RI Open Carry Day One: The Ocean State Has Its Privileges

 

So there I was in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, actually in the office, behind security glass, standing next to a desk, picking up my Pistol Permit. “I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get this,” I told to the woman assembling the laminated card. “It’s a privilege,” the guy-in-charge opined, in no uncertain terms. “It’s a right,” I countered, failing the STFU rule by a large margin. The big guy didn’t even blink. “That’s only for the militias,” he said, ignoring decades of Supreme Court rulings. After an uncomfortable pause he asked why I applied for a State Pistol Permit when I have a Providence Concealed Weapon Permit . . .

“I don’t have to wait seven days when I buy a gun with the City Permit,” I said. “But I can only open carry with the State Permit.”

“No you can’t,” countered the woman putting the finishing touches on my Permit. “It’s only for concealed.”

“Yes you can,” the guy-in-charge corrected. “It’s both open and concealed. You know: security guards.”

And there you have it: a piercing glimpse into the open carry culture here in the Ocean State. In case you haven’t figured it out, there isn’t one. The idea of a law-abiding citizen openly carrying a firearm in public for his or her own personal protection (or just because he can) is an anathema—even to the people who issue the permit that makes it legal.

And so it begins: my personal journey into RI gun rights. And if you think a Wally Walk is a bit nerve-racking—strolling through WalMart with a concealed firearm for the first time—try walking into your favorite local non-chain grocery store with a gat strapped to your hip in a state so blue it’s taking Xanax. Talk about sweating bullets . . .

I was literally sweating. I’m not sure how a perp walk feels, but I have a damn good idea. Talk about situational awareness; I was aware of every person within fifty yards. Were they looking at me? Do I look them in the eye? Do they look me in the gun? What do I say if the manager comes up? What do I do if the cops come to say hello?

Yes, there is that.

Videoed encounters of the concealed carriers vs. cops kind have generated a great deal of YouTube traffic. In none of these links do we see a cop shoot a law-abiding gun-toting civilian (The Mother of All Negligent Discharges). Other than a bad guy pulling my gun and shooting me with it, or shooting me first during the commission of a crime (which makes perfect sense), police interaction is my greatest fear.

["Could that really happen?" I asked the homicide detective sitting next to me at the cigar store one day, pointing out that an OFWG with a hip-holstered heater shares nothing more than basic anatomy with Providence gang bangers. "Could a cop shoot me by mistake?" "Rookies," he replied, puffing on his Padron.]

In most of the YouTube open carry vids, the civilian confronts cops with the fact that the po-po have no right to stop the gun schlepper simply for schlepping a gun in plain sight. In many cases, the open carry advocate refuses to show ID or even provide their name. I know my rights! Cue bombastic music. We are the champions, my friend.

Call me mercurial, but I’m not going there. While I’m Bruce Krafftian in my view on gun rights, I don’t see the point of antagonizing police officers who’ve never seen an open carry advocate in their natural born lives. So I plan in complying with their commands (including VERY SLOW disarmament) and declaring “The law says I don’t have to show you my ID unless you suspect me of committing a crime. But I will show it to you this time.”

My “excuse” for not doing the hard line gun rights thing: I’m open carrying as part of a crusade to normalize guns. I want to protect my gun rights, and gun rights in general, by demonstrating that a law-abiding citizen can carry a gun responsibly. That applies to both the public and the police.  Besides, I don’t want to be arrested. Or shot.

So far so good. I went to the East Side Market for dog biscuits and Bottles liquor store for some Chard. That’s it so far. At this point, I reckon my gun is invisible, as I’m the only non-LEO or security guard open carry guy in the entire Renaissance City. Except for those times when my FFL guy Steve brings his LC9 into town; a discreet gun in a discreet holster.

I’m heading down Thayer Street—a genteel Brown University parade of shops and eateries– later today. I wonder if fellow Rhode Islanders who clock my Caracal will assume I’m a cop? Open carry is so far beyond their ken that seeing me as a LEO is a logical leap of logic. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, a practical consideration . . .

I can’t open carry when I’m walking the dogs. Maggie and Rosie Von Schnauzer are not the most people-friendly canines. I can’t imagine trying to control them while a cop attempts to investigate the guy with a gun. Actually, I can, and it’s not pretty. But there is real beauty ahead: the day I encounter another person in Providence open carrying their firearm.

