Open Carry -- Foolish Grandstanding or Activism?

Everyone that receives The Truth Squad Newsletter knows about concealed carry, and how the right to carry is available to citizens in 48 states. Many lives have been saved by good people with carry permits. This is not about that.

Imagine wearing your handgun in the open, where everyone can see it, as you go through your daily routine. Shopping, jogging, at work, or just walking downtown, you just put a holstered gun on your belt and strike out. That's what many people are now doing. It's called open carry, and it's legal in many states. That doesn't mean it's easy, though.

A quick reading of postings on various online firearms bulletin boards turns up many cases of police harassing or even arresting people who are legally carrying their guns openly. Some have been confronted by officers who got a "man with a gun" call from a member of public frightened of the very sight of someone carrying a gun. Recently, a Louisiana man was awarded a substantial amount of money after he sued the police department for arresting him when he was legally carrying openly.

What's this all about? 

It's a movement. If you view open carry with that in mind, it makes sense.

Visit for more info, or just drop into any firearms forum, and you'll find people talking about it. Check out the Virginia Citizen's Defense League to see how an active state group not only protects a right, but expands it. As I have been following this movement for quite some time, I wasn't sure how to present it in context, and last weekend I figured it out.

(Stay with me here, and don't wig out, okay?) I had the TV on, mostly for company, and stumbled on a show about the sexual revolution of the 1960s. (See, I said you had to cut me some slack, here.) What struck me were the scenes of the gay activists in the streets, and the comments they made. Some were "in your face," some were just quietly assertive, and some were saying, basically, don't make waves.

Flash back to the fight for women's rights, or the fight for civil rights for African Americans, and you have the same factions. That's what we are seeing in the Open Carry Movement (OCM). Some are "out there," pushing hard. They want the confrontation with authorities so they can make the point that good, honest people carry guns, that it's legal, and that they should be left alone. They stage open carry picnics in parks, and invite the media. Ohioans for Concealed Carry is a leader in this, holding very successful open carry walks.

Some people just engage in open carry quietly, answering questions from friends or people who ask, but not looking for any opportunity to make a point. Naturally, some gun owners argue that open carry is a bad idea, that it's tactically unsound, that it frightens the public, and that we should all just get concealed carry permits and quietly go about our business.

Rights, like muscles, must be exercised. To not use open carry is to lose that right. If the police are restricting and arresting people for engaging in a legal act, we have a serious problem. You and I may differ in our opinions as to whether carrying a gun openly is smart from a tactical sense, but that's a different issue. OCM, as a "movement," now has achieved the position that concealed carry had 20 years ago, except that the battle then was to get carry laws passed. Many states do not prohibit open carry, so the movement is to get more people to do it, and to change the laws so good people can open carry in more states. 

Each person has her or his level of comfort with activism. In the coming weeks, we'll have guests on Gun Talk radio talking about open carry -- why do it, what's involved, what's the law, what holsters (think security) would be good choices, etc. 

One line of thinking is that the entire idea of asking permission to carry a gun -- through getting a permit for concealed carry -- is contrary to the Second Amendment being a basic right. We don't apply for a permit to engage in free speech or practice religion. The very act, say some, of applying for a carry permit validates the idea that the government should give you permission to bear arms.

If you decide to carry openly, you must know the laws. It would be a good idea to carry a copy of the applicable laws in the event you are confronted about it. Visit the web sites I've listed here on the experiences others have had. Learn how they handle the questions and even the visits by police officers who often don't know that open carry is legal. One hopes not to run into an officer who, like the one in Louisiana, would say, "I don't care if it's legal, if you do it here, you'll get arrested." That's a policy which will cost the city a lot of money.

Why get involved in the OCM? Why carry openly? Comfort? Making a point? Just to exercise a right, perhaps? All valid reasons, in my opinion. Maybe it's just one person's way to show others that good people carry guns. It might not be for everyone, but it's a movement that's growing, so we'll be talking about it on the radio.

~ Tom


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