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Concealed vs. Open Carry: Is Discretion The Better Part Of Valor?

   Concealed or open carry… being armed could save your life.


The number of concealed carry permits has grown from 8 million in 2008 to just over 16 million in 2018.  Most states require a permitfor concealed carry and limit those permits to residents, or a select few statesthrough reciprocity. For example, a concealed carry permit in Texas is also valid in Arizona .There are currently 45 states that havepermissive open carry.  As the scales of the gun control debate teeter one way or the other, the visibility of opencarriers has been embraced by many pro-gunactivists to normalize gun ownership. While often acceptable to people who have been raisedaround firearms, it is often a culture shock to those who have not.

As the political spectrum becomes even more polarized, there is less concern on both sides to consider or even care about the sensibilities of people across the political divide. While one’s political party is in power, this may not be a cause for thought.  When the political scales tilt – and they always do- it then becomes a majorconcern, and then too late.  How the political left tends to react to the sight of openly carried firearms is with anything but antipathy.

By “spooking the straights” it fuels their desires to take the rights to carry anything away.  Some are so full of fear at the sight of a gun that they assume the carrier is a mass shooter, calling the police. Others point to a difficulty that police officers have in determining who is and is not a threat, and there have been plenty of instances when police have reacted with zealousness when presented with an open carrier.  The situation becomes even more complicated when raceenters the equation.  Now it is true that the examples presentedhere may have been antagonistic to the officers – there is a certainlack of empathy on behalf of some carriers not to understandthe situation officers are placed in when they must respond to calls of a person with a gun.  And sometimes, the officer may not be as comfortable with you having the gun: this opens opportunities for misunderstandings and accidents.  Such instances do not help the cause.

Perhaps this is a goodplace to point out that if you carry, open or concealed, that it is of vital importance to follow an officer’s instructions to the letter when the interactionoccurs.  Do not argue about your rights until the officer feels that they have control of the situation: that is what they are trained to do.  It is what you would want them to do if you were the one that called them.  And while you may win a legal debate with them, you are as likely to end up in cuffsor bruised.  You may even end up dead.

Concealed carriers certainly need to follow the same rules of conduct, but they have the benefit of discretion.  Many gun control activists will point to the laws of the wild west where guns were not permitted in town while ignoring other facts.  The local rules expressly prohibited the carrying of firearms but donot offer instances where people – residents or visitors -were invasively searched.  It is not coincidental that pocket pistols such as the Deringer started becoming an actual product in the 1800’s when the rule of these laws began appearing.  In such circumstances,the age-old adage “out of sight, out of mind” protected the carriers whether they were law abiding or not.

Even without the politics or the threat of nervous anti-gunnersand potentially under trained police officers, open carry does something else: it paints a bullseye on the back of your head for any potential criminal. Policeare paid to enforce laws; citizensare not.  While society benefits from as many enforcers and followers of the law as possible, those of us who are not involvedwith law enforcement authority can complicate matters in a situation, and not necessarily to our benefit.  If the badguy does not get the drop on us,we still are faced with the fact that even officers not in uniform may seem likea threat by uniformed responding officers.

Consider the following scenario: you are standing in line at the bankwhen someone decides to rob the bank.  You have a concealed carry firearm, but, the robber is not firing his weapon.  The money stolenis insured.  If you act like the other customers, the whole scary scenario may end in a few minutes with you only having to be a witness to the responding officers.  Another result of the situation is that the robber has already shot someone.  Perhaps now they will decide to leave no witnesses. At that point, if your firearm is concealed, you have a chance to defend yourself.  If your firearmwas not concealed, you mightvery well have been the first one killed.

The political landscape has many gun owners tempted to declare their position proudly, even defiantly. And the open carry movement has gone from a positionof crime deterrence to a political positionof antagonism.  Thisis not the scenario in which any of us should introduce an open and visible firearm.  Discretion is the better part of valor because discretionis one more tool at our disposal when we carry: leaving the decision to engage in our hands, not the hands of the “bad guy.” So, when you carry, be aware, be considerate, but most importantly, be sensible and choose your battles.  Don’t have them chosenfor you.

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