I was attending a course recently with Mr. Mike Seeklander, co-founder of the American Warrior Society, (https://www.americanwarriorsociety.com) and several of us went to lunch at a nearby chicken place. The restaurant was busy and there was a line at the counter. While we were all sitting and chatting over our food, I saw a couple enter. The first thing I noticed was that the gentleman was openly carrying a large handgun on his strong side hip (Good weapon, crappy holster choice, cheap cloth belt. Why is that a thing?).
Now we were in Tennessee, so I was not alarmed. Many people in this part of the world carry firearms, openly and otherwise. Contrary to many media predictions, this has not resulted wholesale slaughter of the innocent in such jurisdictions. I did, however, take a moment longer to watch the gentleman. He was wearing a bright orange t-shirt with the symbol of the local university sports team (college athletics is a very, VERY serious thing in the south), which he had bunched up over his holster in order to fully expose it. He did not appear to be paying much attention to his environment beyond pondering his order and chatting with his companion.
I quietly made note of his presence to my own companions and we continued our lunch. Nothing else of note occurred and everyone left as healthy as when they arrived.
This did start me to thinking about open carry versus concealed carry, however. To start with, I am a huge fan of open carry laws. Huge. For a couple of reasons. With that said, I would never carry my sidearm openly and go to great lengths, if necessary, to keep my own firearm concealed. Paradox? Perhaps. Hear me out on this one.
My appreciation and affection for such laws starts from a philosophical place. As a big fan of the U.S. Constitution (I often self-define as a constitutional absolutist, but that’s for another day), I chaff under any law, rule, regulation, policy, whatever, that curtails what I see to be Constitutional guaranteed rights. All of them. The power of the state being used to limit a citizen’s right “…to bear arms”, in my opinion, is an infringement of that right and, therefore, unconstitutional. I grant you that many legislatures and judicial opinions disagree with me, but hey, this is still America and I can have my own perspective.
I vote accordingly.
As a result of this position, I feel laws that ban open carry of a firearm are constitutionally offensive. I know, I know, when guns are openly carried, it tends to frighten the sheep and they can stampede. We were once made of sterner stuff hereabouts. However, just because something scary or offensive, we must not, CANNOT, afford to make it illegal for that reason alone. Not in America. When taken to their logical, if extreme, conclusion, such laws lead you to enacting others. Once it is illegal to openly carry a firearm, it is only natural to be upset when a concealed firearm “flashes”, by which I mean becomes momentarily “unconcealed”.
In Massachusetts, for example, if a person sees that you are carrying a concealed firearm because it flashes, the person carrying the firearm becomes liable for potential criminal charges, including assault. Even if the weapon was never touched by the bearer’s hand, never left the holster, there was no associated threatening statement or behavior. It was merely glimpsed by the “victim”, gentle snowflake that he/she is.
That is stupid policy. It is, to my mind, a surreptitious route to gun control and unworthy of either side of the “gun control” debate. Stake your position, make your case for or against, then move on to the vote. Sneaking around, fighting a never-ending guerilla campaign might be fine in some venues, but this “death by 1,000 cuts” garbage is embarrassing and exhausting.
From a tactical perspective, I find open carry of a firearm, for me, to be a very bad idea. Surprise is a weapon all by itself. To deliberately give that away is, to my way of thinking, bad tactics. Yes, uniformed law enforcement officers carry openly when working, but they do so as part of a system. They do so for several very good reasons, trading one tactical advantage for others. They have extensive dedicated resources designed to support them in their efforts that are not available to the average citizen.
For the citizen carrying a firearm, it represents options the unarmed do not have. Namely, the options surrounding armed resistance to those who would do them harm. If you have a concealed firearm, you still have all the options the unarmed have in any given situation. Having a firearm just gives you more. Having a concealed firearm allows you to employ an armed response from surprise, which is a huge advantage. Open carry removes that option while at the same time running the very real risk of making you the first, thus likely surprised, victim when an assailant opts to open festivities.
I would rather do the surprising than to be the one surprised in such an event.
I have heard the arguments of those who openly carry surrounding their reasons for doing so. Most of those I have talked to do so as some kind of statement I generally file under what Mr. Lucas Apps at Triangle Tactical podcast (https://triangletactical.net) calls, “My rights! My rights!” I happen to agree, philosophically, and wish you well. I like my rights also. I just do not feel like having some misunderstood miscreant start a murder spree by killing me first so that I can declare my position. I choose a different venue.
While I carry a firearm every day and have for the last couple of decades (usually two when I was a working LEO), I do not open carry. I will admit that, rarely, it happened when I was working, such as on those occasions when I removed my suit coat around the office or on the scene of a bank robbery, perhaps. As a general statement, however, I did not carry openly. As a retired fed, I never carry openly.
Yet again, even from a tactical perspective, I love open carry laws. Sure, I would never do it and find the idea of doing so tactically foolish. But I love it when others choose to do so because it draws attention to them (which I have found is often a reason people choose to open carry, but I digress). The attention they may want, I absolutely do not want. If someone is of ill intent and chooses to start something, it is fair to say that someone who is openly carrying runs a higher than average risk of being the first to find out. The hard way.
In that regard, I look at them as tactical minesweepers. They are out front, setting off any explosions before I trip them. For that, I salute those who open carry. With apologies to the old series of beer commercials, “Here’s to you, Open Carry Guy. You do a dangerous job that I will not and I am grateful”.
Despite my ambivalence.