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Staging an Open Carry Protest in Aurora, CO May Not Be the Best Idea

Meet 18-year-old Steve Lohner, who for weeks now has been scaring the hell out of people and confounding the efforts of police to make him rethink a personal protest he's undertaken in favor of the Second Amendment.
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You know, I'm really starting to enjoy the ongoing carnival sideshow being staged by open carry activists in certain parts of the country. In an effort to get us all used to the idea that a heavily armed white guy suddenly marching into a public place doesn't always mean you're about to become the latest mass casualty shooting statistic, open carry zealots in places like Texas have spent the past several months subjecting average people to a kind of aversion therapy, whether they want it or not.

For the most part the reception they've received hasn't exactly been stellar: businesses have barred them, nervous citizens have chastised them, and they even managed to succeed in embarrassing the seemingly shameless NRA given that the organization at least knows a PR nightmare when it sees one.

Whether they're posing with assault rifles outside a restaurant where their fearsome archenemies, Mothers Against Gun Violence, are holding a meeting, or gathering at the site where JFK was shot while daring the government to "Come and Take It," these people may be the worst possible ambassadors for responsible, sensible gun ownership. But damn if their antics and tone-deafness aren't endlessly entertaining in a laugh-so-you-don't-cry sort of way. And that includes the antics and tone-deafness of the latest martyr to the cause of gun ubiquity. He's young for this game, but better keep an eye on him because he's got spunk and he's gonna go far, I tell ya.

Meet 18-year-old Steve Lohner, who for weeks now has been scaring the hell out of people and confounding the efforts of police to make him rethink a personal protest he's undertaken in favor of the Second Amendment. Lohner's thing is walking around his town with a shotgun slung across his back and when cops stop him, saying that they've received calls from worried citizens, he simply refuses to provide any ID and states that he's within his rights to carry a gun openly. He's been stopped by police now almost a dozen times and he occasionally even records the interactions.

What's noteworthy here is that Steve Lohner happens to live in Aurora, CO. That would be the same Aurora, CO where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a movie theater massacre back in 2012. In other words you have a teenager whose name actually sounds like "loner" wandering the streets with a Stoeger P350 12 gauge and whenever police stop him, telling him that he's scaring people, he flips on his cell phone camera and begins sternly lecturing them about his constitutional rights. It's a tactic that's worked up until very recently, when he was finally cited for obstruction after cops decided they were tired of having an extended debate over the law with an asshole. As a police spokesperson said, Lohner may be able to legally open carry but if he's refusing to cooperate with cops when they stop him, that's a misdemeanor.

I mentioned something like this before in a slightly different context but just because something is legal doesn't mean it's advisable. If you want to live as a productive member of society you have to make compromises; you have to adhere to the social contract; you have to understand that you don't have absolute freedom, not as long as other people also have freedoms that are just as valid and which they don't want to see trampled. Like, say, the freedom to live without the fear that you may be someone who's about to shoot up a department store. A great deal of liberty demands a great deal of responsibility and there's little that's more irresponsible than cavalierly displaying a deadly weapon in front of people who are rightly very nervous about it and in this case are still reeling from a horrific incident involving a young man armed to the teeth. It speaks volumes about whether you're mature enough to handle the freedom you've been granted.

Steve Lohner says he's trying to show Aurora, CO that if enough average citizens carried guns out in the open, eventually people would stop being afraid of them because a guy with a gun would be a normal sight. First of all, there will never be more citizens carrying guns than not, so the all-important tipping point will never be fully realized. Second, you could easily flip the logic and say that if guns were banned entirely -- which I'm not suggesting at all -- you'd know instantly whether you could assume that someone in possession of one meant to do harm with it. Also, there's the inescapable problem of bad optics. If you're someone so enamored with your gun or so terrified that he's going to need that level of "personal protection" at some point that it outweighs your concern for how much your actions may scare others, a lot of people are going to lump you in with the gun crazies rather than taking you at your word that you're a level-headed and responsible gun-owner. That's just how it is.

Maybe Steve Lohner's not technically violating any laws with this little protest and neither are his open carry brethren across the country, but that doesn't mean what they're doing is a great idea. They could probably all stand to grow the hell up.