been right all along. To the uninitiated, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt must sound hysterical when he proposes that “anti-gun advocates are clearly frustrated” by their lack of progress, and, having “been thwarted in the past,” are “looking for alternative means.” And yet, as I documented last year, that open-carriers might be annoyed into submission — or even righteously “gunned down” by the cops — is a contingency you see openly wished for by commenters on the gun-control websites across the Internet. “Every time I see someone with a gun in a store I will call 911,” a woman named Jennifer Decker vowed on Moms Demand Action’s Facebook page in 2013, “they’ll get tired of that right quick!!!” It’s all fun and games until somebody gets killed.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer for National Review.