With yet another business having been dragged into a gun control debate that they wanted nothing at all to do with, it’s time for open carry activists to reconsider their goals and tactics before we lose any more ground. In this article Doug reflects on open carry from his unique perspective as a gun owner and as a parent.

I’ve taken the last several days to reflect on the most recent open carry incident in which a small Dallas group carried rifles into a Chipotle Mexican Grill. For a variety of reasons, this trend of displaying “in your face” weaponry where it is both unnecessary and unwanted concerns me. Please understand that I know it’s our lawful Right to openly carry a rifle into a business. I hold this Right very dear and I carry a firearm every day. I invest my time, money, and energy into preserving this Right and will defend it however necessary should we find one day that we’re forced to do so.

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The trend that I’m referring to is where lawful gun owners legally carry rifles, commonly AR or AK platform, into public places. I’m convinced this practice is done purely to make a statement as opposed to genuinely doing so for self-defense.

If we take an honest look at the current climate surrounding guns, gun owners and the 2nd Amendment, it’s pretty clear that all three are under attack. The political climate is heating up and the opposition literally has a playbook of how to use tragedies and other incidents to craft and push their anti-gun agenda.

Just because you can legally do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea

From a parent’s perspective, I carry a firearm every day and train with it regularly because I care about my family and want to be ready to protect them if it ever becomes necessary. When someone walks into a restaurant with a rifle, where my family and I are just trying to enjoy a burrito, my attention is immediately focused on the guy who is here to obviously make a statement… a statement of one kind or another. Is he a lawfully-armed patriot wishing to make a pro-2nd Amendment statement or is he a whack-job looking to make a statement while taking as many people down with him as he can? To be blunt, I’m not going to wait around to find out which statement he’s there to make because, in general, I’m weary of anyone who wants to make a statement with a rifle. Further, if he holds his rifle in the low-ready position like one of the guys is doing in the now infamous picture from Chipotle, that’s going to make things even worse.

I’m sitting in a restaurant, with my family, lawfully carrying a concealed firearm along with the rest of my EDC, just trying to enjoy the precious time we get to connect over a meal. Whatever statement you’re trying to make, I’m not interested… and you’re scaring me because I refuse to shove my head into the sand and simply assume you’re a law-abiding patriot. Thanks for ruining our family dinner.

As a gun owner, this breed of in-your-face open carry upsets me for a variety of reasons. There are certainly times and places where open carry is appropriate but there are well-accepted advantages to carrying concealed in public environments. The convenience of carrying and concealing handguns is why we even have them in the first place.

"The display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."

Gun owners just want to be left alone. We don’t want any more gun laws, we carry concealed because we don’t want people to know we’re armed and, in general, we simply want to go about our lives unbothered. The simple fact of the matter is that we love our families enough to carry a means of protecting them and ourselves. Dragging company after company into the gun control debate against their will only further focuses the spotlight on us and adds fuel to our opposition’s fire. Whether a huge tragedy at the hands of a mentally ill individual or a couple of guys deciding it’s a good idea to make a statement in a restaurant… neither of these things do anything to help our cause, and in fact do the exact opposite.

American gun owners are a large group with incredible diversity but, instead of celebrating this, the opposition will take advantage of characterizing us in the least flattering way possible any chance they get. It’s in their playbook – anything they can do to discredit gun owners will help their cause. When activists pose for a picture with their rifles in a family restaurant, that picture is immediately paraded through the media by the gun-control groups as an example of the average “American Gun Owner.” Despite this, such incidents continue because a minority of gun owners consider such publicity to be a good thing. If we wish to change the negative image of gun owners that our opposition is fostering among the American people, we’re not doing ourselves any favors in that regard with continued stunts like carrying rifles into restaurants.

This is why we can’t have nice things

I have found that making statements like this group did only serves to shut down the lines of communication we desperately need to keep open. I also have found that we’re not just fighting a legal battle, but a social one too… and the rules in a social battle are very different from those in the courts. I’ve watched as perception has become everything in the social arena and have become frustrated that we’re not putting our best foot forward. I’ve seen that boycotts generally backfire because the opposition makes up for any lost business. I’ve found that walking around the streets waiting to be contacted by a police officer, with the intent to challenge them on case law and the Constitution on video, makes us all look confrontational and strains our relationship with law enforcement.

Three businesses have now been dragged into a debate they wanted absolutely nothing to do with simply because a group decided they wanted to lawfully carry their rifles into them to make a statement. Those three businesses have now also been claimed as public relations wins for gun-control groups who pressured them. Once again, we’ve delivered more ammunition for gun-control groups on a silver platter.

Starbucks, for example, wasn’t interested in being involved. “We follow all state and local laws” was Starbucks’ long-time policy on firearms. It wasn’t until a group of open carry activists decided they were going to take their rifles with them to enjoy a Frappuccino that Starbuck’s found themselves being beaten down with pressure from Mothers Demand Action. Thus far Starbucks STILL hasn’t banned firearms outright, instead opting for a policy of “we respectfully request you not bring a gun into our establishments but won’t ban you from doing so.” How many years have you carried a concealed handgun into Starbucks without it being an issue? What do you think their policy will be the next time someone elects to press the issue?

