So I called up Henry and started Googling. Here's what I learned ...
If you're any kind of aware of what's pissed the Internet off this past week, you probably know that a bunch of gun owners have started tromping around fast food restaurants, openly carrying AK-47s and AR-15s. In Chipotle and Chili's and other chains across Texas, men and (a few) women have started using firearms as protest signs. Their cause? Defending the sacred right of Americans to treat every day like Tactical Halloween.
The fact that these protests kicked off just days after America's latest horrific shooting spree may have something to do with the angry backlash these guys experienced. Some of that may have something to do with the fact that the poster boys for the "open carry" movement have an uncanny ability to look utterly absurd while carrying machine guns:
They call him ... the Mountain that Waddles.
In addition to prompting Chipotle and Chili's to ban their gun-toting asses, the members of Open Carry Tarrant County made the national news by harassing Marine veteran James Henry when he recorded one of their rallies. The media treated this story like one more loud, incoherently angry battle between pro- and anti-gun control groups. But I suspected this was something more complex and altogether much, much more stupid.
So I called up Henry and started Googling. Here's what I learned ...
The "open carry movement" refers to a select group of American gun owners who feel that the right to own all the awesome guns you want isn't enough if you don't get to wave those guns around in front of people. And hey, guess what? In the state of Texas, gun owners have that right. They also have the right to carry concealed handguns after taking a $100 four-hour class. It's a wonderful state, if you like guns and don't have a problem with 100-degree days in September.
But Texas gun owners don't have the right to carry their loaded handguns openly, like a cowboy. That's not a problem for most people. I've owned guns and lived in Texas for most of my adult life, and I've met very few gun owners who felt bummed that they couldn't stroll down the street with a six-gun on their hip. This guy feels differently:
Everything about this man is so beautifully, gloriously wrong, I half suspect Sacha Baron Cohen is hiding in there.
James Henry isn't an anti-gun sort of dude. Quite the opposite: He owns several guns and now carries a concealed handgun regularly. But he didn't like seeing people marching around in a public area waving around their long-guns. And he really hated it when these men started following him down the street shouting insults while carrying loaded rifles. Most people hate that, I think.
"Within 15 minutes, they had uploaded a video of our confrontation. They linked my personal Facebook, business page, my phone number, my license plate. They fell back on the defense 'Well, we never told anyone to harass you.'"
Remember: This is for his crime of bringing a camera to film their public protest.
Sane gun owners rallied behind Henry. As the story of his argument went viral, people reached out to him, offering support and even (in one instance) a spare handgun, in case all those death threats started getting to him. They did. And Henry started carrying a handgun again for the first time in 10 years.
If it sounds like these guys got crazy aggressive crazy fast, that's because ...
Guns are a lot of things. They're a useful tool for hunting, starting races, and cutting down trees in the coolest way possible. They make for wonderful recreation, and they can be used to defend or take human life. Thanks to that last bit and some help from Hollywood, firearms have accrued a lot of symbolic power in our society. The image of a gun means something, and holding one bestows a certain sort of power upon even the puniest, neckbeardiest of men. Henry recalled:
"The four that confronted me. In my mind, they were egomaniacs. The high school bully that now has a gun and feels important. They've got all these paranoid delusions that guns are being taken from us. They're so scared that this 'Kenyan Muslim president' is coming to take their guns."
There's a reason these guys do things like shoot female mannequins (and film it) to protest the gun control group Moms Demand Action. For them, the Second Amendment exists to protect their right to terrify people. In the end, the guns are a means to an end: feeling Big and Important because everyone else at Chipotle is afraid they might turn out to be one of our nation's monthly spree killers.
Those are pants around "her" ankles. Stay classy, guys.
Hey, what about self-defense? Is it possible some of these guys just feel safer with a gun and get pissed off when nanny-state liberals try to disarm them? Let me assure you ...
If they did, they'd spend their time at the range instead of protesting and threatening unarmed women via YouTube. Texans have the right to carry concealed handguns. It costs about as much as one good night out drinking, and it takes literally four hours of classroom time to earn. I got mine years ago, and the "qualifying" range test was easy enough that someone shooting for the first time could probably have passed.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty
"If you can figure out how to hold it, you deserve to carry it."
