Open Carry 101: How to carry a gun in public legally, effectively and responsibly
Some gun owners don’t want to conceal their firearm, which is referred to as “open carry.” If you’re considering whether to open carry, or already do, there are a few things to know about doing so legally, effectively and responsibly.
Open Carry Laws Vary By State
The first thing to know is that open carry laws vary, just like concealed carry laws. It is your responsibility to know what the laws in your specific state and area are, and you will be liable for criminal penalties if you don’t. Ignorance of the law will not be an excuse.
State laws vary. Some states don’t allow open carry, some states – such as Arizona and Alaska – don’t restrict carrying handguns at all. Some states require licensure, such as the recently-enacted Texas open carry law that allows current and future concealed carry license holders to open carry if they wish. Other states technically allow it with a permit but rarely/never issue them.
Some states, such as Ohio and Washington state, allow open carry without licensure but require concealed carry permits to have the firearm in a car. Utah allows open carry but only if the firearm is totally unloaded. Other states only allow open carry in designated areas. There’s a good page on restrictive premises for carrying a gun over at Wikipedia that goes into greater detail if you’d like to learn more.
County and municipal laws can prohibit open carry, designate open carry zones or require licensure as well, so check for all applicable local laws.
Situational Awareness – Stay Vigilant
If you decide to open carry, you have to be vigilant. You are broadcasting to everyone in your vicinity that you’re carrying a gun. Some people decide to openly carry because they haven’t found a comfortable concealment method; others want possible malefactors to know an armed person is nearby.
However, you might not see everyone who might mean you or others harm, so maintaining situational awareness is paramount. Note where people are located around you as well as local geography, and stay alert.
You might also want to employ an OWB holster system also referred to as outside the waistband holster with good retention. Securing the grip with a top loop or snap enclosure would be recommended, and you should definitely secure your holster with an strong gun belt. The absolute last thing you would want is for your firearm to move around or for anyone to pick up or worse, have it taken out of your holster and used against you or anyone else. That is why a high retention holster and a gun belt to hold it in place is important.
Dealing With Your Fellow Citizens
Open carry is, for good or ill, somewhat contentious. Ideally, no one would object to anything that doesn’t actually harm anyone else, but some people are frightened by or uncomfortable around firearms. Some may approve of concealment but not open carry. You may draw stares or disapproving looks. You also cannot legally be served alcohol in most states if carrying a gun, nor should you be.
Some people may have political or other views opposed to your own and may want you to know about it. Please be as respectful as possible and know when to walk away; escalating those sorts of conflicts solves nothing and certainly doesn’t do your fellow gun owners and carriers any favors.
Should you interact with law enforcement, be as polite and compliant as possible. If you have a legal axe to grind or political agenda, take it to court where it belongs.
Additionally, businesses and private property owners have the first and last say on whether someone may carry a gun in their place of business, home or land. Some states and cities require businesses to advertise if firearms are allowed on the premises. If carrying, be aware of where it’s not welcome and above all, be safe. You have a duty to yourself and your fellow citizens to be a responsible gun owner and carrier.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington state, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great inland northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.