It’s time to make ready for Open Carry in Florida

I’ve long considered Bearing Arms editor Bob Owens one of the best gun writers in the business.

He’s always had a steady hand, and his stories inform rather than alarm.

Still, Bob set off a bit of a firestorm with a story he posted last week: “Is Being Anti-Open Carry Anti-Second Amendment?

In my humble opinion, it is. You either support the Second Amendment or you don’t. And Open Carry clearly qualifies as bearing arms. However, this is not the point of this story.

In his article, Bob claims to have acquired some ugly statistics about most urban and suburban open carriers. They buy cheap handguns, which they then carry in cheap holsters and — this is the most troubling part — they lack any type of weapon retention training or skills.

This needs to change, but first a bit of history.

In Florida, we currently lack the legal right to open carry, thanks to the Florida Sheriffs Association’s pick for “2016 Legislator of the Year” — Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.

DLP, as he’s known, has consistently and single-handedly killed open-carry legislation every time it’s come before his Senate Judiciary Committee.

But this could change during the next legislative session.

If DLP manages to get reelected, and that’s a big if, the word around Tally is that there will be a new chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. I certainly hope this is the case. Enough is enough!

In the meantime, firearm instructors should make ready for open carry as an inevitability, rather than a possibility, by preparing thorough lesson plans that obviate the problems Mr. Owens discovered in his research.

Whether a trainer would or wouldn’t carry a handgun openly, for whatever reason, is moot. There will be thousands of gun owners throughout the state who will choose to carry their pistols openly. They should be trained how to carry their handguns in a safe manner. They should have the ability to learn the do’s and don’ts.

I carried a handgun openly for 10 years as a police officer, and I can assure you, there are definitely some do’s and don’ts.

While a thorough basic pistol class will cover proper handgun selection, in my humble opinion, open carry curriculum should focus on holster selection, weapon retention and situational awareness.

Holster selection: What works for concealed carry will not always work for open carry. An open carrier needs a quality retention holster of at least Level II or higher in order to thwart a “gun grab.” A Level II holster combines the friction used in a passive-retention holster with at least one mechanical device, such as a hood or a thumb or finger release. Once properly equipped, the student should be told they need to practice drawing from their security holster a few thousand times before carrying it openly.

Weapon retention: Good weapon retention training is vicious, or at least it should be. If a bad guy tries to take away a handgun from someone well trained in weapons retention, they’ll suffer a broken wrist, or worse. There are several schools of thought on this. Some foreign weapon retention training teaches the student how to fire their handgun into the attacker’s midriff to thwart their gun grab. American weapon retention training is a bit more tame. Regardless, if someone is carrying a weapon openly, it could become a target. If someone tries to strip them of their handgun, it’s life or death.

Situational awareness: I was cognizant of the fact that I was carrying a handgun openly every time I was out in the public. If affected the way I talked to people, the way I walked through a crowd, how I stood, where I sat in a restaurant, how I reacted when someone approached me from my gun side. This type of situational awareness is mandatory for anyone considering open carry. It’s a burden. It’s infinitely easier to carry concealed and not become a target. This point needs to be stressed to anyone considering open carry.

Florida has some of the best firearm instructors in the world. It’s time for them to start gearing up for open carry, whether or not they themselves ever plan to carry a handgun openly.

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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.

11 Comments

  1. The thing I find amazing/amusing is the number of open carriers who carry a very concealable, even tiny handgun on their belts. I’ve seen Kel-Tec P-11s and PF-9s, and one time even a tiny Beretta .25 openly carried. If I’m going to open-carry, it’ll be my Springfield XDM .45!

  2. Steven Sarasky on

    Why is hillary ahead in Florida? With all the gun owners there? Why did Obama. Win twice? . Can someone please explain this

  3. You are allowed to open carry in all 50 States the second amendment is your permit the Constitution clearly states any law in opposition is null and void and a right cannot be made a privileg the people have all the power politicians have no legal authority to restrict rights we leave in a republic not a democracy.

  4. Just Saying... on

    Sorry, but being opposed to open-carry has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It”s securely grounded in a rational decision that concealed carry is, across the board, a far superior tactical advantage. Open-carry is an invitation to being the first target and likely victim, and a wide open opportunity for a skilled gun grab, something practiced regularly by criminals, especially inmates. Ask any corrections officer. Know that law enforcement weapon retention training protocols cover and usually emphasize this known risk, knowing full well that even thumb break and level II retention systems are defeatable. Why expose yourself needlessly, and at the same time relinquish the enormous tactical advantage of surprise, even handing that lethal advantage to the violent criminals who we all know live amongst us. Make the disadvantage of “reactionary gap” work for you, and not – in an enhanced form no less- for the violent, life threatening aggressor. Ever known a hardened criminal to expose a weapon more than a moment before deploying it? Why would you?

    • Another thing to consider before deciding to open carry, is that in certain situations, it might be best not to be a part of the incident. Maybe your family is with you and you would rather get them to safety, without the bad guys gun fire coming your way when he sees your cool new pea shooter. Be a good witness. Draw from concealment and defend yourself only in needed.

  5. Sorry, but being opposed to open-carry has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It”s securely grounded in a rational decision that concealed carry is, across the board, a far superior tactical advantage. Open-carry is an invitation to being the first target and likely victim, and a wide open opportunity for a skilled gun grab, something practiced regularly by criminals, especially inmates. Ask any corrections officer. Know that law enforcement weapon retention training protocols cover and usually emphasize this known risk, knowing full well that even thumb break and level II retention systems are defeatable. Why expose yourself needlessly, and at the same time relinquish the enormous tactical advantage of surprise, even handing that lethal advantage to the violent criminals who we all know live amongst us. Make the disadvantage of “reactionary gap” work for you, and not – in an enhanced form no less- for the violent, life threatening aggressor. Ever known a hardened criminal to expose a weapon more than a moment before deploying it? Why would you?

  6. Well said, Tom Rabette. Civilian open carry is absolutely a tactical error. But I’ve grudgingly accepted many friends’ and relatives’ right to do so in states where the practice is legal. Granted, becoming a target solely because you have an exposed firearm is a one-in-a-million scenario. However, I do have other concerns that are broader in scope.

    There is no soft-pedaling the fact that open carry is alarming to many people. Given wholesale open carry, do we risk a backlash that may someday cost us more than we can now imagine? And what will we have gained by this pretentious exercise of our rights? What practical advantage does unrestricted open carry afford us? Is discretion truly the better part of valor?

    Safe open carry requires a mindset that does not come in the box with your new Galco holster. (Please re-read Lee’s comments about walking in a crowd, sitting in a restaurant, etc.) You can get away with forgetting about the .380 in the small of your back under your untucked Tommy Bahama shirt. You may not for one split second drop your situational awareness when everyone can see that you have a gun.

    Training? What training? Of course I agree with this column’s message about preparing to deliver an open carry course. My problem is: will these classes be required for those wishing to open carry? Will the course be better that the current abysmally inadequate mandated CCW training?

    So, open carry… here it comes, ready or not. I’m happy to see you smart folks giving it some careful thought.

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