Recent months have seen open carry demonstration in a number of states.
This involves the carrying of loaded firearms by citizens in public in a manner such that the firearm is in plain sight. While this practice has caused some groups to voice their opposition, often in dramatic if not hyperbolic fashion, this form of carry does not constitute brandishing nor is it intended to be threatening, intimidating or menacing.
Open carrying of handguns is done in holsters. A person legally open carrying a handgun does so in the same way as a person with a cell phone or PDA carries that item on their belt. A person legally open carrying a rifle does so in the same way a person might carry a purse or courier bag – with the use of a sling, either over the shoulder or with the sling around the neck and one arm through the sling.
Firearms are not cell phones, PDAs, purses, diaper bags or school bags, true. But, at the core of open carrying are two elements: visibility of the firearms (thus “open” versus “concealed”) and secure carrying (in a holster or on a sling).
Some believe that through ostentatious bearing of arms they will normalize guns and gun ownership in the eyes of people who are opposed to gun ownership, don’t own guns or know nothing about gun ownership or are on the fence about the issue. That “in-your-face-deal-with-it” approach is to some degree confrontational, but it is not designed to be menacing, threatening or intimidating.
In many ways, these demonstrations are to the pro-Second Amendment movement what a Gay Pride parade in 1969 was to the LGBT rights movement.
Open carry of handguns, rifles or both is legal in a large number of states.
Another way to represent the issue is through color-coded maps. From these, it is evident that only a few states do not make some form of carry accessible without many hurdles.
Concealed, Open or Constitutional Carry rights have grown drastically since the 1980s. Concurrently, crime and violence (including gun-related crime) have declined. While even staunch gun rights absolutists will agree that correlation does not make for causation, a causative link between this downtrend in crime cannot be attributed to any laws regulating guns instated during that time.
It can, however, be stated with significantly greater confidence that more firearms carried by citizens do not lead to an increase in violence or homicides with a firearm.
In the final analysis, these open carry protests are a manifestation of a strong reaction to efforts by some anti-gun, pro-gun control groups – most recently Micheal Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action but also the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – to force restrictions on what is an innate, American Civil Right.
At the heart of the controversy lies the great disparity in firearms carry laws across the nation. While the Supreme Court does not “make” law, it will likely be up to the court to definitively resolve the dispute over what is meant by the word “bearing” as used in the Second Amendment. It is expected that a test case will come before the Supreme Court in the next few years.
What remains unexplained is the reason and substantiation for such a fervent anti-gun, pro-gun rights restricion drive in the face of decreasing crime and violence juxtaposed with proliferation of gun ownership and carrying of firearms by private individuals.