One evening this August, in the parking lot of a Starbucks in Newtown, Connecticut, local gun owners smoked and fumed, resting their hands on holstered handguns, automatic rifles slung low on their backs. The coffee shop where they had planned to meet had closed early, deliberately preempting their right to order Caramel Frappuccinos while fully armed.
Second only to free speech, the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution: A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. All but five of the nation’s 50 states allow citizens to openly carry their guns in public, and under the credo that “a right unexercised is a right lost,” certain gun owners do flash their barrels on otherwise ordinary errands and activities. A certain number do it while bearing a hand-held video camera, too, apparently titillated by the possibility of catching a well-meaning policeman in the act of violating their rights by asking for identification, a permit or an explanation. There are currently 889,000 videos tagged “open carry gun” on YouTube.
The Starbucks that shut out Newtown’s open-carry activists is a five-minute drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six teachers were massacred last year. Their killer, 20-year-old Newtownian Adam Lanza walked into the school with a perfectly legal AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. As the policemen caught on gun owners’ cameras often struggle to explain, no one knows what a “well-regulated” gun-toting civilian looks like. But according to gun-rights blogger NWFreeThinker, there are three easy rules for making your open-carry rally as unthreatening and positive as possible: “Camouflage bad outside of woods. Long guns bad in urban areas. Tactical holster scary.” Because it’s the holster that really scares people.
From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.