Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 10, 2014

More Thoughts on Open Carry and Bellingham Pride

Clocking in at 66 comments and counting, that will teach me to stumble into both gun policy and identity politics at the same time. Thank you everyone for participating in that rather spirited debate – I really appreciate this little slice of digital sky being used to fully discuss these ideas and in some cases, change my perspective on the issues discussed.

When I first investigated this story, my heart and perspective was with the members of the LGBTQ community who had faced very real threats and acts of violence. I remember two years back when I marched in the pride parade, there was a gentlemen open carrying a pistol at the very start of the parade route (right after you left Bellingham High School) carrying an anti-gay sign. There was a Bellingham police officer across the street keeping a close eye on him but the intimidation felt very deliberate.

A few more thoughts on this issue

A few more thoughts on this issue

So reading about this group marching in the Pride Parade made my heart go out this community facing more men with guns. However, the ensuing discussion definitely drove home how narrow that perspective was. There are proud gun-toting members already walking in the parade, I just didn’t know it.

There are proud LGBTQ and gun advocates doing their best to bridge communities and break stereotypes (special shoutout to Samantha’s story in the comments of the previous article). In many ways, my perspective on the open carry folks had been as limited as many of the outdated notions about gays and lesbians held by parade protesters and for that, I apologize.

Which brings me to my next point – open carry makes me really really uncomfortable. In my view, the sight of someone carrying a large (didn’t say high powered this time, just large) weapon through the streets in times of peace makes me deeply nervous, and many of the political actions engaged in by some open carry supporters seem . . . in my eyes . . . foolish.

To be clear, I’m talking about people walking around Target stores with semi-automatics or bringing Remington 870s into Starbucks. It seems like the wrong way to go about increasing people’s comfort with firearms. But that’s my perspective, my own discomfort, and I will continue to try to overcome that as I report on gun issues in our community.

I believe that Bellingham Pride did the right thing by not caving to pressure and keeping them as part of the event. I hope that their presence will not cause any fear or alarm among the community and hopefully, we can work on bridging these cultural barriers, as I hope our discussion already has.

The central message of pride is that all families are worthy of respect and appreciation – and tolerance begins with the communities that make you the most uncomfortable. See you all at the parade.





  1. Are these same people marching in other Whatcom parades? Will they be roaming around the Fair grounds this year?

    • Yes to both questions. Would you feel better if they were black or Hispanic? Bigotry has no boundaries.

      • Why are you walking around in public with a gun? I really want to know. What’s your objective?

      • Actually if they were people of color doing this they would probably be confronted by police and who knows what else. Your comment is confusing.

  2. I have to say something here, Riley. You said “more men with guns”. You’re crossing identity and guns again. News flash. Women carry guns as well.

  3. I wish they had gun safety and shooting classes in public school (like they used to) so that people were familiar with how they work. I’m not sure if I phrased that right – but I just want people to understand firearms and to have used them. If they don’t like it that’s cool but I think a lot of the angst is from those that have never even held one, loaded, shot, etc.

    • Riley should go out to Custer and take one of theirr EXCELLENT gun classes. I will pay for it.

  4. Didn’t I read somewhere that during the 1960’s civil rights struggles that NRA had a real partnership with the Black Panthers to let them open carry, as a way to make black protesters more secure?

    Ain’t nobody gonna talk crap at a cross dresser with an AK. Just saying.

    • Richard,

      Come back to the real world.

    • The NRA at the time was about gun safety, not open carry. They never coalesced with the Black Panthers.

  5. I support the right of all law-abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights to self-defense.

    • BOOYAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Whoever wrote this article I encourage you to come talk to john at the open carry booth. He is running it and has two gay children. He is far from a republican so you don’t have to worry. We are there to support bellingham pride and spread the message of your rights. We welcome everyone!

    • My wife and I met John. We attended the Family pride picnic and ran into our friend who is a member of Open Carry. The entire group was so welcoming, so friendly and offered us their food at the picnic. We never thought about joining a group before, but because of their open and true personalities we are seriously considering it. By far the kindest folks we have come across in a long time. They didn’t see us as “gay,” they saw us as humans. And we didn’t see them as “gun owners,” we saw them as nice people we enjoyed talking to. We celebrate gay pride every day of the year rather than one weekend, and being gay is not our only identity or our whole story. Just as carrying a gun doesn’t define the whole identity of these folks.

  7. Arthur Reber here: Ph.D. in Psychology and Fellow of the AAAS, the APS and the Fulbright Society. I have a very simple question: Why would anyone want to carry a gun with them (open or concealed)?
    And, to anticipate, “because I can” isn’t really a very good answer.

    • Arthur,

      If you have to ask a question like that then it is you who need to seek professional help?

      • I want to know, too! Why?

      • Nor is that an answer. Each year over 30,000 in this country die from shootings, thousands of them children, most of them accidents. How many instances of individuals actually protecting themselves or their families do you think occur? Enough to warrant all those deaths?

  8. Why does someone need to carry a gun? Really? Well what is your plan to secure my freedom?

  9. I may have to work Sunday but I invite anyone of you to come talk to the people running the booth. One is my father and they are the most accepting and open minded people you will meet.

    • Why do they want to scare people then?

