Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Open Carry is Not Suicidal: Incidents Examined, Rumors and Myths Debunked

All citizen carriers have their own favorite method of carry. Each reason is personal and unique to the individual. Problems arise when one person insists only one method of carry is correct and denies any argument to the contrary. Open carry unfortunately suffers undeserved vilification, which is often supported with rumor and unproven assertions. At worst, someone may be deterred from the only method of defensive carry they have available. It's not okay to scare someone out of self-defense. 

What is a concealed carry supremacist?

A concealed carry supremacist is not someone who believes concealed carry is what works best for them.

A concealed carry supremacist is someone who denigrates open carry and those who choose to practice it, without fully understanding open carry or ever having practiced it. They believe that their chosen method of carry, concealed carry, is the only way to carry and anyone who carries openly is foolish, ignorant, or eager for attention. A concealed carry supremacist’s opinion goes way beyond personal preference. Their opinion is rooted in ego and a lack of education and experience. Immaturely, they dismiss open carry because it does not fit their preconceived notions about self-defense and an armed citizenry.

Some feel that a concealed firearm permit makes them superior to others because it requires training and a background check. It is a privilege that has to be earned, rather than a right exercised. Anyone who can legally own a gun can carry openly (in Nevada). A supremacist feels diminished that someone can carry without all the extras the supremacist took the time to obtain. In the supremacist’s mind, open carriers are ill-trained sheep wandering around without a shepherd.

Arguments Concealed Carry Supremacists Make

“They’re gonna steal your gun.”

The major reservation that many have with open carry is that the gun could be snatched. While this unfortunately happens all too often to law enforcement officers, citizens don’t face the same type of encounters with criminals. Most of these types of gun snatchings are either an attempt at suicide by cop or a desperate way to escape from the officer during a struggle. Gun snatchings from open carriers are extraordinarily rare events and concealed carriers face the same, if not greater, chances of being disarmed.

From the handful of documented times an armed citizen was targeted, each incident has many nuances that negate the simplicity of the supremacists’ arguments. Furthermore, it will take an epidemic, rather than a few isolated stories, usually tied to someone unprepared to use their weapon, before totally discounting open carry’s validity. Concealed carriers are also subject to the same threats. Let’s take a look at some incidents:*

June 2010, Milwaukee, WI (confirmed open carry)
An open carrier was robbed at gun point for his gun. Details are sparse, but the citizen was locally known as “the guy with the gun.” Though it could simply be prejudice, a neighbor (who also admitted to be scared by seeing the openly carried pistol) felt that the man carried out of bravado. "I think he was trying to scare people off like, 'Yeah, don't mess with me,' kind of attitude, but it didn't work." Open carry isn’t about projecting a tough attitude or a substitute for being tough or street-smart.

Nik Clark, of Wisconsin Open Carry, summed up the situation perfectly. "By and large it is a significant deterrent…but I think it really does make the point that Wisconsin should have concealed carry along with open carry so that people who live in a very high crime neighborhood where criminals aren't deterred by firearms would have the ability to conceal carry to protect themselves.” In some places and situations, concealed carry is the better option, which is why both methods allow for flexibility.

Nov. 2011, Richmond, VA (confirmed open carry)
A sixteen year old thug and an accomplice followed the open carrier into a BP gas station. At some point, a struggle occurred. "The suspects walk in and one immediately reached for [the victim's] gun." The victim was unable to draw his firearm in response. Now disarmed, the victim began to chase the now-armed suspect, who was shot in the chest and killed. The suspect later murdered another man with the stolen gun. The suspect was apprehended and received a sentence of 40 years in prison.

It’s unknown if the victim was using a retention holster or not but appears that the victim was taken by surprise. What probably got him killed was chasing the suspect into the store. Chasing a bad guy with a gun when you don’t have a gun is a bad idea.

