Hard to know quite how to feel about the tempest that resulted when four members of the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense got together for a lunchtime chat at Blue Mesa Grill in Arlington, Texas (a few miles from my own home turf, as it happens).
Members of the group Open Carry Texas showed up in a larger group of 15 or 20, carrying their assault rifles. It's not illegal to carry "long guns" there, but it certainly raises a few questions of propriety and intent.
In purely practical terms, in an age of regular mass shootings and attempted mass shootings, showing up somewhere armed unavoidably raises the question, at least in NRA terms, is the person openly carrying a gun a "good guy" or a "bad guy?" Of course, this underlines the fact that even the perpetrators of mass shootings are "good guys" until they squeeze the trigger trying to hurt someone. If you see someone walk into a shopping mall with an assault rifle, should you congratulate them on exercising their Second Amendment rights, run away, or try to stop them?
"Protesting" by carrying a gun seems like a good way to cause or experience problems. The furor surrounding the incident seems to focus mostly on whether these folks were "intimidating" the Moms having their meeting. It seems self-evident that carrying a gun in public is intimidating in our era and culture, which is certainly a key to the psychology of wanting to do so. Arguing that it isn't is a point that works on paper, but not so much in practice. We simply are no longer a culture in which people regularly carry. There was simply little reason to after the frontiers closed and hunting for food ceased to be necessity, and people have grown used to living in an unarmed world (discounting, of course, concealed weapons). We just aren't used to it, outside of those in uniform. These folks seem disingenuous at best in arguing that intimidation wasn't part of the equation.
Clearly, they were operating within the law. No one can fault them there. But is this kind of protest a decent thing to do, regardless of its legality? Hard to say--rather a gray zone, to say the least.
One thing's for sure--the group released a photo in response to another that showed them in a less smiley and patriotic light. But even that photo, smiles and all, shows members of the group posing with finger near or on the trigger. That seems like an unambiguous nod in the direction of intimidation, not to mention bad judgment in the safety department.
ADDITIONAL: An interesting point amidst the sound and fury--saith our friend k: "Are you implying that mass shooters are former good-guys who carried guns in public until a point which they decided it would be a good idea to shoot a bunch of people? The facts don't back that up."
However, that is what our legal system demands--innocent until proven guilty. Until someone breaks a law, their legal status is unquestionably innocent, i.e. "a good guy." Maybe they carry a gun publicly, maybe they don't. Immaterial. They aren't even a "bad guy" once they decide "it would be a good idea to shoot a bunch of people." Action is necessary to become "bad," unless you prefer Minority Report approaches. Only once the trigger gets pulled in a shooting incident is that "good guy" a "bad guy."
The perpetrator might show signs beforehand, but also might not. Even if they do, they haven't done anything. They are law-abiding citizens.
Our legal system doesn't allow for it to be any other way. So yes, the facts, the Constitution, and the legal system most assuredly and unavoidably do back that up.
Though personally, I think showing up in a public space with a rifle over your shoulder would make a heck of a lot of people, gun owners/carriers or no, extremely nervous. Even if it's technically legal. Because no one knows your plans, and guns are notorious for being used to send projectiles out their barrels.