If a bunch of men with guns showed up outside a restaurant, it might make anyone inside a wee bit nervous. If you happened to be one of four members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense who had gathered for lunch at that restaurant and you looked out the window and saw a group of 40 rifle-toting people staring back at you, you could be forgiven for freaking out.
That is what happened at the Blue Mesa Grill in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday. The folks with the guns were a contingent representing Open Carry Texas. They were completely within their rights to be displaying their "long guns" because in the Lone Star State carrying a rifle or shotgun in public is legal. Open Carry Texas wants more, though. They want the freedom to carry any kind of gun in the open anywhere they want.
Open Carry Texas has contingents in other states pushing the same agenda, and there have been several encounters between them and their nemesis, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense – a national gun control organization formed after the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Shannon Watts, founder of the organization, told USA Today that a similar group of citizens bearing arms came to a gun control rally in Indianapolis in April.
"We were surrounded by armed men, including some openly carrying loaded semiautomatic rifles," Watts said. "Many of our moms had children with them. Unfortunately this is not a unique situation — it's happened in many states, including Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan and now Texas. If open carry is allowed, our rallies are often attended by armed protesters."
The Open Carry Texas boys outside the restaurant in Arlington insisted they were within their rights to peaceably assemble. Police agreed, and the incident ended when the gun group took their peaceful assembly over to Hooters, acting as if all of this was perfectly normal. The patrons inside the Blue Mesa Grill who had witnessed this display were a little less sanguine. Terrified might be a better way to describe it.
The open carry partisans say they want the public to get used to the presence of law-abiding citizens with guns in their hands. Of course, it’s not always easy to tell the law-abiding gunmen from those who have bad intent. The four mothers holding their meeting at the restaurant could rightly assume that the gun zealots had dropped by with the intent to intimidate.
Horrific gun violence hits the headlines almost every day. The gun-slinging open carry posse may think it’s a cute tactic to brandish weapons in the face of gun control advocates, but most Americans will never confuse these paranoid vigilantes with the good guys in white hats.