Why I’m not a fan of “open carry”

First, the definition: the act of carrying a firearm so that it is visible to anyone who bothers to look is known as “open carry.”

Next, the law: open carry is legal in Colorado in most areas of the state.  The trick is that the state has left it up to the jurisdictions on where it’s legal to do so and where it isn’t.  RMGO, an organization I’m a huge fan of, has some great FAQs on open carry.

So here are my thoughts:

  1. The overwhelming majority of people that I know who open carry do so to prove some sort of political point.  If I were to attend a picnic put on by the Colorado Open Carry Association, hypothetically, then I’d be all for it.  But I don’t EVER want to risk my liberty in order to make a political point.  My friend Marc always says “pass the Jerk Test” when it comes to interacting with the police, although he has some more colorful words for it.  Getting up in the face of a cop with “WELL I HAVE A RIGHT TO DO THIS!!!” doesn’t exactly pass that test.  Mr. Mapes (remember him?) failed the Jerk Test and look where it got him.
  2. You have to be an expert on the law.  Not a “spend a few minutes on the internet” expert, either.  Did you know that Castle Rock has a ban on open carry that extends to most places accessible to the public?  Yeah, me either.  9.04.165.  Look it up.  Oh yeah, and so does Lakewood.  And Denver.  And who knows how many other places. (** NOTE: see the update at the bottom of this post)
  3. Tactical.  Let’s say you’re in a 7-11 when it gets robbed.  Let’s say that you decide that the bad guy is there for a few bucks, then he’s leaving.  So you’ve made the decision to stay out of this one (legal and moral issues included).  If you’re open carrying, what are the odds that another civilian, also in there with you, says “hey, aren’t you going to DO SOMETHING?!”  Reasonable, at least.  Here’s a situation where you’ve been volunteered for service even though you’ve decided not to get involved.  Someone else has now put your life in danger.
  4. I hear all the time that “open carry deters crime.”  In some cases, I’m sure that’s absolutely true.  But in other documented cases, it has actually encouraged crime.  You have a beautiful Nighthawk Custom, then when another person sees it, they may very well decide to just relieve you of the burden of carrying it.  So there’s arguments to be made on both sides of this one.  Let’s call this a wash.
  5. People today get freaked out.  It’s just the world we live in.  I’m doing my best to change it, but we have to face reality here.  If you open carry into a Wal-Mart, even if you’re 100% within your rights to do it, what are the odds that you’re going to have a chat with your favorite boys in blue?  Hey, I love the police – but having a chat with them from the back of a squad car is not high on my to-do list every day.  Maybe it is on yours.
  6. Most people who open carry do so with a full-size gun.  Clearly, size isn’t a concern like it is for all of us that conceal a gun on our person regularly.  But if you have a magazine that holds 16+ rounds, you’re in deep doo doo.  The cops can now legally stop you and ask to see your magazine (again, not high on my to-do list), then make a claim that you didn’t own or obtain it legally, then force you to raise the affirmative defense in court… while they keep your gun and magazine as evidence that whole time.  Again, to beat this dead horse, when I wake up in the morning, my primary goal is to come home safely to my family that night.  Calling my wife from jail clearly gets in the way of those plans.
  7. A number you should remember: 8%.  A completely eye-opening number to me is that 8% of all police officers killed in the line of duty are killed with their own weapon.  That number is about 8% too high.  And it makes my heart sink.  Here are people who are trained in weapons retention, they’re used to dangerous situations, and they’re the definition of professionals.  Yet 8% of them die at the hands of their own weapon.  Ugh!!  So if you open carry, let me ask you this: are you better than those fine officers?  And if so, why?

My job is to protect myself and my family.  If we’re ever, God forbid, in a situation that requires action, I want every tactical advantage I can possibly get.

Look, I absolutely get the “but it’s my right” argument.  Trust me, I get it.  I will argue the Constitutionality of all sorts of things we currently have on the books (like this).  And yes, it’s absolutely your right, in most cases, to open carry a gun.  But I honestly can’t think of many compelling reasons to do it.  That’s my $0.02.  Take it or leave it.

9/10/13 update: if you want another reason not to open carry, check this out.  Two guys were open carrying AR-15s and got arrested.  Who could have possibly seen that coming??

Jan 2015 update: the Castle Rock open carry ban was repealed!!  So liberty won one there.  But similar bans exist other places, including in Douglas County (although as of this writing, I’m unaware of any Douglas County areas that they’ve chosen to prohibit open carry).  But the takeaway is still the same: state law allows local jurisdictions to prohibit open carry – if you choose to go down that path, you need to be absolutely 100% in tune with the law.

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14 comments on “Why I’m not a fan of “open carry”

  1. Kalaryn says:

    I know before I ever held a gun, if I saw someone in public carrying one, I never felt freaked out about it, I just figured the person had a right or that maybe they were undercover but this is before a lot of things had changed and I was also pretty young.

  2. Kalaryn – thanks! Yeah, I absolutely wish that everyone was ok with it. Our society would be a better place. And I know that if none of us open carry that we’ll never get there… which is a strange oxymoron.

