Open Carry: Is it OK at a public high school concert?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Open Carry at a Burger King in Eagle Colorado

OPEN CARRY, the act of carrying a firearm in plain sight in public, is permitted in more than half of the 50 states and is a matter of legal dispute in many others. Groups promoting and opposed to open carry are sharing photos of gun sightings on many web sites, including Wikimedia Commons. This photo of a man filling his cup at a Colorado Burger King was shared on that site by DDriver for public use.

About ten days ago, a gun-rights activist attended the Chorale Cavalcade concert at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, MI, openly carrying a pistol. The incident created quite a stir.

Police were called and squad cars showed up, according to press accounts, but the man was permitted to watch the concert because his actions were legal under Michigan law. Even if legal, should a member of the general public be allowed to carry a pistol into a public school event?

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants the right for private individuals to keep and bear arms. The Michigan state Constitution says, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”

In Michigan, if you have a valid concealed carry permit, you can’t bring a concealed weapon into a designated pistol-free zone like a school—but you can openly carry it. If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, you can’t openly carry a pistol in a weapon-free zone, even though open carry is generally permitted in the state.

The logic of open carry in a weapon-free zone by a holder of a concealed weapon permit takes a few moments to grasp. Some have called it a loophole in the law. Others, however, maintain that it’s an example of our constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.

How would you feel if you were at the Chorale Cavalcade concert?

Do you support or oppose open carry by concealed permit holders at a school event open to the public?

Care to read more? This incident in Ann Arbor wasn’t the only case of a gun owner, while openly carrying a firearm, touching off controversy at a public school in Michigan. Detroit Free Press staff writer Bill Laitner reported on both the Ann Arbor case and a second case in Madison Heights involving a man with a rifle.

Tomorrow—What are the four reasons many gun-rights activists promote open carry?

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Open Carry: First, 5 reasons in support of open carry

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Last Man Standing shoulder rig

MAKING A STATEMENT: Gun fans have a lot of evocative choices on the market today. This hand-crafted leather double-shoulder rig is called “Last Man Standing.” The name and design is taken from the 1996 Blue Willis action movie of the same title. (Photo by Michael E. Cumpston, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.)

In many states, you can openly carry firearms without a special permit or license. In others, you need a permit or license. Open carry is prohibited in only a few states, like New York, Illinois, California, and a handful of others. Open carry is prevalent, and, some say, on the rise.

Are there good reasons for open carry?

  1. Deterrence. Gun-rights activists often cite deterrence as a good reason to openly carry a firearm in public. Open carry makes you (and those around you) safer because would-be attackers or criminals will avoid a person with a firearm.
  2. Exercising your rights. The Second Amendment grants the right for private individuals to keep and bear arms. The right is jeopardized if it isn’t exercised.
  3. Making a statement. Given the controversy about open carry, wearing a holstered handgun in public is a political statement
  4. Speedy defense. It’s faster to draw a pistol that is openly carried, compared to one that is concealed. Instead of fumbling around for your concealed handgun, you can quickly defend yourself with an openly carried weapon.
  5. Normalizing weapons. Wearing a handgun in public is also intended to “desensitize” the public, as open-carry enthusiasts often say. Today, many people are alarmed at the sight of a private citizen wearing a handgun. Once desensitized, weapons become normal.

What’s your evaluation of these reasons for openly carrying firearms?
Are these good reasons for open carry?
What concerns, if any, do you have with them?

Tomorrow—What are reasons not to openly carry handguns?

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Open Carry: Now, 4 reasons not to allow it

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Stealing a holstered gun

DEMONSTRATION OF GUN THEFT. This brief YouTube video shows how easily an attacker can grab a gun from some types of holsters. Click on the photo to see the video on YouTube.

You have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms—but does this mean you should? Yesterday, we discussed 5 reasons why gun-rights activists support open carry. Today, we look at the other side: The perils of open carry. What do you think of these reasons for not openly carrying a handgun?

