There is an old adage that “any publicity is good publicity” implying that as long as people are talking about you, it does not matter if they are speaking kindly or unkindly. If this is ever true, which is highly doubtful, it is not the case when you are trying to pass legislation and most if not all public comments are negative.
This is especially true when there is a large segment of voters who are undecided on the issue you are promoting. One expects to see radical organizations like the various anti-gun groups, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States taking anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-everything-they-didn’t-invent positions on issues, but when virtually all of the news media outlets considered reliable by rank and file citizens come out against your proposal, your issue is in trouble, big trouble.
Negative publicity on the open-carry issue
A small number of Texas organizations, and some individuals, are promoting the concept of open-carry by organizing demonstrations that involve the carrying of rifles and shotguns into private businesses and on public property and roadways. While these organizations report that their demonstrations are being well-received by the people they meet, this is not what is being reported by the new media who are more than happy to fan the flames of controversy. They broadcast photos and video that present the demonstrators in the worst possible light. People who strongly oppose demonstrators carrying “assault rifles” on the street and into stores and restaurants are interviewed by TV news crews and their comments are universally negative. The most common emotions presented are fear and disbelief that it is legal to carry long guns anywhere one wishes. So even if the people on-site are supportive of the demonstrators’ efforts, the general public is seeing only negative comments and reports.
Alienating the general public is political suicide.
Texans are very supportive of Second Amendment rights overall and there is miniscule support for gun control initiatives. Although the vast majority of our citizens are pro-gun, only about 4.2% of eligible Texans get a Texas Concealed Handgun License. This means approximately 750,000 people can legally carry a self-defense handgun, excluding those who legally carry a handgun in their car without a CHL. This is the population that is potentially interested in open-carry and a large percentage of the 750,000 CHL’s do not care about open-carry. They are not opposed to open-carry, they just do not care one way or the other. This leaves 17.25 million Texans who do not have a dog in this hunt.
In order to pass an open-carry bill it is critical not to alienate or scare those who will never chose to carry a handgun openly. While positive messages are presented on the websites of the open-carry organizations, they are read only by those who are already committed to passing open-carry. The message does not reach the general public and even if the public read the open-carry websites, they would undoubtedly be alienated by the radical “kill them all and let god sort them out” attitude exhibited in many posts. So the public’s only information on the issue comes from regular media sources who delight in portraying open-carry supporters as dangerous lunatics.
Knowledgeable firearms owners support open-carry, but oppose radical tactics.
Open-carry has significant support in the active firearms community. By “active” it is meant people who both own and use firearms for self-defense and/or sporting purposes. These people tend to be more educated about firearms usage, the causes and prevention of crime, and the manner in which anti-gun media and organizations disseminate false information about guns and gun owners. While many active firearms owners support open-carry, they appreciate the fact that long gun demonstrations are diminishing the likelihood of passing an open-carry bill in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session.
What can be done to promote open-carry responsibly?
First, leave the rifles and shotguns at home. Leave the black powder handguns at home also. If someone simply must carry something, then put on a holster and put a carrot in it as three open-carry supporters did at the State Republican Convention. They were very well received and people wanted to listen to their position on open-carry. Carrots are not especially scary or intimidating and they were a great ice-breaker.
What is most needed now is five months of peace and quite before the beginning of the 2015 Texas Legislative Session in January, 2015. Let the dust settle and deprive the media of anti-OC fodder. Let those working behind the scenes try to repair the public image of open-carry, thus regaining support for passage of open-carry in 2015. Fear and intimidation do not pass bills.