I recently received my new Blackhawk Serpa holster, and have moved from an inside-the-waistband (IWB) to an outside-the-waistband (OWB) carry. Obviously, wearing heavy sweaters and winter jackets still allows me to conceal my handgun most of the time, I did get some raised eyebrows at church this past Sunday when the jacket came off and it was clear I was making no attempt to hide my gun.
Carrying openly was no accident. I’ve made the conscious decision to start visibly carrying, after thinking through the various elements involved. I figured I might as well write up my thinking, as it might help encourage others who are sitting on the fence.
I won’t go into all the comfort benefits of open carry, but they are there. My gun is easier for me to access, draw, and holster, and with the retention mechanism, almost impossible for me to accidentally drop or have taken from me. It’s also more comfortable as I’m not competing for space inside my waistband.
There are other intangible benefits that I’d like to describe, though, since I believe that many of the concerns that people have with open carry come from a mistaken perception of the role of the armed citizen in society. Please note that my goal is not to convince any anti-gun folks of my position. I’m writing to people who accept the idea that guns are appropriate for personal self-defense. There are plenty of resources available defending guns for personal defense.
For those who are still reading and do consider it appropriate to carry a gun for self-defense, I’d like for you to consider the arguments supporting that role. You accept the idea that you are the one primarily responsible for your own protection, and, if you have a family, for the protection of the people in your care. (While that primary role is given to husbands and fathers, I strongly believe that all members of the family should understand their role in protecting others, including mothers and children.)
Since you accept the idea that protection of others is your responsibility, think about how far that responsibility goes. Are you not also required to protect your neighbor? Your church family? How about a total stranger? Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbors are anyone that we have the opportunity to protect.
At this point, you’re wondering what this has to do with open carry. After all, you can be prepared to protect your friends and neighbors without advertising the fact that you’re carrying a gun. However, carrying a gun secretly prevents us from showing love to the person whom we’re often tempted to ignore in the defense equation… the “criminal”.
Take a step back and ask yourself why the police carry guns openly. In fact, go a step further and ask why police advertise their presence at all. After all, plainclothes police officers do exist, so why is it that police officers, as a rule, wear distinctive uniforms and display their weapons. The simple answer is because the power of the police comes from their potential to draw a weapon, not in the weapon itself. Their uniform is an advertisement of the potential use of force. The hope is that by displaying the potential use of lethal force, the needs to actually use that force would be minimized by folks who are deciding whether to do the wrong thing.
But, as we just saw, the police do not have a monopoly on the potential use of lethal force. Anyone who carries a gun is also exercising their own right to wield lethal force. However, when you carry concealed, you are hiding the potential, keeping that knowledge to yourself.
In contrast to the police, who carry themselves in a way to dissuade crime, the concealed carrier is only seeking to protect themselves from criminals. While the difference is subtle, I believe it evidences a huge difference in the attitude towards others. In showing concern to others before they commit to a crime, I am showing myself as a volunteer towards keeping peace and not just protecting others.
If my argument doesn’t convince you, think about the history of carrying swords for personal protection. While I’m no expert on the subject, it seems that it was the honorable man who carried a sword openly at his side, while it was the knave who hid his blade. The honorable samurai carried his sword openly, while the dishonorable ninja hides in the shadows.