Growing movement to carry guns openly?

I guess that I am dubious about how large of a movement this is. I also think that there are probably greater social benefits to people carrying guns concealed since it protects people who don't carry. In addition, if a criminal is going to attack a group of people in public, he can wait for the people who are openly carrying to leave the area or take those people out first. The LA Times story is here:

PROVO, UTAH -- For years, Kevin Jensen carried a pistol everywhere he went, tucked in a shoulder holster beneath his clothes.

In hot weather the holster was almost unbearable. Pressed against Jensen's skin, the firearm was heavy and uncomfortable. Hiding the weapon made him feel like a criminal.

Then one evening he stumbled across a site that urged gun owners to do something revolutionary: Carry your gun openly for the world to see as you go about your business.

In most states there's no law against that.

Jensen thought about it and decided to give it a try. A couple of days later, his gun was visible, hanging from a black holster strapped around his hip as he walked into a Costco. His heart raced as he ordered a Polish dog at the counter. No one called the police. No one stopped him.

Now Jensen carries his Glock 23 openly into his bank, restaurants and shopping centers. He wore the gun to a Ron Paul rally. He and his wife, Clachelle, drop off their 5-year-old daughter at elementary school with pistols hanging from their hip holsters, and have never received a complaint or a wary look.

Jensen said he tries not to flaunt his gun. "We don't want to show up and say, 'Hey, we're here, we're armed, get used to it,' " he said.

But he and others who publicly display their guns have a common purpose. . . . .

For those interested, here is a website on open carrying of guns.

UPDATE: I believe that concealed carry permit holders have an advantage in that they also help protect those who would never carry a gun. With concealed handguns criminals don't know who will be able to defend themselves until they attack. Here is something from a piece that I wrote earlier this year for IBD:

Just the week before the NIU attack, five people were killed in the city council chambers in Kirkwood, Mo. There was even a police officer already there when the attack occurred.

But, as happens time after time in these attacks when uniformed police are there, the killers either wait for the police to leave the area or they are the first people killed. In Kirkwood, the police officer was killed immediately when the attack started.

Israel learned this the hard way with terrorists in the 1950s, 1960s and very early 1970s. No matter what they did they simply couldn't cover everyplace effectively with uniformed military or police and they had to move to letting citizens carry guns concealed.

I understand the desire for some to carry open to show that people do it and to get others comfortable with law-abiding citizens with guns. That is something valuable. On the other hand, I think that it is more useful with regard to crime for you to have concealed carry.

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Blogger Nicki said...

John, maybe it's Virginia, but I carry open all the time. I have a left-handed paddle holster, and it's always on my hip. No one even bats an eyelash in my area! It's just not that uncommon here. I think Northern Virginians are a lot more paranoid about guns than we are out here in hicksville!

6/07/2008 12:06 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

In Minnesota, merchants have the legal option of posting "no-guns" signs. Very, very few do, but I suspect that small number of signs actually helps the carry community by providing a degree of visibility -- reminding people who might not otherwise think of it that we do have a carry law.

Similarly, I suspect that the small percentage of legal gun carriers who carry openly serve to remind society -- including its criminals -- that there are people who carry a gun.

They are, I think, the tips of our iceberg, serving as a reminder of the much larger concealed portion.

6/08/2008 12:07 PM  
Blogger Mike Stollenwerk said...

John - so why does concealed carry "protect people who don't carry" and not open carry? What positive externality deterrence effect is effected by concealed carry? Plus, concealed carriers can refuse to draw to protect otghers; open carriers are in a tight spot should trouble start. Seems to me you got it backwards here.

