Over the past few years there have been scores of videos uploaded to YouTube and other video sharing sites that purport to show individuals engaging in “open carry” of their guns. In case anyone reading this is unaware, “open carry” is generally used to refer to laws in some states that allow citizens to carry a gun “in the open”.
Now, before anyone jumps down my throat that I am wrong on how I defined the law let me state the following:
Multiple states have differing laws in regards to what guns you can legally carry, how you can legally carry them and what responsibilities you have under the law in regards to how the weapons are displayed, whether or not they are loaded, etc. There are FAR too many open carry gun laws for me to discuss them all and they are secondary to this post anyway.
Also, I am a 2nd Amendment supporter and I exercise that right, in accordance with the laws and regulations that apply to me. It is important to notice that I said “in accordance with the laws and regulations that apply to me”. Why? Because the law does NOT apply to everyone equally, as I hope to show in this post. Is this fair? That depends on which side of the fence you are standing on, as you will see.
Now, for the basis of this post I will talk about the basics of “open carry” as it pertains to most states and most guns.
“Open carry” for a pistol is generally considered legal as long as the pistol remains UNCONCEALED at all times and remains in a holster device on the person. Some states allow the weapon to be loaded but not chambered, others do not allow the weapon to be loaded at all, but you can carry the clip or the rounds on your person.
“Open carry” for a rifle is a bit different. Again some states allow for the weapon to be loaded but not chambered while others do not allow the weapon to be loaded at all. Most open carry laws for rifles also include verbiage about about where on the body the rifle may be carried. Failure to comply with these terms can result in the police deciding to stop you and ask you questions, at the minimum.
Now, what is the point of all of this? It’s to make a couple of statements to people in regards to “our rights” and common sense.
First of all many of these videos are being shot by people that are expressly looking for trouble. They announce in their video that they aren’t, but then they blatantly argue with the police or walk where they know the police will come and talk to them. Here are some pointers:
Don’t strap your AR-15 to your back and go for a stroll in a public park full of women and children. You may very well have the right to do so but use some common sense and resist the urge to cause a commotion. It may be perfectly legal to walk down the sidewalk of your town or city with your M4 hanging from a quick release, but that doesn’t mean you should. If it were a good idea you wouldn’t be the only person doing it.
If a police department gets calls from concerned citizens that a man is walking through the park with an assault rifle and people are afraid, they are GOING to respond. When they arrive they may or may not act professionally. They may walk up and engage you in conversation or they may draw down on you and put you on the ground. No matter what happens, your ONLY LEGAL course of action is to comply with them. You must understand that although you know you are legal, and you know you aren’t going to do anything, those cops don’t know that and must work on behalf of public safety.
Secondly, and this is when dealing with the cops, don’t try to Perry Mason your way with the cops. Any lawyer worth his or her salt will tell you that the side of the road is NOT the place to plead your case. Arguing with an officer or refusing orders from an officer will not only get you arrested in most states, it will really make you look worse when you get in front of the judge, which is where the pleading of the case SHOULD be done. Anyone that tells you that a cop reversed their decision to arrest them based on their legal argument on the side of the road is full of crap. Nine times out of ten you will do nothing but make things worse. If a police officer is violating your rights or otherwise breaking the law you should advise them that you are fully complying with them, and then do so. Once your lawyer arrives you guys can start thinking about the civil suit, until then you should really just shut up.
Why does it sound like I am siding with the police? Because I was a cop and I understand how the process works. I have been on both sides of the fence and trust me, on the side of the road there is only one person in charge. Don’t underestimate that cop that is talking to you, remember it isn’t him that you need to be considering, it is what he represents, which is the law. If you have nothing to hide, why should you take the chance of getting arrested?
Lastly, at least TRY to put yourself in the police officer’s shoes for a moment. If they don’t personally know you they can’t make the determination that you are legally allowed to carry your weapon unless they talk to you. If you react poorly to their initiation of conversation or questioning then they will probably react poorly as well and the situation will escalate. If you comply with their demands and answer their questions then you will most likely be on your way in just a few minutes.
People like to say that the police “don’t have the right” to stop them and question them about their visible weapon in open carry states. This is expressly incorrect in ALL 50 states. In most states the officer has the right to disarm you until your identity can be properly ascertained. There is not a single state in our nation that allows “everyone” the right of open carry. Police have the right and the responsibility to the public trust to ensure that those carrying guns openly are NOT forbidden to do so and this can only be done through proper identification.
Convicted felons generally don’t have the right to be in possession of a gun, so therefore they cannot open carry. How does the police officer know you are or are not a convicted felon unless he stops you and asks you for your identification?
People that are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not allowed to open carry guns in some states. How does a police officer know you are sober and straight if he is not allowed to ask you?
If you are not a convicted felon, and you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and you are not in violation of any of the other myriad number of rules for open carry then you have nothing to worry about. If you are, well, you are not a very smart person and probably shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun anyway.
Be smart folks. Don’t look for trouble and you will be a lot less likely to find it.