On Carrying Guns and Public Outcry

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Some people in the gun community enjoy a pastime I call “freaking the normies.” Basically, they opt to open carry simply to freak people out to some degree or another.


Now, many who do this see it as our responsibility to normalize the sight of firearms in the hands of law-abiding, responsible armed citizens and that open carry is a way to do it.

While I’m not a fan of open carry for my personal carrying options, I support people’s rights to do so, even if it is to “freak the normies.”

Yet can that be taken too far?

I ask because a recent headline out of Tennessee sort of sets the stage for it. The headline was, “Police: Man carrying gun near Memphis school did nothing illegal. How did it get here?”

Part of that answer is that the media got us there. In theory, a man walking around with a gun–in this case, an AR-15–shouldn’t be assumed to be up to something simply because he’s walking around with an AR-15. The media, however, has colored the public’s perceptions about these weapons to such a degree that people can’t help but freak out.

And freak they did.

On Monday, a man carrying an assault-style rifle caused panic in Memphis and sent a preschool and elementary school into lockdown.

However, Memphis police said he did nothing illegal, which led some Tennesseans to wonder how that can be.

“We are in a situation where somebody can walk down the street holding up an AR-15, and until they kill somebody there, they’re not doing anything wrong,” said Dr. Jonathan Metzl, the director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Metzl has done extensive research on guns in America and had built his Tuesday class around the viral photo of a man carrying a rifle in Memphis.

“Ten, 15, 20 years ago, we had pretty reasonable laws on the books here that allowed for people’s Second Amendment rights, but also promoted safety,” he said.


Except, they really didn’t. Those laws all restricted the right to keep and bear arms and most of those laws were also on the books 30 or 40 years ago when the homicide rates were sky high. They didn’t promote safety in any way, shape, or form.

Let’s remember that the dreaded AR-15 wasn’t even all that popular of a firearm until the Assault Weapon Ban was in the works. Then, suddenly, people flocked to the gun stores to buy these weapons before they were banned, then continued buying ban-compliant versions of the guns in an act of defiance.

I can argue that were it not for that law passing back then, this guy wouldn’t have been walking down the street with an AR-15 in the first place.

People like Metzl like to pretend they really know what’s going on, but they’re simply twisting facts to fit into a preconceived narrative, that guns are bad.

This individual broke no laws. Many people do this exact thing in part to illustrate that it’s not illegal and yes, to help normalize the sight of things like AR-15s so people will stop freaking out about them when they see them.

And that’s not about to change anytime soon, either.

After all, even Metzl has to acknowledge that this individual wasn’t an actual threat. He was simply there.

Now, do I think doing this is a great idea? Personally, I don’t. “Freaking the normies” like this could go sideways in a hurry and result in horrific ramifications for everyone involved.


But this also doesn’t mean the laws are insufficient to maintain public safety, either, which is what the anti-gunners want you to think. In fact, the only danger from this incident is someone overreacting to someone exercising their rights.

The sight of a gun shouldn’t freak anyone out. They should learn what it means when someone misuses a gun and be concerned about that.

It’s clear, though, that we have a long way to go to teach people the difference.

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