Open Carry Revisited

Open Carry Revisited

The worlds of firearms, concealed carry, and self defense are all constantly evolving. For me, that’s part of the fun of this job—I’m constantly learning new things and engaging with new ideas. 2017 has been especially interesting—a lot’s changed. The political situation in the US has shifted dramatically, the nature of the threats we face both at home and internationally has changed, and the general public attitude toward firearms is very different than it was a few years ago. In light of all this, I’d like to revisit open carry as a self-defense strategy.

To begin with, let’s do a brutally honest threat assessment: the landscape around crime and self-defense has changed. While the crime rate continues to fall in the United States, we’re seeing some new trends that are highly troubling. “Lone Wolf” terror attacks—i.e. those in which the terrorist acts alone or with a small group independent of any terror organization. From a law enforcement perspective, they’re difficult to detect or prevent.

From a self-defense viewpoint, they’re troubling for other reasons. Lone Wolf terrorists are making use of weapons other than firearms; the recent trend of vehicular attacks in Europe is a prime example. This complicates things, as defending against an attack of this sort requires a different set of tactics and skills. Situational awareness becomes paramount, and by extension being aware of how to get to safety quickly.

To my mind, however, the real danger of non-firearms mass attacks is the resulting chaos. Openly carrying a firearm under those circumstances might get you singled out as the bad guy by panicking bystanders or law enforcement. To my way of thinking, it’s best practice to keep your cards close to your chest so that you can deliver an effective response either with your firearm or with your first aid kit.

However, that isn’t to say that open carry doesn’t serve a purpose. Politically we’re a nation divided. Trump is a controversial president paired an equally controversial Congress. While the right to keep and bear arms didn’t play a huge role in either the 2016 election or our current political strife, the issue will come up again and likely sooner than we think. We’ve talked about Second Amendment activism under the Trump administration, and I think that open carry has a role there. However, this requires us to put the best face possible on open carry. If you’re going to do it, dress well, be on your best behavior—what would your grandmother tell you to do?–and do not shove your politics down anyone’s throat. Be open to the conversation, but have your facts in order and above all be polite. Some folks love to portray us as ignorant, angry, violent, or racist. To counter this, we have to be far, far better than that stereotype or even the average person.

The politics leads me to my final point: the laws around firearms ownership and carrying a handgun are changing. Constitutional carry is on the march, and there’s ongoing talk of nationwide CCW reciprocity. While I don’t have any solid data on this, my intuition and informal media survey suggest that gun ownership in all forms is more acceptable socially now. Open carry plays a role in that, both by becoming more acceptable and by becoming an outreach tool for the 2A community. Let’s keep the momentum going and get legislation passed that protects our rights.

I’ll close by saying that I recognize that open carry is a complicated issue, and that there are probably other points of view that I haven’t considered here. Join the conversation in the comments section and let’s keep the conversation going.

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  • On one hand, open carry may create a more polite society, on the other, like you said, it will single you out in certain circumstances.

    • Clark Kent

      Ah, open carry. Or as I call it the ‘free gun zone’. Like when two or three miscreants get behind you in a line and decide your firearm is now theirs. One rap on the head and now you are on the ground sans firearm. No thanks; ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is my motto when carrying my (concealed) firearm.

      • David R Duringer

        How often does that really happen? Of course, in some areas i would choose to carry concealed instead (or in addition).

        • Mikial

          We don’t have all the statistics of these kinds of crimes, but I would guess it happens more than we know. They may not attack you in line, but might wait till you leave the store. I’ve seem people running around with an empty holster which is a major giveaway that they probably left their gun in their car. A bad guy might just follow them out to their car and then rob them there. I have to agree with Clark Kent in this one, concealed carry is the wiser choice.

  • John Nice

    I agree with Clark Kent. In New Mexico I can carry openly and have done so on occasion, but I always felt like I was painting a target on my back. I have a concealed carry permit and carry it daily.

  • David R Duringer

    Open carry is ultrasound for the Second Amendment. It’s also deterrence, and accountability. The sheriff at Cascade Mall was unarmed because of laziness but if society was accepting of open carry, we would be accountable for carrying properly.

  • timothyf7

    I have to disagree with one statement in the article… “While the right to keep and bear arms didn’t play a huge role in either the 2016 election…”. I feel that the 2nd Amendment played a major part in the past election. If you compare the States that were Red and compare it to a map of citizen friendly state gun laws – they are almost identical. Although gun advocates weren’t verbal going into election day, they spoke with their vote.

    • Mikial

      I was going to say this exact thing, but you beat me to it. The NRA, NAGR, and GOA, as well as a host of local 2A Rights organizations all pulled out the stops to get members out to vote (I’m a member of all three plus my local state organization), and it worked. I would say the Second Amendment played a major role in the 2016 election and we need to keep the momentum up.

  • uspshooter

    The political climate has changed, but make no mistake: we cannot let up for a second. The Pelosis, Feinsteins and others of their ilk are still out there and they will not back down!

  • all4civility

    How sad that all these non-hunter gun advocates are so afraid. They need a gun to make them feel safe. Some even want to openly carry guns in order to demonstrate how tough they are. Well, it really just demonstrates how fearful they are.

  • Nathan

    I feel open carry can be used as both a deterrents and an attraction depending on the situation i feel that if im open carrying and a poblem arises with a bad guy gunmen then chances are highly likely if he/she sees that i have a weapon i could be the first target in order to remove me from the equation. But i also feel that in other situations that if someone is thinking of attacking with bladed weapon or weapons other then a gun. my gun just being present could end the whole situation without any harm coming to anyone. after all no one wants to bring a knife to a gun fight this is a good article and im glad that it has come up ive ponderd this for many years now trying to determine whether or not i should carry open or concealed.

  • George Owens

    Here in Alabama the decision to open carry is often more a function of weather than anything else. From Spring to Fall the temps are in the 80’s and high 90’s in the heat of the summer. Not exactly conducive to concealed carry.

    Although lawful in Alabama since 1840, open Carry was highly discouraged by law enforcement who engaged in suppression of the right by harassment and charges of “Disorderly Conduct”.

    In 2013 open carry was codified in the criminal code as a lawful activity. Despite predictions of doom and bloodshed from law enforcement, open carry has become fairly common and accepted overall, although there are still isolated attempts to subvert the laws.

    The manner of Carry is a matter of personal choice, and there are times when one method may prove more appropriate than another not the only for tactical considerations, but also for social considerations. But the measure of our freedom as a people is that we do have that choice.

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