Note on concealed versus open carry

Here is something that I get asked about a lot, and I just posted this note on a facebook page so I thought that I would repost it here.

I have no problem with people openly carrying their guns, but there are crime deterrent benefits from concealed carry that you definitely don't get from open carry. Here is one example. As Israel has learned the hard way, simply putting armed police and military on the streets didn't stop terrorist attacks. Even if you have openly armed police or military on a bus, the terrorist has the option to either wait for them to leave the scene or to kill them first. With CCW, the attacker doesn't know who is able to defend themselves and he doesn't know whom to attack first.

Take the case of attacking individual victims who are not around other people. Having more people carry concealed generally produces more of an overall crime reducing effect than open carry because criminals will leave the open carry person alone and then wait for someone that is unarmed. Concealed carry people produce a benefit for people other than themselves.

The question here isn't whether open carry doesn't deter crime. The question is which deters crime more: open or concealed carry.

The main reason for carrying openly is to make a public statement, to demonstrate to others that it is legal to carry a gun. That is fine if you want to make a public statement and that is your choice. If you want to reduce crime, while having some people with open carry is fine, having the same percentage of people with concealed carry would have a greater impact.

This point is independent of licensing. Obviously some states such as Arizona, Alaska, 98+ percent of Montana, and Vermont allow concealed carry without a license. Hopefully with a few more states changing their laws to adopt a "Vermont" style approach it will be possible to test how effective in reducing crime.

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Blogger Rail Claimore said...

I agree with everything you said. What I dislike are the arguments people making against open carry as a reason for keeping it criminalized in states like Florida and Texas. These usually have to do with "scaring the soccer moms" etc...

I have a feeling a lot of people who carry openly in these states if they could for one reason besides making a political statement: weather. Some of us who normally carry concealed would most certainly like the option of carrying openly for the sake of comfort during the summer months. Unless you're a skinny guy like me, it's almost impossible to conceal and carry a full-size 1911 effectively, especially if you're not even allowed to print. Concealment in July in a place like Houston requires an unusual fashion sense like a sleveless vest. And on top of that, you're still only likely to carry a subcompact instead of a full-size pistol due to concealment issues.

9/14/2010 11:50 PM  
Blogger BWegner said...

John, I think the story from Kennesaw, Georgia demonstrates that open carry can be a very effective deterrent:


Listen to the interview with the waitress and the two open carriers on Armed American Radio and you'll quickly understand this truth (mp3 download link):


The problem is that we do not know EXACTLY how effective because you never hear about criminals attacking a KNOWN armed citizen, save gang members. Perhaps that is because very few openly carry, or perhaps because that the potential risk of attacking someone YOU KNOW is armed is rather is very risky. Probably both are logical arguments!

So it is almost impossible to quantify the number of crimes that have been prevented by open carriers BEFORE contact is made. Also, criminals rarely get caught in a manner such as the case above, and then admit why they decided not to initially attack. It is clear that two armed individuals prevented a crime from happening without even knowing it at the time. In fact, they didn't know for weeks that their open carry prevented them from being victimized, as well as the entire restaurant.

Essentially, their actions prevented them from being targets and that prevented other people from being victimized as well. When the open carriers left, the criminals were going to go through with their initial plan, but a Waffle House waitress called the police on a suspicious vehicle which ultimately led to their arrest. From the AAR interview, note the arms these guys had. The firepower they brought to bear seems to suggest more than just a simple robbery.

The question is whether the individual carrier is capable of keeping himself and his family out of 'harm's way' by having the deterrent visible. I would suggest that it is much more effective than we can quantify.

PART 2 (next post)

9/15/2010 2:58 AM  
Blogger BWegner said...

PART 2 (continued from first post)

By definition, concealed carry means that those who would do you harm do not know if you have the means to defend yourself. Not knowing is a potential deterrent. However, positively identifying that the risk does ACTUALLY exist would seem to be an inherently better deterrent.

In your Israeli example, as you state, the terrorist has the option to wait, or kill you first. However, if he is hellbent on carrying out his attack then you will likely die in any scenario whether your firearm is displayed or concealed, it will just be delayed if concealed.

Should he decide to wait, you have saved your life, as well as anyone with your party.

Carrying a firearm is an individual responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

While open carry may prevent the victimization of others, it is meant to prevent the victimization of myself and my loved ones first.

I utterly refuse to be held accountable for 'not preventing' a crime for those who choose not to take prudent steps for their family's security. The carrier's responsibilities should not be confused with the responsibilities of law enforcement.

As a side not, I generally do not open carry, and when I do it is not to make a statement. If making a statement is your only reasoning, then you have missed the boat. The primary reason I conceal is to keep from dealing with people who ask a myriad of questions when I am out and about.

I open carry when concealing the firearm is not practical or when my inclination would be to leave the firearm at home because concealing would be a major hassle. If it's gotten to that point, in my opinion, having a firearm carried openly is far better than having it in the safe.

There are also situations where quick access to my firearm would be severely compromised by concealing. In that case, why bother carrying concealed if you can't get to it!

A good example is when driving a car, with seatbelt on, with a concealed firearm. Access is much slower than openly carrying as the seatbelt will not obstruct access. There are plenty of other examples as well.

9/15/2010 3:01 AM  
Blogger Ed Jaffe said...

One aspect not mentioned is the tremendous impact open carry has on counteracting negative stereotypes of gun owners. People with no exposure to firearms are often misled by TV and movies into believing that gun owners are irresponsible, unbalanced, militant skinheads, tattoo-covered gang members, drug dealers, ignorant yahoos, and/or bible-thumping rednecks. When such stereotypes are allowed to take hold, 2A erosion is inevitable. Open carry helps ensure that one's own neighbors--ordinary, lawful citizens from the community--are associated with gun ownership. Concealed carry is entirely unhelpful in this regard.

