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Is Open Carry Idiotic, or Just a Topic for Debate?

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The subject of open carry is one of those in the gun community that will likely never be resolved. People have strong opinions on it, to be sure. Those opinions are typically discussed in a fashion only slightly less aggressive than 9mm Parabellum versus 45 ACP.


And while we tend to talk more about gun politics of late, it’s not because Cam and I, nor any of our other contributors aren’t gun people. We carry, shoot, and definitely have opinions on this topic and many others.

Let’s understand that this is not about the right to open carry. In my view, that right is as sacrosanct as the right to keep and bear arms itself. Nothing in the Second Amendment says that the manner in which someone chooses to bear arms.

But over at Shooting News Weekly, my friend Kat Ainsworth Stevens kicked over the proverbial ant hill when she took up the topic of open carry. 

There always seems to be a lot of fuss over what may be considered the perfect everyday carry gun. The go-to gun tends to change over time, ranging from the GLOCK 26 to the Ruger LCP to the SIG P365.

People tend to follow trends and gun guys are no different. Haven’t we all checked out or bought a new gun because so-and-so ran it so well or That Dude Over There had one and it looked so sweet? Don’t lie, you have.

And once you’ve acquired that “perfect” carry gun, you have to…you know, carry it. OWB or IWB? AIWB or strong side hip? Open carry or concealed carry? Opinions and arguments go on, endlessly, but I’m here to end it, once and for all.

Open carry is stupid. There. Easy, right?

If you know Kat, you know how on-brand this actually is for her. She’s…opinionated. As the son of an opinionated woman, I honestly mean that as a compliment. She doesn’t shy away from saying what she thinks.

But is she right?

It’s a fair question, and it apparently needs to be reiterated that she’s not commenting on the right to open carry, but the wisdom of doing so.

There is a difference, and some people seem to think that if you’re not a fan of open carry in general then you’re anti-open carry. That’s not necessarily true, though it may be accurate in some cases.

In Kat’s, it ain’t.

Anyway, she shows her work, so we can look and see if she’s right.

Before you start goin on about “muh rights,” allow me to explain. There’s really nothing I love more than a good rant.

Many years ago, there was a time I’d attend gun rights rallies or run errands with my gun—back then, usually a GLOCK—openly carried on my hip. It was amusing how the guys in Starbucks in Olympia, Washington got irritated. Somehow how the average person totally failed to understand it was My Right.

Obviously that was in an era that pre-dates the advent of the Evergreen State’s current rabidly anti-gun climate. The last gun rights rally I attended was an attempt to halt the progress of I-594, a bill I now see as the beginning of the end in that state, but I digress.

Open carrying at rallies or the store when it was wholly unnecessary was immature, reckless, and flat-out stupid. I didn’t open carry at the I-594 rally so it’s sort of appropriate it was my last Washington State gun rights protest.

I’m not sure I can agree with this universally. For example, at the 2A Freedom Fest in Florida, I openly carried. I was camping at the time, and under Florida law, I could lawfully carry openly while many attendees couldn’t. That’s something I disagreed with, so I opted to open carry.

Plus, this was an event that was for the 2A community, not one open to scrutiny from “the normies” or anything, so there were no people to intimidate or scare.

I think that, in a case like that, open carry is perfectly fine.

It’s when you start openly carrying out in the actual public you have to start worrying. And I’m going to say something that will piss some of you off, but carrying guns to protests is a dumb idea, at least most of the time.

Remember people carrying guns to anti-lockdown protests? They did it lawfully, but the story suddenly became about the armed mass of angry people and not what they were angry about. Carrying openly was colossally stupid.

Stevens credits her training with people like Marty Hayes and Mas Ayoob with changing her mind on open carry, but what is her mind on open carry exactly? We know she doesn’t like it, but why?

From a tactical standpoint, open carry is…unwise. There are a lot of guys who will argue that having a visible firearm serves as a deterrent. Mr. Bad Dude, they reason, will see that gun and think twice about messing with [insert location here].

However, Mr. Bad Dude is just as likely to see Dude With Visible Weapon as the first target to take out. That or Bad Dude might think, hey!…a freebie!…and proceed to take that gun (ask me how many hardcore open carriers have proper handgun retention training).

When you conceal your gun, you take any potential weapons-based target off your back, you stop looking like a loot drop, and you retain the element of surprise.

Here, I’m in total agreement with Kat. 

Now, with that said, there are not a ton of examples of that actually happening, but I don’t know that we have examples of bad guys walking away from a potentially violent crime because some random person was openly carrying a firearm.

And I figure she’s completely right about handgun retention training. I’ll freely admit it’s a deficit in my skillset and I suspect it’s a deficit in most others.

Then there’s this:

Aside from that, concealed carry is a fantastic way to move through society unnoticed. No, I’m not going to go into a Gray Man rant, I’m just saying there’s never a good reason to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. There’s no need for the swagger, flash, and perceived ego stroke of an open carry handgun in your local grocery store. You can at least grab a light cover garment, guys. It isn’t that difficult.

Even better, concealed carry is legally easier than ever now thanks to the fact that permitless carry is now a thing in more than half the country. Ideally, you’re going to have some sort of training beyond a random state-mandated class—which we all know is woefully inadequate—before you carry a gun at all. But that’s not the reality of things. The reality is more gun owners don’t bother to train than do.

This, of course, is true.

One reason I tend to support unlicensed open carry, particularly in non-constitutional carry states, is that it allows people who are waiting on a permit to carry in the meantime. We can all agree that having a gun is better than not, so openly carrying because that’s what’s available is better than not carrying because you can’t do it concealed.

And again, I think people have a right to carry openly, even if I’m with Kat on the fact that it’s unwise.

While I won’t do yet another blockquote, she also points out how open carry doesn’t really advance our rights. It just makes people who might be willing to listen uncomfortable, and while I’m not sure I agree it does nothing–one could make the case that seeing a lot of lawful citizens carrying guns openly would normalize carrying guns, thus removing some of the fear of guns in general–she’s definitely right that making potential allies uncomfortable can be a problem.

But here’s the thing. This is a valid discussion for us to have. Yes, Kat and I tend to be in agreement, at least in most ways. You may not. Awesome. Make your case. Let’s have a reasoned debate about the merits of doing it. Leave out the argument of rights–I’ve argued in defense of the right to open carry elsewhere, so I’m anything but against it–and make the case that it’s a wise tactical move. Try to convince me. 

I’m open to being proven wrong, so do it if you can.

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