Concealed handguns are not only already legal, but much much safer than packing your heat on a belt. Wearing a gun on your hip says exactly two things to a potential criminal madman:
1. You have something worth stealing.
2. If he's going to start something, he should probably shoot you in the back of the head first.
Open-carry activists like to argue that visibly armed people deter criminals, just like police! They fail to account for the fact that cops don't tend to do so well against armed criminals. Cop killers wait until their obviously armed victim has his or her guard down. Then they shoot for the goddamn face, and that's usually that.
Fifty police officers were shot dead nationwide in 2011. Only 17 of them succeeded in firing back, and three of them were shot dead with their own weapons. Carrying a gun out in the open where everyone can see it is dangerous. And not just for the dude carrying it.
Hey, what's the harm if the barrel of your gun occasionally points toward your daughter?
At the end of the day, guns are toys for most of these people. That's not inherently bad. Shooting old computers and cars and pallets of explosives is super fun, and a gun used for that purpose is the very definition of a toy. But these guys don't want the world to treat them like men playing with toys. They want to be seen as warriors -- serious men protecting their communities. And because no one else on Earth sees them that way ...
Here's a bunch of these guys on one of their "marches":
Now, again, I come from Texas. I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Unless you're wandering around a few select neighborhoods, and these guys aren't, it's an incredibly safe place. We're talking about mostly middle-class white dudes living in some of the tamest suburbs on Earth. They have less reason to fear for their lives than any other group of people in human history. And yet here they are, waving a big flag that says "Come and Take It" and another big flag that advises passersby not to tread on them:
None of these guys has ever actually been trod on by anybody except maybe a few schoolyard bullies. They already have the right to carry concealed handguns against whatever phantom thugs they imagine lurking beyond their cul-de-sacs. They want to "normalize" carrying guns in public because they feel like the fact that everyone else isn't armed is evidence of their oppression.
Yes, friend, the "mighty government" has held Texas back from so many gun-related milestones. Well, except for winning the right to carry guns in the car in 2005, as well as the right to keep that gun in that car on a college campus in 2013. These guys have never been freer to take their guns places, but that still isn't enough if they can't walk down the streets of Austin looking like Wyatt Earp with a Mountain Dew belly. And all this activism hasn't exactly helped their cause, or the cause of gun rights. That's because ...
OK, in all fairness to these open-carry activists, there has been a recent rash of gun banning. Sonic, Chili's, and Chipotle have all banned the open carry of firearms from their artery-clogging eateries. America can't manage to pass any meaningful gun control regulations in the wake of a massacre, but private industry stepped up to the task the instant paying customers started to kvetch.
"I try to avoid the conspiracy theories," James Henry said. "But it's hard not to believe these guys are secretly working for gun control."
Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty
Yep, ban 'em all.
Henry hit the nail on the head, because he's a smart guy. But even an organization as big and dumb as the NRA has started to figure out just how dangerous these guys are to the future of gun rights. They warned activists that all this waving around of guns in public places was dangerous. Not to people or anything, but to the health and safety of the Second Amendment:
It was an unprecedented move of sanity from the NRA, which opposes stopping crazy people from buying guns. They immediately backtracked, of course, because the craziest gun owners are also the ones who donate the most money. Every time these guys roll out to Taco Bell like a rhino waits between them and the chalupas, they sign their hobby's death warrant.
Yearly, the number of gun owners shrinks, while the number of guns they own grows. Crazy hoarders treating a trip to the Dress Barn like Fallujah, circa 2003, aren't going to bring the converts rolling in. Eventually they'll spend their last dollars on tactical flashlights for their midnight Jack-in-the-Box runs, the NRA will crumble, and -- finally unchained -- Nancy Pelosi will rise up from beneath the Earth's crust and devour their arsenals.
And then where will we be when Russia sends Cubans to invade the United States? Screwed, that's where. Thanks, assholes.
He's ready for World War III, as long as it doesn't mean running for more than 11 seconds.
Robert Evans owns, just, a whole bunch of guns. He also writes, just, a whole bunch of articles. You can find him here.