Anarcho-Redneck Response to Recent Richmond Open Carry
by Mo Karnage
Richmond has been all in a tizzy over some recent exercising of the right to open carry guns. We’ve had some folks carrying guns in Target, and other carrying them in Carytown. Appearances of guns and those toting them at both locations seem to upset the delicate sensibilities of those who enjoy their capitalism from a more middle class seat. As my friend Dave says, the violence that happens at Target is all in the products on the shelves (sweatshop labor, animal cruelty, and environmental destruction for yall who ain’t picking up what I’m putting down). We’ve also seen local activist Chris Dorsey get hauled out of a City Council meeting over a dispute, which was blamed on his openly carried gun, and then the media gallery of the Council Chambers be closed out of a weird fear of gun wielding journalists- or something.
Maybe I don’t watch enough tv news to be shocked and upset by visible guns, or maybe its because I’m from Hanover county, but to me, guns aren’t an upsetting sight. This is the South. I haven’t been able to find a year on the start Virginia’s Open Carry policy, leading me to believe that we’ve had the same laws on the books around Open Carry for at least several decades now, and more likely since the origins of Virginia time. This is a gun state, but unfortunately not everyone here has sufficient knowledge or experience with guns and gun safety to be coming to the table ready for debate. So we have some culture clash going on.
Allow me to paint a picture. In a world where our government engages in endless war, supplies arms to oppressive regimes like Israel, engages in torture home and abroad routinely, and uses police and private security to patrol our domestic neighborhoods with an ever increasing amount of technology and weaponry, liberals are worried about the potential of violence coming from some deranged white guy who thinks he is in a shoot em up video game or whatever.
To me this is a sign of a society which had it’s autonomy erased, and has become dependent on larger bureaucracies, to its detriment. To me, this is a sign of a society which has had its understanding of the concept of violence thoroughly muddled, and has fallen prey to the idea that violence only occurs from the little guy- not the powers that be.
I also see this fear and confusion as a result of a culture that routinely chooses to treat only the symptoms of any problem, as opposed to addressing the root causes. I would argue that this method of addressing symptoms is promoted through capitalism for several reasons – mainly that it encourages greater consumerism, and prevents folks from questioning the very system of capitalism itself as a root cause of or contributing factor in many of our society’s problems.
Now why, some folks I know have been asking, would someone open carry a rifle? Well for one, because you sure as heck aren’t allowed to conceal carry it. Conceal Carry Permits in Virginia are only for handguns. You are not allowed to conceal long arm guns like rifles or shotguns (hence rules about barrel length etc.). For two, because not everyone wants to or can get a Conceal Carry Permit for any gun – they require being 21, money, a class, and usually takes about 6 weeks to get to you anyways. Not everyone wants to go through the trouble and paperwork to get a CCP and you know what, that is their right.
I’m sure there are more reasons to open carry a rifle, including it being your only gun, as well. There are plenty of practical times where one might open carry a gun, going to a friend’s house nearby, not wanting to leave it unattended in a vehicle, etc. The folks open carrying in Richmond lately are doing so in a fairly unnecessary way. No doubt. Some might call them jackasses. No doubt. But I think that as much as liberals are ignorant about open carry and brainwashed to be fearful, these folks are ignorant about liberals and their fear, and brainwashed by the gun lobby. Essentially we’ve got apple and oranges cultures coming to a head. The people open carrying are not doing so to make others scared, and indeed are surprised by the way people are scared. Their intentions might be poorly thought out, or lacking understanding of broader issues but they aren’t bad. Actually, both sides are often coming to the table full of fear- fear of guns and fear of gun rights being taken away. To discuss these issues coherently we need to get beyond the fear to analyze where everyone is truly coming from.
The anti-open carry camp seem to have an out of sight out of mind approach to guns. They aren’t actively upset until they can see them. And the assertively open carry camp seem to have an idea that if they don’t exercise their rights they might atrophy. Other gun owners have chimed in, worried that the attention being drawn to the issue might cause more harm than good, and they bring a valid point to the table. If liberals can’t see the violence- because it happens in wars in other countries over oil, or in sweatshops where their kids’ toys are made, or in forced prison labor where their office furniture is made or asparagus is grown (holler at yer local asparagus Ellwood Thompson’s), then it pretty much doesn’t exist. It is the flashy, in your face, reminders that seem to get folks all worked up.
This shock and horror about open carry rifles I think is a reflection of the fear culture that is being pushed on us by the media. The picture of one fellow’s rifle with a scope on it immediately had a friend of mine speculating about the guy perching on a roof to shoot people. Scopes on rifles are ridiculously normal. The sights that many weapons come with standard are just not really useful, so folks put better scopes on em. And I doubt anyone would go to remove their scope before open carrying on the off chance that someone would assume they must be a pyscho.
