Written by Greg Ellifritz
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of open carry (carrying an unconcealed handgun or long gun in public). Except in a hunting context or in very rural areas where one is unlikely to encounter another human, I generally think it’s a poor decision to carry openly. Too many bad things can happen. I’ve explored some of those issues in my article The Perils of Open Carry.
My friend Spencer Keepers summed up the issue of open carry in the best way that I’ve heard: “I support the right, not the practice.” I agree with him 100%.
Not everyone feels the same way I do. Some continually tout open carry as a way to educate the populace and a way to provide a visible deterrent against crime. In my experience, open carry does neither.
Seeing visibly armed and strangely-attired open carriers out in public often scares the very population who gun rights advocates are trying to court. Does anyone really think walking into Starbucks with a slung AK-47 will convince a person who doesn’t currently own a firearm to support the gun rights cause? Think again. I believe that open carry advocates cause far more problems than they solve.
Besides the negative connotation that open carry gives to the gun owning community, I think there are some genuine dangers involved in open carry. Despite what lots of open carry advocates insist, open carry is not an automatic deterrent to all crimes. Open carry likely does deter some criminal activity, but not every criminal will be scared of your big gun.
Having spent more than two decades of my life dealing with criminals, I will tell you that they can read body language very well. They know who will use the gun and who won’t. Most have had guns pointed at them since they were children. Many have already been shot by cops or armed citizens while committing crimes. It isn’t likely their first rodeo and they aren’t scared of you just because that gun on your hip makes you feel like a bad ass.
If I were going to commit a crime, the presence of an armed individual who is exercising his open carry rights wouldn’t deter me in the least. I’d just take the open carrier out first. There are lots criminals who think the same way I do. For a perfect example of this, take a look at the Washington D.C. Naval Yard shooting. A killer armed with a shotgun killed a security guard in the Naval Yard in order to take his (openly carried) handgun.
What you don’t understand is that some criminals see that gun on your hip as a challenge, not as a threat. It’s a badge of honor for them to bring your gun home to their buddies and brag about how you shit your pants before giving up your gun when you felt the knife against your throat.
Every year dozens of cops (who have weapon retention training, backup, and retention holsters) get their guns taken by criminals. But you don’t think a criminal can take the Glock out of your shitty open carry Fobus holster at the grocery store?
A wake up call is in order….
Some people are smart enough to change their preconceived opinions when confronted with overwhelming evidence showing that they are wrong. It is those people I’m trying to reach by writing this article. I hope that the evidence I present below might better inform your opinion.
First, I want to share with you a number of stories about situations when an open carrier was specifically targeted and disarmed by a criminal. Lots of open carry advocates say “that could never happen to me.”
I’m betting all the folks I list below (who had their guns stolen) thought the same thing. Say it again with me: “The criminal quite likely won’t be scared of your gun.”
I did some internet searching for incidents where an open carrier was disarmed by a criminal, purposely attacked for his sidearm, or ambushed before he could get his open carry gun into action. I included a couple more examples where the open carrier was not robbed of his weapon but instead, killed quickly at the beginning of the attack.
The list of linked articles below illustrates the severity of the problem. All of the linked cases involve a lawful open carrier being robbed of his weapon or intentionally killed because his attacker knew he was carrying a gun.
Please keep in mind that I limited this list to the cases I could easily find. All have occurred within the last few years. There are likely many more similar incidents that I couldn’t find or that were never reported to the police. If anything, you should take a look at the linked incidents and realize that criminals stealing open carry guns is far more common than you might have suspected.
The true number of disarmed open carry activists will never be known, but I would guess that there are probably two to three unreported disarming incidents for each of those that made the list below.
Here is the list of incidents I found. I separated the article links into two categories based on whether it was an armed citizen or a uniformed cop/security guard who was disarmed while open carrying.
Armed Citizen Incidents:
Some open carry advocates insist that crimes like these never happen. They are wrong. While open carry disarms don’t happen with great frequency, they do regularly occur. Study these incidents. Learn from the victims’ mistakes.
Seeing the details of almost 100 different open carry disarming incidents in the last few years should be all of the evidence you need to realize that open carry comes with some serious potential risks. I don’t think the risks of open carry justify the benefits it provides.
After having read through all of those links, do you still think open carry is a good idea?
Surely, some of you will heartily yell out: “Hell yes!” as an answer to that question and continue to openly carry your weapon.
What can I do to get you to change your mind?
How about by providing links to articles that some of the greatest minds in firearms training have written on the topic?
You don’t have to believe me. But you should believe people like Mas Ayoob, Pat McNamara, Todd Green, and Jeff Gonzales. These are some heavy hitters. Read their thoughts on the topic:
A (Mostly Tactical, Partly Ideological) Argument against Open Carry and Saved from “Tyrants”, by Open Carry Douchebags– by police officer and Military combat veteran Chris Hernandez
Creating Space– From former Navy Seal and professional firearms instructor Jeff Gonzales
Open Carry II: The Desperation– From the late, great firearms instructor Todd Green
How Not To Play Poker– From experienced police trainer Matt Landfair
Eight separate articles on the topic from legendary trainer and author Massad Ayoob:
Because you can, doesn’t mean you should… a cautionary example of what not to do.– From firearms instructor Samuel Hayes
Lessons from real life: The Potato Chip Assault -From firearms instructor Tim Chandler
Why I don’t open carry and don’t think you should either– From The Prepared Gun Owners Website
From the Comments– From firearms instructor “John Mosby” of the Mountain Guerrilla Blog
Why I Will Never Open Carry: 5 Reasons– From the website Concealed Nation
10 Questions to Supercharge Your Everyday Carry Mindset– From former Delta Force operative Pat McNamara
Concealed vs. Open Carry– From personal security specialist Justin Ward
Concealment Defined– From firearms/combatives instructor Varg Freeborn
Open Carry Video Rant– From famed instructor Clint Smith
Imagine if you will– Firearms instructor Ash Hess’ description of a frightening consequence of open carry. Opens to Facebook.
If open carry decreases criminal attacks, why does it increase firearms related deaths and hospitalizations?
So now you know that your open carry gun is not a very big crime deterrent. You also now know that people can get their openly carried firearm snatched quite easily. Finally, you know that the majority of the thought leaders and instructors within the shooting industry condemn the practice.
Why are you still open carrying?
In closing, if I haven’t convinced you that open carry is a dangerous practice, I present some advice from author and trainer Ralph Mroz:
Before open carrying, Ralph Mroz has a good checklist of questions to ask yourself:
- Is there anything in your training or experience that lets you know for certain that you have a good level of constant environmental awareness? Most people don’t, and it does take training or specific experience in today’s culture to achieve it.
- Do you use a security holster?
- Do you have a good skill set in unarmed combatives, including some ground-fighting skills?
Ralph asks these questions of himself and comes to the following conclusion:
“I can answer “yes” to all three questions and I consider open carry to be too dangerous. If you can’t, then assuming you are an open carry advocate, what the hell is the matter with you?”
A good question indeed….
I intend to regularly update this article with recent stories about open carriers being targeted. If you hear of any local incidents where open carriers are disarmed by a criminal, please send me a message through my contact form.