Randy Dye will sometimes carry a gun on his hip, right out in the open, no jacket pulled over it, no inside-the-belt holster. It draws funny looks, and Dye doesn't much care.
One time, Dye explains, he was standing in line for a money order when the guy behind him asked, "Are you a police officer?" Dye said no, and the guy kept staring, so Dye stared back. "We good?" Dye asked, and the conversation stopped.
"I wasn't trying to intimidate," says Dye, a retired trauma nurse in Chatham County. "He approached me. If you don't understand your constitutional rights, you need to go read them."
In North Carolina, a grass-roots segment of gun rights advocates increasingly calls for firearms to be displayed as openly as a ballpoint pen in a shirt pocket. A national pro-gun Internet group, opencarry.org, ranks the state among the friendliest to those who wear a weapon for all the world to see.
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Unlike concealed weapons, plain-sight guns are almost totally unregulated in North Carolina, where only a misdemeanor "going armed to the terror of the public" speaks to the issue. In contrast, generally gun-friendly states such as Texas and South Carolina are rated as relatively hostile to carrying unconcealed handguns in public even though they, like North Carolina, are among at least 48 states that have concealed handgun carry permit laws.
In the Triangle, more than 100 people have joined an Internet "meetup" group dedicated to open-carry firearms, getting together at a Raleigh Five Guys and a Cary Chik-Fil-A, encouraging even the skittish to attend. A similar group has formed in the Triad, and backers, including Dye, will hold a rally in Greensboro in August.
"It's gaining momentum," said Paul Valone, president of nonprofit firearms group Grass Roots North Carolina. "These are perfectly normal people. These are not gun nuts."
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