      • Knowing the Laigaie’s I can say without a doubt that they do not intend to scare or intimidate. They want to show people that normal, everyday, socially accepting people can and should exercise their rights. If you don’t use it, you lose it so to speak.

  10. Asleep, Wayne, because at some point I have to sleep.

    • How can you sleep at a time like this? You should be shopping for a 45ACP on the Cabela’s website.

      Or maybe you should be cleaning the you know what off your shoes. You know Riley, what this little misstep has shown is that you are human like the rest of us mere mortals, welcome to humanity.

      And take a gun safety class at the Custer range.

  11. […] week. Usually July is my slow month as far as readers are concerned but thanks to the guns, gays and ganja social issues triple threat, I’ve been working overtime keeping this puppy […]

  12. Wayne, why bother with the dismissive posts that add no new information to the discussion?

  13. Riley,
    This article drives home the point why this is the only political blog around here worth reading. And that’s coming from someone who typically votes conservative and hates politics! Too often these days we see political figures and pundits cling desperately to their talking points as they get blasted and the ship goes down around them. It’s rare to see someone in your position who assimilates new information and perspective, and is willing to reassess their position. And it’s even more rare to see someone in your position offer a sincere apology… for anything. This is the only blog I read, and that’s not because of our association; Ignoring it would be easy. Rather, I read it because you carry a sense of integrity that, by and large, is depressingly absent in our social and political world.
    On the subject of integrity, I owe you an apology, and this venue is the most appropriate place to do it. My second comment yesterday was caustic, and you didn’t deserve that. I normally have a “stare-at-the-screen-for-ten-minutes-and-make-absolutely-sure-you’re-not-being-a-douchebag-before-you-click-post” policy, and I deviated from that (had to go to work). Ultimately, however, there is no excuse for my underhanded remarks. You didn’t deserve it; You never do. I apologize for my unfair assumptions and comments.

    • ❤ Next time we are at the Cougar, your first drink is on me, my friend.

    • Sometimes a politician or journalist picks a softball popular position, then once noticing that it didn’t get the expected support, they flip flop to get back in good graces. I prefer to call that “responsive” and “open to input” when this happens, but it’s a fine line in the eye of the beholder.

  14. Want to make sure I’m abiding by the commenting policy….which does not require the disclosure of a full name. Just a name, right?

    Therefore, effective immediately, I will be deleting any comments that don’t have a real name attached to them. If you worry that your comment might be accidentally deleted because I don’t know you – simply fill in an email address and I’ll double check. We will see how this works for a while.

    I would like to address this to Mr. Reber who said

    Each year over 30,000 in this country die from shootings, thousands of them children, most of them accidents.

    Sorry sir but your numbers are off just a little bit for firearm related deaths. According to the CDC WISQARS program; there were in 2011;
    591 unintentional firearm deaths including 102 for children (0 to 17)
    There were 454 “Legal Intervention” — justifiable homicide and police shootings.
    There were 11,068 homicides – 732 of those homicides were children (0 to 17)
    and 19,990 suicides

    Not anywhere close to “thousands” any way you look at it.

    And in answer to this question:

    How many instances of individuals actually protecting themselves or their families do you think occur?

    The number varies greatly depending on the source used. The National Crime Victim Survey found approximately 108,000 defensive gun uses (DGU) per year. The Kleck and Gertz survey (supported by 16 other surveys) found up to 2,500,000 defensive gun uses per year.

    Why do people want to carry a firearm in public; because crime happens in public. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 2/3rds of all violent crime occurs in public areas (outside of the home or immediate areas). The Bureau also reports 6.8 MILLION violent crimes in 2012. Yet out of all that violent crime; only 427,700 were firearm related violent crimes.

    Given there are approximately 50,000,000 gun owners; that means approximately 0.86% of all gun owners were involved in a violent crime. Homicide — 0.022%.
    On the other hand, many states like Texas track convictions of those licensed to carry a firearm. At no point in the history of the licensing (1996 start) has convictions of license holders been above 0.5% of all convictions.

    People who own firearms are more likely to either not be criminal or use their firearms defensive then commit crimes.

    The other aspect of why to carry firearms isn’t just the odds of being a crime victim but the stakes involved. Evidence clearly shows those who resist, even violently resist crime, are less likely to be injured during the crime. This goes for rape and assaults. Why shouldn’t people carry an effective means of defense?

    Bob S.

  15. FWIW, I’ve been a queer and a queer activist in Bellingham since the nineties. I’m previously from a large, urban area with a high level of violence. I’ve seen people being murdered and wish for much, much stricter gun laws.

    That being said, I am totally glad Open Carry is participating in Pride. I’m awed and grateful to hear from its members who are LGBTQ and/or allies, and I thank you.

    I organized Planned Parenthood floats for six years at Bellingham Pride. One could argue that PP was “inserting a controversial agenda” into the parade even though, like Open Carry, PP has LGBTQ clients and cares about sexual and reproductive health for all. I’m sure some disagreed with our issues, but our right to walk in the parade was never questioned.

    As a democrat, I’ve walked in Lynden, Blaine and Everson parades. These traditionally conservative areas were always welcoming, or, at the very least, polite–even when I was representing Equal Marriage. Thanks, kind and tolerant people everywhere. Let me be the same.

    • PS: I put in my full name at the outset but WordPress changed it. This, for the record, is Stephanie Kountouros.

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