 

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

48 Responses to RI Open Carry Day One: The Ocean State Has Its Privileges

  1. avatarjwm says:

    sigh. we had open carry in california until people started open carrying. then we didn’t have it. sigh. well the fight goes on.

  2. avatarMoonshine7102 says:

    Schnauzers? I dunno, Robert. I kinda figured you for something, well, bigger. [shrug]

  3. avatarRoll says:

    Move to Arizona! CCW laws are great here

  4. avatarAnon in CT says:

    I agree – 90% of folks who see the Gat will likely assume you’re some sort of LEO. Even for non-Libs, it’s a pretty logical assumption based on history and what they see on TV.

  5. avatarMoonshine7102 says:

    So, rights are only for militias, now? My friends, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the formation of the Minnesota Militia, St. Cloud chapter.

    [/tongue in cheek]

  6. avatarwade says:

    Yankee problems…. In texas, if someone bought a glimpse of your gun (no open carry, disappointingly), they would brush it off and think to themselves; “welcome to Texas”.

    • Its actually a crime to open carry in Texas. Willful failure to conceal your firearm.

      Not that its enforced often, but nevertheless Texas does not have open carry.

      • avatarready,fire,aim says:

        i hope that day for open carry will come soon here in Texas then we can carry concealed when we want to and open on days like today when it’s 200 degrees outside

      • avatarSanchanim says:

        I will take concealed any day.
        Open next, but the great CA pretty much says no….
        I am sorry I refuse to sleep with the sheriff to get my CCW.

        • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

          It’s only wrong if you make eye contact.

        • avatarHSR47 says:

          I’d sleep with my County’s Sheriff if she’d appoint me a deputy, along with all the LEOSA-only-one goodness that comes with that.

    • avatarPhil Pistol says:

      Sorry Wade I live in NH. Open and concelled cary when TX had none. Lone Star problem, but you are heading in the right direction.

      • avatarpercynjpn says:

        No, no – he said “Yankee”, so to be equally snotty, you should have said “Redneck”, “Sh*tkicking hick”, “hillbilly”, or something like that! Good ‘ole boys love to throw that word out left and right, but get all sad and teary-eyed when they get called names like those. Just sayin’.

    • avatarjkp says:

      Texas carry laws: all hat, no cattle.

  7. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    When I applied for my RI permit everyone was very helpful and polite. They reviewed my application before I left the building and two weeks later I picked up my permit. I thought it was going to be very difficult, but everything went very smooth.

  8. avatarMark says:

    “I don’t see the point of antagonizing police officers who’ve never seen an open carry advocate in their natural born lives.” NEVER give law enforcement grief unless you want WAY more back from them. It’s just not worth it and increases their suspicion. A little cooperation saves a lot of potential investigative custody.

    • avatarmatt says:

      It sounds like you’re a LEO…

      Wasnt the whole civil rights movement accomplished because they were antagonizing law enforcement? I believe it is your duty to antagonize law enforcement, its the only way they’ll learn.

      • avatarAnon in CT says:

        Or be unfailingly polite and make them looks like arses on video. Far more effective. Be so polite and sugary sweet that they get Type 2 Diabetes.

  9. avatarEric says:

    Please get a good retention holster. I recommend the Safariland ALS system

  10. avatarRalph says:

    Don’t worry about an impromptu police interrogation, RF. In Providence, they shoot, then they ask questions. In Pawtucket, they shoot and don’t ask sh!t.

  11. avatarSanchanim says:

    Congrats RF!!!

  12. avatarJames says:

    “‘It’s a privilege,’ the guy-in-charge opined, in no uncertain terms.”
    [...]
    “Other than a bad guy pulling my gun and shooting me with it, or shooting me first during the commission of a crime, police interaction is my greatest fear.”

    They hate us because of our FREEDOM™.

  13. avatarTom says:

    After spending most of my life in Rhode Island, I’m thrilled to say that I departed a few years ago. The only regret is that I didn’t do it several years earlier.

    I now live in a southeastern “shall issue” / income-tax free state, with better weather to boot. And my part of the state is conservative (it’s not yet populated with liberal northeastern folks seeking to escape what they created).

