I got a message this morning from a Missouri man who describes himself as a former reader of our Facebook page.
Have had enough of your anti open carry nonsense. Might want to look into renaming the page, as it’s currently falsely advertised. You just lost a ‘Like.’
Part of my job is to inform our readers on what works, and what doesn’t.
In the past three years I’ve been editor of Bearing Arms, I’ve had close to 400 hours of professional private firearms training from some of the best shooters and firearms instructors in the world. I text, call, email, and generally harass them with specific questions when I’m not at the range with them or in their classes, and they’re generally happy in sharing their professional opinions on what works, and what doesn’t.
Outside of that training context, I’ve paid keen attention to real world open carry incidents as well. I have several news filtering tools with filters set up to specifically capture open carry news. I’ve also of course read forum posts, articles, and discussions with professional firearms instructors, both public and private about the subject of open carry.
You know what I’ve discovered?
I’ve discovered that the majority of urban and suburban open carriers tend to have little or no defensive firearms training. No, basic gun safety classes don’t count as defensive firearms training. No, the minimal class required to get a concealed carry permit is not firearms training (it’s a minimal qualification). No, military training designed for combined arms unit-on-unit combat is not relevant for the civilian carry context. When I’m talking about “defensive firearms training,” I’m talking about classes taught by professional firearms instructors on how to use a firearm defensively to protect lives in a civilian context at home and “on the streets.”
I’ve discovered that the vast majority of open carriers have zero weapon retention training. In the interests of full disclosure, I don’t have specific professional extreme close quarters combat (ECQC) or weapon retention training either, but I hope to remedy that in 2017 with one of the best in the business.
I’ve discovered that many open carriers tend to favor cheap (quality, not cost) handguns, and/or cheap (quality and cost) holsters that are easily defeated.
Sadly, I could not find concrete examples of open carriers deterring violent crime by their mere presence, as “common wisdom” holds. Quite the opposite, law enforcement officers and private security guards open carry their firearms, and yet are the targets of criminal assault tens of thousands of times a year.
Instead of deterrence, we’ve found numerous instances (some of which we’ve documented here at Bearing Arms) where criminals saw an openly carried firearm as a target to be snatched. In most of these instances, they were successful. In the instances where the criminals failed, it was typically through their own ineptitude.
When we’ve talked to professional defensive firearms trainers with military, law enforcement, and civilian backgrounds, you know how much support we found for open carry by the average person among these professionals in an urban or suburban context?
That leaves me with a choice.
I can either pass along the consensus opinion of many the best defensive firearms instructors in the world that open carry is a very bad idea in most suburban or urban areas for most people, or I can parrot the views of the adamant but (generally) poorly-trained activist minority.
I will choose the former over the latter every time. I must.
More than just being “just” a journalist, I am an advocate for gun rights and best practices among gun owners. I want to roll back gun laws that infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens, and I also want to encourage the safe and responsible use of firearms for the betterment of our nation. There is no “but” in that statement, nor should there be.
Let’s be frank: carrying a long gun into a suburban coffee shop or urban city street is counterproductive as a matter of public relations, and in the hands of most of the activists I’ve had the misfortune to witness, dangerous. There are precious few “safe directions” in a world of concrete and steel.
Holstered handgun open carry is better, but again, is not a best practice according to the supermajority of defensive firearms training professionals when we’re talking about an urban or suburban context. You simply cannot maintain 360-degree awareness at all times in such an environment.
Open carry is better suited for rural areas where animal attackers are a greater concern than human predators and you can have better awareness of who is around you. Want to open carry a .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum while hiking in bear country? I’m right there with you. You want to carry it while grocery shopping? People are going to look at you like you’re an idiot, and unless there are reports of a grizzly in the produce department, they’re assumption probably isn’t that far off.
Rights comes with responsibilities, and it sadly seems that the most vocal minority of open carry activists seems to want attention more than accountability.
It’s my job and privilege to fight to repeal nonsensical restrictions on our natural right to bear arms to save lives, and advocate best practices for carrying and using those arms gleaned from the experts.
You may not always like what these experts have to say, but at least you’ll have the benefits of their experience and wisdom when you make your decisions.