In Support of the Open Carry Society

Gun photo from RGBStock

“I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Cleveland police union president Stephen Loomis told CNN as Republicans gathered in his city for their 2016 national convention. “I want [Ohio governor John Kasich] to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”

Kasich, to his credit, demurred, responding “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested.”

“Open carry” — that is, legal recognition of the right to carry a weapon without concealing it from view — is a hot topic this week, not only due to Loomis’s appeal for suspension of the US Constitution in Ohio, but in the aftermath of a July 17 gunfight in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in which three police officers and a former US Marine from Kansas City were killed.

The police version of the Baton Rouge incident is that 29-year-old Gavin Long “lured” police officers to his location where he “intentionally targeted and assassinated” them. Left unexplained is why several officers rushed to his location on the basis of a 911 call (not made by Long himself) reporting something perfectly legal  in 44 states, including Louisiana: A man carrying a gun.

Yes, perfectly legal. Only California, Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia prohibit the open carry of firearms. Some other states require a permit, but those schemes as well as the prohibitions are clearly unconstitutional.

Did Long “lure” police officers to their “assassinations” or did he respond to actions he perceived as an armed attack by police in a city on edge since the July 5 police killing of a black man, caught on camera? We may never know. But we can and should draw this lesson from Baton Rouge and from Cleveland:

For some reason, police seem to consider open carry of firearms, even where formally legal (the US Constitution says it’s legal everywhere in America, but that’s another column), to constitute prima facie evidence of criminal intent. It isn’t, and treating it as such can only lead to unnecessary violent outcomes.

More than 100 million Americans own more than 300 million guns.

An infinitesimal portion of those gun owners commit crimes using those guns, and that tiny criminal fraction would do so whether open carry (or concealed carry) was legal or not, because committing crimes is what criminals do.

It neither is nor should be the responsibility of millions of non-criminal gun-owning Americans to coddle and cater to hoplophobia (“a mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, weapons”) on the part of their fellow citizens, or especially of their putative employees, the police.

Guns, and gun owners, are here to stay. Get used to us.

[Correction: The original version of this op-ed listed Texas as a state prohibiting open carry. Thanks to MamaLiberty for letting me know that Texas now has a “permit” system under which open carry is legal – TLK]

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


9/11: 28 Pages Later

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...
September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In December of 2002, Congress released its report on the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.” Part of that report, anyway: 28 pages remained classified until July 15, 2016, when they were finally presented to the public with significant redactions.

Why the long wait, and what do the 28 pages reveal?

If we’re to believe the headlines in Saudi media (e.g. Al Arabiya) and mainstream American media (e.g. Time and the Washington Times) the big news is what they don’t reveal: A “smoking gun” connecting the government of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks.

If we’re to believe the 28 pages themselves, the big news is that they do, in fact, reveal a “smoking gun” connecting the government of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks.

Here’s the opening sentence from the newly released material: “While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected with the Saudi government.”

Among those individuals was Omar al-Bayoumi, who sported a “no-show” job at a company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense (the company reported that he visited their facilities once, thereafter collecting a continuing salary). When 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Midhar arrived in the United States, they stayed with al-Bayoumi until he found them an  apartment and someone to help them get drivers’ licenses … and locate flight schools.

The two also appear to have received assistance from Osama Bassnan, who lived across the street from them in San Diego. According to the CIA,  Bassnan received significant funds from Saudi government sources and members of the Saudi royal family. According to the FBI, Bassnan was a supporter of both Osama bin Laden and New York terror plotter Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Why are we only now finding out all this? Because four words make the whole thing problematic: “The Saudi royal family.” In particular, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the US at the time, whose wife appears to have been the conduit through which money was routed to Osama Bassnan — and then, quite possibly, used to service the needs of the 9/11 plotters.

But Saudi Arabia controls much of the world’s oil supply either directly or as the dominant member of OPEC, the Saudi military buys lots of US-manufactured weaponry, and Saudi assets in the US — which the Saudi government threatened to sell off if the US changed its laws to hold them responsible for their role in the attacks — top $750 billion.

In other words, unlike Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, the Saudi regime carries considerable clout with the US government. In fact, Prince Bandar visited president George W. Bush at the White House immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

In response to those attacks, Afghanistan suffered US invasion, the overthrow of its government, and is now in its 15th straight year of war and occupation.

Saudi Arabia enjoyed not just a 13-year reprieve from the exposure of damning evidence, but seemingly better relations with the US government than ever before. Go figure.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


The Problem Isn’t Tools, It’s Terror

Spectators helping victims soon after the 2013 Boston Marathon attack (Photo credit: Aaron Tang via Wikipedia)
Spectators helping victims soon after the 2013 Boston Marathon attack (Photo credit: Aaron Tang via Wikipedia)

On June 12, Omar Mateen killed 49 patrons at Orlando, Florida’s  Pulse nightclub. His weapon: A Sig Sauer MCX carbine.

On July 3, Abu Maha al-Iraqi killed more than 300 shoppers and diners in  Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood. His weapon: A van packed with explosives.

On July 14, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed at least 84 Bastille Day revelers  in Nice (as I write this, dozens of injured remain in critical condition). His weapons: A 19-ton truck and a pistol.

Don’t be surprised over the next week to hear calls from the usual suspects for “expanded background checks” for truck drivers, with an eye toward populating a “no drive list.”

Left unmentioned will be the heavy regulation of explosives by most of the world’s governments for decades, or that those regulations didn’t stop Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal A. Ayyad and Ahmed Ajaj (the 1993 World Trade Center Bombers), or Timothy McVeigh (the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber) or  Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev (the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers), let alone Abu Maha al-Iraqi.

Also left unmentioned will be the heavy regulation of guns in both the US and France, or that those regulations didn’t stop Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik (who killed 14 in San Bernardino in December 2015), or the Charlie Hebdo attackers (who killed 12 in Paris in January 2015), or the Bataclan theater attackers (who killed 130 in Paris in November 2015), or Omar Mateen, or Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

Laws and regulations won’t stop terrorists from using trucks, either.

“Our rifle is only a tool,” Private Joker notes in Gustav Hasford’s The Short-Timers (adapted to film as Full Metal Jacket).  “It is a hard heart that kills.”

Focusing on tools misses the point entirely: When they choose to attack, terrorists will buy, beg, borrow, steal or make the tools to do so (the Tsarnaevs used pressure cookers, nails, gunpowder from fireworks and remote detonators made from toy car controllers).

Terrorists don’t obey laws or conform to regulations. If they did, they wouldn’t be terrorists. Making those laws and regulations more restrictive fails as a counter to — in fact it actively incentivizes — terrorism. The goal of terrorists is to terrorize. Mass acceptance of repressive legal responses says they’re succeeding.

If oppressive police state tactics don’t work, what might?

Refusing to be terrorized would help, at least some. Just as being terrorized encourages more terrorism, not being terrorized discourages it. When one tactic doesn’t work, smart actors choose other tactics.

But opposing mass killings by “our guys” is even more important.

Western (including American and French)  troops have killed hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, in the Middle East and Central Asia just since 1991.  Many (maybe most) have been innocent civilians. Their families, friends, countrymen and co-religionists have, unsurprisingly, responded in kind. We should stop supporting military adventurism not just because it inevitably results in “blowback” and dead bodies back home, but because it’s as wrong when “we” do it as it is when “they” do it.

It is indeed a hard heart that kills. Tools are mere distraction. Hearts — and minds — are where change begins.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.