Column: Five reasons to support Sen. Gaetz’s open-carry bill

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When asked about open carry, most real pistoleers will groan a bit.

Open carry conjures up images of an overweight mall ninja in Texas, dressed in surplus Flecktarn camouflage, carrying a “tactical” SKS into a Mexican restaurant. In the court of public opinion, these big eaters cost us a lot.

I’m not an open-carry advocate. Why advertise that you’re armed? Bad guys are going to engage anyone who’s armed first, right? At least that’s the theory.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think openly carrying a handgun makes good tactical sense.

But Sen. Don Gaetz has introduced an open-carry bill, SB 300, which we should support regardless of our tactical concerns, because it makes good political sense.

Here’s why:

1. First and foremost, open carry is a constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment — period. It certainly qualifies as “bearing arms.” For that reason alone it deserves strong support.

2. Only five states prohibit open carry: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina. It’s also banned in Washington D.C. Sen. Gaetz’s bill makes sense if only to part company with these ardent anti-gun states.

3. Sen. Gaetz’s bill would require law enforcement officers to have probable cause before making an arrest for alleged unlicensed carry: “a law enforcement officer may arrest a person for the unlicensed carrying of a concealed weapon only upon probable cause that such a violation is being committed.” It would end unlawful detentions and disarmings while police check to see whether someone’s papers are in order. The bill also allows for civil penalties against anyone who infringes on someone’s Second Amendment rights.

4. Open Carry accustoms people to the sight of guns in their community. Anthropologist Charles Springwood, cited by OpenCarry.org, states that open carriers are trying to “naturalize the presence of guns, which means that guns become ordinary, omnipresent, and expected.” Springwood also notes that criminals don’t carry firearms openly, only good guys do.

5. Open Carry is a natural stop, a layover of sorts, on the way to what I hope will be our ultimate destination — “Constitutional Carry” — which would allow all qualified Florida residents to carry firearms without state licenses or permits, either openly or concealed.

Constitutional Carry would stop the state from taking away our Second Amendment rights and then selling them back to us in the form of a permit, which must be renewed. And Open Carry will help get us there.

— If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 284-8553, by email at lee.williams@heraldtribune.com or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You also can follow me on social media at facebook.com/TheGunWriter or Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

13 Comments

  1. “I’m not an open-carry advocate. Why advertise that you’re armed? Bad guys are going to engage anyone who’s armed first, right? At least that’s the theory.”

    Yes Lee, and that’s all it is. What you’ve done here is presume something not in evidence. Do the research. You’ll find fewer than a dozen examples nationwide over the last two decades, despite thousands who openly carry on a daily basis where legal. In fact, criminal behavior studies point out that they fear encountering an armed citizen more than a law enforcement officer. Additionally, the FBI found in their report “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers”, that criminals do not open carry even in states where legal, nor do they use holsters. Therefore open carry is a good way to tell who the “good guys” are, a common complaint of LE.

    “In my humble opinion, I don’t think openly carrying a handgun makes good tactical sense.”

    Tactics come in 3 flavors – offensive, defensive, and universal. The much vaunted element of surprise is a defensive tactic, and requires an attack to commence in order to legally deploy. The courts don’t look kindly on licensees drawing from concealment absent a threat. On the other hand, deterrence is an excellent defensive tactic as it negates the need to deploy the firearm. And speaking of tactics, how much sense does it make to intentionally add a half to a second and a half to time on target for the average licensee? That what happens as soon as one conceals.

    Remember, to a criminal, a concealed carrier and an unarmed potential victim appear identical. So if the goal is to effectively repel an attack, concealed carry is effective. However the goal of an open carrier is not to get attacked in the first place.

    Finally, patrol officers openly carry. Why? It is tactically superior for day to day street encounters. It’s faster, easier, more comfortable, arguably safer, and affords instant deterrence. Concealed carry offers none of these tangible benefits.

  2. There is very little deterrent effect with concealed carry. Current law banning open carry is a gross violation of the right to bear arms even if that was the only reason to do it. If people weren’t afraid of what others thought, I think open carry would be preferred over concealed carry by the general carrying population, at least in the hot Florida climate.

  3. “Open carry conjures up images of an overweight mall ninja in Texas, dressed in surplus Flecktarn camouflage, carrying a “tactical” SKS into a Mexican restaurant. In the court of public opinion, these big eaters cost us a lot.”
    Yes, these demonstrations were noted by both sides. The idea that this is the desired behavior was well known by the people in these demonstrations. These actions did accomplish much toward getting open handgun carry approved in Texas, so there was some positive outcomes.
    Also, we must understand that many of the pictures that were used against gun rights were actually staged and with paid actors by Bloomberg organizations.
    So, I think that we may need to wait more before the court of public opinion jury comes in.

  4. Floridians have a right to bear guns. Florida appeals courts have ruled that shall carry licensure insures that right. It does so only if you are willing to pay the poll tax of getting a license.

    Those who are poor and trapped living in a high crime zone cannot afford this poll tax. Open carry should not require a carry license.

  5. The issue here is less what is the better carry method, but can I do it at all. In many states open carry came with being a citizen and require no permit. In Florida our right to bear a gun is determined on obtaining a permit at a significant cost.

    Our poor are forced to live in less safe neighbor hoods and can’t afford the poll tax need to obtain a license. This rule does not help them. So while I support it the job is not done until open carry without a license is allowed. Constitutional carry would be even better.

      • “Only five states prohibit open carry: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina. It’s also banned in Washington D.C. Sen. Gaetz’s bill makes sense if only to part company with these ardent anti-gun states.”

        • I am a Florida reporter. My sentence about removing Florida from the ardent anti-gun states does not in any way imply that Florida is anti-gun. Of course Florida is not anti-gun.

  6. Here in Arizona open carry, while not seen a LOT, is not unusual. I carry a SAA .45 on the same belt and holster that I used to use for Cowboy Action Shooting. When I’m not carrying that, I carry a 1911. Open carry.
    I know for a fact that in at least four occasions the sight of my gun has STOPPED something before it started, and NOBODY has ever even tried to snatch my gun.
    Bad Guys are by their very nature cowards. They would rather go somewhere where nobody has a gun that try to take out someone who does. That’s why “mass shootings” take place in “Gun Free Zones”.

  7. J. Darwin Soder on

    The major advantage of Concealed Carry is that your friends and neighbors are not threatened by your armed presence in public. Most men and the overwhelming majority of women are very uncomfortable knowing that a loaded gun is nearby. Open Carry’s minor advantages will never alter this anti-gun mindset among most citizens.

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