Is Mainstream America Shifting Towards Open Carry?

Most Americans don’t think about gun rights. Why would they? They only have so much mental bandwidth. They’ve got to focus on paying the bills, getting the kids to, from and through school; finding time for friends and doing whatever it takes not to lose what they already have. I reckon it’s that latter priority that moves non-gun rights folk towards the pro-gun position. The knowledge that a firearm helps maintain their status quo. As for understanding or caring about the way firearms are regulated, meh. In the same way the presidential election is a popularity contest, the general public thinks about gun laws in very simple terms, if at all. Luckily for gun rights advocates, the nature of that understanding has suddenly reached a tipping point, and changed . . .

The political framework that created the most recent dark days of gun control: how do we keep guns out of the hands of criminals? This line of thinking was largely an urban phenomena; reflecting population density, gun ownership patterns (city folk were not gun owners by tradition) and crime rates. In particular, the gruesome cocaine wars in the 70’s—isolated from personal experience but televised heavily—did much to demonize guns.

The political framework that’s restoring the protection of our right to keep and bear arms: how do we make it easier for law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms? This line of thinking is, increasingly, an urban phenomena; reflecting a lack of faith in the government’s powers of personal protection, and the demystification and promulgation of all things gun via the internet.

No question, the Supreme Court rulings in Heller and McDonald opened the door to the modern pro-gun trend. But the average American has no idea that either case exists (if they even know what the Supreme Court does). The shift from anti- to pro-gun is a more subtle transition. People who didn’t care one way or another about guns or gun rights—the uninformed voters who have the final say in most political matters—are starting to think, guns? Sure, why not?

The media too. Case in point: “Like it or not, open carry is coming” by Mike Jones at tulsaworld.com.

First of all, this is not a column condemning the open-carry bill that is making its way through the Legislature. I have no strong feelings about it either way.

A lot of states allow it and mass bloodshed hasn’t seem to have broken out in any of them. Neither, however, have I seen any statistics that prove that crime has dropped significantly in any of those states. Such information is difficult to process. Crime rates fluctuate for many reasons, including economics.

If I were voting, I would vote against open carry, simply because I don’t want to see my fellow Oklahomans walking around with guns strapped to their hips. On the other hand, open carry might be more comforting. Rather than concealed carry, where you don’t know who is packing, at least with open carry you know who has the gun and who to avoid – or stand close to.

In my younger years, I was against concealed carry and sometimes guns in general. I grew up with guns. I hunted quail, dove, rabbits and squirrels. We ate what we killed. I admit, when the concealed carry issue came up I was one of those people who said there could be mass confusion in McDonald’s if a bunch of civilians tried to stop a robbery or shooting. I believed that concealed carry would lead to more, not fewer, gun incidents.

I was wrong.

Jones’s transition from anti-gun to oh-go-on-then-carry-if-you-want-to doesn’t need a Bruce Krafft-ian factual deconstruction. The main takeaway: concealed carry is becoming a non-issue. Blood is not flowing in the streets from concealed carriers gone wild. So . . . nothing. Might as well let people—average folk—buy and carry guns.

It’s an important distinction. The increasing normalization of concealed carry isn’t about the [debatable] upside: lower crime rates and lives saved. It’s about the lack of a downside: no OK Corrals. The fact that the “debate” has moved from questions about concealed carry to a discussion about open carry reveals the pro-carry temper of the times—at least in states that have accepted armed citizens.

It’s no surprise that the same fantasy issues that bedeviled the concealed carry movement are now attached to open carry. Simply put, there are no new arguments to be made. Check out Jones’ take. He ignores open carry’s impact on deterrence, forgets that a drawn gun is a drawn gun is a drawn gun, and wonders about the dangers of open carry when an armed citizen unholsters his firearm.

Then, what does the legally armed citizen do? If his life is not in danger can he or she still intervene? If so, are they really qualified to shoot?

That brings up the courthouse episode. There were at least 10 uniformed officers involved in that shooting. A citizen going to the courthouse will not, can not, carry a gun into the building. So, it is likely that even an open carry citizen would not have his weapon.

But what if he was simply passing by headed to his office or her car? Shooting breaks out on the plaza. According to some open-carry proponents, the armed civilian would be able to subdue the shooter, avoiding further injury to the non-armed visitors.

What if the open-carry individual drew his or her weapon and then the uniformed officers arrived? That makes two suspect shooters on the plaza.

Open, concealed—what difference would that make in this situation? None, once the lead starts flying. The rules of engagement for armed civilians are clear. Qualifications? I say armed citizens don’t need no stinkin’ qualifications. But if Mr. Jones’s Google is broken, he can click here to learn that an OK concealed carry license holder must pass an approved training course.

As for the OMG, TWO SHOOTERS! problem, what are the odds that the cops will respond to a crime scene and shoot the good guy? This gun blogger scans press reports of defensive gun use (DGU) seven days a week. I’ve yet to encounter a single story of the cops mistaking the armed good guy for the bad guy, and then shooting the wrong person. Cops shooting cops, yes. Cops shooting concealed carry license holders? Not yet.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a gun on your hip is a pretty good indication that you aren’t a bad guy. And even if the cops do shoot the wrong person, who’s fault is that? You could say it’s a shared responsibility between the good guy and the po-po. Or just the luck of the draw. Meanwhile, forbidding people to openly exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms to protect them from confused or incompetent police isn’t a very compelling argument against open carry, IMHO.

Most states have some form of an open carry law. Those states seem to be holding together well. Only six states and Washington, D.C., prohibit open carry.

I am not anti-gun. I simply don’t know if I’m ready to see sidearms displayed in public view by someone other than a law enforcement officer.

Oklahoma is going to pass this law, and Gov. Mary Fallin almost assuredly will sign it. All I can say is, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Which is all gun rights advocates want him to say, really. And that reminds me: once my divorce is finalized, I’m going to apply for a State permit (I have a city one) and start open carrying. As Rafiki said (on an unrelated matter), it is time.