    Rhode Island is physically beautiful, but I don’t miss the bad weather, corrupt politicians, liberalism and 1930′s-like “workingman” / union resentment of the educated or successful, public sector union control and accompanying punitive taxes.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I don’t miss the bad weather, corrupt politicians, liberalism and 1930′s-like “workingman” / union resentment of the educated or successful, public sector union control and accompanying punitive taxes.

      I lived in the Ocean State for ten years, and I have to say that you captured the essence of Rhode Island right there.

      • avatarTom says:

        Thanks Ralph. The shame of it all is that RI could rock. With its beauty and location between NYC and Boston, it could be both prosperous and enjoyable to live in. But it’ll never happen. The college-educated / middle-class keep moving out due to frustration and lack of opportunity. So the population is increasingly made up of government workers (those directly on the payroll and welfare “clients”) and union bosses who take their cut — all of whom have a vested interest in the status quo. In other words, the place is reminiscent of Atlas Shrugged writ small. The fiscal collapse there has already started, and is only going to get worse. Alas, its diminished talent pool of those left there won’t have the smarts or sophistication to learn the error of their ways and rebuild after the collapse has run its course. So the place is going to end up looking something like Detroit. A shame, since it doesn’t have to be that way. But it’s the course they’ve chosen.

  14. avatarCameron S. says:

    I love living in Maine. No-permit OC at 18 and a CCW permit can be had at 18 with little trouble.

    I wish I could OC though without getting any trouble… because I HATE confrontation of any sort. I’ll stick to CC until OC becomes something most people can tolerate.

    I’d love the day where I could have a 629 on the hip all day and blend in casually. My life would be complete.

  15. avatarpercynjpn says:

    You’re a brave man! Thank you for standing up for gun rights – but PLEASE be careful – there’s always a Wyatt Earp-type in every Dept. who is just waiting for any excuse to prove he’s a man and pop someone – or some-beast.

  16. avatarJake B from AK says:

    One of my favorite things about living in Alaska would have to be the gun laws. Open Carry? Sure go ahead. Want to conceal? Yup have at it. Going to go out of state and need a permit? Step right up, quick back-ground check and a day at the range, here’s your permit hot off the printer.
    No one looks twice at people open carrying up here, and the local LEO are so used to it they don’t hassell citizens over it. Of course it’s still required to notify LEO during “official interations” if you have a weapon. Most LEO’s I’ve run into will note the gun, tell you to leave it alone, and carry on with what ever business they were stoping your for.

    • avatarGreg in Allston says:

      Now that’s what I call progressive.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      I think most cops are like that. I managed to get a speeding ticket in Ohio on my way out to Colorado. (yacking the phone with my wife, hands free of course). I informed the trooper and all he did was ask me to keep my hands in sight while he did his checks. After the official business was over he asked me what I was carrying and sent me on my way.

  17. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Now here’s a fun experiment. Send a friend ahead of you to a park or store.
    Then show up and conduct some mundane activity while carrying openly. But don’t make any contact with your friend. Let him remain anonymous and listen in on people’s reactions. You might be surprised at what people say.

  18. avatartdiinva says:

    I had my first urban daylight open carry experience in Fort Collins area the first week in June. Until then I had only openly carried when in a rural setting or during the winter dog walking months when nobody but me is out. Even though I was told that nobody cares I was very nervous being out and about with my piece. Even the most unaware person was not going to miss the 8.25″ 1911 strapped to my hip. Nobody gave it a second look and it even provided some conversation starters with strangers. When I was helping my son move into to apartment a local LEO walked by and said hello. It’s all about the culture and the more exposure people get the more OC friendly the enviroment becomes. I am not one to make a statement so I don’t myself in the position of pissing off a cop because a hostile and ignorant-of-the-law citizen calls 911 on me but if I the enviroment is right I will often OC.

  19. avatarStewart Naaden says:

    Don’t EVER touch a gun in the presence of LEO. If he has a problem, very slowly put your hands on your head and ask what is next. If he wants it out of the holster, he can do it as long as he doesn’t sweep you or anyone else in the process.

  20. avatarCliff in Mississippi says:

    After putting it off for more than a year I applied for my MS CCP. I was dreading the process, but it could not have been easier. Printed the forms, filled them out, got them notarized, took them to the closest state police barracks, got fingerprinted (no more ink!) , went to DMV, went to front of line, paid fee, got pic taken, and in 45 days more or less will be carrying.

