Online the other day someone commented to me “your state has weird gun laws.” Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in a “Constitutional carry” state like Arizona, or Vermont. Every state’s laws are different, though, even with regards to Constitutional carry.
One easy example, is that in Vermont it applies if you are over eighteen years old, while in Arizona you must be twenty-one. The person commenting was from Michigan, which isn’t exactly a bastion of gun rights. For instance, I do not need a permit to buy a handgun, while he does. He is allowed to open carry a handgun without a concealed carry permit, and come January, I will be able to openly carry, but only with a permit. All of this brings me to the point of this post. What each state’s citizens are comfortable with varies from state to state and by region. Some states are hell-bent on making it ever more difficult for people to be responsible for their own self-defense, like California and New York. While some states are slowly easing restrictions that they have had in place for decades.
Texas recently passed a law allowing open carry of handguns. Open carry of handguns has been illegal in Texas for over 100 years, so a drastic change from it not being permitted to allowing Constitutional carry was not likely. People are typically averse to change. We are creatures of habit and perfectly content in our monotonous lives. It contributes to our feeling of security. We typically even mow our lawns in the same direction and pattern. (Try it sometime, mow your yard differently than you do now.) So when a change as seemingly drastic as allowing the open carry of handguns comes along, the majority of people are going to be skeptical at first. Especially those that are not familiar with firearms and their use. After open carry has been allowed successfully for some time and the threats and fears of “streets rampant with shooting” don’t come to pass, then possibly Texas will ease their restrictions somewhat, and allow carrying a handgun without a permit. It is a necessarily slow process, because we are trying to change people’s perceptions, preconceived notions, and prejudices. Trying to counter what I call “cultural inertia” is difficult to overcome. As gun rights advocates, we have just recently been able to accurately convey the message to people about what our right to self-defense means to us, but there is a lot of fear and animosity that we still need to educate people away from, and we have a long way to go. It is made that much more difficult by those who vocally oppose our rights, which is why we have to also fight against vitriolic rhetoric and ad hominem attacks. Fortunately facts are on our side, and we need to continue to educate people. Once they see from our point of view, they will be more accepting. This doesn’t mean that they will run out and buy a Glock the next chance they get, and that’s okay. Acceptance is a small step.
Will we get every person who is legally allowed to own a firearm to carry a gun for their own self-defense? Probably not. But changing the hearts and minds of people is a slow task and getting one more person to be accepting of the fact that there are people among them who are armed for their own defense is a move in right direction. Instead of drastic changes, it is a continuing march of small steps.
We are trying to change hearts and minds, in bits and pieces.