For firearms owners who prefer to carry in public, the most important question is whether to carry openly or concealed. For those without a concealed carry permit, the only option is to carry openly. Although it might seem like most people would want to conceal their weapon, some individuals actually prefer to carry openly.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, including legalities and public perception. However, generally speaking, concealed carry is the ideal way to carry in most circumstances. For instance, if you’re going to church, wearing tactical gear won’t generate the attention that would come if you strapped a rifle to your chest.
The legalities surrounding concealed carry v. open carry
Whether you choose to carry openly or not, you have to be aware of the laws. Many people believe the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to open carry, but not all states agree. Carrying a firearm outside your home isn’t always legal; both concealed carry and open carry laws have restrictions.
Open carry laws
As of 2021, nine U.S. states have major restrictions on people who open carry:
- California, Florida, Hawaii, and Illinois prohibit open carry in public. However, in California, some rural cities allow open carry with a permit.
- New York and South Carolina only allow long guns to be openly carried (no handguns).
- Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey only allow handguns to be openly carried (no long guns).
In other states, open carry laws have restrictions, but they’re not as severe. For instance, in some of the remaining states, you just need a permit to carry openly.
Concealed carry laws
As of 2021, eleven U.S. states allow concealed carry without a permit and thirty-four states will issue a permit for concealed carry without requiring the person to show “good cause.” Nine states have laws that allow authorities to determine who gets a permit, five states won’t issue permits, and although some states allow concealed carry with a permit, they refuse to issue permits to anyone.
The problem with open carry
Responsible gun owners who open carry for their own protection aren’t the problem. The problem with open carry is that visible guns have been proven to endanger public safety by increasing the likelihood of conflict under certain circumstances. For example, people often carry guns to intimidate others and sometimes resort to violence over an argument. Arguments get heated fast, but some people are triggered into being more aggressive when they see a firearm in public.
Responsible gun owners aren’t the problem. The real problem is people who aren’t trying to open carry for their own protection. Then you have the “Second Amendment auditors” who are really just looking for a confrontation. These people strap AR-15s to their chest and walk around busy downtown areas just waiting to get stopped by a police officer so they can assert their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
A genuine Second Amendment auditor will always be polite with police and the encounter will usually end on a friendly note. People looking for a fight are often rude, dismissive, and end up getting detained and/or arrested.
Second Amendment audits make cops mad
Since it happens so often now, officers are aware that people open carry just to see how they’ll respond. However, they don’t know they’re being tested when people report strangers walking down the street with a gun. Even though some auditors are genuinely trying to educate law enforcement, it still creates a dangerous situation.
Unarmed suspects are shot all the time and unfortunately, a popular YouTube First Amendment auditor was recently shot and killed by police. Police didn’t know who they were dealing with and for some reason, the 17-year old kid started to run and police thought he was pointing a gun at them. He was unarmed. It’s only a matter of time before the first Second Amendment auditor is shot and killed by police.
Conclusion: concealed carry is safer for everyone
It’s unfortunate that some people have to ruin open carry for everyone. However, people who don’t have good intentions and don’t know how to handle themselves make open carry dangerous for everyone.
If you’re going to carry a firearm, you’re better off getting a concealed carry permit. If you can’t get a permit and you choose to open carry, just remember to conduct yourself professionally at all times and obey all orders from police – lawful or not – because it’s not worth getting shot. If a police officer gives you an unlawful order, go with the flow and sort it out with a lawyer. Doing so just might save your life.