Gun activists have a new craze -- and it's <em>more</em> dangerous than you think (Credit: Reuters/Bill Waugh)

Earlier this month, in the parking lot of the Shop Rite supermarket in West Haven, Conn., a young man pulled a semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle out of his Toyota SUV. Shoppers watched from a cautious distance as he placed the loaded rifle on the floor behind the driver’s seat and then walked away, carrying his laptop case and two handguns. A witness described the armed man to 9-1-1 operators — he was Asian, wearing dark sunglasses and heading toward the University of New Haven campus. UNH students were ordered to shelter in place as police searched for the suspect. Officers spotted William Dong when he emerged from biology class in Kaplan Hall, still carrying the two Glock pistols. A subsequent search of Dong’s padlocked bedroom (in his parents’ home) turned up 2,700 rounds of ammunition, as well as newspaper clippings about the Aurora theater massacre.

Tuesday, defense attorney Frederick Paoletti said Dong will plead not guilty to weapons charges. Though the Bushmaster is on a list of guns that are restricted under a new state law, Dong might have purchased his rifle before the ban went into effect. And the pistols? He had a permit for them, and Connecticut law makes no distinction between “concealed carry” (wearing a gun under your clothing) and “open carry” (walking around with a gun that everybody can see).

The debate over open carry is the new front line in the battle over gun rights and public safety in American culture. In Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, gun rights activists have been staging protests, demanding broader liberty to display their guns in public rather than keep them concealed under clothing. Major candidates in statewide elections have voiced support for open carry, asserting that the conspicuous display of firepower will deter crime. For decades, though, social scientists have studied the way people behave around guns, and they’ve found that all of us — not just criminals — will be affected by seeing guns in our everyday environment.


2 thoughts on “Researchers: “Open-carry” gun culture increases aggressive behavior

  1. Guns are meant to establish dominance and, therefore, trigger fight or flight responses when one is present. Aggression is a natural and often desired outcome for the gun carrier wishing to elicit a response and an excuse to use said gun.


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