There are some non-school shooting reasons why many might feel uncomfortable about white folks with guns that I want to at least briefly touch on. White folks with guns have a history of being racist and oppressive. For many People of Color, the site of a white person with a gun can harken back to some real fucked up racist times, images of the Klan and extraordinarily hateful folks. And the privileges of being white mean that a white person Open Carrying is going to be less at risk of police violence than a person of color. It also this white privilege which is why many white folk feel more comfortable with armed police in their communities than people of oclor might. I would also be remiss in not acknowledging the history of racism with the NRA, their failure to support the rights of the Black Panthers to Open Carry, and the overall failures of all national gun lobbying groups to be anti-oppressive as part of their advocacy. Certainly there are heaps of racist, sexist, homophobic douchecougars in the pro-gun camp. Everything must be understood in context, and sadly this is the only context many people get to see for gun issues. I want to broaden the issue, but not dismiss these realities either.
In fact, as much as I think the approaches of many open carry proponents lack necessary nuance, I think that the liberal reaction kind of goes to show WHY open carry is necessary. If someone seriously thinks that the sight of someone with a gun is cause to call 911, well maybe they need to just get more accustomed to seeing folks with guns. This is the South after all. And while the folks doing this Open Carry aren’t really holding up their end of the conversation, I think the fact that this has been happening has now presented Richmond with a valuable opportunity for discussion of these issues.
The sense that I get is there are some out there who would like to see an end to Open Carry in Virginia, and less guns in general. Yall might remember the War on Drugs or alcohol Prohibition and how successful both of those ventures were at ending use of booze and drugs. Oh. Wait. Right. The make a law to ban certain behavior or substances trick just simply has not worked yet. As anarchist and feminist Lucy Parsons said, “We have laws, jails, courts, armies, guns and armories enough to make saints of us all, if they were the true preventives of crime; but we know they do not prevent crime; that wickedness and depravity exist in spite of them,”. Not to mention, good luck defeating the gun lobby around these parts- they lobby hard.
Mental health and crime are both serious concerns in our society. Both of these, among other factors, like poverty and alienation and stupid video games and television contribute to the instances of gun violence that have been occurring in schools and other places around the country for years now. What is necessary to understand however, is that these mass shooters are not going to be stopped by any attempt to limit gun rights or open carry rights.
I went to the July 5th Gun Show at Richmond International Raceway. It was the first gun show I’d gone to in about 4 years, and I had a really good time. You’ve got your small amounts of ahem wingnuts, but the crowd there was generally pretty calm and “normal”. I had multiple friends who had tables selling various items, and many folks I didn’t know who were tabling were very nice and we had good conversations. I was certainly a strange looking person for the scene with my tattoos and piercings, but did not get an unfriendly vibe. I think folks expect a gun show to be host to a bunch of frothing at the mouth right wing lunatics, and might be pleasantly surprised to see the diversity and kindness of the actual crowd.
Safety is clearly the common concern in this open carry gun debate. Folks simply have different things that they do to feel safe- for some it means carrying a gun, concealed or open, and for others it means not seeing guns in their daily lives. How do we bridge this? I say, start with the common ground. Cause lord knows, all sides seem happy to banter back and forth without actually listening to each other.
I haven’t ever heard folks on either side of the gun and open carry debate wanting there to be less safety around guns. So we want more safety, and we can work together to produce that without compromising gun rights. Common ground here might mean doing more to create better access to mental health services, alternative types of non-gun self defense courses like jiu jitsu and other martial arts, and to increase access to gun safety classes and gun training classes.
Guns are being used to commit crimes – well the problem there isn’t the gun as much as it is the crime. Addressing that is going to take a broader look at the causes of crime and solutions to those causes. If you ask me, that means taking a strong and critical look at capitalism and policing/prisons to understand why we are where we are.
I don’t think the Open Carry activists in Richmond recently have necessarily accomplished their goals, nor do I think many understand or articulate what those goals are. But I do think we have an opportunity to hash some of this stuff out. I think we’ve let fear become a driving force in the debate, to all of our detriments. Hopefully moving forward we can seek common ground, and be consciously critical of the sources of our fear and feelings on the subject.
This is the South. This is a gun state. We can own that, responsibly. And it is in our best interest to own that, and to make that available for others whom we show how to go about Southern and gun pride in non-oppressive ways. Violence, crime, and fear are issues which haunt us all. But we need to critically think about what is or isn’t violence, and what the sources of our society’s ills truly are. We need to consider what the actual threats to our communities are, and who we have more in common with than no. I think we will find that beyond the infighting is a clearer picture of our world, and a more accurate description of the people and companies causing the real suffering.
Post Script- I can not take full credit for the ideas in my brain around this issue. I would like to take a moment to give credit where credit is due to a variety of intelligent friends and authors who help me work through ideas and develop better strategies and approaches. Kontra, Sam H., Sarah B., Andrew P., Scott C., Dave T., and more. Additionally, books by authors Ward Churchill and Peter Gelderloos have been very influential.
Some of the guns I’ve been known to carry…