When carrying your firearms outside the home, you have two basic choices by logic: whether to carry lawfully concealed or openly in accordance with your local regulations. We take a look at the latter, which is both growing in controversy and acceptance.
John Moltzer of Robinson, Texas carries his Hi-Point 9mm rifle at the Come And Take It San Antonio pro-gun rally at the Alamo. Photo Houston Chronicle
What is open carry?
By its very name, the definition of the act in question is the simple unconcealed public carry of a firearm outside the home be it a long arm or handgun. It can be either for personal defense, or to exercise your Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms-- or both. You know what they say, a right un-excercised is a right lost.
Where can you carry?
All states in the country by law (after a number of constantly evolving federal lawsuits over the past couple decades) have some form of concealed carry licensing scheme. Most of these are what is known as "shall-issue" which means that, as long as you meet the legal requirements and pay the fees, you can get a license. Then there are a handful of "may-issue" states like New Jersey and Hawaii which means they "may" give you a license-- but likely won't.
Unfortunately, open carry is not as accepted as concealed carry. According to research by the Wall Street Journal, six states and the District of Columbia prohibit all open carry of handguns. Some of these however, such as Texas, allow long arms to be carried which means you can have your Hi Point carbine in the Lone Star state, but can't open carry your C9.
Another dozen states only allow open carry for those who have a concealed carry permit. This leaves just 32 states in which it is legal to openly carry an unconcealed handgun without a permit. The good news is that this is increasing. For instance, Mississippi just enacted open carry legislation last fall. Gun control advocates said that it would lead to blood in the streets of the Magnolia State and a return to the Wild West, but these fears proved unfounded.
Why do it?
For the 30~ odd states that allow open carry without the ball and chain of a CCW permit, it is a cheap alternative to have your firearm with you when you leave the house. Even if not, some advocate that having your firearm unconcealed is a subtle deterrent to crime, making it less likely that the carrier will be subject to victimization while out in the world (i.e. that the bad guy will keep on walking in search of a softer target). Others point out the simple fact that not having to draw a firearm from underneath a jacket or deeply tucked in holster can shave a second or two off of your draw-- thus making the odds of confronting an active threat successfully all that much better.
Problems with it
Gun control groups, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Moms Demand Action and the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence get super crazy when it comes to open carry, going so far as to pressure businesses such as Starbucks, Target and Kroger to prohibit open the act in their businesses. This, some gun owners decry, is bad for the Second Amendment overall.
Others argue that open carry puts the carrier in a tactical disadvantage as it makes them a target to have their firearm stolen or worse, in the event of an active shooter event, puts the bad guys first bull's-eye right on their back.
National Gun rights groups, besides local organizations in almost every state, endorse the practice.
"The National Rifle Association strongly supports conceal carry and open carry, and we will continue to lead the charge to protect and expand the right to self-defense for law abiding Americans throughout the country." Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement earlier this year after first coming out against open carry.
In the end, whether you carry concealed or openly, its up to you just be safe.
What do you think? Do you open carry or not? Why? Drop it in the comments below.