The 21 year old had purchased a gun earlier in the day. At 2AM he was on a street corner with his cousin when he was approached by another male who, after asking for a cigarette (a common ruse to get close to someone), brandished his own gun and robbed the young man of his new pistol.

There is enough information in the article to lead one to believe this was not an incident of a person open carrying a loaded firearm for self-defense. Anecdotal evidence around the internet says this isn't exactly a great area of town. Also, nothing good happens after midnight, or so the saying goes.

Rather this reads as a young man, unprepared to use the gun he was carrying, inexperienced with guns, showing it off to his cousin. No mention was made if the weapon was loaded or even holstered.

Dec. 2014, New Orleans, LA (concealed carry)
The victim was approached by multiple males, pistol whipped, and forced to the ground. He was then frisked and relieved of his concealed weapon. The suspects fled. It is unknown if the victim had a concealed weapon permit.

Jan. 2015, Brandon, FL (concealed carry)
A Florida man was arrested and also placed on a mental health hold after he attacked a man legally carrying a concealed weapon (not open carry). Michael Foster, 43, saw that 62-year old Clarence Daniels, shopping for coffee creamer, was carrying a concealed handgun. Foster apparently saw Daniels take his weapon from his vehicle and holster it under his clothing before entering the store.

Security camera footage shows Foster approach Daniels from behind, grab Daniels’ head, and knock Daniels to the ground. After a brief struggle, Foster subdues Daniels. Passersby assisted in restraining and disarming Daniels. During the struggles, Foster was yelling “He has a gun!” Daniels replied “I have a permit! [to carry the weapon].

Shannon Watts, of one of hydra-headed Bloomberg supported groups, posted on Twitter apparently supporting the attack. Such anti-gun groups, through their supporters, are known for advocating such attacks or false reporting to police, known as ‘SWATing’, to harass law abiding guns owners.

April 2015, Yakima, WA (confirmed open carry)
A man was shopping with his children, purchasing a new batting helmet for his son, when he encountered a disheveled man, Trevor Zumwalt. Zumwalt made eye contact with the citizen carrier several times. Zumwalt then drew a baseball bat from the rack and raised it to a swinging position. The citizen turned to take the blow on his arm, drew his pistol, chambered a round, and held Zumwalt at gunpoint until police arrived. The citizen said that he will choose to carry concealed in the future.

The citizen carrier, Brandon Walker, didn’t do anything wrong. It’s unknown what exactly Zumwalt was doing or what his intention was when he attacked; there was no admission or information that Zumwalt was trying to kill because of his pistol or disarm Walker. One thing is certain and that is Walker should have been carrying with a round chambered in his Sig Sauer pistol.

July 2015, New York, NY (concealed carry)
An off-duty NYPD officer was assaulted in a parking garage. A suspect was seen in security video hiding and lying in wait. The suspect ripped a necklace off of the female officer and the two began to struggle over her purse, which contained her pistol. When she attempted to retrieve her firearm, the suspect punched her several times in the face. Once the officer lost control of the purse and the gun, the suspect fled, now armed with the officer’s weapon. He was later arrested. NYPD officials were looking into disciplining the officer for violating department protocols by failing to keep the weapon holstered on her body.

Aug. 2015, Philadelphia, PA (concealed carry)
A robber approached an armed citizen from behind and grabbed the citizen. The men began struggling, and at some point, the citizen's gun fell out of its holster. The men began fighting over the pistol. A shot was fired inadvertently, narrowly missing the (dis)armed citizen. The citizen regained control of the situation and chased the robber out of the store.

The citizen was apparently not using a retention holster, which could have kept his gun from being snatched. In the video, you can clearly see the robber get way too close to the citizen, who is totally unaware that someone is standing so close to him. Such an egregious violation of personal space should have been a huge red flag. This was a failure of situational awareness.

