I’ve been debating whether to write this article for a while, but the comments on a recent article have convinced me to go ahead and do so. So, here are my thoughts on open carry (as opposed to concealed carry).
The benefits of open carry
1. Having a gun for self defense.
2. Possibly changing anti-gun social norms for the better. Those opposed to gun rights may become less hostile to guns if they see friends and respected members of the community carrying guns for self defense.
3. Open carry sometimes requires no permit, preventing abuses of the concealed carry permit system in some states, and allowing those under the minimum age for a concealed carry permit to have a gun for self defense.
The drawbacks of open carry
1. People who aren’t aware of open carry rights may become frightened, causing problems for the person who is openly carrying. Those problems could be both legal and social in nature.
2. Criminals will be able to see the gun, and may try to take advantage of that fact. The criminal might grab for the gun, or prevent the citizen from drawing the gun in the self defense. A criminal who is looking to steal a gun may choose to target someone carrying openly as well.
3. A large part of the benefit of concealed carry exists because a criminal won’t know who is carrying a gun for self defense. If enough people were to carry openly, criminals would be better able to tell who is armed.
Balancing those pros and cons, I find that I’m not really a fan of open carry, at least in areas where there is not an existing tradition of doing so. I certainly don’t wish to restrict the ability of others to do so, but I don’t find it to generally be a wise decision to carry a gun openly in public. Concealed carry can generally address the need for self defense just as well, if not better, than open carry. Concealed carry doesn’t carry the same risks of frightening people who aren’t familiar with open carry. The concerns over governmental abuse of the concealed carry permit process can be addressed with a Vermont-style concealed carry law.
A note: I just want to reiterate that my personal dislike of open carry is not to be construed as a statement that open carry should be abolished, or that those who choose to carry openly are unwise individuals. Rather, I simply don’t see open carry as advancing self defense interests as well as concealed carry, and I also see open carry as having major drawbacks that are not present with concealed carry. Regardless of my personal opinion on whether it is wise and prudent to carry openly, I still support the rights of those who live in an area that allows open carry, and wish to exercise that right.