The open-carry movement faced a
very public test in Dallas last
week. It failed.
While concealed carry can be
championed ostensibly as a means
of self-defense, open carry prioritizes
performance over pragmatism.
After all, openly carrying a
firearm is an ideological statement
more than a self-defense posture:
It cedes the crucial element of surprise
to an armed assailant. Open
carry's true goal is to normalize
extreme gun culture by making
firearms familiar, visible and ubiquitous.
Last Thursday, more than a dozen
participants in Dallas's Black
Lives Matter protest came prominently
armed. When shots from a
sniper rang out, police officers had
to discern instantly -- working in
chaotic conditions, at night, under
fire -- whether the armed protesters
were murderous criminals or
something else. Police stopped
some of those carrying guns, and
designated one a "person of interest."
Trying to divine the intentions
of the armed marchers
diverted time and energy from the
pursuit of the sniper.
This led Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
to observe that, "in a shooting
situation, open carry can be detrimental
to the safety of individuals."
That's true as far it goes,
which is not nearly far enough:
Open carry is detrimental to public
In addition to exposing the danger
of open carry, the mayhem in Dallas
revealed once again the inanity
of the National Rifle Association's
"good guy with a gun" talking
point. The simplistic assumption
that the world can be divided between
good guys and bad guys
bears no relationship to reality. Before
he went on a murderous rampage,
there was nothing to identify
the Dallas sniper as anything but a
"good guy with a gun." Likewise,
a man carrying a rifle down a
street in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
last fall was deemed a
"good guy" right up until the moment
he started killing.
In Dallas last week, open-carry activists
did not serve as protectors.
Instead, they heightened the risk
faced by police officers and civilians
and made a fraught, uncertain
and dangerous situation all the
To contact the senior editor responsible
for Bloomberg View’s
editorials: David Shiple