On Open Carry

I live in Indiana, a state which has allowed those with a state issued 'License to Carry Handgun' to do so since 1980. The law makes absolutely no distinction on carrying openly or concealed. Since I got my permit at the age of 18, I have carried a firearm through the years, both openly and concealed. The obvious reason someone would want to carry a firearm is to provide for the protection of themselves, their family, and fellow citizens who they may be in a position to come to the aid of. Not, frankly, unlike law enforcement. Also, citizens who choose to shoulder the responsibility of carrying a firearm are, simply by doing so, reducing crime. Those who carry concealed are contributing to the deterrence that affects a would be criminal's decision to commit a crime- especially violent crimes like robbery, rape, and homicide. Someone contemplating committing a crime will obviously think twice if he is concerned that people around him might have firearms, and thus be able to intercede prevent the crime from taking place. In a state like Indiana, where 1 in 15 citizens hold a license to carry handgun, this deterrence is very powerful. On the other hand, those who choose to open carry- reduce crime in a much more direct and pre-emptive way. Have you ever thought about why police open carry their firearms? Generally, the presence of an armed police officer, through their very presence, deters crime around them- a criminal is unlikely to commit a crime in the direct presence of an armed law enforcement officer. They are equally unlikely to commit a crime in front of an armed citizen. In fact, in many ways, law enforcement officers have many more constraints placed upon them than public citizens. Criminals generally fear armed citizens far more than the police. If a criminal decides to break into a home, the home owner might fear for his life and end up shooting the criminal, whereas the police are only likely to arrest the criminal. Whether or not a citizen decides to carry openly or concealed is a personal decision, and a personal preference. Neither is 'right or wrong.'

I have open carried many times in public- often going to restaurants, shopping centers, and many more places. I have been open carrying for 15+ years and have never once had a problem. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Ben Magenheimer of Evansville, Indiana recently created a local media firestorm when he open carried while visiting Mesker Park Zoo with his young wife and infant son, something he was well within his rights to do. Unfortunately, an uneducated Zoo employee, called dispatch and insisted that he be removed from the zoo, despite the fact that he was doing absolutely nothing wrong. Four Evansville Police officers arrived, who- as it turns out, were either uneducated with regard to the law, or - more likely, they simply didn't care what the law said and thought they could do whatever they wanted. They approached Mr. Magenheimer and asked him for his handgun carry license, which he happily produced. Regardless of his valid license, they asked him to conceal his firearm (which of course he has no obligation to do under Indiana law). When he refused, they forced him to leave the zoo- a clear violation of law. Ben sued the City of Evansville and the Evansville Parks Department - a lawsuit which is still in progress, but since that incident, Evansville Police have had a 'crash course' on the law with regard to carrying of handguns. 

The fact that this incident occurred is ridiculous. In my personal opinion, if someone calls the police to report someone carrying a firearm, the first question out of the dispatcher's mouth should be 'are they doing anything illegal? are they acting suspicious in any way?' This is what is called a 'teachable moment' in which the dispatcher has the opportunity to educate the caller as to the law. If the suspect is acting suspiciously, okay- dispatch an officer to check it out, but otherwise it's a complete waste of police and taxpayer resources to stop everyone who has a firearm. Firearms are not 'bad' or 'illegal' or 'suspicious' in and of themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. In fact, misdirecting police resources likely will result in endangering the public by reducing police availability to deal with real crimes and real criminals.

If you see someone open carrying you should thank them, not report them. If a criminal carries a firearm, they carry it concealed. There is a reason many states traditionally have allowed open carry prior to allowing concealed carry- traditionally and historically, open carriers are honorable, and have nothing to hide. If there are people in the public who have an irrational fear of guns, well that's their problem, not mine. They need to grow up, and learn to respect those in law enforcement and others who carry firearms. Those who are not willing, for whatever reason, to shoulder the responsibility of the protection of themselves, their families, and the public owe a debt to those who do take on that responsibility.

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