Open carry has no such justification—and until recently, it has not needed it. Until recently, almost all states forbade the open carry of handguns. Although many Western states ignored the open carry of long guns, they did so not as a matter of policy or right, but as a left-over from their rural origins. A rancher moving about his lands may want to carry a shotgun or rifle in case predators attack his livestock. Is he supposed to put a bag over his gun? Are hunters supposed to carry their rifles in a locked case until they literally see the deer?
Today in Arizona, however, 89.8 percent of the population dwells in urban areas, a higher percentage than in Connecticut; Texas’s population has become 84.7 percent urban, higher than Delaware. Hunting is declining. The most popular rifle in the United States is the AR-15, a look-alike of the military-grade M-16 that can be used for hunting purposes only by the most skilled marksmen. Fewer and fewer American households own long guns at all. Gun sales are up because a few gun enthusiasts are accumulating miniature arsenals: In 1994, the average gun-owning household owned four weapons; by 2015, the average gun-owning household owned eight.
Over that same period, American political culture has become more polarized. Those polarities have become more extreme. And on the political right especially, the rhetoric has become more indulgent of—if not more enthusiastic about—political violence.
Sometimes the indulgence of violence is spoken in tones of regret, as in this column by radio host Dennis Prager in May 2017:
Left-wing thugs engage in violence and threats of violence with utter impunity. They shut down speakers at colleges; block highways, bridges, and airport terminals; take over college buildings and offices; occupy state capitals; and terrorize individuals at their homes.
In order to understand why more violence may be coming, it is essential to understand that left-wing mobs are almost never stopped, arrested, or punished. Colleges do nothing to stop them, and civil authorities do nothing to stop them on campuses or anywhere else. Police are reduced to spectators as they watch left-wing gangs loot stores, smash business and car windows, and even take over state capitals (as in Madison, Wisconsin).
It’s beginning to dawn on many Americans that mayors, police chiefs and college presidents have no interest in stopping this violence. Left-wing officials sympathize with the lawbreakers, and the police, who rarely sympathize with thugs of any ideology, are ordered to do nothing by emasculated police chiefs.
Consequently, given the abdication by all these authorities of their role to protect the public, some members of the public will inevitably decide that they will protect themselves and others.
Sometimes it is gleeful, as in this August monologue by one of Trump’s favorite radio hosts, Michael Savage:
That is what’s going to happen in this country. You have not yet seen mob violence in this country. You’ve seen some mob violence instigated by George Soros’s mobs. … But you haven’t seen the thing I’m telling you is coming in this country. … We’ve had it up to here. We’ve put up with your garbage in the universities. We’ve put up with your filth coming out of your filth factories in Hollywood. We’ve put up with your hatred that comes out of your newspapers. We’ve put up with your filth and your hatred coming out of CNN. But if you do the next step and steal our president, I warn you. You’ve seen nothing yet. You will see the ‘Day of the Locust’ in this country.
Sean Hannity tells his audience of a “soft coup” against Trump: “sinister forces aligning in a clear and present danger.” Newt Gingrich describes a “clear-cut cultural civil war.”