19 Nov 2012

Open Carry Vs Concealed Carry – Which Is The Preferred Option For Security Professionals?

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The Open Carry Vs Concealed Carry debate is guaranteed to get a very lively discussion going among gun enthusiasts, as well as law enforcement officers. There are as many opinions as there are people involved in these discussions. Some opinions are based upon personal experiences, training or ideology and others are based upon theories not borne out in the field.

Open Carry Vs Concealed Carry – The Pros and Cons of Open Carry

Opponents of open carry express concerns over causing alarm unnecessarily, becoming a target for criminals or having a criminal attempt to take the firearm away from the open carry enthusiast. Other issues include laws that prohibit open carry in various states or locations, perceived harassment by law enforcement officials that are sometimes unfamiliar with carry laws within their jurisdiction and some even express a sense of squeamishness about “standing out”. Another complaint is that there are usually no training or firearms proficiency requirements for open carry.

Proponents of open carry state that it has a deterrent effect upon criminal activity and provide specific examples in the news, as well as personal accounts of criminal attempts being thwarted when their firearm was seen. Some open carry enthusiasts also object to the cost of time and money to obtain a concealed carry permit, which depending on the locale, can be a convoluted maze to wade through. They also state the practical aspect of open carry, being able to access the firearm quickly in the event of attack.

There is a third group involved, those who are anti-gun for a variety of reasons. Some are victims or family members of victims as a result of criminal or negligent use of firearms. Some have never been around firearms and are fearful of guns through media reports and TV shows, many of which are distorted. Others are ideologically or religiously opposed.

Law Enforcement Perspectives and Challenges to the Open Carry Vs Concealed Carry Debate

Law enforcement is often caught in the middle of strongly held opinions and activism between anti and pro-gun individuals. How these challenges are negotiated depends on the individual officer’s experiences, the laws within the jurisdiction and the unique circumstances surrounding the citizen contact. It is not unusual to have complaints called in by someone who is anti-gun against someone carrying a firearm lawfully, causing resentment by gun activists. Conversely, calls about someone having a gun cannot be ignored due to the possibility of a crime having been committed or in progress. Officer safety is also an important concern when dealing with the armed public. Even with that, each officer swears an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment.

Personal Field Experience

Viewing from a law enforcement perspective, both open and concealed carry have advantages and disadvantages to manage regardless of the option chosen. Open carry, for instance, in more rural Western states, such as New Mexico, is a commonplace event, so it rarely provokes panicked calls into the station.

In most cities and some states, however, open carry is rarely seen and often results in fearful residents calling law enforcement, expecting that a person carrying a gun that isn’t in uniform is a criminal. For an officer, approaching a person open carrying, the firearm is readily seen. It gives confirmation to the officer who should be anticipating that every person dealt with is potentially armed. Some officers take temporary possession of the firearm as a given, while others let the conduct of the person determine how the contact is handled. Department policy and training determines much on how these contacts are handled.

A concealed weapon, whether it’s a firearm or not, gives concern to officers for obvious safety reasons. Those with criminal intent present an immediate threat to an officer, however, licensed concealed carry holders, with few exceptions, present minimal threat having gone through at least some training, a criminal background check and a high motivation not to jeopardize their right to carry concealed. Depending upon the state, some concealed carry licenses are tied to driver’s licenses and inform the officer of the person potentially carrying a concealed weapon. In other jurisdictions, concealed carry holders are required to immediately notify the officer that they have a concealed carry license and whether they are carrying. In addition, there are restrictions on the consumption of intoxicants while in possession of a firearm, among others.

Education and Training is Key

The training, background check, requirements and restrictions on concealed carry holders, as well as the general public not being aware of the firearm are of benefit to law enforcement and reduce public anxiety over openly carried firearms. Some law enforcement officers and anti-gun activists have expressed concern over concealed carry holders and open carry enthusiasts shooting innocents in defending themselves. A recent study found that concealed carry holders were less likely to hit an innocent bystander than law enforcement officers. While often statistics can be misleading, at the very least, this study shows that concealed carry holders are not more likely to shoot bystanders in a self- defense situation than law enforcement.

As someone who has assisted with concealed carry training, I have found that concealed carry holders are very mindful of the horror of shooting an innocent bystander and spend significant time learning how to avoid getting into a situation requiring them to use deadly force. I’ve found no instances where a private citizen was targeted by criminals due to open carry, although I have found reports of law abiding gun owners thwarting criminal activity because the criminal observed the firearm, even though not drawn from the holster.

In summary, each state and locality have differing laws which necessitates gun owners who carry become familiar with those laws. Law enforcement officers must also be familiar with gun laws to effectively respond to changing priorities of citizens and policy makers. In addition, citizens who carry have on occasion, saved officers and others lives.

Do you prefer open or concealed carry? Do factors such as clothing or weather affect your choices? What are your thoughts on this issue? I welcome your comments and insights below.

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