Open carry is one of those issues that gets gun owners, law enforcement, and those who conceal carry in disagreements. In most states police officers have regularly detained, and even arrested people for openly carrying firearms even when it is not a crime in and of itself. In fact it is only illegal to open carry a firearm in less than 10 states. In most states you can open carry a firearm without any type of special permit, permission, or license. In the state of Virginia a person who can legally own a handgun can carry that handgun anywhere that guns are not banned. So with a few exceptions like school grounds, courthouses, private property with “no guns” signs, and airports, it is perfectly legally acceptable to open carry a firearm.
What is Open Carry exactly?
Open Carry is wearing a properly holstered firearm in plain view, or having your firearm in plain view within your vehicle. All in all, open carry is actually quite simple, and becoming more common in every state where it is legal to do so.
But isn’t concealed carry better?
Well as a matter of fact, for personal protection, one could argue either side of that question with great logic and skill. On one hand many off duty police officers would tell you that they carry concealed when they are not in uniform. This gives one the advantage of the element of surprise. For instance if a person were to be in a bank with a concealed weapon during a robbery, while they were an innocent bystander, they could choose to pull their weapon and shoot the robber(s) while they were distracted and looking the other direction. Likewise, they could also remain silent, and cooperate with the attackers if they believed shooting was to dangerous in that instance. For example if they were worried other people might get caught in the crossfire. The concealed permit gives you a lot of tactical advantage in an instance where you need to deploy lethal force.
Those who favor open carry might argue that to conceal a weapon you must get a special permit, and that open carry might prevent the very crime the concealed carry person could get caught up in. If for instance you were open carrying in a gas station, and someone walked into the room with the intent to pull a concealed weapon and hold up the clerk, the sight of your gun might simply scare them off before the crime had transpired. A would-be criminal might assume you were law enforcement, or at least not choose you as “prey” for a crime based on the fact that you were armed.
Everyone must agree that most criminals looking to commit a robbery would prefer their victims to be defenseless. How many bank robbers walk into a bank with a police car out front? How many gang bangers hold up a gas station when the state trooper is getting coffee?
Yet another side of the argument is that the weapon itself might cause you to be targeted for crime. After all, police officers are sometimes assaulted simply for being police officers. Gang initiations, and cocky criminals might in fact decide to take your gun from you, or shoot you dead simply because they assumed you were law enforcement. This may or may not have merit as an argument, but it is the opinion of some gun owners, and could hold some truth.
Open Carry advocates try and combat these issues by insisting people that open carry use retention holsters. This is meant to make the gun harder to snatch away from an unsuspecting carrier. Indeed weapon retention is a big issue in law enforcement as many police officers lose their lives each year, killed with their own guns. One could argue that anyone, not just those that open carry should consider weapon retention to be one of the most important factors in everyday carry of a firearm.
Anti-Gun groups try and use this fact to make guns seem dangerous to those that carry them. They say fallacious things like “if you have a gun in your house, your going to end up getting shot with it”. When in reality guns are used more than 50 times more often to save a life than to take one. Statistically people are NOT killed in their homes with their own guns, the bad guys bring them (1).
But guns in the open cause problems!
In some cases people might point out that carrying a gun in public is going to cause unwanted attention, police complaints, public worry, and other issues.
I tend to agree. When you carry your gun in the open its going to scare some people. This fact simply can not be argued because open carrying citizens have been reported to police in every state where it is becoming popular. Police have been sued for the way they treat concealed carry permit holders, so it was no stretch of the imagination when cities and police departments were sued for violating the rights of those carrying openly.
The real argument here is if scaring a few uninformed people is worth the trouble of openly carrying? Should law abiding citizens decide to hide their firearms simply because a few other citizens will be upset by it, often simply because they have never seen it before?
I would argue that the answer is yes. In fact, I would argue that the need for open carry is so great, that even though a few of us will be unlawfully detained, and possibly arrested, we should do it anyhow. Now even though concealed carry laws have been proven to drop crime rates, many people worry about open carry being dangerous. I would argue that if hidden guns scare criminals away, imagine what a bunch more openly displayed ones might do? If we all open carried we might make Virginia the safest place in the world?
Even though I feel my anti-crime reasoning is sound, some will feel very differently about this. I can respect their position on the issue. One can disagree with me and still be intelligent and well informed. However, this does not stop me from urging you to consider what I believe is the single most compelling reason not only to open carry, but to even own a gun to begin with.
It’s about rights D#&* IT!
Please bear in mind this writer carries a gun nearly all the time. I have one in my holster, pocket, or within arms reach 90% of the time. I haven’t found a good way to bring one into the shower yet, so I am not always armed (note this is just a joke, I certainly bring one into the shower in a zip lock).
But in all seriousness, I take my families safety very seriously, and I am ready to defend them, so I am armed.
A reason to bear arms exists beyond this essential self-defense tool. In fact my right to be armed was not just to defend myself from the common criminal. The founders did not make the second amendment number two in line for no reason. They gave us our first amendment rights which protect our speech, press, and generally allow us to own our own opinions without fear. They gave us our second amendment to help us protect those rights from governments, local, national, and international who might try and take them away.
Just to clarify. The second amendment does not exist to make sure hunters can hunt. It does not exist to make sure I can shoot a car jacker trying to enter my vehicle. The second amendment exists so that I can go to war with any government, even our own, should they try and take my God Given rights away from me. Many gun owners miss this fact. They forget that being armed is primarily to keep able bodied citizens ready for war, to keep the government fearful of the people, and to protect liberty itself. This is a great responsibility that every citizen of our nation must take on and bear. Indeed many good people have killed and died for liberty, and our number may be called at any time to stand up and shed blood, even our own, to keep that promise for future generations. It is our nations birthright, and we should not take it lightly.
