The NRA is Learning Some Fights Aren’t Worth Winning

John Michael McGrath is a Digital Media Producer for TVO.

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The Open Carry folks have a simple enough passion: they simply want to exercise the rights the US Constitution and various state law give them to roam around in public with rifles visible. This is a phenomenon we may associate most with, say, Texas, though the level of gun-nuttery we attribute to that state may occasionally be unfair: in Georgia, for example, you can even get away with carrying your gun into a little league baseball game and saying, in the creepiest manner possible, “You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Because freedom.

At least now we have an answer to that age-old question: what’s more American, little league or gun rights? (Better luck next time, apple pie.)

In Texas, though, things seem to have gotten a bit out of hand even by the lax standards of the pro-gun movement, with the Open Carry Texas organization testing the patience of minor political interests like the American food industry, by insisting on the right to bring guns into restaurants and mall parking lots.

In response to the understandable criticism that this is less about constitutional rights and more about intimidating their fellow citizens with naked displays of violence and aggression, the Open Carry folks have responded with… naked displays of violence and aggression. (Are women a particular target of these proud gun owners? Of course they are.)

If this wasn’t already at the point of self-parody, it is now: things have gotten so out of hand, the National Rifle Association, that bastion of moderate thought, called the Open Carry movement “weird” and “scary”—and then the NRA had to issue an apology.

The NRA’s sudden discovery that, gosh, guns can be and are used to intimidate people, and not all gun owners are terribly well socialized individuals, would be a bit easier to take if the NRA hasn’t spent years pushing for the exact laws that allow this kind of behaviour.

What the NRA is realizing, perhaps too late, is that there are some fights that aren’t worth winning. Sure, the NRA has been lobbying for the maximal interpretation of the Second Amendment, consequences be damned, for decades. But the moment people start taking the NRA’s own claims literally and begin acting on them, suddenly the organization gets skittish. It’s possible, just maybe, that gun rights in America might be more secure if the NRA had spent any time on the words “well regulated” in the text of the document they love so much.

Or not. We can say, pretty darkly, that the NRA needn’t worry about the Open Carry folks setting back the cause of gun rights in the US. Newtown didn’t do it, even if Wayne LaPierre’s reaction sounded like gun rights Mad Libs. Gabrielle Giffords keeps trying to bring some sense to the debate, but state laws have largely gone backwards in recent years.

What continues to puzzle me is what, exactly, the endgame is supposed to be for the Open Carry movement. OCT says one of their goals is to “condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding

citizens that choose to carry [rifles].” Quite aside from the fact that some of us will never be comfortable around men with guns, I’d like to see what happens when it’s not just these guys. What happens if and when the membership of a Texas mosque, or maybe the local Mexican-American community, also decides to exercise their constitutional rights? Hell, let’s make it all three at the same time.

Or maybe I don’t want to see that at all. Some fights, after all, aren’t worth winning.

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