Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Open Carry?

For the uninitiated, "Open Carry" is the peaceable, unconcealed carry of a firearm by a citizen. For example, in a holster, on your belt in plain view. In Delaware, this is lawful, though highly uncommon; however, there is a strong movement throughout the country of people who do open carry -- you can read their stories at

I write this preface, so you have an understanding of what it is. Myself and at least a dozen others have been open carrying in Delaware for some time now -- for the most part, without incident. On the above mentioned forums, someone asked the following:

"Other than to exercise a right, I'm not yet convinced that open carry serves any other useful purpose. My thinking is that concealed carry with a permit should fill any desire to carry without the side effect of alarming or scaring the public or drawing the attention of law enforcement. I am worried that open carry, with no permit, is actually counter-productive in the long run to the goal of perserving[sic] our right to bear arms in public. What am I missing?"

Here is my reply to him:

The long-term goal of preserving our right to bear arms in public has already been accomplished. Forty-four states in the union have some type of firearms preemption in place to prevent the regulation or possession or transport of a firearm. In addition, a good number of states have Constitutions which guarantees our right to keep and bear arms in even more plain language that the Second Amendment.

For example, the Delaware Constitution states in Article I, §20, "A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use."

And, just so it's clear, the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land -- state Constitutions "override" the US Constitution because their provisions must equal or be more strict on the government, e.g. providing more freedoms to the people.

States have, historically, been granted the right to regulate the concealing of a firearm and most states have statutes in place for a citizen to obtain a permit that allows them to carry concealed. In the state of Delaware, this process costs around $400 and violates your privacy by requiring the following:
  1. You must publish your full name and home address in the news paper with your intent to apply for a permit. Not the best thing to do for the victim of abuse who is attempting not to be found by their abuser.
  2. You must have five people fill out questionnaires, asking questions about why you intend to file. Isn't the point of concealing a sidearm to not let people know you're carrying?
  3. You must be fingerprinted and have a criminal investigation performed by the state police and the Delaware Department of Justice. This is in addition to the state and federal background check you're submitted to when you purchase your firearm.
Outside of carrying for self-defense, the primary reason for most anyone who carries, open carry is, mostly, a political statement or symbolic form of speech. I openly carry my sidearm to demonstrate that I am a free individual in my state and country and encourage others to ask about my point of view, whether they be for, against or ambivalent, much as the religious witness the masses or the protesters speak against a wrong.

If I wanted to simply 'exercise a right', I'd conceal; however, I'm out to educate people and desensitize the public to the stigma that 'Guns are bad'. The more the general public's only exposure to firearms is the mass media, the more our overall right to keep and bear arms is put in jeopardy.

We don't force the point. We don't think everyone should open carry. It's a personal choice. As much as we respect your right to only conceal or not carry, we ask that you respect our decision to carry openly. In addition, if you're curious about why or, better yet, how YOU can start carrying -- whether you're looking to conceal or open carry -- feel free to ask.

In the now-immortal words of former Delaware Attorney General Charles M. Oberly, III, "Under current Delaware law, virtually anyone, excepting felons, may strap on a holster and carry a gun in plain view." As long as folks understand that, in exercising your right to self-defense, there also comes a huge responsibility of knowing and respecting Delaware law, I believe our state can become a safer, more civilized place.