A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association defends the controversial practice of openly carrying firearms in public, arguing that firearms are not capable of intimidation.
In an October 20 video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson took on open carry critics, stating, “Somehow we have completely dehumanized gun violence, and have instead humanized guns. Guns kill. Guns strike fear. Guns intimidate. Seriously? They're just bits of plastic and metal.” Johnson also apparently defended the controversial practice of open carrying firearms in Michigan public schools.
Johnson centered his commentary around “a little bit of a dust-up over a law-abiding citizen enacting his right to open carry” in his community. He didn't identify the specific incident, however, stating, “I'm not going to get into the details, because they honestly don't matter.”
Johnson stated that he is “baffled by why society is so damn afraid of” open carry and attributed concern about the practice to “our irrational, media-fed hysterical fear of guns.” According to Johnson, guns “are no more capable of intimidation than my vacuum is capable of cleaning my house, or my lawn mower is capable of mowing my lawn.”
Johnson concluded with his hope that the next time public debate occurs over open carry firearms “we can have a civic debate over something other than those intimidating, scary, pesky things we call guns.”
Although he declined to “get into the details,” the “dust-up” Johnson was presumably talking about is the controversy over pro-gun activists openly carrying firearms into public schools in Traverse City, Michigan. (Johnson owns a tactical gear company that is based in Traverse City.)
Johnson apparently defended the controversial open carry practice, arguing that the open carrier in his community “is a law abiding citizen who did not violate any laws” who has been “vilified” by critics:
JOHNSON: Recently in my community there has been a little bit of a dust-up over a law-abiding citizen enacting his right to open carry. I'm not going to get into the details, because they honestly don't matter. What matters is that he is a law-abiding citizen who did not violate any laws.
What I have noticed is that the response to his decision has been pretty rabid. In particular, we have seen countless letters to the editor, newspaper headlines and social media posts that have vilified his decision to do this thing which he is legally entitled to do. In particular, there has been a lot of accusations of fearmongering.
The NRA previously criticized the practice of open carrying long guns, including shotguns and rifles, before quickly reversing itself and apologizing following outrage from the members of the open carry community. In recent months open carry activist groups have staged demonstrations where participants openly carry assault weapons or other guns inside of retail establishments. In response, gun safety group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has persuaded several restaurants and retailers, including Target, Starbucks and Chipotle, to ask customers not to bring guns into their establishments.
Johnson's commentary often seeks to downplay the threat firearms pose to the public by engaging in hairsplitting or semantic games. In a September commentary video, Johnson argued that individuals who oppose the concealed carrying of guns in public are “paranoid” because they are afraid of an “inanimate object.” Following a May mass killing in Isla Vista, California, where 11 out of 19 of those injured or killed were shot, Johnson urged the media to stop referring to the perpetrator as a “gunman” or “shooter,” because several of the victims had been stabbed or hit by a car.
In a widely mocked July commentary video, Johnson imagined a world where children would have to demonstrate proficiency with firearms “to advance to the next grade” and where some places would be designated “gun-required zones.”