Well, the topic of open carry has come up again here in Wisconsin as a couple of well-meaning men wandered through the Village of Germantown (just northwest of Milwaukee) carrying sidearms and rifles in full view. It happened in mid-March and was a flash in the pan as far as social media goes.
As expected, frightened citizens called police, who responded immediately. Under the watchful eyes of the video cameras, the police responded appropriately when they asked for identification and the gun-toters denied it.
But the incident prompted a news story in which Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell said, “I understand some of you may disagree with me, but this type of insensitive behavior to cause alarm with so many people just because it is your right to do so is senseless.”
Let me point out before I go any further that I think open carry relieves the good guys of their tactical advantage. Open carry allows the bad guys to plan an ambush and come take your weapons. But in the State of Wisconsin, open carry is a right — and I don’t think any rights should be infringed or otherwise restricted just because some people feel the exercise of those rights are insensitive to the easily frightened.
I spoke to the reporter who wrote the story, and she told me that it appears everyone knows it’s legal to practice open carry in Wisconsin. She wondered why some open carry advocates would continue to do such things. I pointed out that some people apparently don’t know it is legal and still call the police when they see a gun, regardless of who is carrying it.
If “everyone” knows it’s legal, why should anyone care that people are carrying guns? Even if the open carry advocates’ only intent was to get attention, getting attention is not a crime. There was no intent to commit a crime. So the police acted appropriately. Would they have acted differently if there had not been a camera present?
The chief says such actions by the open carry crowd are senseless. Well, perhaps such actions by the open carry crowd need to continue until citizens stop calling the police every time they see a gun. Guns are not the problem. Actions are the problem. How many people go out of their way to call police when they see a man stagger out of a bar and head to his car? Most just shrug and say, “I hope he doesn’t kill anyone.”
Think about this: You may not like it, but that does not mean you can stop people from exercising their rights. And now open carry is apparently practiced to prove the value of the 1st Amendment (freedom of expression), the 2nd Amendment (right to keep and bear arms), 4th (prohibit unlawful search), 5th (self-incrimination), 8th (excessive punishment), 9th (Constitution can’t be use to take other rights), and 10th (powers not delegated in the Constitution are retained by the States and the people). Who knew one little act could be used to show that we need to protect so many rights?
I won’t carry openly because I think it is better to carry concealed. But I won’t advocate for the elimination of open carry. Once you start stomping on all those rights because you become scared by the sight of some piece of machinery you don’t understand, you could end up losing a lot more than you think.