6/10/2008 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, your initial reaction that openly-carried firearms are more of a liability than an asset is common, but I've found that it's more positive than you might imagine. Some of us carry open exclusively, either because we choose to do so rather than conceal our firearm, or as a matter of necessity. As I'm sure you're aware, concealed firearms are not allowed in establishments that serve alcohol on the premises. Most colleges don't allow students or staff to be armed either under threat of expulsion or termination. These are just a couple of places where good people who conceal carry exclusively are at a disadvantage. Others of us choose to use our concealed carry permits more than we open carry, but that’s a personal choice. I prefer to open carry because concealing my firearm makes me feel somehow sneaky or deceitful, but I also carry concealed when it seems prudent. I just like the fact that I have a choice. Others who wish to carry may not have the choice to conceal because of where they live or if they are not yet 21 (the age at which most states require permit holders to be). Fears that open-carriers will be “taken out first” by a bad guy are so far unfounded. In fact, openly-carried firearms are a deterrent to crime. Perhaps you’ve heard about the Virginia Citizens Defense League member who was conducting a transaction in his local bank while openly carrying his handgun when a man wearing a ski mask burst in, looked around, saw the gun and immediately left the premises.

I am sure that if you give this as much thought as you’ve given to other studies you’ve done on firearms and crime that you will come to the conclusion that more openly-carried guns equals less crime.

6/10/2008 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I Open Carry in California. Concealed Carry just isn't an option as it is next to impossible for the average citizen to obtain a License. So basically it is my only option for exercising my 2nd Amendment Rights. It is also used as a way to educate citizens and the police that normal law abiding citizen can carry guns and the world isn't going to end.
As far as the arguement that it will make the criminals wait until the OCer leaves, well anything that even slow down a criminal is a good thing. The arguement about "being the first one taken out" has been bandied about often, yet nobody can produce a single news report, police report, eyewitness report, or any other report of this actually happening.

6/10/2008 9:19 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

In most jurisdictions a felony conviction disqualifies a citizen from obtaining a concealed handgun permit. When open carry is allowed the citizen can excercise the right to self-defense. Millions of U.S. citizens have had felony convictions, yet have led exemplary lives ever since.

6/10/2008 9:22 AM  
Blogger The Cat said...

Hey John Lott,

I have great respect for you and have read your books about concealed carry, and I'm a big proponent of carrying arms regardless of the method. I read about the deterrant effect that a criminal wouldn't know which people in society were armed. In my opinion, carrying guns openly in no way detracts from that. If anything, more people will carry guns concealed as they see that carrying guns is a more acceptible thing in society. Just because a criminal sees a guy openly carrying does not mean that there are not other people in the crowd concealing. (also, he may not notice everyone who is open carrying if he isn't particularly observant.) Carrying guns openly is a much better method in my opinion for making carrying guns more acceptable and removing the negative stigma. Now, I'm from Nevada, and I'm only 18, which means for me it is impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit. My only option is to carry openly. I carry my gun openly everywhere where it is legal to do so. The bottom line is that a gun is a great defensive tool no matter how you carry it. There are positives and negatives to both concealed and open carrying. In my local city of Reno, I'm also not the only one who carries guns openly. I have met with a few other people who do also.

I know your book talks mostly about licensed concealed carry, but in addition to open carry, one of my goals is to make Alaska style ccw laws the law in NV. As you mentioned in your book, there is a higher prevelance of people with carry permits when its cheaper. I don't think one should need a permit at all. The lack of need for a permit to open carry in many places I think helps drive that point. It begs the question, "Why is it that one should need a permit to conceal when it's legal to carry openly?" In my state, in fact, its a felony to conceal but its not a crime at all to carry openly. When I've mentioned how extreme the penalty is for such a small change in behavior, most people I've discussed about it agree that it doesn't make sense. (And most of them didn't even know that it was legal to open carry) I think a larger portion of the population would carry a gun if they didn't require a permit. The excessive hoops one has to jump through even in shall-issue states is a major deterrant to more casual people that spend several hours each day on gun forums.

Also, some people in the CC crowd are afraid of printing because people may become alarmed if its discovered. If open carry becomes acceptable, they won't have to worry so much about printing. That should encourage CC right?

[When I first open carried into a convenience store in my area the guy that runs it didn't look pleased, but now that I've gone there several times he's happy to see me. I would say he is likely more accepting of people who carry guns now.]

While there are advantages to concealed carry, there are advantages also to open carry. I can carry a bigger, more effective gun. Its more comfortable. The draw is also faster. And, as you noted it has the deterrant effect that a criminal likely wouldn't attack the crowd while he's in it. In my mind, a criminal is too lazy to wait for people to leave. Wouldn't he probably go find another crowd to pick on? What if half of the crowd was open carrying and not just one guy?

