Second Amendment groups are accusing the gun control lobby of putting law-abiding owners of firearms in danger by urging people to call the police on anyone carrying a gun in public.
As more states relax rules about open-carrying of guns, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has taken to social media to urge the public to assume gun-toters are trouble, and to call the cops on anyone they feel may be a threat.
“If you see someone carrying a firearm in public—openly or concealed—and have ANY doubts about their intent, call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene,” the group wrote on its widely followed Facebook page. “Never put your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, at the mercy of weak gun laws that arm individuals in public with little or no criminal and/or mental health screening.”
That approach, according to a blog post by Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, could give rise to needless, tense confrontations between police and gun owners. The association and other similar groups liken the tactic to “swatting,” or the act of tricking an emergency service into dispatching responders based on a false report. Many online harassment campaigns have been known to participate in the practice.
“This practice is exactly what they [Coalition to Stop Gun Violence] are doing,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for Virginia-based Gun Owners of America. “It’s one thing if someone is using a gun in an illegal or unlawful manner. No one is questioning that. But this clearly sounds like swatting.”
Pratt adds that it may be a move of desperation by those looking to get guns off the streets.
“Anti-gun advocates are clearly frustrated. They want guns banned,” he said. “But they have been thwarted in the past, so they are looking for alternative means.
“They are inciting their radical base to turn their own neighbors in.”
It is not the first time supporters of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and other gun control advocates have pressed for the public to call cops on legal gun owners. An October 2014 National Review article found that the Facebook pages and websites of groups including the coalition, Moms Demand Action and GunFreeZone.net included numerous comments from the public advocating that people call the police and intentionally exaggerate what they see in the hopes of getting cops to stop those open-carrying guns.
Open carry rules, in one form or another, are legal in every state except for five—California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia. However, many states that do permit open carry have put in place stringent laws that require some sort of permit or license.
The main issue that gun advocates have with the Coalition’s tactics is the potential of putting law-abiding citizens in real danger. Officials for the anti-gun group say that this is not the case.
“In an era in which individuals are being allowed to carry loaded guns on our streets with no permit, background check or required training, it is common sense for concerned citizens to call 911 when they see an armed individual whose intentions are unclear,” Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “These [open carry] laws guarantee that we—and law enforcement—will have no idea about the criminal and/or mental health background of these individuals until they actually commit a crime; and by then it could be far too late. We have full confidence in our men and women in blue to assess these situations.
“Gun-toters who are truly law-abiding and mentally competent have nothing whatsoever to worry about. Their conversations with law enforcement will be brief and professional,” he added. “As for those who are dangerous and have something to hide which would not withstand the scrutiny of a background check or permitting process, they should expect to face some tough questions as a result of these 911 calls. And that makes us all safer.”
But the Buckeye Firearms Association believes the effort amounts to “conspiring to obstruct legal justice.”
Pratt agreed, and said people who call the police without legitimate reason should be charged.
“They would likely be the ones arrested for filing a false report,” he said. “And we are certainly hoping that would be the case.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at@perrych