One of the largest gun advocacy groups in the nation, the Second Amendment Foundation, said they will not defend the presence of firearms at protests, the Washington Times reported this week.
“We are not a fan of armed protests and highly discourage that,” Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the SAF, told the Times. “Firearms serve a purpose, and the purpose is not a mouthpiece. It’s to defend yourself. If you are carrying it to make a political point, we are not going to support that.”
The statement came in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, when protesters took to the streets to voice their concerns over the removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. During these demonstrations, some neo-Nazis, white supremacists and members of the 'alt-right' openly carried firearms.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union echoed a similar stance, saying they would no longer defend white supremacy groups who decide to carry firearms at protests.
A threat to gun rights
According to UCLA law professor and gun rights scholar Adam Winkler, some in the gun rights movement feel open carriers are a threat to the progress made in favor of gun rights.
“There are many in the gun community who believe the open carriers pose a big threat to gun rights because they are so aggressive and so in the face of other people in controversial settings that it could lead to a backlash," Winkler told the Times.
Gottlieb, though critical of those who carry openly, said he understands why people open carry: for protection.
Lawmakers have contemplated banning firearms at protests, rallies and demonstrations. So far, multiple gun rights groups are opposed to the idea.
“Americans shouldn’t lose their constitutional rights when they are practiced in unison. When Americans peaceably protest, they should be able to peacefully bear arms at the same time," Jordan Stein, communications director for Gun Owners of America, told TheBlaze. "Regardless, banning guns at protests turns the event into a gun-free zone for honest citizens, which can be exploited by criminals who don’t care about the law.”
The Pink Pistols, a pro-gun LGBT group, believes legislation barring firearms at protests is counter intuitive to their mission of arming gays for self-defense.
According to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, open carrying at protests should be banned.
“Open carry is not part of that [peaceful protest] tradition, and its history is that of a tool used for specifically racist ends,” Everytown for Gun Safety's Executive Director John Feinblatt said in a New York Times opinion piece. "It corrodes our public spaces and infringes on our rights. It introduces terror and intimidation, where dialogue and debate should prevail. And until we close the open-carry loophole in our laws, the armed intimidation we saw in Charlottesville will continue to serve as a tactic for more extremists in more of our cities and towns.”
The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment.
A coming shift on gun rights?
If additional gun rights groups, like the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, say they will not defend those who wish to open carry at protests, it is likely that we will see a very rare occasion when gun rights and gun control groups agree on a single gun-related issue.
Should both sides agree on this issue, we are likely to see a drastic shift in the gun control-gun rights debate.