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.