Since everybody loves controversy, I thought I would weigh in on another one! Specifically, open carry or concealed carry?
First off, a disclaimer… I am of the firm opinion that if you want to openly carry a handgun, you should be able to legally do so. With that said, I will also offer the opinion that I think it’s often a very bad idea. This post will address why.
I have only ever openly carried during two separate times in my life…
The first was when I briefly worked in a pawn shop when I was young, dumb, and stupid, mainly to dissuade robbery or other petty crimes. To put this in perspective, this was in a geographic location that was amenable to firearm ownership and it did seem to discourage common criminals from what they otherwise may have attempted. I had it on pretty good authority that the word on the street was not to f*** with us! I should also point out that the pawn shop owner had previously come very close to losing his life after being shot multiple times in a robbery at the shop. With all the above context, I’m still not sure that it wouldn’t have been better to have the gun concealed, but we’ll address that shortly.
The second time I ever openly carried a pistol was when I attended Gunsite in Arizona. I don’t know how many readers have frequented the Safeway grocery store in Chino Valley, but NOT openly carrying a pistol there is considered strange! As is often said, that is probably the safest Safeway in the world! Now, an important point here is that open carry is the only way I could legally carry in Arizona at that time. As such, my Gunsite experience provides two examples of perhaps the only times that I think open carry may be appropriate. Specifically, when everybody else is, and when it’s the only legally available option.
Other than those times, I have always carried concealed. The reasons for this are simple. By carrying concealed, I maintain the vital tactical advantage of surprise. Most criminals have never faced a victim who is carrying concealed. The mere presentation of the firearm will seriously reset their OODA loop, and indeed, many defensive gun uses do not ever actually progress to shots fired. Rather, the perpetrator reevaluates their immediate life choices and victim selection process and decides to leave and play another day! I have experienced this once already in my life, and I didn’t even have to draw. Simply reaching for my gun in anticipation of a fight caused the individual to turn around and pursue a different course of action.
I want to reinforce the importance of having the tactical advantage of a concealed weapon. Remember that the three fundamentals of close quarters combat are surprise, speed, and violence of action. The act of presenting your concealed firearm at an attacker ideally incorporates all three. The first two are required. The last, violence of action, depends on whether the attacker needs to be shot. I used to say that if I drew my gun, I was firing. These days, I’m more in favor of constant evaluation of an evolving situation. That, however, is another subject for another day.
Let’s talk about some of the negatives of open carry.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, I am of the opinion that upsetting the sheeple is not the best way to win over hearts and minds. Furthermore, in most situations, whether or not I carry is none of anyone’s damned business! There are a couple of distinct points inherent in these statements…
Starbucks is a good example to interject here… Multiple times, Starbucks took the high road and simply said that they would respect state laws and their customers’ rights. A couple of open carry idiots with an agenda ruined that for the rest of us. Now, Starbucks has publicly asked customers to refrain from bringing their guns into stores, stopping just short of an outright ban. In some states, signage carries the weight of the law, so forcing the hand of a business into posting such signage only hurts the good guys. The beauty of concealed carry is that your gun will never become an issue for anybody in public unless you need to use it to protect yourself or others.
While we’re discussing open carry idiots, I firmly believe that anyone that carries a slung rifle into a business establishment is simply trying to make a statement and flaunt their perceived power and superiority. I’m pretty sure that history has shown that to be a bad idea. Instead, how about a polite conversation or offering to take somebody on the fence to the range and demonstrate safe and responsible gun handling? It’s been my experience that most non gun owners are more curious than opposed, and that you’re not going to change the mind of rabid anti-gunners. In the latter case, what they don’t know won’t hurt them!
If you must carry openly, and if it’s legal for you to do so, then dress like a professional! The individual with an openly holstered gun is going to draw far less attention if they are wearing business attire vs. shorts and a t-shirt. That might not be fair, but it’s the truth! Look like a detective or FBI agent, and you’ll probably be treated like one. Look like ghetto trash or a wannabe, and expect the fitting results! It goes without saying that you should be well versed in handgun retention techniques and that you must maintain above average situational awareness if you’re going to openly carry.
If you really want to responsibly advocate for gun rights and openly carry a gun, then perhaps it is better to do so in an organized format with others in a sanctioned open carry rally. You’re much less likely to offend the ignorant in that setting and I think that such action has a more profound effect on legislators when they realize how many voters value our natural rights and are willing to show up to prove it. As the old saying goes, half the battle is showing up!
The other big issue is again, whose business is it exactly that I carry? My close friends that I hang out with know, but most of them carry also. In an active shooter or hostage situation, tactical patience and deciding when to show your hand may be of the utmost importance! Having a soccer mom neighbor that just happens to be there begging for you to do something because you’re suddenly a good guy with a gun may not lead to the best outcome! With a concealed weapon that only you know about, you retain the ability to decide when and if you will bring your gun into play.
I’ll close this one out with a final old adage that is sure to annoy the Shakespeare scholars as well as open carry advocates… Truly, for a civilian carrying a gun, discretion is the better part of valor!