    So do you feel differently now? Less ok with a person open carrying? Or are you just more in tune with it now?

    • Kalaryn says:

      I do agree that if no one open carries people won’t get used to it and you are right, it is an oxymoron. Sadly the way things are these days, it’s best to not.

      Good question: I do feel differently about it, when I was younger I naively believed they were undercover or something. Now when I do see someone open carrying, which isn’t often, I scope them out a little closer to see if they look like a nut job or a sound sane person just carrying a gun. If they look sane, I scope out the gun to see what they chose to carry and if I can tell what caliber, etc. lol So far since becoming interested in firearms, I have only come across one person open carrying, 20/20 hindsight, I sort of wish I had talked to him about it.

      I think it takes a brave person to open carry considering all that is going on in regards to guns but I do agree with what you said in your post that it increases your risks. I personally would be uncomfortable open carrying because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I have yet to feel what it is like to conceal carry, I’m still waiting for my letter from the Denver Sheriff’s Department (103 days now and counting). I’m curious to see how that’s going to feel, maybe once that is comfortable I might think differently about open carrying but I doubt it because I prefer to not be noticed.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts! I will tell you that it’s a rite of passage: the first place you have to go after you get your permit is Walmart. Not sure why that is, just trust me. 🙂

    I think I look for all the same stuff you do, although today I’m more curious to see if I can spot people concealing a gun.

    Concealing is tough for many of us. Have I mentioned that Kathy Jackson is teaching a holster seminar for us this Friday (her first ever trip to Colorado)? (shameless plug, but this is my blog after all) It’s $25 and a great chance to meet one of the pioneers of our industry. Signup here: http://carryoncolorado.com/Cornered_Cat/Cornered_Cat_Womens_Holster_Seminar

    At any rate, thanks for your feedback!

    • Kalaryn says:

      Thanks for the suggestion of Walmart, I was wondering where I was going to go. I plan on taking the day off of work and running around for certain. (Maybe tomorrow will be the lucky day)

      I started looking for people concealing as well, especially when I see a woman walking alone down MLK Blvd at night. Geez, I wouldn’t walk down that street at night alone without some protection but that’s just me.

      I’m already signed up for the class, I’m so eager to meet her. I have to say I’m not going for the information, I spent hours researching female conceal holsters on line since you can’t find them local (granted I found a place in Colorado Springs that does but that was after I made my choices). I just wanted to take the opportunity to meet her since it truly is a rare occasion and I so greatly admire her. I saw your FB post on it and immediately bought my ticket, I also promoted the event myself on Colorado Meetup and my gun blog so I’m out there helping you out. 😉

  4. Excellent! Thanks so much!!

    • Kalaryn says:

      You are welcome 🙂

      • Ron says:

        Like Kalaryn, I’d never carry open when I can carry concealed, mainly because I wouldn’t want to draw undue attention upon myself or make others uncomfortable. I do however get some sick satisfaction out of tweeking liberals though. I just could never see myself going into a grocery store, a bank, or a mall with my pistol in plain site. There’d be too many negative vibes I’d think.

        One place I do vary from this is when I’m in the back country while hunting, camping, or prospecting. When I’m out there, I like having something with a little more umph than my mid sized 9 MM. Before I got that pistol, I would try concealing my 1911….it worked OK in the cold weather, when my jacket would cover it up OK, but was mighty uncomfortable in warm weather. When I’m in the back country I’ll open carry either my 1911 45 or a colt 44 six shooter, depending whether I’m more in the cowboy frame of mind. It just has such a natural feel out there. I’ve never had any negative reactions by open carry from anybody I happen to come across out there. Seems fellow back country travelers tend to understand the reasons and are cool with the concept. In fact I’ve had several positive encounters when carrying my cowboy gun, just something about it’s appearance I guess evokes a sense of nostalgia. And it doesn’t have such the wicked intimidating look as other guns. I do however keep my gun concealed if I’m on a well used hiking trail.

        But I do fear the day may be coming when carrying even those old guns in the open may one day become uncool even in the back woods.

  5. Thomas J. Aikman says:

    Great article Jeff and points well worth considering- and they make sense! Thank you!

  6. […] no secret that I’m not a fan of open carrying, personally.  I wrote an entire blog post on that exact topic.  The difference is that I make decisions about what’s best for my life […]

  7. […] But clearly there needs to be an element of education with all of this.  I’ve talked and written extensively about why open carrying isn’t for me or my family.  But that’s how liberty works: you educate the people as best you can and then leave the […]

  8. […] it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of open carry – for me.  My Dad asked me the other day how I can be against open carry and still fight so […]

  9. […] to something more directly relevant.  The open carry debate has been a strong one here locally.  I’m not an open carry guy, but the list of things I have in common with most of the open carry people is significantly longer […]

  10. […] backyard.  Here is just such an opportunity.  To read some of my thoughts on this issue, click here, here, here, here, here, and […]

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