The open carry of a handgun by a license holder became legal in Texas as of January 1, 2016. In the anti-gun community, this was met with the usual anticipation of blood in the streets and vigilantism that has yet to materialize in any of the other 44 states where open carry is lawful. Despite all of the hype, the open carry of handguns really hasn’t actually changed much of anything except that law abiding gun owners are no longer guilty of a criminal offense if they choose to display their holstered firearms. In fact, I have yet to actually see anyone in public partaking in this newly legalized practice outside of the small demonstration at the state capitol staged by some open carry advocacy groups on New Year’s Day. Obviously, there is nothing to fear from open carry from a public safety standpoint, and I don’t suspect it will affect the lives of most Texans in any substantial way. With this new law in place, I have been asked by several former and perspective students what my thoughts are on the practice of open carry; and so I will detail them here. Please understand up front that I fully support your right to open carry (I am actually for Constitutional Carry); but I will continue to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so for the reasons detailed herein.
The first reason that I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so is that I don’t carry my firearm for the purpose of advocacy; which is to say that I don’t carry it in order to make a political statement by showing it off. I am a very opinionated guy, and I have no problem taking a stand on my principles and speaking my mind on the issues. However, when I want to express my opinions, I do it by writing blog posts such as this, supporting candidates I believe in, voting, writing my representatives, and generally making good use of my First Amendment right to free speech. When I holster my firearm and walk out my door into the public space, I don’t do so because I am interested in “making a statement” or “starting a conversation” about gun rights. I may well do those things throughout my day, but I don’t need the sight of my firearm in its holster to be the catalyst for them. Up to this point, I’ve had no shortage of opportunities to share my pro-2A beliefs with people I meet while my firearm has remained concealed the entire time. I just don’t see the need for the sight of a holstered gun to be the catalyst for a discussion of gun rights or responsible gun ownership. Regardless, advocacy isn’t my personal motivation for carrying my firearm, and so it will stay concealed. If that is your motivation, then I guess OC is an option for you.
The second reason I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so has to do with what my motivation for carrying a firearm actually is: personal defense. I carry my firearm for the purpose of defending myself and/or my family in the event of a violent confrontation with the evil that exists in this world. With that being the case, I simply don’t see what I gain in the context of personal defense by displaying my holstered firearm. Some will say draw speed, but the tradeoff in split seconds is negligible at best for a trained individual. Some will say comfort, but in 2016 there are literally hundreds of holster options that will comfortably work for any lifestyle and body type that I am aware of. One school of thought (and probably the most frequent talking point of those in favor of the practice of open carry) suggests that displaying your weapon could provide an advantage in the context of “deterrence”. While it is true that the sight of a holstered firearm might deter some would-be attackers, there is no guarantee that it will in every instance. If that were the case, armed and uniformed police officers would not be attacked and killed with their own weapons, which is something that happens. Furthermore, gun grabs, though very rare (as are shootings in general), wouldn’t be a thing; but we know that they are. So, if it is your belief that open carry is an effective deterrent, then I hope you are right 100% of the time; because all it will take is that one time that you aren’t for you to have to deal with the fact that you are armed on the bad guy’s terms instead of your own. I don’t necessarily believe that open carry “makes you a target” in and of itself; but I certainly don’t think it eliminates you as one either. If you do become a target when open carrying for whatever reason, there will be no illusion on the part of the bad guy as to what your intent is and where your tools are. Also, it could necessitate a deadly force response that may not have been called for otherwise. Personally, I intend to keep my playbook full of options that merely include deadly force, and I will keep that playbook a secret as opposed to sharing it with the other team and hoping that they will forfeit out of fear of what might happen.
The final reason for why I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so is that I just don’t want or need the attention that comes with OC, as that attention can come with unintended consequences. We are already seeing several restaurants and other private establishments across Texas modifying their gun policies to prohibit open carry. Thankfully, lawmakers had the foresight to codify a new signage requirement separate from the 30.06 statute to allow for private property owners to prohibit open carry in their establishments without prohibiting concealed carry. I don’t believe that most business owners have a strong opinion on the gun issue; but some are simply worried that the sight of firearms in their establishments could drive away other customers. While that may be misguided from our perspective, you have to understand that most business owners are going to naturally err on the side of caution when it comes to how they are perceived in the market. Starbucks didn’t take a stance on the open carry issue until they were inundated with open carry activists who forced their hand, and there is no doubt that other businesses saw that and don’t want to deal with it. If you walk into an establishment open carrying, you are forcing the owner to make a statement either in favor of or against your actions at that moment; which is simply not a situation I want to put most people in, not knowing what their irrational predisposition toward guns might be. I know that one of the stated goals of the open carry movement is to normalize the sight of firearms in public, but I don’t believe that is the real issue for most people. We in the gun community always talk about shifting the debate away from the inanimate object and focusing on the individual human. With that in mind, what we really need to do is normalize the view of the people who are carrying firearms in public, and the best way to do that is to keep them concealed and go on about our business, in my opinion.
I am fully aware that plenty of Texans will choose to open carry their handguns, despite my best efforts to dissuade them, as is their right; and as mentioned above, is a right I unequivocally support. I hope that even those who disagree with me will at least consider formal training, regardless of how they intend to carry their firearms. Participating in reality based training can go a long way to help someone understand the full context of a fight instead of just fixating on tools and how they are carried. My job as an instructor is to recommend best practices as I see them, based on my observations and empirical evidence; and that is all I am doing here. I’ll leave the politics of it alone and just simply say that whatever method of carry you choose, do so from an educated position; and make sure you have fully considered the ramifications of your decision. Unfortunately, I’m not confident that most people have thought it through very thoroughly (and that would include MOST who choose to carry concealed as well). At the end of the day, it’s about what you SHOULD do, as opposed to what you CAN do.
Signup for classes in DFW here.