In my opinion there are good social benefits to both, and both protect people who aren't carrying in different ways. I actually think the social benefits of open carry if anything slightly exceed those of concealed carry. I think both the numbers of people carrying openly and concealed will rise at the same time.


6/10/2008 12:19 PM  
Blogger The Cat said...

Oops, I forgot the word don't in this sentence:

The excessive hoops one has to jump through even in shall-issue states is a major deterrant to more casual people that DON'Tspend several hours each day on gun forums.

6/10/2008 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second Andrew's sentiment. Out of sight, out of mind...openly carrying provides a ready reminder that law abiding citizens can and do carry firearms for defense.

Besides that, I don't carry to reduce overall crime rates or to protect anyone else, I carry to reduce the crime rate against me and my family.

If, by open carrying, I convince a potential assailant to seek a softer target, I win and I never even had to know about it. Too bad for the "softer target", but their level of preparedness is on them, not me.

Finally, opencarry.org, the national open carry movement, is based out of Northern Virginia and they carry openly, both individually and as a group, in the area on a regular basis.

I am a resident of the Tidewater area of Virginia and I open carry daily during the summertime and have never had an issue with it.

There have been some improper reactions by the sheeple and law enforcement in Virginia, but relatively few considering how many people here openly carry firearms for defense.

6/10/2008 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe there are other reasons why people openly carry their pistols, other than to deter criminals?

Personally, I've had the opportunity to educate many people on firearm law when they inquire about my handgun being in the open.

I respond with absolute candor and politeness, and refer them to websites that will further their understanding and clear up misconceptions.

6/10/2008 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Although I have a licensed to conceal carry, I find it unconstitutional because it requires a license for a right.


Federal court decision: "A state cannot impose a license, tax or fee on a constitutionally protected right. Murdock vs. Pennsylvania 319 US 105 (1942)." For those who rely on law and commonsense, the possession of firearms is clearly "a constitutionally protected right". Regardless of this truth, most states require a citizen to pay a "fee" (registration or background check "fee") in order to obtain a "license" (concealed carry "license") before keeping and/or bearing a firearm. And, a federal and/or state "tax" (firearms and ammunitions sales "tax" or machine gun "tax" collected by the BATF) is always levied at the time of firearm transaction.
Supreme Court decision: The U.S. Supreme Court broadly and unequivocally held that requiring licensing or registration of any constitutional right is itself unconstitutional. --Follett vs. Town of McCormick, S.C., 321 U.S. 573 [1944] This rather settles the question concerning the unconstitutionality of licensing, taxation or registration of a constitutional right.

6/10/2008 7:02 PM  
Blogger Ride Fast said...

I wasn't quoting exactly. That is how I took your sentiment.

Corrections are always welcome, of course.

6/11/2008 11:51 PM  
Blogger GEM said...

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I openly carried my pistol on my hip as I cleaned up my yard. I live in a part of New Orleans that did not flood and consequently had quite a number of people coming through the neighborhood, some with not so good intentions. I know for a fact that I scared off potential looters when I turned my armed side toward a car cruising slowly along my street (didn't unholster or touch the gun). When they saw my gun, they hightailed it out of the neighborhood. I also know that my carrying was a source of comfort to several of my unarmed neighbors (one of which had been VERY anti-gun before the storm but who came and personally thanked me for being armed).

6/12/2008 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look John,

I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd here. In all my years of open carry I have never been the victim of the tyranny of evil men. Whether I'm standing in line for a Big Kahuna burger, or just chillin', not one has had the gumption to try and snatch that gun from my holster.

When the thugs and punks walk to the other side of the street it's not Divine Intervention my friend, it's responsible crime deterrence. The tyranny of evil men won't be deterred if they think you're a punk. That's why we open carry. And if someone decides to get stupid, it's Ezekiel 25:17 time.

Do you read the Bible John?

6/13/2008 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Lott said "I guess that I am dubious about how large of a movement this is."

Obviously, the movement is bigger than John wants to admit, otherwise he wouldn't be writing about it!

