Apparently this needs to be said: if you own a firearm, particularly an assault weapon, while you probably have the legal right to carry it openly in public, doing so as a political statement isn't helping your case. Yes, we get it; you're concerned that the gun control measures being discussed in Washington will take away your right to own these firearms. You're concerned that people who've watched the news recently might associate these firearms with murderers and maniacs rather than law abiding citizens. You're concerned that gun owners are viewed as scary "other people" and not our friends and neighbors.
And I sympathize with your concerns, but parading around your AR-15 like it's the Stanley Cup isn't helping your case.
Let me put all my cards on the table here. I like guns. I'm a registered hunter safety instructor for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. I find a lot of gun control legislation to be counterproductive and useless and I don't want to see responsible people disarmed in our society.
But if you bring an AR-15 into a grocery store just because you can, or if you wander around the streets of a major US city with your rifle slung across your back to "demonstrate your 2nd Amendment rights," or if you feel that it's appropriate to bring a gun into a department store because there's no law saying you can't, you're not a responsible gun owner. You're making the rest of us look bad.
You're not helping.
Firearms are tools and like any tool they have an appropriate time and place. When we see someone carrying a chain-saw in a Lowe's or a Home Depot no one thinks twice; when they're in a Whole Foods it's national news, not just because it's frightening but because, no matter how safe and well trained you are, there's always the possibility of a mistake.
Imagine, for a moment, the direction the firearms regulation discussion would take, in this country, should one of these 2nd Amendment Demonstrators accidentally kill someone in the course of such an exhibition. It could happen. Well trained or not, we are all human; we can all make mistakes and all it takes with a firearm is one.
Knowing when and where it is appropriate to carry and display a firearm is every bit as much a part of ethical and responsible gun use as knowing how to properly handle, operate, and secure your firearm.
When an armed man walks into a public area people panic. The police are called (and they have to respond) and it is a testament to their own professionalism that, thus far, none of these ill considered political protests have turned into something more violent. While it might be tempting to imagine these gun-owners in the tradition of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King -- nonviolently protesting the injustice of firearms stigma -- the view from the outside is very different. Rather than a peaceful man suffering needlessly at the hands of an unjust government, bystanders see police protecting them from a gun-toting madman.
There could literally be no better argument for aggressive gun control.