It seems that most on this forum would once have agreed that the way to increase acceptance of openly carried firearms is to encourage responsible, non-threatening carry by reasonable people. As people see that OC is a normal thing and no different that someone carrying a knife in a belt-sheath, OC would increasingly be seen, not as a threat, but as an option for normal, reasonable, law abiding citizens. In effect we should want people to feel that those who choose OC are regular folks, just like them.
In fact the opencarry.org press center expresses the goal that open carry will become "more common and less controversial
as their friends, neighbors and local law enforcement discover that open carry is legal and wholesome
Because I start with the assumption above, I believe that carrying at at Tea-Party-type rallies (including the many types of rallies that we see cropping up) does more to hurt the effort than it does to help.
I fully understand what many
of the people attending those rallies are hoping to accomplish. There are many there who believe that an increase in spending by government will necessarily result in a larger more powerful government which in turn places the government in the position of having an easier time should it choose to curtail liberties. Many, if not most, of the people at these events have good intentions of demonstrating to the government that people want limited government and are out in the public square to demand that they get it through the democratic process.
On the other hand, these rallies have increasingly attracted a radical fringe. This fringe includes birthers, anarchists, militiaphiles, racists, and other assorted nuts. These people tend to make themselves seen and heard disproportionately at these events. We see them with their swatikas, racist signs, militia uniforms etc in the media coverage of these events.
So far the coverage of almost all of these events shows the extremist signage intersperced with photos of people carrying firearms openly. Some of these people carrying openly are doing so, presumably, to demonstrate that it can be done peacefully and is an example of one of our liberties. I understand how this fits with the message of the reasonable demonstrator. Others, however, carry to put an exclamation point on their message and often that message is threatening or well outiside of the mainstream.
The problem is that those who are carrying for the reasons I outlined in the first paragraph are drowned out by the images of those carrying to make sure that their offensive or nutty message makes the nightly news. For millions of americans this is their first view of OC, and it is not a positive one.
The pictures of OC'ers with large groups holding pictures of the President made to look like Hitler or a monkey do not present a "wholesome" image and do not make OC "less controversial".
My suggestion is that those who agree with the first paragraph would do much better to carry to the hardware store and leave the gun at home when you go to a rally. It is certainly your right to carry there, but it is not helping the overall effort of showing people that it is reasonable and normal to carry.
I rarely OC. It is too much of a risk in my profession that it would bee off putting and hurt business. I can say without a doubt, I am less likely to OC since the Tea Baggers put their stamp on the public face of OC.