The rest of John's comments are pure opinion, speculation, bigotry, and not supported by any academic research. I used to respect John Lott, but it's gone now that he came up with this kind of idiocy.

6/21/2008 1:04 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Last Anonymous:

I have some doubt that you are actually a proponent of open carry and not someone who is simply pretending to be. I wrote the post because of the piece in the LA Times. The benefits of concealed carry versus open carry are based upon my research, which you may not be familiar with, particular the work that I have done on multiple victim public shootings. If you are interested, you might look at chapter 6 of The Bias Against Guns. My post mentions both the costs and benefits from open carry compared to concealed carry.

6/21/2008 2:04 PM  
Blogger GEM said...

I respect your work very much, and have often sent people your way to see your research for themselves. On a discussion board that I visit occaisionally, someone challenged the statement that someone open-carrying would be the first target, like the example you gave of the police officers at the council shooting. They asked for anyone to submit a verifyable example of a PRIVATE CITIZEN (not any type of law enforcement)who was shot first while open-carrying at any place where a crime took place. A few posted anecdotal stories; a few posted stories of concealed-carry people who got involved during a crime and were harmed by the perpetrators; but none posted any verifyable, public records of a private citizen shot first while openly carrying. Do you have any such information yourself?

Personally, I think both open-carry and concealed-carry have their places; and we as proponents of 2nd Amendment rights ought to support each choice of exercising that right.

6/21/2008 3:44 PM  
Blogger Mike Stollenwerk said...

John - I have Chapter 6 of your book "Bias Against Guns" open - I scanned thru it and did not see "open carry" mentioned - can you pin cite me in on the analysis of open carry?

6/22/2008 2:42 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Mike Stollenwerk:

Thanks. The whole point of the chapter is on multiple victim shootings. If you understand the discussions in the book about the change in attacks on Israel after they allowed people to carry guns concealed, you will understand why the work in chapter 6 is related to the debate about concealed versus open carry.

Please try not to place your comments on such extremely old posts. It is very hard to find them.

6/22/2008 5:29 PM  
Blogger Mike Stollenwerk said...

OK, I will look at the Israeli analysis - but John, this is not an old post - you started the thread only a couple of weeks ago.

6/22/2008 5:33 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Do you see how many posts there have been since then? Thanks.

6/22/2008 5:42 PM  
Blogger Axeanda45 said...

John, Are you sure that the Israeli solution was concealed carry? I thought they all open carry there, and frown on conceal carry.

6/24/2008 3:43 AM  
Blogger A. J. Pendelton said...


I love your work--you are one of the greatest proponents of the 2nd amendment who's ever tred this earth.

Buy hey buddy.. you're completely out to lunch on this one. You and many other NRA foot soldeirs have been grinding along for that elusive "holy grail" of gun rights called "concealed carrry."

But you havent' been working for a right, you've been working for a "licensed privilege."

Priveledges can be revoked or modified at any time. In my opinion concealed carry is nice, but there are better options.

And how are concealed weapons more effective in thwarting criminals, than openly carried weapons? You cited experience in Israel, but mostly folks there carry openly--everything from Uzi's to pistols.

Why work for something that is far more difficult to obtain and keep?

Why not just promote "open-carry" and the laws pertaining to this right which already exist?

Most of the states allow open carry already, only this right has fallen into dissuse.

This movement is changing that, and your are way, way behind the curve.

From my direct experience, open carry is a far more effective deterrent. It is in the open. It is unambigous.

You have a far greater chance of being thrust into a dangerous situation carrying concealed, where you actually have to brandish or use your weapon... simply because a potential thug/s doen't know you're strapped-up.

The open carrier's risk of actually having to use the weapon is much, much less.

Even in your own book you claim that the mere presence of a firearm (not even aiming, nor brandishing, nor firing it) is a deterence.

Open carriers put that presence in plain sight.

I have had situations where people (I don't even know) prefer to walk with me, than alone because they feel safer.

On one occasion, the mere presence of my firearm (openly displayed) convinced a potential burglar to leave hastily... no words were spoken. The guy simply took off.

Please John, we love you. But get up to speed.

The "open carry" train is leaving without you. We'd love to have you aboard.

6/30/2008 9:03 PM  

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