It takes a lot to make the National Rifle Association tell you to chill out with your pushing the second amendment rights. Yet that is exactly what the NRA is telling Texas Open Carry, a pro-gun rights advocacy group that has even other gun supporters worried that they are too extreme.
The group had made it a mission to stage protests and activities as they wander around with guns — usually massive rifles — as an effort to express their constitutional right to bear arms. Texas Open Carry has taunted Moms Against Guns, an pro-gun control group, showing up fully armed to do a photo op outside of one of their meetings, and they held another rally at the assassination site of President John F. Kennedy.
Now the NRA is telling them to back off before they hurt the cause. “[I]t is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms,” the NRA said in a statement, responding to the group’s latest efforts. “Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.”
Texas Open Carry, meanwhile, is chastising the NRA for being weak on gun rights. “When you’ve got the [Texas State Rifle Association] and the NRA basically coming down on us for standing up for our rights, that’s where our problem is,” Open Carry Texas President CJ Grisham told Mother Jones. “Because now you guys are siding with Moms Demand Action.”
For those of us who study the anti-abortion movement, that exchange may have a ring of familiarity to it. The worry from the voice of the mainstream lobbying arm of the gun rights movement, telling the fringe that their stunts are actually hurting versus helping the cause is not unlike the quiet condemnation that comes from the mainstream anti-abortion movement when their own extremists show their gory fetal and embryonic images not at local abortion or reproductive health clinics, but at public schools, the sidewalks of Main Street, or to public events and festivals.
Both Texas Open Carry and anti-abortion groups like Abolish Human Abortion, Pro-Life Action League, Created Equal and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform use shock value and in your face tactics to force a person to confront their issue. Both of them also note that they are completely within their legal rights to do their demonstrations, are violating no laws, and are in fact exercising the freedoms granted to them constitutionally. And all of the groups are intending to provoke a reaction.
Are these types of tactics effective means of advocacy? I know that the anti-abortion groups that employ them believe so, and many of their members tell me about the people that it draws to their side, or who say they had no idea what an abortion was about before seeing their pictures. When I track them in the media, however, the public reaction doesn’t seem the same. The stories are far more often filled with people angry at them for bringing the photos to where children will be, or stating that they support ending abortion but believe their posters are the wrong way to make that happen.
Like Texas Open Carry, anti-abortion groups also use their photos as an intimidation tactic, too. The message behind it, though, is a different one. The implicit understanding when you come upon a graphic poster exhibit is, “Well, if you don’t want to see these images, agree to make abortion illegal.” For the gun group, their demonstration appears not to be forwarding any agenda, but instead a brazen flaunting of the battles they have already won.
For gun rights advocates, Texas Open Carry could undo their massive victories at a time when the general public is growing more and more wary of firearms and gun violence. In the same vein, anti-abortion activists could also lose the public relations gains that their own movement has so rapidly made as they try to push too hard and fast to demand Americans accept all embryos and fetuses as human, whole and needing the same protection as an infant or toddler.
Both are using in your face tactics to push their agenda. Will both end up negating their own movements’ gains as well?
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