Open carry refers to toting your firearm in any manner where it is visible and not concealed. On a national level, federal law does not restrict the open carrying of firearms in public, although specific rules might apply to property owned or operated by the federal government. At the state level, however, things change.California, Florida, Illinois and the District of Columbia generally prohibit people from openly carrying firearms in public. New York and South Carolina prohibit openly carrying handguns, but not long guns. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey prohibit open carry of long guns, but not handguns. In the remaining states, people are generally allowed to openly carry firearms, although some states require a permit or license to do so. Open-carry laws are usually subject to significant exceptions. Most states that allow open carry still prohibit carrying firearms in some locations—such as schools, state-owned businesses, places where alcohol is served and on public transportation.
Note: Laws are always changing. It is every gun owner’s responsibility to check state laws to ensure what is legal where they reside.
Still, some say just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Others would argue that it is a right and not a privilege and that being a responsible citizen means you absolutely should be able to open carry. Here are some of the pros and cons of this popular and at times highly passionate debate. The objective is not to sway you from one side to other, but rather it is to help you realize the importance of truly thinking through what you feel is best for you.
Let’s start with the pro-open carry view. There are two factors that are at the top of a long list of reasons as to why people lean toward open carry. One would be comfort and ease. Being able to open carry eliminates the pressure of concealment, which includes such things as the challenge of trying to find the right clothes that enable you to conceal without printing, as well as being able to utilize your entire wardrobe as is. The comfort factor is also a reality. Having your gun holstered in an open carry fashion is far more comfortable than carrying concealed. Second, not having to worry about concealment opens the opportunity for you to more easily able to carry a bigger gun, which often means you’ll have a higher ammunition capacity.
On this side of the fence are other reasons that could be more debatable. Some believe that having the gun visible will deter a threat by itself. Common sense would naturally tell a criminal not to go after an armed person.
Of course, there is also the attitude of, “It’s my right and I am determined to exercise it!”, which is entirely understandable especially in an age where our rights are so clearly infringed.
On the anti-open carry view, the list of reasons for opposition is just as long. One of the top arguments against would be that your gun can be more easily taken. When the gun’s position is visible, someone with criminal intent knows exactly where it is. Before you even realize there is a threat situation, your opponent has seen your gun and has had time to figure out how he would be able to take it when you least expect it.
A second argument against open carry would be the prospect of eliciting unneeded alarm in public. Not everyone is familiar with guns and it can become quite unnerving to see a stranger with a gun when you know nothing of this person. (This argument takes on more of a sense of urgency when you consider recent events where people are so afraid of guns that they even call the police when someone wears a shirt that advocates for gun rights.) Without knowing whether the person openly carrying a gun is a good person or bad, are you in danger or not? There are many other reasons for both sides of this coin, but these are the top consistent concerns for each aspect.
Personally, I lean more toward the concealed-carry-always viewpoint for the following reasons. Yes, there was a time when almost everyone open carried and it was the norm. These are not the days we live in now. There are many people who aren’t anti-gun but are not educated on gun facts or laws whatsoever. My mother would fall into this category. She supports me in my firearm-related career, but she lacks the understanding that those of us in the Second Amendment advocacy community have. (Don’t worry, I’m working on bringing her up to speed.) When it comes down to it, though, I really don’t want to cause unneeded alarm to anyone or induce any amount of gun-related anxiety. I carry for protection and I like the idea of having an absolute equalizer if needed. So i have no need to prove to anyone that I am carrying simply because I have a right to. While open carry is far easier and more comfortable than concealed carry, I believe concealment is worth the extra effort. Could open carry deter a threat by just the visible sight of my gun? Yes. Is that 100 percent absolute? No. So, if there is even the slightest chance that showing my gun could give a threat the opportunity to take it or to even better plan their attack, I am not going that route.
I prefer to maintain the element of surprise. I also carry a larger gun, a Glock 19 to be exact. I work to educate myself on ways to conceal a larger gun and maintain my wardrobe, so I don’t truly have to sacrifice my wardrobe. It might be less comfortable, but for me it comes down to being emotionally comforted over physically comforting.
These are just a few of the things to consider when you are deciding how best to carry. Part of being a responsible gun owner means looking at every angle, educating yourself and deciding what is best for you as well as those around you. Whichever option you decide to go with for your own personal carry, the one thing that can be agreed upon is the notion that when you carry you are protecting yourself and exercising your Second Amendment right.