We need to stop hiding and registering the guns
It is that simple. Generations of Americans have been roped into believing that guns should be private and hidden. No one wants anyone else to know they have one. It has become politically impolite to have a gun that other people can see. It forces strangers to think “that person could kill me”. Now if they just had a shirt over it, the fear vanishes. This is a problem with our culture.
Hidden rights can disappear and ordinary people would never know! How many of your neighbors would even know if you lost all your guns? How about all those who do not carry a concealed gun. Do you really imagine that they would even notice if all the concealed guns just went away? Of course not… THEY ARE NOT EVEN AWARE OF ALL THE GUNS AROUND THEM ALL THE TIME!
Citizens have come to the belief and understanding that police have guns, and bad guys have guns. They don’t realize that ordinary people also should indeed have guns. Everyone should own a gun. When that happens crime rates drop! People use guns to defend their lives 1.9 million times a year in the USA!
Invisible rights will not exist for very long. This is the only certainty about guns. If we continue to hide that we have them, we will not have them forever. Many of you might disagree with that statement. You probably believe that if they came to take your guns away, you would put up a fight. You would never let it come to that.
Tell that to the people in Australia. They used to say the same thing. Tell that to the people in England. England has gotten so bad that folding knives that lock into place are now illegal! What’s next? Kitchen forks? Tire Irons?
Gun Control is slow moving
Real gun control, where they remove all guns is not going to happen over a short period. They are going to condition us to believe it is ok. They have already convinced most of us we don’t need to own hand grenades and mortars. How many of you happen to own a machine gun? Now explain how those things are not arms, and you should have no right to bear them! Don’t let your mind get stuck in the falsehood that guns are for personal defense. They are for fighting wars! The weakest army in the world is better armed than the American people. We often like to boast about how no nation would invade us because we are armed to the teeth. I beg your pardon. The military of Mexico makes the American people look like we all have BB guns.
Registration Leads to Tracking.
The simple honest truth is that systems which background check people before the sale of firearms lead to systems where people can be easily tracked down and recorded. (2). When you fill out that paperwork at the local gunstore, you are giving the government the very first step in the process of recording who you are so they can find you later.
People only have as many rights as they are willing to practice
If you can be detained and identified by police without the suspicion of illegal activity, you have become a second class citizen. At that moment police can stop and harass you for any reason they want. They can track your movements, put you in reports and on lists. This is a clear invasion of your privacy. For those who would say “I have nothing to hide” I would chastise you with my response. I do have something to hide. I have my dignity, my self respect, and my own private property to protect. Shame on you if you do not value your privacy.
We need to practice this right to be openly armed in public on a regular basis, because if we do not, no one will notice when we stop. When they gradually take away little bits of our right a piece at a time over decades, we will be singled out, separated from the mainstream and alone. They will simply grow a generation of new citizens who have never understood what it actually means to be armed, and we will have no recourse when evil men set out to violate our other rights.
Bear in mind, this is not a discussion about handguns. In the end, yes I believe many more of us should carry our handguns in the open so that the public at large can become more comfortable with the presence of guns. Handguns are only a part of the issue though. We need to form actively trained, well prepared, self armed militia groups. We need to wear clothing that says “I am armed, its my right”. We need to show the public that armed citizens are not only normal, but that armed citizens are THE GOOD GUYS.
We need to live in a world where police are not scared of bad guys because they know citizens will help defend them in a crisis, but where police are terrified to mistreat the public because citizens will protect each others rights.. We need to live in a world where politicians don’t dare imagine taking our liberty away because armed men will defend those rights with force. We need to live in a world where soldiers retire from the active military and become defenders of their neighborhoods, cities, counties, and states.
Now we can all argue about that world I described. However, we don’t want to live in a world where citizens can not keep and bear arms. The first step to reversing that process is to arm our communities. Gun sales show that is already happening. Now it’s time to stop hiding that fact. Maybe the next real step should be for people to wear their handguns in holsters in the open.
Join me, and many like me as we
1. politely conduct ourselves in public and demonstrate that friendly, upbeat people can be armed, and nothing bad will happen as a result.
2. educate the public and police officers on our second amendment rights, raising public awareness to the presence of firearms in the public square.
3. Scare the scap out of criminals who would never dare to carry a firearm out in the open, but instead hide their guns like cowards.
4. Remind people that the ultimate fear of “the wild west” is unfounded. Law abiding citizens conceal weapons all the time, and armed people are around you when you least expect it. Open Carry is not going to change that, things might get even safer.
5. Remind our selves that we should nor be fearful or ashamed to be armed. It is our responsibility to create a polite society. More guns = less crime, and that means less of a chance we will ever have to use our guns.
I fear the day when our second amendment rights are extinguished. That day will begin the long bloody violent process of regaining our freedom from total slavery. Instead I prefer to bear my arms now, so that I can live in peace, and never see the day when guns become tools to retake lost liberty.
(1) Don B. Kates, “Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence, or Pandemic of Propaganda?” in Gary Kleck & Kates, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control (2001), p.75.
(2) Richard B. Abell, Assistant Attorney General, Task Force Chairman, Report to the Attorney General on Systems for Identifying Felons Who Attempt to Purchase Firearms (October 1989), p. 75
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