Sept. 2015, Medford, OR (concealed carry)
The victim was carrying his pistol in a holster in the back of his waistband (small of the back), partially concealed by his shirt. He was followed into the restroom by the suspect, who then tried to grab gun. When he was not able to, the suspect punched the victim, who fell to the ground. The victim was disarmed and the suspect forced the victim to run away at gun point. The suspect was later arrested and found to be a felon under the influence of drugs and on parole.

A concealed firearm needs to be properly concealed or entirely out in the open. A poorly concealed firearm lends the impression that one is untrained and unprepared to use it. Furthermore, small of the back carry provides the least amount of control over a firearm of all positions. Yet again, this is a case of concealed carrier being attacked. It’s important to note the presence of a firearm does not magically keep bad things from happening. Sometimes you will be victimized regardless of your precautions simply because tweaking felons don’t make smart choices. All one can do is prepare the best they can for adverse circumstances.

Jan. 2016, Madison, WI (concealed carry)
A Madison man was robbed of cash and his concealed handgun while he was trying to buy marijuana. The drug buyer—an unlawful user of a controlled substance and thus prohibited from possessing a firearm—also had a concealed carry permit. The victim was not injured.

An open carrier was robbed of his firearm. He was approached by two men who demanded his firearm, disarmed him, and knocked him to the ground. Nuances: he’s at a motel that has had several past prostitution and drug busts. Sure, police say he had his gun in a holster, but something sounds odd about this. Could he have been carrying concealed illegally and told police it was open carry to avoid a charge, but still being able to report the robbery and loss of his gun?

Similar incidents across the country have generated more media interest than a single article, with scant details, repeated only in national online publications that appeal to armed citizens and conservatives. At face value, this may be the only actual example of a true open carry example ever, but something is off about this whole incident. Ultimately, this ‘open carrier’ did not have situational awareness and was a coward for not defending himself while armed.

Analysis

Three incidents confirmed incidents of open carriers robbed or attacked, only one fatality, and one thwarted attack. One of those victims was killed when he chased the now-armed robber down. Two of the open carry incidents can only be dubiously considered to be true cases of open carry. Six of the incidents, the majority, were confirmed to be concealed carry.

What did these events have in common? Most of these events took place during the hours of darkness. What appears to be common thread with those who were disarmed is carelessness, including:

  • Repeated failures of situational awareness by letting the bad guys get too close.
  • Failure to use a retention holster (including off-body carry).
  • No will to fight back.
  • No skills at retaining control of the weapon.
  • Using the gun as a talisman rather than a serious tool.        
The majority of these incidents show, or at least hint at, major failures in judgment and basic self-defense techniques. Human failure, not systemic failure. Three equivocal documented events in recent news don’t amount to a denunciation of open carry as dangerous. It’s like saying concealed carry, with its higher rate of incidents, should be discounted as well.

The assumption that an openly carried weapon constitutes an invitation for victimization is false in light of the isolated incidents. A few events do not constitute an abundance of evidence. Rather, abundant evidence is available that open carry is indeed a deterrent to crime while concealed carry lacks that deterrent factor.

While cops are the most likely to lecture someone about the 'dangers' of open carry, they put on their uniform and practice open carry all day. Why? Deterrence. For the most part, it works, despite the occasional incident where some desperate criminal decides to attack anyway. There is no guarantee that any method of carry is going to insulate someone from attack or save their life should one happen, regardless of experience, equipment, or precautions taken.

“Open carriers are gonna be the first to be shot.”

Concealed carry supremacists like to think that a bad guy will assume them to be unarmed and either ignore them totally or pay little attention to them. As the criminal is too busy robbing or etc., the concealed carrier will then draw his weapon and fire. Of course, the supremacists imagine those who were openly carrying are now lying dead on the floor. In another scenario, the concealed carrier, though surprised by an incompetent foe waiving his gun around, draw quickly from under their concealment garment and shoot the bad guy. Suddenly, they’ll go from ‘gray man’ to the last thing the bad guy ever sees. All right, in theory.

