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:
Open Carry Gun Stolen Off Carrier’s Hip, And Prevention Tips
Chatty Smoker Steals Gun From Open-Carry Guy
Man wearing handgun open carry robbed in Newport News, police say
Non-Concealed Carry Gun Stolen in Wal-Mart Bathroom – Because it Wasn’t Concealed
Whitehall: Man loses gun, lottery tickets in scuffle outside store
Unarmed man attempts to rob EMU student of holstered gun
Man attempts to shoot man at Fairmont convenience store
Gun Control Supporter Steals Concealed Carrier’s Gun, Shoots Him
61-year-old man shoots teenager trying to steal his gun on Detroit’s west side
Open Carrier Shot At By Passing Vehicle, Returns Fire
This is Why You MUST Have Retention on an Open Carry Firearm
This Concealed Carrier In Texas Got Robbed Of His Gun By The World’s Dumbest Criminal
Open-Carrying Firearms Instructor Attacked; Kills Assailant
Teen homicide suspects have criminal histories
Retired Officer Killed in Armed Robbery
Stolen gun at Walmart causes panic
Caught on Cam: Customer Fights Off Robber Inside Deli, Shot Fired
Gresham man robbed of pistol at gunpoint while exercising ‘open carry’ right
Man Has Shotgun Ripped Out Of His Hands Investigating Noise Outside His Home
Shocking moment man is disarmed by another patron and shot with his own gun
Suspect grabs gun from man openly carrying weapons
Armed robbery suspects sought for crime near 38th and Hampton
Motorist robbed of her own gun
Man seen stealing gun from victim killed in motorcycle crash
Man Shot And Killed With His Own Gun
Man Fights Dummy To Retain His Tool
Home video shows teen stealing gun from Wichita man’s holster as he works on car
Open Carrier Targeted? WA State
Unaware Defender Is Lucky Enough
Open Carrier Robbed of His Gun at Gunpoint
Seattle Protest Open Carry Fail
Police search for teen accused of stealing man’s gun, firing shots at him
Man shot by officers after he shot at passing car
Open Carrier Has Gun Snatched At Convenience Store
Security guard released from custody after killing a man at a gas station
Man Open-Carrying in Alabama Walmart Has Gun Snatched and a Shot Fired at Him
Individual Open Carrying AR-15 Gets Robbed at Gunpoint in St. Louis
Customer’s gun stolen while paying at Columbus gas station
17-year-old steals gun from man at Dunkin’, shoots him to death in parking lot
Gun Disarm Surveillance Video Reveals so Much
Police: 37-year-old man killed after gun stolen from holster while waiting in line at gas station
Guard Ambushed for His Sidearm
Unaware Guard Ambushed Because of His Smartphone
Food Lion Security Guard Assassinated For His Gun
Dramatic video shows moment father grabs loaded gun from policeman trying to arrest his son and shoots him dead
What we know about the fatal shooting of police officer Michael Chesna
Defendant lunges for officer’s gun in Ore. courtroom
Two armed security guards in car killed for their firearms
Suspect Disarms Officer, Shoots Bystander
Man Tases Deputy, Grabs His Gun, Then Good Samaritans Jump In The Fight
Man tried to take police officer’s gun on Bourbon Street
Armed Robbers Try to Take Cop’s Gun
Man shot and killed after wounding Ithaca police officer
Kansas Police Officer Shot With Own Gun
“Pink Manther” disarms guard, robs North Center bank
1 dead, 3 injured in shooting on Bourbon St. after suspect gets gun from security guard
Security Guard Shot by Suspect With Own Gun in New York City
Off-duty Cleveland police officer attacked, gun taken
Robbers disarm officer during North Loop store holdup
Court documents tell more of struggle between wounded IMPD officer and suspect who shot him
North Carolina Man Grabbed Officer’s Gun Before Being Fatally Shot
Suspect disarms Houston police officer, holds her at gunpoint during robbery
Caught on camera: suspect attempts to grab officer’s gun from holster
Police searching for men they say jumped Atlanta officer, stole his gun and radio
Man tries to grab officer’s gun, gets loaded with lead
Officer involved shooting in Victorville
Suspect Attacks Deputy, Grabs His Gun
Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting After Suspect Grabs Officers Firearm
Teen who tried to assassinate officer with officer’s own gun was out on bond
NYPD cop, 33, is shot dead ‘with his own gun’ during a ‘violent struggle’
“You’re not a real cop” woman says as she tries to grab officer’s weapon
Henderson Police Shoot Woman Who Stabs Son, Grabs Gun
Military Veteran Saves Officer In Fight With Felon Over Gun
Ecuadorian Security Guard Loses His Gun And More
Why Retention Holsters Are A MUST
Bodycam Shows San Diego Police Shoot Man After He Grabs Officer’s Gun
New Jersey Man Injures Three Officers During Arrest, Grabs One Officer’s Gun
Open Carry Can Make You A Target
Houston cop fatally shoots armed assault suspect on bus
Off-duty cop helps arrest suspect who grabbed another officer’s gun
Video shows man pistol-whipping LAPD officer in police station, pointing cop’s gun at him
Florida Suspect Grabs Officer’s Gun in Holster and Pulls Trigger
Suspect Goes for Officer’s Gun, Gets Fatally Shot in New Mexico
DeFuniak Springs police chief loses gun in tussle with suspected car thief
Man Shot Vegas Officer with Another Officer’s Holstered Pistol
Citizen Springs Into Action As Suspect Gains Control Of Police Officer’s Pistol
Parent uses stun gun on teen who tried to take gun from officer at Utah school
Deputy fatally shoots suspect who broke into school, took deputy’s firearm
Coshocton Sheriff: Deputy fatally shoots suspect who broke into school, took deputy’s firearm
Driver Accused in Traffic Stop Shooting of Trooper Captured
Officer Fights For His Firearm And Life
Bradley officer pleaded for her life before suspect allegedly fatally shot her with her own gun
Open Carry Advertises A Free Gun To This Attacker
Unaware NYPD off duty cop improperly carrying firearm has firearm stolen in broad daylight
APD releases video of persons wanted in murder of security guard
Video shows man grab Battle Creek police officer’s holstered gun, pull trigger
Felon Shot By Florida Deputies After Grabbing Gun, Fleeing Traffic Stop
Man, 22, gets 30 years for stabbing, shooting NYPD cops during 2020 protests
St. Louis deputy carjacked, robbed during brazen attack while in uniform
Off-duty Chicago cop warns alleged thief she’ll ‘kill’ him before fatal shooting
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
My First Open Carry Holster, Random Open Carry Thoughts, and Even more, I see no reason for me to open carry – From firearms instructor John Daub
How Not To Play Poker– From experienced police trainer Matt Landfair
Eight separate articles on the topic from legendary trainer and author Massad Ayoob:
Should You Open Carry Or Go Concealed?
Five Real-Life Cases That Show the Complexities of Open Carry
Open Carry Part II: The Case Against
Making Open Carry Safer Part II, –
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
Carl of the Open Carry Movement; Don’t Be Carl and Open Carry: There Are No More Excuses For It-From firearms publishers Breach, Bang, Clear.
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
Handgun Open Carry- Recoil Magazine polls 13 professional firearms instructors on open carry. None are fans. Read the followup article as well.
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.