by John Boch
by John Boch
Open carry, or carrying an exposed handgun in a lawful manner, has its fans and its detractors.
It’s kind of like Ford vs. Chevy. Or FN 5.7 vs. everyone else.
I’ve practiced open carry plenty of times, everywhere from downtown Indianapolis to Tennessee to Kentucky.
I appreciate states that allow open carry, especially those like Kentucky that allow it without a permit. Why? Because if I inadvertently “print” (show the outline of my gun through my shirt), I can’t be arrested. Also, if I’m putting my gun on at a rest area or filling station, I don’t have to worry about retreating to a restroom to gun-up.
I *was* a big advocate for open carry until I had a profound “come to Jesus” moment at the NRA convention in Louisville a few years ago.
At that event, I was open carrying, as much as for public awareness as anything else. I had a few kind people ask me about carrying and I shared with them it was legal in Kentucky and nothing to be alarmed about.
On Saturday evening that weekend, they were having a street party in downtown Louisville and I open carried to that with some friends.
Establishments were serving alcohol and people were drinking and watching some fairly notable performers on stage while in varying degrees of intoxication. It was butt-to-gut and I was carrying my Beretta 92 in an inside the waistband holster.
It was not an enjoyable time for me as there were a lot of intoxicated people. I was very “concerned” that some drunk was going to have a “Hey Billy, hold my beer and watch this!” moment and try to snatch my pistola from its holster to show off to his buddies.
While this never happened, I still chose to walk a few blocks back to the car and put a cover garment on. Discretion being the better part of valor, of course.
Open carry has its place, I suppose. It requires an elevated awareness of your surroundings, especially if you’re not wearing a retention rig which will resist snatching grabs at your sidearm.
Since that time, I’ve generally decided that concealed is the way to go. The peace of mind knowing that others don’t know I’m armed leaves me able to let my guard down half a notch.
Which brings me to the hard-core open-carry guys – “hard-core” as in carrying rifles around in public.
To places like, say, Starbucks.
Confusing Starbucks’ corporate policy of going with whatever local laws allow in their respective store locations with a genuine pro-gun corporate attitude, open carry advocates began having “Customer Appreciation Days”. They strapped on not only their sidearms, but their long guns as well, and went to their local Starbucks and ordered a coffee or whatever it is they serve there.
Starbucks corporate people weren’t happy being put in the middle of the battle between pro-civil rights folks and those who would make gun owners and carriers second-class citizens.
So, last month, Starbucks made official their new policy: Everyone is welcome. Guns are not.
It’s an effort to please everyone.
Sure, it’s not really like they are posting a sign at the front door proclaiming “no guns”. It is, for many gun owners and activists like me, a clear message: If my gun isn’t welcome, then neither am I.
Bringing rifles to Starbucks for a cappuccino doesn’t really seem reasonable or prudent, now does it?
Nearby Indiana is an open carry with a permit state. I’ve been to at least a couple of classes sponsored by Sheriff Ken Campbell of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.
I can’t say enough nice things about Sheriff Ken. You won’t find a nicer, more down to earth guy. He’s truly the salt of the earth and every bit as pro-gun as yours truly.
But at the first class, he cautioned us against wearing our “cool guy gear” out in public. “Sure it’s legal,” he said. “But you’re going to cause my guys to respond when someone calls about a guy wearing ‘scary stuff’ where the sheeple are unaccustomed to seeing it. So do me a favor and leave your cool guy stuff in your car, okay?”
Initially, I was kind of perturbed. I was still in the “open carry whenever I can” mode of thinking and who was this supposedly pro-gun sheriff to tell me I shouldn’t?
While in that multi-day training, I was staying at the Drury Inn in northwest Indy. One day, after training, I was tired. I stepped out of the car at the hotel, sans my rifle, but wearing the rest of my gear including my sidearm as I was absolutely cold, wet and filthy from training in the rain and mud.
An employee was outside smoking a cigarette nearby. He just about gave birth to a modest sized cow when he saw me. He was literally shaking as he held his coffin nail and his eyes were big as saucers.
I gave him a warm and friendly “Hi there. How are you?” as I collected a few things, including my uncased, mud-caked rifle from the car before going inside.
He didn’t say anything and didn’t move, but he watched me very closely and was clearly ready to call the police if I had so much as sneezed. It was then that I recognized exactly what the sheriff was talking about.
Today, I see it as reasonable and prudent not to wear my AR in public unless I’ve got a darn good reason. The same goes for a chest rig, and all of the cool guy stuff Sheriff Ken warned me about.
Pro-gun activism isn’t one of those “darn good reasons” to carry your rifle in public.
It just scares the sheeple. It makes some of them piddle themselves, in fact.
More importantly, it drives them away from our cause.
Make no mistake, while I’m not opposed to making anti-gun pols piddle themselves, soccer moms and dads are another story.
Why alienate people who have a neutral opinion on guns? It doesn’t make sense.
It’s not just Starbucks, either.
Remember how libraries are a prohibited location in Illinois under the new carry law?
Want to know why that is?
Because Speaker Madigan has some friends who are big in the library association and here in IL, they were piddling themselves early this spring thinking that open carry activists would stage “Library Appreciation Days” and open carry their rifles into local public libraries as hard-core open carry activists had done in Michigan.
Guys in Michigan cost us carry in libraries and they didn’t even realize it at the time.
So, while I’ll not patronize Starbucks, I sort of understand where they are coming from.
In recent days, a man showed up at the New Mexico capitol building open carrying his AR rifle – legally.
Predictably, security became concerned and now even the generally pro-gun politicians from both parties are talking about making the state capitol building gun-free.
Thanks, pal. With friends like you, who needs George Soros and the Brady Campaign?
If you are a hard-core open-carry activist, I say “stop!” and think about what you are doing.
If you think, even for a moment, that you will alarm more people than you’re going to educate in a positive manner, then you should leave your AR-15 in your trunk and concentrate on being the ideal gentleman and win friends, not scare folks into becoming enemies.
Ditto for thigh rigs or open carrying in places where it’s neither reasonable to most people, nor prudent. Remember, just because you *can* do something doesn’t mean you *should*.
Just something to think about.
Stay safe and be careful – and be thoughtful to others. Doing so will pay benefits for years to come.
Thoughtlessness may bite you for years to come as well, in ways you never considered at the time.