The second annual Key Peninsula Open Carry barbecue was hosted at the end of June in Key Center at O’Callahan’s parking lot. Organizers of the event estimated 40 to 50 people attended on a drizzly Saturday.
The numbers were down from the “super turnout last year,” said Craig Mann, an organizer from the Hood Canal area. According to Mann, the group plans the Key Peninsula event as the start of about seven events each summer. Bigger events are in Olympia, Spoken and the Tri-City area.
The goal of “open carry” proponents is to advocate for Second Amendment rights.The Second Amendment (Amendment II adopted in 1791) of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. “This event is to show new current history,” Mann said.
“Open carry” is shorthand for “openly carrying a firearm in public,” as distinguished from “concealed carry,” where firearms cannot be seen.The open carry proponents claim that Washington state follows British legal tradition that anything not proscribed as unlawful is lawful. Their motto is, “a right unexercised is a right lost.”
According to Wikipedia, the practice of open carry has seen an increase in the United States in recent years due to the success of organized events, like the one in Key Center, which increase visibility and public awareness about the practice. Proponents point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons.
Encouraged by groups like OpenCarry.org, the practice has seen a revival in recent years but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend. The gun rights community has been mixed in its response. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA have been cautious in expressing support. Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
It is legal to carry a handgun in Washington state; a license is not required and there is no waiting period for purchase. A handgun is a firearm whose smaller size is fashioned to be used by one hand and typically fires single round ammunition.
“Open carry policy is, it needs to be a handgun,” explained Mann. “We don’t want rifles.”
When asked about the right to wear a handgun in banks, libraries and businesses, Mann responded, “Personally, I respect business. I don’t see the need to wear a gun to prove a point.”
He plans to return to Key Center next summer for the third annual event. Information about events and forums can be found at www.opencarry.org.