26 February 2011

Guns 'n' Gear: Open Carry and Related Matters

[Author's Note: Brant pointed out this article to three GrogNews contributors and said "Hey, could one of you post on this?" It turns that my friend and colleague JDPort took it and so did I. You can see his take on the topic a few posts before my own.]

The Washingtonian has a feature article on the open carry movement, including brief profiles on 3 women in Virginia who openly carry hand-guns. There are generally two different philosophies on open carry.

The first philosophy says that concealed carry is superior to open carry because it gives the law-abiding citizen the advantage of surprise over a criminal expecting a defenseless, unarmed victim.

The second philosophy, which I subscribe to, is that an openly-carried handgun is aligned with the three essential principles of personal security: avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation. These are well-presented in this thread on the Defensive Carry forums, along with the brilliant "three stupids rule," although I'm unsure who originated them. Specifically, an openly-carry handgun is a clear deterrent to a potential attacker and, if you are forced to use it, a presentation from an openly-carried holster will always be a little faster than presentation from concealment.

As an aside, one concern about open carry is that there is some small subset of bad actors who would view an openly-carried handgun as a "challenge" that entices them to provoke a confrontation with the armed citizen and demonstrate to their thuggish peers how "brave" and "tough" they are. This is not legal advice, but practically, that kind of behavior brings to mind the words of science-fiction author Larry Niven in Oath of Fealty: "Think of it as evolution in action."

Another reason that I favor open carry is that it demonstrates to the public that normal, upstanding members of the community and law-abiding citizens can and do carry weapons. We rarely shoot people and almost all of the people that we shoot deserved it.

So, do I open carry? No.

The legal status of open carry in the State of North Carolina, where I live, is ambiguous. Open carry is not explicitly prohibited, but there are various local ordnances that restrict "going about armed to the terror of the public." The area where I live is a "bubble" of upper-middle class families. I know from discussions with at least some members of this loose-knit community that they refuse to acknowledge the dangerous nature of the real world that exists just across a couple of major roads that form a (porous) border between neighborhoods in this area. This is, unfortunately, especially true of the women, who are generally either "soccer moms" or "trophy wives" (my own wife is thankfully neither) and far too likely become "terrorized" if they saw me walk into the local grocery store to pick-up some milk and bread with a 9mm on my hip. Of course, I think they would be thrilled to discover that the same 9mm was inside my waistband if I happened upon them being robbed, mugged, car-jacked, raped, etc. in the grocery store's parking lot. This is one of the many paradoxes of 21st-century suburban American life. I don't want to be the subject of a panicked "man with a gun" call to 911, which would at best be a hassle and at worst be lethal if the responding officer was a trigger-happy rookie not well-informed on the 2nd Amendment, so I don't carry openly.

If I lived somewhere, like Virginia, where open carry was more legally clear, I probably would do it. I'd like to see my own state's laws change, but I have little taste for political activism and I think there are higher-priority Second Amendment/personal security issues to be dealt with in NC in any case. For one thing, I would like to see the list of prohibited locations ("victim disarmament zones," as I call them) dramatically curtailed. I can accept no CCW in courthouses, police stations, and the like that are filled with LEO's. I feel reasonably safe there, although I would like for places like that to have a "gun check" (like a "coat check") where they could securely store my weapon while I'm conducting my business there.

However, I really have a hard time with many of the other no-CCW locations:

  • Banks? I was talking with a friend not long ago and this topic came up. I jokingly said, "Yes, in fact, I was going to rob a bank the other day, but then I saw the little 'no guns' sticker on the door. My plan was thwarted, I gave up, and went back to work."

  • Movie theaters? These are "victim disarmament zones" under the "any place that charges admission" restriction of the NC CCW law. What are they worried about here? Perhaps the legislators thought that too many citizens would take Chris Rock's hilarious comment from his Bigger and Blacker tour to heart: "Wow, this is a good movie! It's so good, I'm gonna bust a cap in here!"

  • Schools? No joking with this. A legally-armed citizen could have saved innocent lives at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and other active-shooter incidents.

  • Restaurants that serve alcohol? CCW in an actual bar is not a good idea and I know full well that alcohol and guns don't mix. In fact, I rarely drink alcohol at all any more, in part because I'm usually armed if I'm out-and-about. But if I go out to lunch with a colleague from work to grab a burger at a local grill that happens to serve beer and I'm not drinking, is the mere presence of alcohol going to drive me into some kind of homicidal rage? It would be analogous to banning people from driving to places that serve alcohol, because some of them might drink and then drive.

Once these issues are addressed, then maybe open carry is worth tackling in this state.

As always, this posting is not legal advice. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by the laws in your jurisdiction.

Until next time, keep your powder dry...

By: Guardian

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