As an open carrier I have found that there are tangible benefits to the practice that transcend simple self defense measures. Open carrying of firearms, where legally permissible, offers an opportunity to change perceptions and politics. Of course, like many things, this is a double edged proposition.
I have been openly carrying in Pennsylvania since about 2005. Mostly in Pittsburgh but also throughout the state when I travel. Actually, to any state that it is legal to OC in, I do. But back to PA for now. In the Commonwealth it is legal to open carry on foot without a license or permit in every municipality except for Philadelphia. You need a PA License to Carry a Firearm or a CCW from another state with reciprocity.
Over the years I have been subject to a great deal of police officers trying to assert dominance over me, by pressuring me to forfeit not only my 2nd Amendment rights but also my 4th and even my 5th. I would be threatened with jail if I did not give them my identification even though they had no reasonable articulable suspicion of any crime. Since OC is legal in Pennsylvania I was committing no crime and was under no obligation to show any jack booted thug “my papers”.
I even got brought up on an unenforceable Pittsburgh law that was unenforceable due to pre-emption just because standing up for my rights infuriated a few officers on a power trip. The result of which can be read here.
I had a bunch of interactions with the police like that over the years, but over time, by standing my ground, being seen regularly by the public, and threatening to file lawsuits when my civil rights were in danger of being violated, they have decreased and it has been a few years since I have been confronted by the police. Now, this doesn’t mean that some gun-control zealot isn’t going to call 911 and make up a story about a guy with a gun waving it around in the open (that happened once, I was drinking tea), but nowadays a cruiser may roll by, make sure amok isn’t being run and continue on their way.
I don’t mean to take full credit for this, a great number of people throughout the state, who had greater civil rights violations against them and who had harsher thuggery laid upon them all contributed to the eventual update to the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission book.
Now, outside of some hold outs in Philadelphia who believe that by hassling OCers they will stop OCing, the police have been made aware of the legality and have handled themselves well in relation to my legal rights to Open Carry.
But beyond the police, I often get approached by people who have been so brainwashed by the liberal media and the gun-control zealots that they are mystified by the idea that carrying a gun is legal, let alone to do so openly without a license. I enjoy these encounters because it offers me the opportunity to throw a little education at them and encourage them to purchase a firearm and take control of the defense of their own lives.
To add a little more personal touch to this, I went to the University of Pittsburgh and I had a great deal of, if not gun control zealots, friends who didn’t understand the need for me to carry a firearm. But after time, as we went out and lived our lives the firearm on my hip just became another bit of life. Nothing scary about it, nothing intimidating, the fear that had been bred into them by years of liberal indoctrination slowly seeped away. I wasn’t doing anything actively to open their minds, just the fact that someone they knew, who wasn’t a criminal, was armed made the idea of people being armed an ok thing. I of course took them to the firing range and squeezed off some rounds thus making them converts, with a few buying their own firearms soon after.
But that is what Open Carry does. It allows for the opening of minds by people who have been fed the same line of BS for years that only cops and criminals have guns. If you never see anyone else with a firearm then why would you think that that isn’t the case?
Of course, there is the flip side. I spoke of a very passive approach to OC that doesn’t shove it in anyone’s face. Sometimes when you push your advantage you end up shooting yourself in the foot; I’m looking at you California. Time was, I could visit California and openly carry my firearm. Of course, Cali being Cali, I had to do so unloaded but it was still better than nothing because I could still have the magazine at hand to load quickly if necessary.
But a group in California decided to push it. When Starbucks corporate HQ stated that their chains would follow state law and would not ban openly carried firearms in their stores the gun control zealots protested. Instead of just going about their business as usually and enjoying Starbucks coffee the OCer’s of California started counter protesting and rallying in groups to go to Starbucks while OCing.
To be honest, I’m behind them on that…if it was somewhere other than California. I mean, you’re not even close to having the backing in the legislature (or even the gun community) to rub the zealots’ nose in something and not get retribution from it. Because of these counter protests the legislature moved to ban open carry of handguns in the state, it passed overwhelming and Gov. Brown signed it. Now, when I come to California I cannot carry at all…unless I want to open carry a shotgun around all day…which I don’t.
Here’s hoping for National Reciprocity (until we get Universal Constitutional Carry)
My point is that Open Carrying is a great way to slowly and in small steps make a community and eventually a state better accept an armed public. But when you jump the shark and try to shove it down California’s throat you get it regurgitated back onto you.
Now, maybe the idea is to get all forms of non licensed carry banned to make a better case for the infringement of the 2nd Amendment before the Supreme Court, that may be the case…but until then I can’t OC in Cali…and I am none too pleased. Like I said, I am all for OC and despite what some in the gun community may say, it’s not going to “ruin it for us all”.
But sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. Aren’t turtles protected in California?