9/15/2010 3:11 AM  
Blogger Gunlawyer001 said...

Thanks for your body of work in this field, it's appreciated.
My first thought on reading your Note is that I don't know how a bad guy would know that there are fewer concealed carriers, based on seeing more open carriers. Seeing more guns would seem to me, just sort of intuitively, to raise awareness that some of the victim pool is armed. Do the perps make the false leap to thinking "only open carriers are armed"?
Also, OC seems likely to make the carrying of firearms more socially acceptable, provided that the OC'ers act like responsible, polite adults. Seeing armed fellow citizens buying groceries or watching football might counter some of the unrelenting anti-gun propaganda, and raise the overall level of firearms carry. So it isn't a zero-sum game.
Thanks again for raising these issues in an intelligent manner.

9/15/2010 6:25 AM  
Blogger Conservatarian said...

I agree to a point that concealed carry can prevent crime, but only if criminals perceive that there is some likelihood that folks are exercising their concealed carry right. On the other hand, if someone is openly carrying at a potential crime scene, criminals are most likely to leave for greener pastures. I suspect the most deterrent is in a places where criminals may face both concealed carry and open carry. The open carry serves as a visual reminder to the criminal that there may also be others carrying concealed.

I think that person carrying openly is least likely to be the victim of the crime, since criminals prefer easy pickings. I am aware of the argument by some that openly carrying makes the carrier the target. That situation presumes a criminal who is really determined to carry off that particular crime in that time and place, no matter what.

9/15/2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger Twoeggsup said...

The main point of OC where legal isn't necessarily to 'make a statement'. That may very well be the case in the Bay Area where activists carry unloaded firearms as not only a deterrent but also as a symbol of their inherent right to self-defense being infringed.

However there are certainly areas where that is not the primary motivation for those who OC. The main point of OC is it's often not only much more comfortable, it's also more functional. In other words, it's the same reason uniformed police OC. Not everyone wears a suit to daily with a comfortable shoulder holster that can easily be covered.

9/15/2010 10:23 AM  
Blogger Bob S. said...

Could or does Open Carry act as a signal for the presence of Concealed Carry?

In Texas about 1 in 1000 (I believe) are licensed to carry concealed.

If only 1 in 10,000 carried Openly, then could it be viewed as an indicator/reminder by the criminals that others are probably carrying concealed?

Sort of the cockroach effect; if you see 1 out in public, you know that there are dozens more around?

9/15/2010 12:17 PM  
Blogger smn said...

Feel free to chime in your comments to the GeorgiaPacking.org forum. You article is the subject of this thread: http://www.georgiapacking.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=51101

A few months ago in Georgia Cobb County police arrested several armed thugs parked outside a Waffle House. The thugs were waiting for two patrons, both openly carrying, to leave the restaurant. More info may be found at GPDO.

The OC/CC debate is about more than strategy but in the above instance OC is a very effective deterrent to crime.

9/15/2010 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allowing only open carry while prohibiting concealed carry is the second worst possible legal condition for the general populace - short of total prohibition on carry.

This is so because if the criminal knows for sure that those without a visible gun are defenseless, he will be able to pick a defenseless victim every time.

If both concealed and open-carry are allowed, he will only be able to pick a defenseless victim some of the time. In that case it will be the luck of the draw, so to speak.

And if no carry is allowed, then he will be able to attack anyone, because in that case every law-abiding citizen is defenseless.

Of course, if he is unlucky he might run into a non-law-abiding citizen who happens to be carrying.

As such, it is correct for citizens to oppose laws requiring open-carry because they force citizens to visually identify their defensibility, thus allowing the victimizer to cherry-pick his victims, and further denying those who are unwilling or unable to carry the 'virtual protection' offered by a concealed-carry environment.

9/15/2010 7:24 PM  
Blogger Conservatarian said...

isochroma's comment properly presents the OC/CC argument in game theory terms and I think it is exactly correct.

The gun grabbers's theory, as I understand it, is that if there were no guns, no one would have to worry about being victimized by a gun. As unrealistic as that is -- guns cannot be eliminated completely -- why shouldn't anyone attacked with a knife (or other deadly weapon) be able to defend with a gun?

There will always be deadly weapons and other objects usable as deadly weapons. Baseball bats, for instance.

But I digress.

9/16/2010 11:21 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

As I posted on the Minnesota Carry Forum:

What Dr. Lott may not be considering is how -- heh -- invisible concealed carry is. People that I talk to are shocked to find that there are 76,000 Minnesota permit holders. A few open carriers here and there -- as well as the few "bans guns" signs that can still be found -- highlight the otherwise-invisible carry permit population.

9/22/2010 12:55 AM  
Blogger MustyOldBooks said...

"The main reason for carrying openly is to make a public statement, to demonstrate to others that it is legal to carry a gun."

No, the main reason for openly carrying a firearm is that it provides a tactical advantage in self-defense. Which I discovered one day hiking a remote trail in the mountains of Oregon.

I was passing through a section of tall reeds and brush when I heard the cry of a cougar up close and personal.

Fumbling through clothing or a fanny pack to retrieve a concealed firearm is a hindrance to self-defense; self-defense being my principle goal.

Carrying a handgun concealed in the real world provides the same impediment as openly carrying an unloaded fire; loss of precious time.

6/24/2011 9:40 PM  

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