AR-15 Open Carry: Is it Outreach, or Antagonism?

An Oregon gun rights activist who calls himself “Marked Guardian” likes to walk the streets of Oregon towns, handing out pro-gun literature and amiably talking to people about their Second Amendment rights.


Portland-based KOIN seems to have a problem with that, just because he does so with an AR-15 carbine slung behind his back:

It’s legal, but is it right?

Gun supporters applaud the actions of the man who calls himself Marked Guardian for exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms by openly carrying an AR-15 assault rifle on Oregon streets.

He carried the assault rifle with him as he walked the streets of Forest Grove, Hillsboro, McMinnville and Eugene.

Police said his methods put a strain on resources and parents told KOIN 6 News his tactics go too far. Both sides don’t dispute he has the right to do this, but disagree on the wisdom of the action.

Oregon’s open-carry law gets more specific or varies from city to city and county to county.

A similar incident in Sellwood prompted many calls to 911 when two men exercised that particular constitutional right.

“As far as assault rifles — and what they’ve done and how many people they’ve killed in this country — to openly carry them in public is worse than going into a, you know, into a crowded movie theater and yelling fire,” said Sellwood parent Bill Wyland.

Sorry, Mr Wyland and Mr. News Reporter, but you’re dead wrong on two points.


First, “assault rifles” are military weapons using intermediate-power rifle cartridges and capable of selective fire. Legally-owned assault rifles have not been used to murder one person in the history of the United States.




Second, while Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr did make create the famous “fire in a crowded theater” metaphor in upholding the conviction in the case of Schenck v. United States, he did so in a case more famous for establishing the “clear and present danger” test for free speech. Whatever you believe about open carry, Marked Guardian does not shout. He does not pose a “clear and present danger” to the public by either speech or deed, which is why most of the police officers he encounters leave him with a smile and a wave. He’s gregarious to a fault.

The “problem” is that Marked Guardian is using a controversial tactic to introduce the public to facts in a debate most often driven by emotions.

The first reaction of the human animal is to instinctively become alarmed at the presence of perceived danger, and perceived danger is often that which is out of the ordinary, whether it is a car skidding onto a sidewalk, a strange dog crossing our path, or a man strolling down the street with a rifle slung over his shoulder. That isn’t a judgement against Mr. Guardian, just an observation of how we function, and why we’re still around when Raphus cucullatus has gone, well, the way of the dodo.


While the apparent purpose of his sociable armed walks is presumably to educate a public who does not understand the legality of open carry, and to acculturate people to being around firearms, what sort of practical effect do you think he is having?

Is Marked Guardian helping us preserve gun rights by familiarizing people with firearms in public spaces, causing people to examine their prejudices against firearms, or is he needlessly alarming the public as the news writer argues?

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