Criminals aren’t likely to target open carriers to remove any resistance to their crime based on the simple fact that most criminals don’t want any trouble, just a quick and easy score. Shooting someone massively complicates things for him. Executing an open carrier is far more risky than simply going elsewhere or waiting until the armed citizen leaves.

A criminal who starts shooting is at a huge disadvantage compared to an armed citizen. The armed citizen isn’t going to get in trouble for a righteous self-defense shooting. It’s the criminal who fires his gun that has to worry about running from the police and evading homicide detectives. Criminals generally seek easy targets. They are after money, not starting a gun fight. Guns are primarily used as an intimidation tool or as a last resort.. Going after someone who they know is armed introduces an element of risk that they could otherwise avoid.

In fact, there have been a few document cases where robbers have been in a business, but decided to leave and come back at a later time, because of the presence of an armed customer. Here's just one example. More of these examples exist than open carriers being disarmed. With concealed carry, one loses the deterrent effect of a visible handgun.

One argument a concealed carry supremacists made was that concealed carry "gives him control [of the situation]". The example was where he is ordered to the ground by a robber. Then, while the robber is momentarily distracted, he will draw his firearm and shoot the robber. First, the supremacist already lost control by not noticing the robber first and then by putting himself in a vulnerable position.

The supremacist’s anti-open carry example was that three bank robbers walk in, see the open carrier, and blast him. In theory, the concealed carrier could appear ‘harmless’ until the opportune time to counter-attack. In the sense of a stealthy bad guy sizing up his target before springing the attack, this theory does make sense, but it is the only time it does. Now what if the bad guys just start randomly shooting people? In most of the mass shootings and terrorist attacks I’m aware of, that’s what happened.

A concealed carrier is just as likely to be a target as anyone else who is unarmed. Blending in with the sheep only has advantages for those who know they are going to be targeted anyway. A wolf will still attack another wolf in sheep’s clothing, but that same wolf isn’t going to go after another wolf that looks just as fierce as him.

The Robber
Robbers have either extensively planned out their crime or have at least cased the location. They wait until there are no cops around and pick the best times for their crime. They want as little resistance as possible as their goal is to score, not kill people. That makes it harder for them to make their score and successfully get away. It is more advantageous for them to pay attention, size up the situation, and wait until any potential threat leaves, rather than execute an armed citizen and instantly complicate their plot at its inception.

Most robbers or terrorists who are likely to preemptively ambush an open carrier have the tenacity to succeed at their diabolical goal, concealed carry hero in the crowd or not. Those not specifically looking for a fight will wait or walk away if they see an open carrier.

The Addict
Those who would kill an armed citizen on sight are probably going to be the ones doped up or otherwise too nervous to notice someone who is nonchalantly carrying a holstered pistol. A magical discovery of the open carrier would have to come into play and intertwine with said open carrier’s total lack of situational awareness.

Most criminals who kill do so on impulse. They are the ones who are desperate and/or high, rushing into a liquor store for a quick score. These are the ones who shoot at compliant, unresisting clerks—the ones startled by a frightened customer, who they quickly ventilate in a panic. Those are the wild cards that only a fast draw from behind cover and an accurate shot can deal with. Even so, these people are so emotionally and psychologically all over the map they are just as likely to violently evacuate their bowels at the sight of a gun.

The Terrorist
Terrorists are another story. They are the ones most likely to target open carriers. However, one would hope that the average citizen carrier has the presence of mind to notice the Middle Eastern dude or white kid with the crazed look in his eye whipping an AK-47 out of a duffle bag. For the terrorist scenario to be plausible, the terrorist would have to blend in until it was time to ‘go loud’, surveilled the area, ID the open carrier, and hopefully draw and fire without the open carrier noticing.

“I want to blend in so I can surprise an attacker.”

