Scouring the web for ballistic grist for this blogging mill, I come across plenty of perspectives on armed self-defense. I’m pleased to report there’s not a lot of bad advice out there. Maintain situational awareness, lock your doors and windows, practice self-defense techniques—it’s all good. Well, most of it. itstactical.com offers a list of tips for Americans who’d really rather not be the subject of a home invasion and, if they are, prefer to be prepared. One of their bullet points (under “Skill Sets”) was not like the others: “Don’t open carry if allowed. Why show all your cards if you have the option of concealed carry?” So, let’s get into it . . .
The best argument against open carry is, supposedly, tactical. How can you serve-up the best recipe for armed self-defense—speed, surprise and violence of action—if you take surprise out of the mix? Along those same lines, carrying a gun openly is, allegedly, tantamount to wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “SHOOT ME FIRST.” As you can’t out-draw a drawn gun, well, do I have to draw you a picture?
I say supposedly and allegedly because there’s an equal argument for open carry, tactically speaking. Deterrence.
The only thing that can make a bad guy with a gun reconsider threatening, assaulting or attacking a good guy is the idea that he (the bad guy) won’t succeed. Bad guys may not be Harvard Law School grads (though they may be) but they’re fully capable of risk analysis. Hard target or soft? Soft—provided, of course, that the bad guy’s not higher than a proverbial kite. Or insanely desperate. Or really, really stupid.
Yes, there is that. God knows firearms instructors have been playing that crazed bad guy on PCP card since blue jeans had bells. But it’s mostly true that most attacks—especially home invasions—have an element of pre-planning to them. Hence itstactical.com’s laundry list of ways to make your house less attractive to burglary, both hot and cold. Hence my assertion that an open carry firearm offers its owners a tremendous deterrence advantage.
The People of the Gun are not exactly down with that upside. Which is odd, given that they argue—and rightfully so—that more guns equal less crime. Howzzat? Via deterrence. If that axiom is true isn’t a visible gun more of a deterrent—both immediately and over the long term—than a hidden one? For example . . .
A bad guy who goes into a Stop ‘N Rob and sees a customer with an open carry gun (preferably in a retention holster with a heads-up awareness thing going on). Wouldn’t the robber reconsider? And if he doesn’t reconsider, what does that tell you about his state of mind and the customer’s need to have a loaded gun ready to rock?
Don’t get me wrong: I get it. A bad guy shooting a good guy without warning is the good guy’s worst nightmare. The thought there is easy to understand: if I didn’t have a gun, or if the bad guy didn’t know I had a gun, he wouldn’t have shot me. The [non-Harvardian] analysis: it’s better not to take that risk than to count on open carry’s deterrence effect.
Besides, open carry draws unwanted attention from people who aren’t bad guys (depending on your 10-20). Including police, who could interrogate you, humiliate you, arrest you, remove your gun rights and/or shoot you dead. Who needs that sh*t?
Here’s the hidden variable: the number of open carry gun owners in one location. One guy openly carrying a firearm doesn’t weight the odds of deterrence sufficiently to justify the practice (in most people’s minds). But if there are two law-abiding citizens openly carrying a firearm in a location, the chances of deterrence increase exponentially. Three? Fuhgeddaboutit.
You first. No you. No you. I insist. It’s easy enough to say that open carry is a sound tactical strategy when two or more people practice it. It’s quite another to be that guy. The one who goes first, hoping that someone, anyone will go second. Which is another reason we should celebrate the rude, ego-maniacal, YouTube glory hounds exercising their Constitutionally protected right to bear arms in public. They are our shock troops. Literally.
Back to the question at hand: “Why show all your cards if you have the option of concealed carry?” Because bad guys may not ante-up if they see you’re holding four Aces. And your pal’s got a Full House. Hey, it may not be the most convincing argument in the world but I’d like to see someone disprove it in a high crime area like the intersection of Livernois Avenue and West Chicago Street. Know what I mean?