Stop us if this sounds familiar: An armed group in a Texas city, semi-automatic rifles strapped across their backs, descended on a place where you don’t typically see a bunch of large guns, scaring the hell out of the people who caught a glimpse of them. It’s no wonder that some people thought that perhaps the armed group might be up to no good—only to learn that the group was just exercising their right to carry a long-arm firearm openly in public in the state of Texas. 

This latest example of the growing trend occurred at a Fort Worth Jack In The Box location. As NBC DFW reports

An email from Sgt. Ray Bush, with the Fort Worth Police Department, said Jack in the Box employees at the South Freeway location on Sycamore School Road, were scared about the armed men protesting outside of the restaurant.

“They locked themselves inside a freezer for protection out of fear the rifle-carrying men would rob them,” the email stated. “The demonstration had no signage that would have alerted anyone to their real purpose, and to our knowledge they did not attempt to contact anyone in the Fort Worth Police Department to advise us prior to the demonstration.”

Fort Worth police responded to the situation as if it was a robbery.

The response from the Open Carry advocates who marched on the Jack In The Box also followed the established pattern for these things: A lot of talking about how they felt like the police were treating them like criminals, and reminding reporters at the scene that they do have the right to carry their weapons openly in Texas. 

The fact that these cases have fairly established patterns at this point is noteworthy in and of itself, proving that this appears to be a fairly calcified debate in which open carry advocates say “We have the right to do this,” critics say, “Yeah, but you’re scaring the hell out of people for no reason other than the fact that you have the right to do it,” and open carry advocates respond that people should actually feel safer when they’re around, because if someone who has a gun and bad intentions shows up, there’ll be a group of armed civilians there to take ’em on. 

That’s what the Fort Worth group’s Edwin Haros told reporters after the Jack In The Box incident: 

Haros, who believes openly carrying firearms helps police, said citizens should know that the demonstrations will continue.

“It’s just for safety purposes,” Haros said. “Officers can’t be there at all times. We understand that. They can only do so much.” 

Going to a restaurant for a Sourdough Jack and finding it robbed would be a horrible experience, for sure, but it’s not entirely clear that going to a Jack In The Box and finding it to be the site of a firefight between robbers and a civilian peacekeeping force would be much safer. 

But as these demonstrations continue to occur in Texas, all of these hypotheticals remain largely irrelevant. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Like parking a rusty 1985 Yugo on the curb in front of your neighbor’s house or endlessly, noisily slurping at the bottom of your Real Ice Cream Shake at your local Jack In The Box, carrying a long-arm rifle in Texas is not illegal, and for demonstrators, the unforbidden is downright compulsory.

Still, it’s worth discussing what this actually accomplishes. The stated goals of the Open Carry demonstrators range from “safety purposes” to “We’re doing this because it’s our Constitutional right” to a nebulous explanation of public education and, ultimately, a quest to see the right to Open Carry expanded to handguns. (Not stated, but implicit: some measure of delight in frightening people they’ve deemed to be their political opponents.

If the goal is to win a PR campaign that reminds non-affiliated citizens that they’re safer in the presence of armed strangers, and that those strangers are simply law-abiding citizens exercising their rights, though, it’s pretty clear that the campaign’s not a whopping success. It’s safe to suspect that the Jack In The Box employees who hid in the freezer didn’t emerge from the experience with a broader understanding of the majesty of Texas’ gun laws, and while there’s something to be said for playing to the base, the Open Carry campaign is losing ground even those with whom the activists share ideology. As Bob Owens, editor of a website called Bearing Arms: Saving Liberty and Lives, wrote in a post last November:

Without getting into an ideological argument over “right” and “wrong,” it seems clear that purely from a public relations perspective that long gun open carry is backfiring as a tactic to help legalize handgun open carry.

It’s time to start thinking about implementing other tactics that may be more beneficial towards achieving the stated end goal.