The Austin Chronicle

Shell Shock

By Brandon Watson, April 29, 2014, 3:15pm, Newsdesk

Mad Libs can't be much fun for open carry advocates. Instead of zany nouns, they just have one answer. Weekend plans are replaced by the Second Amendment. Rational thought is too. Why debate the wisdom of revealing a 911 caller’s identity? Just plug in the Second Amendment. There’s no time to worry about the “lib” part when you are so darned mad.

Despite the rallying cry of their "Don't Tread on Me" flags, the Texas open carry movement has an increasingly perverted definition of liberty. To them, the concept means they can wave their guns in the air like they just don't care. Should someone express discomfort with suburbia becoming Tombstone, Arizona, personal freedom ends. "Don't Tread on Me" becomes a giant steamroller.

Such was the case when a DFW-area woman called 911 to report an armed demonstration in her neighborhood. Although cops were called out, there is no indication that the protestors were faced with anything more than temporary inconvenience. At least to open carry supporter Brett Sanders, that inconvenience required an extreme response.

On April 10, Sanders posted full audio of the call – obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request – on his YouTube channel. The description reads, "Another helpless sheep calls its master to report scary inanimate objects and shaking flags." The tone is mocking provocation, and the video is barely discernible from the many other gun control "exposés" spread through the right-wing internet. But this one had a little something extra – an implied warning. The audio included the caller's name and cell number, which Sanders annotates with text.

Why did Sanders chose to expose the personal information of private citizens? He fills in the blank with a hashtag – "#2a." Never mind that exposing the info to a potentially unstable audience carries a real risk to the caller. All's fair as long as it is stamped with these magic words of the Second Amendment.

Open carry advocates have long maintained that they pose no danger to the general public. But the YouTube comments tell a different story. Some supporters blamed the caller for any harassment, saying she should have known better than to give personal information. Several comments used misogynistic language. One commenter bemoaned that "the stupid bitch changed her number." Perhaps to the Second Amendment crowd, the number change was purely coincidental.

To many of the open carry advocates, the harassment was warranted. Via Twitter, Sanders attributed the act to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Open Carry Texas often charges MDA with making false 911 calls to derail the open carry discussion. The caller was a female, ergo she must be a "Mom."

The trouble is that there was not any indication that the caller was involved in gun control activism. Nor is there evidence that gun control advocates are using 911 calls to squash dissent. Nonetheless, anyone who is alarmed at guns is automatically the enemy. And OCT thinks that internet vigilantism is a perfectly reasonable response.

It's a strange stance from a group who virulently claim to hate bullies. It's even stranger considering OCT wants to "condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry [rifles and shotguns]." Given their latest attempt at "conditioning," they might ask the 911 caller if she still feels safe.

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