Jack in the Box was also uninterested in participating in the issue and, like Starbucks, they too were dragged into it anyway because of the actions of a small group of open carry activists. Not 10 days after their statement saying “…while we respect the rights of all our guests, we would prefer that guests not bring their guns inside our restaurants” there had already been two separate criminal robberies where a firearm was used. Again, what good did the open carry event do for us? Not much. Instead, it forced another corporation into a decision they wanted nothing to do with, and gave gun-control groups like MDA another feather in their cap. It also didn’t do an ounce of good in making their restaurants safer places.

Now, most recently, Chipotle has been dragged into the conflict and, they too, have been strong-armed into making a statement of “please don’t bring your guns into our restaurants unless you’re a police officer.” Once again, gun-control groups can crow about yet another victory and continue to win the public relations battle.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results

So we’re zero-for-three on success from open carrying rifles in restaurants. Let’s stop doing that. It has done nothing positive for gun rights and has only served to strengthen the gun-control groups. Further, it has done absolutely nothing to make the undecided public more comfortable around firearms and, more than likely, has caused many of them to fear guns even more. The fact that 2.5x as many people are killed by fists, feet and blunt objects than by rifles means nothing to a parent having dinner with their kids when someone suddenly walks in with a slung AR.

Fortunately, I think we’re making progress. A recently released statement on the open carry of long arms says, "Whereas, our mission is to get open carry of handguns passed in Texas, we must once again adjust in a way that shines a positive light on our efforts, our members, and our respective organizations. We have decided the prudent path, to further our goals, is to immediately cease taking long guns into corporate businesses unless invited."

Let’s now focus on putting our best foot forward in the way we look, the way we speak and the way we conduct ourselves as gun owners. Counsel those who may be considering an open carry stunt in understanding the emotions and anxiety it causes in the people around them and how such “in your face” tactics have failed in the past. There are better ways to get our message across than shock and awe. Arm yourself with facts and share them. By no means am I suggesting we give an inch or stop the conversation. I’m simply recommending that we be strategic in our actions and present ourselves as kind, trustworthy, approachable individuals who aren’t going to throw our Rights in someone else’s face. Perception is everything and, I’m convinced, we can turn the tables on gun-control groups by improving the image of an “American Gun Owner” and being thoughtful in our actions.

Doug has a diverse background, both professionally and privately, in firearms, self-defense, and tactics... but most importantly, he’s a parent. He writes from the unique perspective of someone whose life involves combining concealment clothing, tactics training, and “everyday carry gear,” with car seats, exploding diapers, and questions like “why did you paint the dog with yogurt?” In our Tactical Parent series, Doug shares his perspective on gear, tricks and tips, defensive tactics, and best practices for parents who take an active role in protecting their family.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent article. I too agree that just because one can carry rifles in the open, does not mean that one should.

    Not criticizing those who choose to open carry, it’s just not for me.

  2. I’m as pro 2A as anyone else and I have no problem with open carry of side arm, but there’s a time and a place for open carry with a rifle. So don’t be a dumb ass, use some common sense. These two tards simply need to be butt stroked about the face and head with their own weapons, just for being complete and total idiots.

  3. Doug, I completely agree. I had seen some yahoo in Arizona with two pistols strapped on, and in my mind it seemed completely immature and juvenile. It was nothing more than an “in your face” gesture that is not needed nor wanted by the general public who by now has been inundated with anti-gun propaganda.

    In my opinion, the blatant carrying of guns in public hits me between the eyes in about the same way as do naked men and women who seem to think it is their “right” to shove my nose in their own dirt when they celebrate their “gayness” in gay pride parades. Naturally, I can merely walk away, but such is not the case when a group of rifle-carrying yahoos interrupt a quiet meal in a restaurant such as Chipotle.

    I am a life member of the NRA, but shrink at the thought that there may be other NRA members who without a thought wish to drag down the progress we have made in trying to bring the public to our side. My advice to the “children” who haven’t grown up: when in public, keep your firearms concealed or leave them at home.

  4. Definitely agree fully. In fact, especially in some urban areas and first/second ring suburbs (like I live in), carrying open weapons like that could potentially escalate into something way worse-especially if you have one trying to make a 2A statement and one one mentally disturbed or criminally-minded gunslinger one trigger pull away from committing mass murder….

  5. While is agree with your sentiment.

    I totally disagree with your delivery.

    You’re pretty much saying. “I’m pro-gun” but as long as other people don’t know it. As well as “I’m pro gun, but others should fight for that right”

    You were afraid of other people carrying a gun? Why? Were they threatening you? Were they pointing them at you?

    If somebody in a police look alike uniform walked in. Would you automatically lower your guard?

    I do agree that maybe these people sometimes are just trying to get a rise. To make a statement that “just because we can, we are”

    But what’s the other side of the coin. Hide your love for that right?