Instead of emotional or political reasons to question open carry, I looked for and found opinions offered by professional firearms trainers and defense instructors. Here’s a summary of the “perils of open carry” from Active Response Training:

  1. Hassles with the public and police. The recent incidents in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, are good examples (see Monday’s post). Most people are alarmed by the sight of an openly carried weapon and call the police.
  2. Not everyone is deterred by openly carried guns. If a criminal knows what he (or she) is doing, the person will scan for openly carried guns and disable the bearer or simply take the gun.
  3. Getting your gun swiped. For someone who knows what she (or he) is doing, it’s remarkably easy to take someone’s weapon. It even happens to the police—perhaps 10% of all police officers killed in the line of duty were slain with their own weapons that were taken from them.
  4. Poorly designed holsters and lack of “weapon retention skills.” Some popular holsters make it very easy to take a handgun. (If you don’t believe it, view this short video.) Few people who openly carry have good weapon retention skills. These skills are pretty difficult to acquire.

What do you think of these 4 reasons to not openly carry a handgun?
Weighing the reasons for and against open carry, where do you come out?

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Open Carry: How important is it to protect the right to own guns?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Ann Arbor Public Schools News

Click the logo to read the new Ann Arbor statement.

How important is it to protect the individual right to own guns? Is it more or less important than controlling gun ownership?

One reason gun-rights activities promote open carry is protection of the right to own guns in the first place. A failure to exercise the right could result in loss of the right. A majority of the public might agree.

For the first time in 20 years, a majority of Americans (52%) say it’s more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than it is to control the ownership of guns, according to a December 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center.

From 1993 to 2008, clear majorities of Americans said controlling gun ownership was more important than protecting the right to own guns. Since 2008, opinions were almost evenly split, but only at the end of 2014 did a majority say that protecting the right to bear arms is more important than controlling gun ownership.

Not surprisingly, Republicans strongly emphasize the need to protect the right of gun ownership, while Democrats emphasize controlling gun ownership. But the increase in support of gun rights occurs across the board for men and women, various age groups, educational groups, and so on.

Yesterday the Ann Arbor Public School Board of Education issued a statement declaring its intention to make schools “weapon free zones.” If the presence of weapons disrupts the educational environment, Michigan law permits school boards to restrict weapons on school grounds. The statement reads, in part:

“The Ann Arbor Public Schools has experienced disruptions for students, staff, and other participants when individuals open carry on district property, and as a result, AAPS will not allow weapons on district property, at events on campus or any school sponsored activities.”

Is it more important to protect gun rights than it is to control gun ownership?
Do you support or oppose the AAPS declaration of schools as weapons-free zones?

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Open Carry: Is Texas Next?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Former slaves in an Emmancipation Day celebration in Texas

WHY DID TEXAS BAN CARRYING HANDGUNS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR? According to the Huston Chronicle, Texas gun laws changed several times from the late 1860s through the 1880s. (Openly carrying “pistols” was made illegal midway through this period in 1871.) The Chronicle says that most of these legal changes were aimed at controlling freed slaves. (The photo, above, shows former slaves attending an annual Emancipation celebration in Texas.) Texas politics were violently confrontational after the Civil War and various factions boosted the legal restrictions on openly carrying handguns to limit the ability of opponents to play politics with loaded guns. By 1889, openly carrying a pistol became a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Most states permit handguns to be openly carried, but Texas is not one of them—at least a little while longer. The Lone Star state has banned the open carry of handguns for 140 years, but it looks like that is about to change, making Texas the largest state in the union that permits the practice.

Do you think it’s a good idea for Texans—and for the country?

This week, we’ve examine the controversy around openly carried weapons, triggered by the recent incidents in Ann Arbor and Detroit, MI, where gun-right activists openly carried weapons in or near schools. We discussed reasons in support of open carry and reasons against the practice. We also noted, based on recent surveys, that for the first time, a majority of Americans say it’s more important to protect the right to own guns than it is to control guns.

Early this week, the Texas Senate approved a bill that would allow Texans who have a permit for carrying concealed weapons to openly wear their handguns in public. Democrats in the Texas Senate generally opposed it, but Republicans are the majority and their votes carried the day. A final vote is still needed before it goes to the Texas House of Representatives.

If the bill makes it through both chambers, it lands on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. In a March 15th tweet, he indicated that he will sign it: “I’m warming up my signing pen: Texas Legislature Ready to Move Forward on Open Carry Bill.” (@GregAbbott_TX).

In other states with Republican majorities, efforts are underway to loosen restrictions on guns.

Do you approve or disapprove of the Texas bill to permit openly carried handguns?
If it passes, what implications will it have for the rest of the nation?
At the end of our week on open carry, where do you stand—for or against?

Care to read more?

If you are intrigued by our photo caption, above, you’ll want to read Lauren McGauhy’s full story in the Houston Chronicle.

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