The news: How should you respond to open-carry activists who carry firearms into public areas to demonstrate their love of guns? According to the blog Philosophical Questions Every Day (PQED) it's simple: just walk away.
Noting there is really "no legitimate way of determining intent" when suddenly confronted with the presence of men with guns, here's what is recommended:
My proposal is as follows: we should all leave. Immediately. Leave the food on the table in the restaurant. Leave the groceries in the cart, in the aisle. Stop talking or engaging in the exchange. Just leave, unceremoniously, and fast.
But here is the key part: don't pay. Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones' lives; money shouldn't trump this. It doesn't matter if you ate the meal. It doesn't matter if you've just received food from the deli counter that can't be resold. It doesn't matter if you just got a haircut. Leave. If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.
The only thing that makes us notice [the activists] at all is that they have guns and truthfully, that’s why they carry them in the first place. They want to be celebrities, heroes, and the centers of attention.
If they really care about that attention, argues PQED, then the gun rights activists won't mind paying for the bills of customers they've scared off. PQED is part of the University of North Dakota College of Arts & Sciences.
The background: In the past few months, at least seven major restaurant chains have asked open-carry advocates to stop carrying firearms into their eateries after Texas activists carried out provocative demonstrations in which they carried semiautomatic rifles and other long arms into everyday locations.
Mother Jones published videos of Open Carry Texas activists being asked to leave both Chili's and Sonic after similar demonstrations resulted in activists being asked to leave Starbucks, Wendy's, Applebee's, Jack in the Box and Chipotle.
Even one NRA spokesman denounced the practice at one point, calling it "downright weird" and saying, "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 officially rebuked the statement after an outcry from gun owners.) Even some readers on the Blaze thought using firearms to rile people up was too much.
Here is a group of open-carry advocates in Target. Image credit: Facebook
Would this really work? It's great rhetoric, and if people really do feel that uncomfortable with the sudden appearance of men with firearms, it's hard to argue that they don't have the right to protect themselves by leaving. The idea would be to pressure restaurants, chains and other retail locations frequented by open-carry activists into banning the presence of firearms or running the risk of losing sales thanks to the irresponsible actions of others.
That said, it's difficult to imagine that refusing to pay your tab would be legal, and your mileage would probably depend on how understanding the officers called to pick you up for dine-and-dashing would be. While the strategy of running away immediately might sound good on paper, it could get you in actual trouble.
So you'd really have to balance this one against the potential risk of being fined or arrested. But hey — you're not the one who chose to carry a deadly weapon around like an idiot, scaring people in the process.