A gentleman’s guide to open carry

Let me begin by saying that I believe the right to open carry a firearm in the United States is an indisputable, God-given right as codified in our founding documents. With that being said, let’s have a candid discussion about the effectiveness of the recent open carry movement in America.

There is a difference between what is allowed, and what is prudent. Within the open carry movement there are a lot of people with good intentions who are actually detrimental to the larger cause of expanding gun rights. Carrying a rifle on your back into a Chipotle in a relatively safe suburban neighborhood is not an effective way to win hearts and minds for the cause.  

Let’s say I have a thoughtful conversation about gun rights in a small cafe in metro Atlanta with a moderate-to-liberal woman sitting next to me. If I’m an effective advocate I should be able to at least plant the seed of liberty into any mind. Option two is to stroll in with an AR-15 strapped to my back and order a sandwich, causing the store owner to ask me to leave (which is their right as a private property owner), probably making the nightly news with a negative spin.  

Though I would defend to the death the right to open carry a firearm, I personally choose to conceal my weapon when armed. Outside of a combat situation, a concealed firearm is a far more effective way to responsibly carry, and makes the good guy less of an immediate target with an active shooter present. This also offers a far less intimidating presence of a firearm to those less comfortable with guns. Making people uncomfortable is certainly not a crime, but it’s a terrible mode of activism in everyday life. Aside from concealment, a simple sidearm holster and open carry of a pistol is also a more reasonable way to introduce the open carry of a firearm to the general public.  

Is it wrong, or illegal to open carry a rifle into a business? Certainly not. Is it prudent within the larger scope of the gun rights movement? Not at all. While you may get a rush, you are harming the greater good; and with a press that isn’t at all kind to the modern gun owner, the current direction of the open carry movement serves up the nightly news with a steady stream of slanted stories.  

Besides creating a negative view in the public eye, irresponsible open carriers force uncomfortable business owners to create no-weapons policies that didn’t already exist. Sure, we can all choose not to frequent those establishments, but why force their hand when the presence of weapons had been previously ignored?  

If an activist for liberty cannot get a point across without setting a tone of fear and intimidation — even if that isn’t his or her intent — then they are doing it wrong. Fear doesn’t change minds. So keep up the good fight, but keep the bigger picture in mind. As Ron Paul said, “Speak up, speak often, and don’t worry about those that at this point can not understand as they can never un-hear what we tell them.”

Content published on the Young Americans for Liberty blog is only representative of the opinions and research of the individual authors. It does not necessarily reflect the views, goals, or membership of YAL.

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