    You speak about not trying to make yourself a target. Were you? Nope

    • Buddy, you miss the point of the article, which was intended to point out that the general public can be easily disturbed by people who carry guns into a public place merely to show off their “right” to carry. It may be legal, but socially stupid. It’s not what we gun owners think, but what how the voting public thinks, and bringing AR-15s into public places to my way of thinking will tend to drive voters into voting for laws that outlaw not only right-to-carry, but firearms in general.

      • Canadian buddy, no. I’m sorry in advance because this reply will be both belittling with a major hint of condescension. You are a moron. Obviously by your attack you do not agree with this Author’s sentiment. You said you agreed, then spent the rest telling him you disagree. Which is it? As Smitty stated, you have missed the entire point.
        It’s called politics. Sometimes as a big boy, you have to play tohe game to get the progress. And scaring the shit out of the general public, though they may be ignorant in the matter, is not the way to win their support.
        You obviously know nothing about gun safety, proper handeling, and over all safety. The low-ready position of carry is called low-READY for a reason. It means you are ready to fire. It IS a threatening carry, and anyone, educated or not, would be completely justified in being nervous. A small restaurant with an AR. Do you know the devistation that can happen with that fire power in a confined space in only a matter of seconds, especially if this individual IS trained in the use of the weapon?
        NOW, learn to not be such a selfish child and learn to think from another person’s perspective. You are well educated and trained gun owner. You know the stance and signs that an individual is ready to open fire. You are enjoying the company of your wife and children who you would sacrifice anything to protect. You do not know this armed individual. You don’t know his mental stability, his level of training, or if the rifle is even legally his. You have absolutely NO idea of what is going through this person’s mind or his intentions. No, the person did not walk up to your family’s table and aim at you in a threatening manner to you personally, but he doesn’t have to. From the entrance of the building he is most likely going to have no problem picking you off. Gun violence does happen. People get shot. School shootings, military shootings, aggravated assualt with a deadly weapon. This are real things. Evil people exist in this world. And in the heat of the moment, you really do not know this person’s intentions or capabilities. I’m not saying take away our gurn rights. I’m saying use some common sense and common courtesy. There are many reason to own an AR. Scaring the shit out of the general public and families in a restaurant is NOT one of those reasons and completely unnecessary.

        • Dustin, you not only miss Canadian buddy’s point, but you lower the whole conversation by resorting to name calling. While you go to great lengths to point out all the issues with the incident, I believe that Canadian buddy is trying to point out that while it was stupid for these folks to take long guns into the restaurant, the general public has an unwarranted fear of guns that carrying concealed does not help. Smitty550 talks about a yahoo in Arizona carrying two pistols, but having grown up in Arizona where open carry has been legal, there has been less fear about guns in general. Now that has changed in recent years as more gun fearing adults from elsewhere move here and the chances of seeing someone carrying has dropped, but that is the point, people fear what they do not know. I don’t agree with the three incidents for long gun toting groups going into restaurants, but I do think we need to find ways to help people understand guns and show respect and not fear. And let’s not call people names just because they have a different opinion.

  6. Great article and common-sense. Scaring folks, including extremely pro-2nd Amendment people like my family and me by walking into a restaurant with a rifle is no way to advance our agenda of maintaining this right. Folks need to wake up or we’ll be giving another opportunity to a progressive judge–or panel of judges to strip our rights.

  7. I agree, open carrying a rifle isn’t necessary. Conceal carry, discret conceal carry for self defence and family protection. Open carrying a rifle or pistol can be indicative of an aggressive mindset aside the fact there have been some out of controlling incidences that would cause open carry to be intimidating. Especially if you’re out with the family.

  8. About 3000 years ago a wise king named Solomon wrote something that, loosely translated, says this: You may have a right to do a thing, but it may not be the right thing to do. Looks like evolution is a failure; people haven’t changed one iota–still doing dumb stuff that causes grief for the many.

    • Good point, 45. It popped into my mind earlier today that carrying a rifle or rifles into a restaurant might be legal, but it is about as appropriate as a striptease dancer in church.

  9. Well thought out and very well articulated. The guys in the pictures just finished a thirty six hour marathon on call of duty and were hungry.

  10. I think we can all agreed that carrying rifles into restaurants does not help the cause. I do find it funny that when I was a kid, we didn’t fear the man with a gun on his hip anymore than the police. We feared the man who was hiding his gun.

  11. It’s good to see others try and practice some common sense. I was afraid that between the anti second amendment people and the far-too-zealous open carry people I was left alone in the middle. By reading the comments on your article, Doug, I see that there are at least a few others. I enjoy your blog- keep it up.

  12. For us in the mid-Atlantic states, especially the densely populated areas, the Texas gun laws and current protests seem absurd. The article, however, is informative and points out how important etiquette is in these sort of matters. I work in a restaurant and wouldn’t want customers to leave because they were uncomfortable with someone bringing in a rifle. I wonder how the average restaurant in TX will adapt to the law, and if they could actually ban weapons on the premises?

  13. I think if someone walked into a restaurant with an AR held at low ready, I would pull my gun and point it at them and demand they carefully lay down the rifle. Then I would call the cops. Low ready is a “ready for operation” position and IS threatening and I am a gun person. What do you think non-gun people would think?

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