My primary goal when I’m out and about (besides whatever I went out and about to do) is to go about peaceably and not be the victim of a violent crime. To that end I carry a firearm whenever I go out as well as follow all the other standard safety practices like maintaining situational awareness, staying out of high crime areas, and avoiding confrontation. I also have a larger overall goal of making it through my life without shooting anyone. Simply put, I don’t want to be responsible, legally or morally, for another’s death. Those two goals might appear at first blush to be mutually exclusive, and with concealed carry it would be a difficult set of goals to realize. Carrying a concealed firearm presents to a criminal that I am unarmed. Every study I’ve ever read, not most but every study, says that criminals will avoid an armed person or home when selecting a victim. That only makes sense, right? Robbers, rapists, or carjackers might be dumb and opportunistic, but they have the same instinctual sense of self preservation we all have. Hyenas don’t attack lions to steal the gazelle the lions have just killed. It’s all about risk management; are the potential gains (a tasty gazelle dinner) worth the potential pain and damage the lion’s teeth will cause, and does the hyena really need to test the lion to figure out the answer? No, the hyena can see the lion’s teeth and knows to stay well clear. Deterrent Value: When I’m carrying concealed I feel like my ‘teeth’ are hidden, and thus of no real deterrent value. If I appear unarmed then I am unarmed in the eyes of the robber, I appear as easy a target as almost anyone else out on the street. My probability of being a victim of a crime, violent or otherwise, is completely unchanged by the fact that I have hidden beneath my shirt the means to defend myself. My goal, however, is not to be a victim in the first place, remember? I don’t want to be a victim that fought back successfully and triumphed; I prefer to not be victimized at all. Concealed carry is good; it throws a wrench in the works for criminals who might see the teaming masses as a smorgasbord of financial gain. This deterrent effect is, nonetheless, indirect. At some point the thug will weigh the risks vs. the gains; is his current desperation for money/drugs/booze/gold grille greater than the gamble that one of those people might be carrying a gun? If he decides to play the odds, which helped along with surprise tip the scale in his favor, he will attack. Will his attack allow enough time for me to draw my concealed firearm to affect a defense? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Remember, I don’t want to be a victim and I don’t want to shoot anyone. So how do I realize both goals; or how do I make them inclusive? I can do that through open carry. By making it clear and obvious that I am armed, that I have teeth, I tip the risk scale to the point that the criminal’s gains are far outweighed by the risk. There is no ambiguity when the thug is doing his risk assessment, there’s something right there in plain sight that can quickly and painfully change or terminate his life. You may not think his life has much value, but as I mentioned before, he has the same sense of self preservation as any other living creature and to him it’s every bit as valuable as yours is to you. It would be foolish to ignore this indisputable fact when you develop your overall tactical strategy. First One To Be Shot: There are some who criticize open carry and claim it will make you more of a target or ‘the first one shot’ when a robber walks into the 7-11, despite the absolute lack of credible evidence that this has ever happened. If the robber walks in and sees that you’re armed, his whole plan has encountered an unexpected variable. In bank robberies where he might expect to see an armed guard he will have already factored that possibility into his plan, but only for the armed guard, not for open or concealed carry citizens. No robber robs a bank without at least a rudimentary plan. Nevertheless, being present for a bank robbery is an extremely remote possibility for most of us regardless of our preferred method of handgun carry. Back in the 7-11, if he sees someone is armed he is forced to either significantly alter the plan or abort it outright. Robbing is an inherently apprehensive occupation, and one that doesn’t respond well to instant modifications. He is not prepared to commit murder when he only planned for larceny. He knows that a petty robbery will not garner the intense police manhunt a murder would. He doesn’t know if you’re an armed citizen or a police officer and isn’t going to take the time to figure it out. Either way, if someone in the 7-11 is unexpectedly armed, how many others might be similarly adorned and where might they be? Does this armed individual have a partner who is likewise armed behind him in the parking lot, someone who is watching right now? Self preservation compels him to abort the plan for one that is less risky. So we see that the logic matches the history; open carriers are not the first ones shot because it doesn’t make any sense that they would be. Surprise: Probably the most common condemnation of open carry comes from the armchair tacticians who believe it’s better to have the element of surprise in a criminal encounter. Although this was touched on in the previous paragraph about deterrence, I’ll expand on it specifically here because there are some important truths you need to consider before you lean too heavily on this false support. Surprise as a defensive tactic is based on unrealistic or ill-thought