To Shop and Bear Arms

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Other customers
stare as Nik Clark and Kim Garny do their weekly shop at a large
upscale supermarket. It’s hardy a surprise as a TV camera is trailing
behind their trolley. But people would do a double-take even if
the BBC weren’t in tow. In some ways Nick wants them to look.

There’s a revolver
amid the ravioli, an automatic among the avocados.

Like cowboys
out of Westerns, the couple carry handguns on holsters on their
hips. She has a Smith and Wesson .38 special with a cute pink grip
that makes it look almost like a toy. He has a rather more chunky
Glock.

Wisconsin
Open Carry
. Groups like this have been springing up all over
the States in the last year and they’ve been making an impact in
the last week or so, getting Starbucks in California to agree people
should be allowed into their coffee shops carrying guns. The groups
are made up of people who want to make a point about the Second
Amendment right in the Constitution to bear arms, by bearing them
openly. Some want to make a point and test whether or not private
firms like shops and restaurants recognise that right.

The movement
is slightly different in the state of Wisconsin where concealed
guns are banned. Nick says wearing a gun in a visible holster is
the only way he can carry a weapon legally and he wants others to
be aware of their rights: he doesn’t want to confront but to convert.

"You have
a right to self defence and open carry is a great deterrent. It’s
about personal protection," he says.

He’s a beefy
guy, with bulging muscles, so I ask: Isn’t he rather intimidating
when he’s armed as well?

"I’ve
been open carrying for about a year and most people don’t notice,
or some might make a comment. It’s a demonstration I am a law-abiding
citizen, you have nothing to hide. Criminals never open carry."

He says that
his group respects property rights and if a shop doesn’t want their
custom and they are asked to leave they are happy to do so: they
don’t want to patronise that business. But he says most big companies
know the law and have a policy that allows them to shop armed.

Kim says for
her it is all about self protection: "I can guarantee if I
am going to my car late at night and someone sees me carrying a
gun they won’t make me a victim."

But Nick says
he is also making a point: "I want people to see me and have
a level of comfort, to know that if they are out walking their dog
it is OK to carry a gun, if they are walking to their car after
work it is legal to carry a firearm."

When Obama
was elected many gun enthusiasts expected the tightening of laws.
Many of those in favour of controls expected Obama to increase regulation.
As a senator he had always been in favour of restrictions on guns.
But it seems thing are rather going the other way.

Last year
a ban on carrying concealed weapons in national parks was lifted.
In Virginia politicians are likely to change the law and allow people
to buy more than one hand gun a month.

Read
the rest of the article

March
18, 2010

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