NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both a part of Everytown’s grassroots network, responded to open carry demonstrations by extremists opposed to stay-at-home orders issued to protect public health during the COVID-19 crisis. Armed protesters in Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina in recent days have once again brought the dangers of open carry into the national spotlight. Two weeks in a row, heavily armed demonstrators stormed the Michigan Capitol to resist stay-at-home orders, and a third rally was held Thursday.
“The last thing America needs right now is rifle-wielding extremists storming businesses and state capitals, but that’s exactly what we’re getting thanks in part to the NRA’s deadly agenda of guns everywhere, for everyone,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “There is no place for armed intimidation in our national conversation about how to respond to this pandemic, which is why there should be no tolerance for open carry in our public spaces.”
“A rocket-launcher in a sandwich shop, armed protesters screaming in the faces of law enforcement, lawmakers wearing bulletproof vests to protect themselves from extremists inside statehouses — these are the images we should take with us to vote in November as a reminder of why elections matter,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Most of this armed intimidation is completely legal, thanks to decades of NRA-backed politicians who refuse to limit open carry or take other basic steps to protect the public from gun extremists.”
“Responsible gun owners don’t buy guns to intimidate others we disagree with,” said Jon Gold, a gun owner and firearms instructor, a volunteer with Michigan Moms Demand Action, and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “We certainly don’t walk down the street with our firearms to protest the tough decisions that public officials are making to protect all of us during a pandemic. Open carry demonstrators speak only for themselves, and responsible gun owners reject their use of firearms to threaten others.”
“We are all sacrificing conveniences, a normal education, and our day-to-day lives to protect public health during this pandemic,” said Megan Dumbrowski, a Students Demand Action volunteer in Michigan. “The armed protesters intimidating lawmakers for the third week in a row do not represent Michiganders – on the contrary, they put public health at risk for all of us.”
The presence of armed extremists at protests, rallies, and local businesses underscores the danger of open carry laws, which allow people to openly carry guns in public without a background check, permitting or training. In nearly every state, open carry is typically legal by default; there is no law forbidding it, but also no law permitting it. Open carry — a favorite tactic of white supremacist groups — is generally opposed by law enforcement but embraced by the gun lobby.
Studies show that the presence of a visible gun makes people more aggressive. Tragically, open carry has complicated law enforcement responses to deadly threats:
- In the July 2016 mass shooting of five police officers in Dallas, police reported that open carry had made it more difficult to distinguish between people legally carrying guns openly and the gunman who had opened fire.
- In Colorado in 2015, a gunman killed three people after a neighbor saw him carrying a firearm down the street. The neighbor had called 911, but because the behavior was legal under state law, police did not immediately respond.
More information on open carry is available here.