Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Open carry

Wherein it's been awhile since I last dropped a Neal Stephenson quote


Over at Reason, you can read about,
One goal of the "open carry" movement, The New York Times notes, is to encourage liberalization of concealed carry laws. California, for instance, is one of nine states where concealed carry permits are issued at the discretion of local officials, which often means that only the politically connected receive permission to discreetly pack heat. But California law (PDF) allows you to openly carry an unloaded gun without a permit, provided you are outside of designated "gun-free" zones. Hence the holstered coffee drinkers letting it all hang out at Starbucks


Which, of course, reminds me of this scene from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. While Randy sits in the Mcdonald's parking lot, across the street from Novus Ordo Seclorum:
In the lot of the 24 Jam, Mike or Mark has joined three other elvish looking sorts in black cowboy hats and bandannas, whom Randy can identify based on the length and color of their ponytails and beards. There's Stu, a Berkeley grad student who is somehow mixed up in Avi's HEAP project, and Phil, who invented a major programming language a couple of years ago and goes helicopter skiing in his spare time, and Craig, who knows everything there is to know about encrypted credit card transactions on the Net and is a devotee of traditional Nipponese archery. Some of these guys are wearing long coats and some aren't. There is a lot of Secret Admirers iconography: t-shirts bearing the number 56, which is a code for Yamamoto, or just pictures of Yamamoto himself, or big fat question marks. They are having an energetic and very happy conversation though it looks a bit forced because, to a man, they are carrying long weapons out in plain sight. One of them has a hunting rifle, and each of the others is slinging a rudimentary looking gun with a banana clip sticking out of the side. Randy thinks, but is not sure, that these are HEAP guns.

This scene, not surprisingly, has caught the attention of the police, who have surrounded these four with squad cars, and who are standing at the ready with rifles and shotguns. It is an oddity of the law in many jurisdictions that, while carrying (say) a concealed one shot .22 derringer requires a license, openly carrying (e.g.) a big game rifle is perfectly legal. Concealed weapons are outlawed or at least heavily regulated, and unconcealed ones are not. So a lot of Secret Admirers who tend to be gun nuts have taken to going around conspicuously armed as a way of pointing out the absurdity of those rules. Their point is this: who gives a shit about concealed weapons anyway, since they are only useful for defending oneself against assaults by petty criminals, which almost never happens? The real reason the Constitution provides for the right to bear arms is defending oneself against oppressive governments, and when it comes to that, your handgun is close to useless. So (according to these guys) if you are going to assert your right to keep and bear arms you should do it openly, by packing something really big.

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