In our last blog we discussed the pros of open carry, which is likely to become law in Florida. Now we will examine some of the arguments against the practice.
Note that the Florida bill is for “open carry”, not what is generally referred to as “Constitutional carry.” Constitutional carry refers to States where no permit of any kind is needed to exercise one’s 2nd Amendment rights. Open Carry allows a legally permitted person to carry open (ie. unconcealed) anywhere he/she can carry concealed.
I will repeat the disclaimer, but on the other side: 99% of the information relayed here is opinion. I know of no definitive studies to support or refute the arguments of CON open carry.
Let’s use the same two broad categories of arguments: legal and practical/tactical.
First, legal. I think it is irrefutable that the obvious presence of an exposed gun colors an interaction. A road rage incident or a bruised-ego situation where a brief fistfight might have occurred is now engaged in with the knowledge that BOTH parties know one (or both) is/are armed. This could be said of knives or any other weapon as well. Back in the day, as a police officer, when there was a fight and one or more of the fighters were carrying a clip-on knife which is so commonly worn, “assault with a deadly weapon” was added to the charge, EVEN IF NOT DRAWN. Maybe few of those were won and the charges were more bargaining chips for the prosecutor than anything else, but it was there, and it upped the seriousness and bail for the crime. Everybody knows the presence of a weapon has an impact. It should be noted that when concealed, the presence of a weapon still affects the carrier’s behavior even though the other party may not know of it.
Even though it is technically against the law for a cop to stop you simply because you are exercising a right (in the absence of probable cause, reasonable suspicion or being caught in the act of committing a crime), you will nonetheless attract more police attention then is necessary. In fact, you will attract more attention from virtually everyone you meet if you are wearing an exposed gun. and not all of it good.
Though I do not recommend it, it is possible to carry a concealed weapon into restricted areas, like the post office, a bar, or something as unintentional and harmless (though equally illegal) as driving onto school property to pick up a child. In the same way, some businesses which post a no-weapons policy (why would you want to do business with them anyway?) are none the wiser if you keep your gun concealed.
On the practical/tactical side, there are certainly circumstances where criminals will target an armed person first to eliminate that barrier to committing their crime. Armed security is a prime example of how what is supposed to be a deterrent becomes and invitation to shoot for some criminals.
One big factor is that you lose the ability to turn the element of surprise back on an attacker. Surprise is part of every crime and a good component of self-defense. You have “shown your hand” to criminals who can now consider how to dispatch you. And what might have been a property crime is much more likely to end in injury or death.
Situational awareness is an essential skill that all must learn to be safe. Whereas the average gunfight (according to some sources) lasts three seconds, it has been playing in the criminals’ mind for minutes, days or longer. Your only hope of having a “heads-up” is your ability to read people and spot those that do not fit in for whatever reason, or who are acting oddly.
Firearms retention training (like we provide at Command Performance Firearms and Training) is still important, but having a gun concealed affords a much greater advantage against those who would like to take it from you (if they even know you have it).
Finally, I personally think that the reason to carry a gun is to protect myself, my loved ones, the public at large, and the country. I do NOT carry to prove a point, such as that I can, or to make any kind of political statement whatsoever. I do not desire to educate the police (though a few need it) or anyone else on the 2nd Amendment or Florida law, except in the context of my training services. So, if and when a situation develops that open carry is indicated as the best strategy, I will be all over it. Until then, my opinion is that open carry should be legal but rarely done.