It is often overlooked that the number of guns in the United States surpasses its population. Guns have long been ingrained in American culture, predating the nation’s independence. This historical presence of firearms has played a significant role in shaping cultural values and norms. The debate between open carry vs concealed carry revolves around various factors, including personal safety, public perception, deterrence and most importantly the balance between constitutional, individual and public rights. Both open carry vs concealed carry advocates typically agree on the importance of Constitutional rights, specifically the 2nd Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms. Supporters of both open carry vs concealed carry often invoke the Second Amendment as a foundation for their arguments.
The permissibly and social acceptance of open carry can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction, location and surroundings. While open carry may be allowed in certain locations or situations such as gun ranges or private property such as farms, it may not be legal or socially acceptable in densely populated urban areas or regions with stricter gun control laws. Urban centers, like New York City, often have more restrictive regulations on open carry due to concerns about public safety, public perception, and the potential for panic or escalation of conflicts. Openly carrying firearms in such areas can indeed cause fear, discomfort, and even antagonism among members of the public.
Recognizing and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of open carry vs concealed carry is crucial when discussing the topic.
Open Carry Advantages:
- Deterrence and Visible Protection: Open carry allows for immediate access to the firearm, can serve as a deterrent, and may foster a sense of personal security. Individuals may choose to open carry firearms for self-defense purposes when they perceive a credible threat to their safety. This can include situations such as being a victim of stalking, experiencing ongoing harassment, or having encountered previous incidents of assault. Openly carrying firearms may act as a deterrent to potential criminals, as they are aware that potential victims are armed. The visible presence of firearms can create a sense of protection and safety for the carrier and those around them.
- Immediate Access and Rapid Response: Open carry allows for quick access to the firearm, potentially enabling individuals to respond promptly in self-defense or emergency situations. Immediate access to a firearm can be crucial in life-or-death situations, where every second counts. However, in case you have not had sufficient practice on how to draw the gun, it will not make a difference whether you open carry or conceal carry.
- Promoting Responsible Gun Ownership & 2nd Amendment Rights: Advocates argue that openly carrying firearms helps normalize firearms ownership, promoting responsible gun ownership and exercising 2nd Amendment rights. By openly displaying firearms, responsible gun owners can showcase the safe and lawful use of firearms and counteracting negative stereotypes.
- Ability to carry larger firearms: Open carry, specifically using an outside the waistband holster, can provide more comfort and accommodate larger firearms as compared to conceal carry. Those who like to carry bigger guns, open carry is more suitable.
Open Carry Disadvantages:
- Un-due attention: Open carry may draw unwanted attention, can make the carrier a potential target for criminals, and may create anxiety or fear among the public.
- Public Safety: Critics argue that openly carrying firearms can cause fear, anxiety, and uncertainty among the public. The presence of firearms in public spaces may escalate confrontations, leading to potential violence or misunderstandings. “Male Karens or alpha males may engage in taunting, provoking, or deliberately escalating a situation with the intention of inciting aggression upon seeing an open carry gun. When law enforcement responds to a situation involving an individual openly carrying a firearm, their primary concern is indeed ensuring the safety of all individuals involved, including themselves. The presence of a firearm can understandably raise concerns for law enforcement officers.
- Target for Criminals: Open carry may make individuals carrying firearms more likely targets for criminals who seek to disarm them or steal their firearms. Therefore, when considering open carry, selecting a reliable and secure holster with level 3 or level 4 retention is essential to help prevent unauthorized access to your firearm. There have been many documented cases of armed individuals who are open carrying being disarmed. Open carry makes you more visible as a potential target in a situation like an armed robbery. For example, you are at a 711 and its being robbed, you will be at a huge disadvantage. Criminals often prioritize neutralizing potential threats before proceeding with their robbery.
- Public Perception: Some argue that openly carrying firearms can negatively impact the public’s perception of gun owners, potentially leading to stigmatization or increased restrictions on gun rights. In situations where individuals are openly carrying firearms, there is a possibility that someone might perceive them as a threat and report their presence to the authorities. When law enforcement receives such reports, they must respond and assess the situation based on the incomplete or inaccurate information provided. To put it simply, for the police you are just a man with a gun whose intent is not know to them which increases potential misunderstandings.
