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Open Carry Demonstrations Are NOT Always a Good Idea: Here’s Why

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by Mark S. Mann, SGT

I am writing this because of an alarming trend that I see concerning groups of gun owners that show up in public places, or in densely populated urban areas practicing “open carry” and holding “open carry” demonstrations. By “open carry” I am referring to the practice of wearing an exposed (not concealed) handgun or carrying a long gun in plain sight. As a firearms industry executive, part time police officer, member of 2 firearms training companies, and subject matter expert on firearms for almost 20 years, you will be hard challenged to find a bigger champion of gun rights and the Second Amendment. As a police officer I think that qualified, legally eligible members of the public should have the same access to firearms that police do. I am not against open carry where it is legal.

I think open carry is great and perfectly valid at the right time and right place. However, I think gun owners need to be smarter and learn to pick our spots and our battles more wisely. There are serious problems that need to be identified: This was recently an issue at this Chipolte restaurant in Texas.

By practicing open carry at the wrong time and place, you may be doing more harm than good towards the image of gun owners and fighting for your gun rights. You could be playing into the stereo-types of extremist radicalism that “the powers that be” want to paint all gun owners with. These types of incidents can end very badly and have the opposite intended effect for a variety of reasons:

1.) You are turning off the members of public that may be on the fence concerning the issue of gun control. Imagine how many people witness “open carry” at a mall or restaurant? Why alienate people who could be possible future allies? We can’t afford to lose any support at this time.

2.) You are turning sympathetic members of law enforcement against gun owners in general, not just those gun owners who support “open carry”. You are creating response issues for law enforcement that create a multitude of possible issues, which at best lead to bad experiences for both sides. Remember about 50% of law enforcement personnel are Anti- Second Amendment. What will be achieved by alienating pro-gun rights members of law enforcement, or reinforcing the negative views of police who are undecided about where they stand?

3.) Mixing law enforcement and individuals or groups of openly armed people that show up to a public place completely at random is a recipe for disaster. If this continues, eventually there will be violence due to mistaken identity. Do you think that armed citizens or police officers will always wait to see muzzle flashes before they shoot when they see a dude wearing camo pants with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder walking into a mall? ….or….a group of people that walk into a restaurant with AR-15’s on their shoulders? I DO NOT! ….and…If YOU are a reasonable person that lives in reality with any grasp of where we are at this point in our society, then neither would you. This is an accident waiting to happen!

How much do you think Obama, or Michel Bloomberg would love it if a group of people practicing “open carry” with military style rifles were fired on by an alarmed citizen who was carrying a concealed handgun…or, by an off duty police officer ? Don’t you think that pro-gun ON pro-gun violence would be a gift to the anti-gun movement? Why should we shoot ourselves in the foot? (Pun intended) Why hand an incident like that to them on a silver platter? If you live in a jurisdiction that allows open carry, don’t do things that would give your opponents another reason to lobby to take that right away from you. How ironic would it be if you lost that right because of a possible stupid incident like the one I described? We know Obama and Bloomberg are getting ready for a major ant-gun push sometime after the midterm elections are over. Let’s not be our own worst enemy by creating more problems.

4.) You are creating division and separation within your own ranks and demographics. Millions of gun owners don’t agree with what you are doing, as you do not speak for them. The last thing we need is division and in fighting in our own camp. It makes us look stupid. Recognize that your actions affect your fellow gun owners, and although you have good intentions, it may not work out that way for everyone.

5.) “Open Carry” may be a bad idea for your own personal operational security as a gun owner. It may make you more of a target for overzealous anti-gun law enforcement, or it may help increase the chances of you being a victim of theft. It may also make you a target as you would be the greatest perceived threat to someone who had intent to do something bad in your immediate vicinity. I don’t know about you, but if I were a violent criminal or an active shooter, I would focus my attention on whomever I perceived as the greatest threat to me: Shoot the guy with the gun first.

If you wish to exercise your right to open carry or you wish to hold an open carry demonstration in a very public place, use some basic common sense: Dress appropriately, and act properly. Don’t look like an active shooter and get angry because members of the public, business owners, and law enforcement treat you like you are one. Don’t wear camo clothing. Don’t wear political T-Shirts as they detract from your message and play into the stereotypes. Look professional, act professional, and speak like an educated person. Pre-Rehearse what you are going to say before you encounter the groups of people already mentioned. Have someone filming at all times in case things go wrong. By having someone film you, it also makes you look less menacing and threatening to people who are unaware of what you are doing. Have a case or bag for each weapon readily available. If there is an incident, put the weapon away, and you have very likely ended the situation. You may even consider potentially giving your local community and local law enforcement a VAGUE notice of what you intend do as to not incite panic by the public, which many times over reacts to issues of this type. Be strategic and have a plan, but remember no one can make you look worse or more foolish than you can make yourself.

Being a warrior and a patriot is NOT always about fighting. Sometimes it is about knowing when to be a politician, and knowing when to shake a hand instead of throwing a punch. Doubt it? What do you think Green Berets do when they are conducting counter insurgency operations and trying to influence a local population? Hearts and minds my friends, hearts and minds! As responsible gun owners we have to understand that the images we create of ourselves can and will be used against us at every opportunity by those who wish to take our rights away. They are surely coming back to attack us soon.

Best Wishes & Stay Safe!
Mark S. Mann

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