BY TIM SCHMIDT – USCCA FOUNDER
Let me preface today’s conversation by painting a picture of what I wish our country looked like today:

I wish it was commonplace for people like you and me to stop by our local coffee shops carrying AR-15s over our shoulders.

I wish that we could decide what’s right for us and our families without worrying about following the rules laid down by a too-powerful government.

I wish people wouldn’t fear guns, and I wish people wouldn’t alienate the good guys who carry them.

Unfortunately, reality is a stark contrast to what I’ve just described. But it gives us something to fight for, at least.

And speaking of fighting for something….

You’ve probably already heard the latest on the “open carry” front, and let me tell you—it is indeed a touchy subject.

This past weekend, an open carry and pro-gun rights group in Texas made the news when they gathered in a Home Depot parking lot with their semi-automatic rifles with the (good) intention of rallying support for their cause.

This was the second time in as many months that Open Carry Texas and other open carry advocates conducted similar demonstrations outside local Texas businesses.

According to Fox News, “Sonic, Chipotle, and Chili’s joined Starbucks, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and Applebee’s in banning firearms from their premises after protests by Open Carry Texas.”

Given what we know about open carry—and the public controversy it often stirs up—it’s not a huge surprise to see local businesses reacting exactly theopposite of what responsibly armed Americans would hope for.

But what you probably didn’t expect was the NRA’s response to Open Carry Texas’ very public demonstrations:

“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners,” the NRA wrote. “That’s not the Texas way. And that’s certainly not the NRA way.” [Fox News]

As a result, many members of Open Carry Texas—who are also members of the NRA—have renounced their affiliation with the NRA, some going so far as to cut up their membership cards.

Since that original statement, the NRA has backtracked a bit, saying their comments regarding Open Carry Texas and their appeal to them and other open carry groups to dial back their public demonstrations was “a mistake.”

Perhaps some of you are curious about my take—and the USCCA’s take—on the matter of open carry and about this specific incident.

First and foremost, let me be very clear when I say that we believe that all U.S. citizens should be allowed to legally exercise the rights affirmed by our Constitution. We support open carry in the places where it is legal to do so, and of course we believe it should be legal everywhere.

But there is a very fine line here when it comes to rights and responsibilities. You know as well as I do that having the right to do something is different than accepting responsibility for that thing.

We have the right to keep and bear arms.

But we also have the responsibility to ensure that by exercising our right to keep and bear arms, we are portraying ourselves and our fellow gun owners in the best possible light.

In a blog post just a few weeks ago, Kevin Michalowski pointed out the difference between government mandated requirements for training and our actual need for training. We might revolt against the government “requiring” the amount of training they think is best for us, but at the end of the day…WE are the ones who must determine what training we NEED.

I think that same logic applies here.

So while we would never criticize a group like Open Carry Texas for exercising their god-given rights, we must remember that in the open carry debate—and more generally, in the whole gun debate, there are three distinct positions: pro, anti, and neutral. Actions like those in Texas tend to push the neutral people to the anti-side (as evidenced by the restaurant chains’ bans).

Our goal is to present firearms ownership in such a way that encourages the neutral side to join the ranks of the pro-gunners. There are plenty of effectiveand responsible ways to do that. Converging on a store with a group of people armed with rifles is not one of them.

And so I urge you:

Don’t take the easy way out!

Instead of strapping rifles on our backs and hitting the streets (where our message would likely be lost), let’s think about those effective and responsible ways to make our statement—to help return this great nation to the kind of place our forefathers fought to build and that we wish it could be again.

For me, personally?

My statement is making the decision to carry concealed. My statement is making the decision to do whatever it takes to protect my family. And ultimately, my statement is educating, training, and insuring responsibly armed Americans to do the same.

What will your statement be?

Take Care and Stay Safe,

Tim Schmidt
Publisher – Concealed Carry Report
USCCA Founder