out scenarios. The circumstance where several street toughs surround and taunt you for a while like in some Charles Bronson movie is not realistic; the mugger wants to get in and out as fast as possible. In most cases you will have only seconds to realize what’s happening, make a decision, and react. Imagine you’re walking along the sidewalk when two gangsta looking teenagers suddenly appear at the corner coming in the opposite direction. You have only seconds to react if their intent was to victimize you. Do you draw your concealed firearm now or wait until there’s an actual visible threat? If they are just on their way to church and you pull a gun on them, you are the criminal and you may forever lose your firearms rights for such a foolish action. If you don’t draw and they pull a knife or pistol when they’re just a couple steps away, your only options are draw (if you think you can) or comply. Imagine staring at the shiny blade of a knife being held by a very nervous and violent mugger, three inches from your or your wife’s throat and having to decide whether or not you have time to draw from concealment. The element of surprise may not do you any good; in fact the only surprising thing that might happen is that your concealed carry pistol gets taken along with your wallet. The thug will later get a good chuckle with his buddies about how you brought a gun to a knife fight. The simple truth is that while surprise is a monumentally superior tactical maneuver, it is exclusively an offensive action, not a defensive one. I am not aware of any army that teaches using surprise as a defense against attack. No squad of soldiers goes on patrol with their weapons hidden so that they can ‘surprise’ the enemy should they walk into an ambush. It Will Get Stolen: Another common criticism of open carry is that the firearm itself will be the target of theft, prompting as criminal to attack simply to get the gun from you. Like the previous example of being the first one shot in a robbery, above, this is despite the fact that there is no credible evidence it happens. It also blindly ignores the more obvious fact that anything you possess can make you the target of a crime, be it a car, a watch, or even a female companion (girlfriend, wife, or daughter). Crooks commonly steal for only two reasons; to get something you have that they want, or to get something that you have so they can sell it and buy something they want. There are no Robins in the hood trying to help the poor by stealing from the rich. I don’t claim it could never happen; just that it’s so remote a possibility that it doesn’t warrant drastic alterations to your self defense strategies. If you believe otherwise, leave your watch, sunglasses, jewelry, and cell phone at home, hop into your Pinto wagon, and head out to do your thing. It Scares People: One other statement against open carry I hear is that it damages public perception of firearms owners, or that by carrying openly we are not being good ambassadors to the public. While there are some people who have a genuine fear of firearms, due either to some horrible past experience or anti-gun indoctrination, the majority of people are either indifferent to them or quite fascinated by them. I’ve never kept track of the dozens of fellow citizens I’ve encountered who have marveled at the idea of open carry, but I do know exactly how many have expressed displeasure at it; one. People are scared of many things for many reasons; however, pretending those things do not exist only perpetuates the fear. Someone who is disturbed by open carry is going to be every bit as disturbed by concealed carry. The only effective way to overcome a fear is to come to the intellectual realization that the phobia is based on emotion and not on fact. By being a firsthand witness that a firearm was carried responsibly and peaceably, and wasn’t being carried in the commission of a crime, one discovers their fear is not fact based, but emotional. Thus, open carry can be a very effectual way of helping to overcome the emotionally based fear of the firearm. After all, you’d be much more likely to believe in ghosts if you saw one rather than if you listened to a ghost story around a campfire. We give much more credibility to the things we experience than we do to the things we hear. The bottom line is that this argument is made by people who don’t or haven’t carried openly; those of us who do so on a regular basis have an entirely different experience. I’m Not Comfortable Carrying Openly: This is really the only reasonable argument against open carry for an individual. We all have a comfort zone for any aspect of our lives and we prefer to stay within that comfort zone. We all agree that it’s better to be armed and never need the firearm than it is to need it and not have it. There is a point where concealing your firearm becomes so problematic, due to conditions like temperature or comfort, that some choose to either leave it behind or carry in such a way that it would be difficult or impossible to draw it quickly. If it takes me five or six seconds to draw my firearm from deep concealment and I had sufficient time before hand to do so, I would prefer to use that five or six seconds to avoid the entire encounter. I’m glad we have concealed carry laws in most of the states; it empowers and protects not only us but the general public through the offset deterrent effect. Some of us, however, choose the more direct deterrent effect of open carry. The combination of the two makes the criminal’s job that much more risky, that much more dangerous, and that much more uncertain.