- Additional Costs: Being a responsible gun owner, open carry requires that you carry the firearm in a gun holster attached to a gun belt. Using a good level 3 or 4 retention holster and a sturdy gun belt is necessary to ensure the safe and secure carry of a firearm. Thus it will involve additional costs as compared to carrying a firearm in other ways.
- Negative social implications: Open carry socially distances your from friends, neighbors, co-workers and even future relationships. Studies have shown that open carry can indeed have negative social implications and potentially create distance between individuals. This is due to the fact that some people may feel uncomfortable or uneasy around firearms, and openly carrying a gun can make them feel hesitant or apprehensive about engaging in social interactions. Moreover, in certain social settings, open carry might not be well-received or accepted by others.
- Maintaining Vigilance 24/7: Individuals who open carry in public places have to maintain a heightened sense of situational awareness. They need to be more alert and vigilant of their surroundings. This increased awareness involves continuously scanning the environment for potential threats or suspicious behavior. However, it is important to acknowledge that maintaining this level of vigilance can impose a significant mental strain on individuals.
- Loss of Tactical Advantage: Open carry eliminates the element of surprise and tactical advantage that concealed carry may provide.
Concealed Carry Advantages:
- Personal Safety: Concealed carry allows individuals to discreetly carry firearms for self-defense purposes, providing a means of protection without alarming or unsettling the public.
- Surprise Advantage: By keeping the firearm concealed, proponents argue that the element of surprise can be beneficial in self-defense situations, potentially allowing individuals to gain an advantage over an attacker.
- Flexibility and Discretion: Concealed carry permits individuals to carry firearms in a variety of settings without drawing attention or causing unnecessary concern. It offers flexibility to go about daily activities while maintaining personal security. Concealed carry provides a level of anonymity, reduces the risk of theft or attempts to disarm the carrier, and avoids potential confrontations or unnecessary attention.
Concealed Carry Disadvantages:
- Accessibility: Critics contend that concealed carry may limit the speed of accessing the firearm during emergencies, as individuals must first reach, unholster, and ready the concealed weapon.
- Lack of Deterrence: Concealed carry opponents argue that the absence of a visible deterrent may embolden criminals, as they may not be aware of potential armed resistance.
- Risk of Misuse: Concerns are raised regarding the potential misuse or accidental discharge of concealed firearms, especially if carriers lack proper training or fail to adhere to safety protocols. Concealed carry may require additional training to safely draw and use the firearm, can lead to delays in accessing the weapon when needed, and may limit the ability to deter potential threats visually.
The Debate: Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry – Who is right?
While open carry proponents emphasize the visible deterrence and immediate access to firearms, concealed carry advocates argue for discretion, surprise advantage, and mitigating public unease. Striking a balance between personal liberties and public safety remains a challenge.
It is important to mention here that when open carrying a firearm, the way individuals present themselves through their posture and body language can significantly influence how they are perceived by others. Understanding the importance of maintaining a positive posture during open carry is crucial for navigating social interactions and promoting a sense of comfort and safety for everyone involved.
Open carriers should strive to appear approachable and non-threatening demeanor. Avoiding aggressive or confrontational postures, such as hands near the firearm, is essential to prevent undue alarm and maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Extending a handshake with the non-dominant hand or placing the hand away from the firearm can alleviate concerns and establish a friendly interaction.
While open carry may seem appealing in theory, particularly in the context of exercising 2nd Amendment rights, it may not be a practical option for everyday life in many cases. There are many places like Government building, schools, etc where you are not allowed to open carry.
The open carry versus concealed carry debate encompasses the complex considerations surrounding firearms rights, personal safety, and public perception. Striking a balance between individual liberties, public safety, and community well-being requires thoughtful analysis and a comprehensive understanding of the diverse perspectives involved.
Since concealed carry laws and permit systems were established earlier, it provided a regulatory structure which facilitated widespread acceptance and adoption of concealed carry as the primary method of firearm carry. Later on with the introduction and acceptance of open carry as an alternative means of carrying firearms, it challenged the prevailing notion of keeping firearms concealed.
The transition from concealed carry to open carry has brought about significant debates and considerations surrounding the visibility of firearms, individual rights, public safety, and societal norms. Ultimately, the decision between open carry and concealed carry should consider the specific context, local laws, and individual circumstances to ensure a safe and responsible approach to firearms.