Open carry’s main advantage is deterrence. Some concealed carry advocates prefer to blend in with unarmed citizens and rely on surprise in the event of an attack, feeling that open carry may make them a primary target for a criminal or terrorist. There is no evidence to suggest that open carriers have been prioritized in crimes over other parties because of their openly carried gun. Deterrence is a better option than surprise.

Far too many concealed carry supremacists don’t practice what they preach, specifically, the ‘gray man’ doctrine. That is, to dress and act in a non-descript way that draws no extra attention to oneself. Police officers are rather fond of this and for good reason. For the rest of us, it’s not so important in most of daily life. Hypocrisy arises when a supremacists says “I don’t want to draw attention to myself” and yet does so anyway. 

A lot of the guys that say this wear ‘Molon Labe’, Gadsden flag, or obviously pro-Second Amendment shirts. To an observant individual, it’s the equivalent of loudly announcing you have a gun. A less obvious extension of this is ‘tactical’ clothing like BDUs or 5.11 cargo pants, known affectionately as “kill me first pants”. Tactical flashlights and other gadgets clipped to the belt are a dead give-away there’s probably a pistol lurking under that waist band.  A smart criminal or terrorist, intent on killing, will lie in wait and execute the supremacist when their back is turned.

The 'gray man' element, appearing unremarkable and blending in with the crowd, only has application when one may be specifically sought out; such as in the case of a police officer. Cops have a vested interest remaining inconspicuous off-duty. The last thing they want is to be recognized by a bad guy, let alone identified as a cop when out with their families. Remaining inconspicuous is an important consideration, but it’s far from the only factor that one should use when choosing a method of carry.

Most of the objections to open carry are rooted in police officers’ opinions. Cops are a huge element in the concealed carry culture and moonlighting or retired cops often work as concealed carry instructors, passing along their opinions and biases to their students, most of whom are just average Joes. Cops have a vested interest in not being identified off-duty and their concerns don’t directly translate to the public.

“Open carriers do it to get attention.”

Concealed carry supremacists argue that all open carriers are doing it just to draw attention to themselves; that it's somehow an ego boost. This statement comes from someone who probably hasn’t carried openly before or much at all. They imagine that all open carriers are like the Chipotle Ninjas who carried their AR-15s, legally, into a restaurant to make a point that it was absurd for Texas to ban the open carry of handguns (prior to this year). Yes, sometimes people do use open carry to make a point, but the vast majority of open carriers aren't doing it out of vanity.

Many are worried about hearing criticism. Others feel that open carry frightens some and could sway an otherwise moderate person to the gun control side. This was a major argument in Texas during their struggle for open carry. "Out of sight, out of mind" will not change opinions. In fact, seeing normal people harmlessly going about their daily lives with an exposed pistol on their hip reinforces Second Amendment rights, just as the gun in the hands of a gangster has the opposite effect.

The interesting thing about concealed carry supremacists is that they seem to be obsessed with how others perceive them. Worrying about what others think is really self-absorbed. Only in a social environment where opinions do matter (such a family, church, work) should others’ opinions on method of carry be given consideration. Depending on the occasion and audience, one method or the other may project the desired appearance that the armed citizen desires, such as concealed carry at a dressy dinner, but open carry during a tax appointment.

The debate over 'attention' is largely a matter of taste and environment. A citizen carrier with anti-gun customers or friends may want to protect themselves without alienating others. Some people may feel uncomfortable carrying openly. Whatever the choice, it is a personal one and not to be judged or criticized.

The advantage of concealed carry lies in the fact that it may be possible to carry in places where open carriers would be shunned or asked to leave, such as casinos. Legally speaking, (in Nevada) the advantage is with open carry, yet due to modern sensitivities, the discreet option of undetected concealed carry would prevent any debates with anti-gunners or objections to having the weapon on private property where the owner/management might prohibit it. Also, given one’s choice of dress or activities, concealed carry may be more appropriate.

I’m a concealed carry instructor, get a CCW (and pay me to take my course)!

