Police Brutality

Here's What Happens When a Black Man Open Carries Gun

A disturbing video contrasts police treatment of a white man and a black man carrying the same type of weapon in public.

via YouTube

Open carry is all the rage in gun-rights circles. Advocates strap handguns to their hips, sling AK-47s and AR-15s to their backs and stroll the streets with cameras in hand to catch unwitting cops violating their Second Amendment rights by asking for Identification or trying to ascertain if the heavily-armed man walking toward a school might be a threat. For liberty or some such.

A quick Google image or YouTube search will demonstrate what we know to be true: The open-carry crowd is made up of a whole lot of white people, mostly men. Why is being allowed to walk heavily armed through the streets baiting cops purely a white fight, you may wonder?

It could have something to do with the fact that black men already face enough danger from interactions with the police to not want to bait cops for the fun of it. Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts, according to an analysis by Propublica.

And when a gun is present? For that answer, we can look to the recent shooting death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot dead for carrying a BB gun in a Cleveland Park. Or John Crawford, who was gunned down by police in a WalMart as he held an unloaded air rifle from one of the store’s shelves.

Still, there are a few brave open carriers of color, and a new YouTube video appears to show just how differently they are treated compared to their white freedom-loving counterparts.

In the clips, two men—one white, one black—walk down the street strapped with AR-15s. The white man, Warren Drouin, is a well-known fixture in the open-carry movement. In fact, he and police in his small Oregon town are on a first-name basis because of the scores of complaints from scared neighbors over Drouin’s exercises.

The camera shows Drouin being approached by a police officer and a polite exchange about his right to carry a gun in public. The end.

The next clip follows an unnamed black man as he carries the same weapon strapped across his back. A police car approaches and out jumps a white officer who pulls his gun and orders the man, “Get down on the street. Now!” The officer also orders the man’s wife, who is recording the incident, to get on the ground. “I’m seven months pregnant,” she replies.

“I am being held at gunpoint,” the man says from the ground. “I am merely open carrying.”

Neither the video’s poster nor Drouin could be reached for comment, but it’s worth noting that the first clip is taken from a video posted in 2012 to Drouin’s page. In the full video, the cop, Albany Oregon police officer J. Estes, is particularly cool, even inviting Drouin to take a look at his weapon for the chance to check his ID. Most confrontations are not like this. Moreover, it’s possible that the officer knew just who he was dealing with, because of Drouin’s local fame.

Clearly there isn’t enough context to determine just what led up to the second interaction. According to a post from Drouin on his original video, the second was recorded in Sparks, Nevada, a state where Drouin says he “would not be comfortable in doing such activism.”

“That state is known to have very corrupt police, and has some reports of beating people for just video recording or other activities that are legal,” Drouin writes.

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We also can’t discount the number of videos of white men being arrested for open carrying.

But still, the video hits a nerve, because in the wake of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and Freddie Gray, it offers a grim reminder of the dangers that black men across the nation continue to face from police.