  21. avatarRob Morse says:

    Robert, you are being a good representative. Thank you!

  22. avatarDaniel says:

    When a cop turns and starts walking in your direction, you smile and greet him/her. “Hello, officer. You look like you want to see my permit.” They will then probably lecture you in one way or another. The jerks (the ones who became cops so they could push other people around) will tell you what a terrible person you are, or will ask you why you are being such a terrible person, you’re clearly just trying to make a point, yada yada.

    The key: Get your motivation straight. If your motivation for openly carrying is “because I can and everyone else be damned,” you’re going to be awfully red-faced when speaking with the LEO, because they will probably hit on that nerve, and your cheeks are going to light up like Santa Clause on his afternoon walk around the north pole. Instead, state your (reasonable) decision for carrying, and with courteous conviction. When the officer finishes their government-sponsored harassment, smile warmly, and kindly wish them a nice day, for it is written in Proverbs: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”.

    • avatarbontai Joe says:

      And if the LEO manages to puch really hard on your raw nerve, you feel your blood start to get hot, and you can’t remember anything else, just smile (BIG smile as sincere as you can) and say, “Thank you for sharing that thought with me.” Some LEOs will try and try and try again to goad you into losing your temper, it’s a game with them, because they succeed, they can then arrest you and they “win”. Because if you actually lived in Utopia, where EVERYONE is nice and friendly and happy, the police would have nothing to do, if they have nothing to do, they can’t justify their jobs, so some find ways to make an arrest happen to show their boss what good cops they are.

  23. avatarDean Weingarten says:

    Congratulations on your first open carry. It gets easier with time. The very, very polite response is the way to go. I hope you have your recorder going.

    Thank you for all your efforts.

  24. avatarTravis Abram says:

    Hey I live in RI also and i was wondering if you(Rob) could give me tips or help applying for a concealed carry permit. Im 21 and have seen the written requirements needed to be able to apply for a permit but from what ive heard from friends who know Police Officers, its very hard to get one. My reasoning for wanting to be able to carry has to do with me being apart of a “minority group” and not being in good physical health to be able to defend myself if an altercation should arise. Also my uncle was murdered(shot to death) before i was born, and the guy is up for parole and may be freed soon and i want to make sure that my family is safe. I truly believe i have suitable reasons for wanting a concealed carry permit but I’m still not sure if the Chief of Police in my area or Attorney General will believe its a valid reason. I also need to work on becoming a better shot with my pistol in order to pass the shooting portion of the qualification. If you or anyone else can help me get on the right track id greatly appreciate it. Not sure if this will work but my email is abram.travis21@gmail(dot)com id greatly apprediate any tips or help with applying for my concealed carry. Thank you.

  25. avatardas bone says:

    I wonder if this is the guy I saw open carrying at East Side Pockets

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  27. avatardave says:

    As a police officer we encourage all forms of legal carry. I would prefer open carry. It does not bother most of us a bit. As you can see from all of the studies done, we don’t like gun control laws and feel they are harassing law abiding citizens and do not curb the real illegal gun problem we have. Of course there will always be a few police officers that are asses but that goes with every profession. Many of us belong to gun clubs and shoot regularly. We are not the enemy, the politicians are!

  28. avatare.hag says:

    I lived in RI for 20 years. I ignorantly exercised my right to bear arms, guaranteed by both the U.S. and RI constitutions. I openly carried with a blue card but no “license to carry”. I was charged and convicted of “Carrying pistol w/o license”, a felony. which of course now prohibits me from purchasing, owning or carrying a weapon anywhere in the U.S. Since my conviction the U.S. Supreme Court has defined in District of Columbia vs. Heller the terms “bear” and “arms” and did in fact affirm that the second amendment applies to individuals, not militias. In McDonald vs. Chicago the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment does apply to the 2nd amendment and therefore protects citizens from infringement from states. If one makes the case that a license requirement is not infringement i.e. a marriage license, in the case of RI, having to show need in order to obtain a license for a constitutionally protected right is definitely infringement. Now I live in Idaho, we buy guns at yard sales. God Bless America. They can pry my gun from my cold dead hand, but they better be careful ’cause the barrel will be red hot.

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