(Editor’s note: This column was submitted by freelance writer Dick Jones. The opinions expressed reflect Mr. Jones’ own thoughts on concealed carry and do not necessarily represent the opinions of GunsAmerica. If you like what he has to say, you can praise him in the comment section below. If you don’t like what he has to say, you can politely tell him why in the comment section below.)
At the recent NRA Convention, I observed a couple walking the aisles who were sporting four guns between them with a combined firepower that exceeds the average police squad car. He was wearing an AR 15 pistol on his right hip and a short barreled pump shotgun on his left. She was wearing an AR15 pistol and an FN 5.7 high-capacity pistol. I suspect they were also carrying some sort of backup protection in the event the going really got rough. I asked them the reason they were carrying so much hardware and the response was they lived in Detroit, in a rough neighborhood, and it was their daily carry regimen.
I suspect this was a bit less than true and the real reason was that the big display of armament was more about getting attention and showing off their highly decorated and painted guns. While this over the top version of open carry exceeded anything I’ve ever seen before, it’s not unusual for citizens to legally open carry a gun in many states and locations. In Michigan, as in my home state of North Carolina, open carry is legal and doesn’t require a permit. Unfortunately, just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
There’s no doubt open carry allows you to carry a more effective firearm and allows faster deployment, but as in many other issues in life, for everything you gain, you lose something else. I suspect my new, heavily armed, acquaintance is making himself a target, rather than enhancing his level of safety. The value of his two custom guns equates that of a really nice gold necklace, and probably the street cred of such guns exceeds the value of a gold necklace. I can’t imagine the level of awareness that would be required on his part just to protect himself from an ambush to acquire the guns he’s advertising by walking around with them exposed. Further, there are locations where he simply can’t carry and such an ostentatious display would certainly invite a vehicle break-in.
Open carry certainly is a viable option, but under certain circumstances it offers more liability than advantage. The advantage is it’s easier to carry a more effective gun and draw time is much shorter. This makes sense for a uniformed law enforcement officer because everyone already knows he carries a gun. Further, that law enforcement officer is much more likely to have occasion to use his firearm than a citizen. It’s his duty to intercede and pursue when the law is violated. The LEO is authorized to use his firearm in an offensive manner when the need arises. The citizen can only defend.
Any criminal activity that’s planned out will take into account anyone with an observable weapon and that individual will likely be the first target if the perpetrators are determined to continue. Further, in some cases the presence of the exposed firearm could initiate the criminal event because of a desire to acquire the gun. Certainly there are situations where open carry is appropriate. Open carry in rural situations or where guns are more culturally accepted is much less likely to draw unwanted attention and create problems than urban and suburban locations where it might be viewed as strange.
While the law in North Carolina provides for open carry, we also have a provision regarding exposing a firearm in such a way to make others uncomfortable. The statute describes being “armed with the intent of creating fear among the public,” and such a law allows a broad interpretation that might get you charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor for walking down a public street with a gun hanging from your belt. True, a decent lawyer could likely get the case dismissed, but why would you expose yourself to such a situation?
The right to use deadly force in most states is linked to four conditions. Two of those conditions require the defender to not be the aggressor or use excessive force. The third is that the defender was actually in reasonable fear of serious bodily harm, death or sexual assault. The fourth condition is that a reasonable person would agree that such fear was reasonable under the conditions involved. To sum it up, being a reasonable person is a vital part of establishing that your situation provided you with the right to use deadly force. Carrying a pump shotgun and an AR pistol while conducting daily business has a good chance of making a person look unreasonable. In the view of many, constantly wearing an open carry, or easily revealed, double stack service pistol with a double magazine pouch might have a similar effect.
While it’s true that you have a better chance in a bad situation with a powerful, high capacity gun with a speed holster, spending every day so armed would be more than a minor inconvenience. Your odds of needing to defend yourself with a firearm during your lifetime are similar to your odds of losing your home in a fire. We all have homeowner’s insurance, and we all should be capable of defending ourselves. At the same time, there are things that insurance doesn’t cover like family heirlooms. To be certain those items aren’t lost, we could take the family photos, and Grandma’s china with us on vacation but the inconvenience outweighs the risk. The same is true of being over armed for the conditions in which you live your life.
An AR15 carbine is superior to a service pistol in a gunfight, but daily carry of a semi-auto carbine will define you as an unusual person in most locations I know of. A double stack service pistol with two magazines is superior to a compact single stack 9mm for a concealed carry citizen, but you can wear and carry that smaller gun every day with complete comfort and concealment. It’s easy to think of scenarios where you need a high capacity gun, but I can’t remember ever reading an Armed Citizen story in the front of American Rifleman when the citizen ran out of bullets. It’s possible but unlikely. The preponderance of self-defense situations with firearms don’t involve the firing of a shot. A vast percentage of those situations are resolved simply by the presence of the gun.
If you have the unfortunate experience of having to use a firearm to defend yourself, you are unlikely to be charged if you followed the laws of your state. Citizens who follow the law have a less than 5%. chance of being charged. Citizens who use a firearm to defend themselves have a 90% chance of being sued. The real legal threat isn’t arrest, it’s the lawsuit that almost inevitably follows the defense, and in that civil courtroom you need the judge and jurors to see you as a reasonable person. Glib remarks, a history of inflammatory statements, and anything that gives the impression to jurors that you might be spoiling for a confrontation will hurt your case. I’m sure that should my over armed acquaintance have to use deadly force, he’ll be on TV every night for weeks and his experience will make the ordeal George Zimmerman experienced look like a walk in the park.
For the best results in the civil case you’re almost certain to face should you have to use deadly force, you need to be seen by everyone as reasonable. Open carry in modern times — when concealed carry is so easy — makes you a target, both on the streets and in the courtroom.