A pervasive and persistent problem is that concealed carry instructors denigrate, misrepresent, and outright lie about open carry. Why? Because open carry is free in Nevada and many other states. These dishonest instructors are engaging in a misguided attempt to earn additional business at the expense of their students. For an instructor, who is supposed to be an expert on their subject matter, it is immoral to offer training which is contrary to reality.

Students are subjected to bombastic rants about all the rumors debunked in this article, leaving them with the false impression that open carry is dangerous. Bad advice has seriously affected the firearms community in Clark County because of instructors who are more interested in promoting their own selfish agendas than provide accurate training. Ego gets in the way and they use their position and influence to impose their opinions on others. When challenged for spreading disinformation, far too many instructors double down on their stance, denying evidence when confronted and dismissing logical arguments.

Are you a concealed carry instructor who demonizes open carry? Your dishonesty is a disgrace to the Second Amendment and self-defense community. A good instructor knows that open carry allows flexibility for self-defense. A good instructor explains the benefits of being able to conceal in places and situations where open carry is undesirable. A good instructor tells their students about the background check discount a permit can get them and the other states that recognize Nevada’s permit. A good instructor tells the truth, lets students decide their own opinions, and doesn’t win business through deceit.

Open Carry Safety Tips

The consistent theme in the few and far between open carry incidents boil down to a lack of situational awareness, lack of a retention holster, no will to fight, and no weapon retention techniques. One who carries a gun must do so using the proper equipment and in a manner ready to use it.

1. Use a retention holster, preferably a positive locking one, but even a tightly fitted friction retention holster is better than a loose, low quality one. Keep your firearm at a strong point on your body where you can observe it with your peripheral vision, generally no further back on your body than the 4 o’clock position.

2. Situational awareness is paramount. Never be too distracted, too buried in the newspaper, or too into your phone to notice who is around you. Pay particular attention to people behind you and don't let anyone get too close. If you are going to be distracted, for eating or drinking, sit with your back or gun side to the wall or other solid obstacle to shield your weapon.

3. Keep your gun hand free and preferably use your arm to shield your weapon in crowded or questionable situations. Anyone grabbing your gun will have to brush your arm fist. Maintaining positive control of your handgun before a snatch occurs is the best way to retain your gun.

4. Don't give up your gun! If you are imminently about to be attacked or your gun snatched, create distance between you and your opponent, draw your weapon, and fire if the threat continues or is likely to. Lethal force to overcome a violent felony is usually justified and victims of gun snatchings (often police officers) are killed with their own weapons. Don’t be the chump who gives up his gun out of fear.

5. If your gun is grabbed, use your gun hand to prevent the attacker from pulling the weapon out of the holster. Use your free hand to push, pull, hit, or engage a secondary weapon. Move away from the attacker if possible. They will expect you to stand and fight, not run away. At this point, do anything possible to kill or disable the attacker before he can kill you. Train hard to keep your weapon. Your life depends on it. 

Conclusion

Point is, if you think open carry is “stupid”, “bad”, “reckless”, or that all open carriers do it for attention, it scares people who might otherwise be moderate on guns, or could make you a target for robber or assault: you’re an uninformed idiot who needs to shut up.

Statistically speaking, the prevalence of concealed carriers vs. open carriers could count for the higher rate incidents with permittees. Yet based on the facts, open carriers and concealed carriers alike are victimized because of poor self-defense practices.

At the heart of the argument, some just don’t feel comfortable having an exposed handgun. Their reasons are various and frankly, the only one that has real merit across the board is personal comfort. If you don’t feel comfortable with open carry, then don’t, but don't sell you choice with bad logic and your mistruths. Open and concealed carry each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Neither is inherently superior. Both methods complement each other and allow for flexible self-defense. And sometimes, despite every precaution being taken, bad things will happen. End of story.

*The incidents studied were from recently reported news articles, gathered via Google search. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, but I did attempt to locate as many reports as possible of open and concealed carriers who were disarmed or targeted.

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