Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Is ‘Open Carry’ An Open Invitation To Trouble?

REUTERS/Bill Waugh

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Dave Workman, GUNS Magazine

An incident last month on a fishing pier in Miami Beach involving several members of Florida Carry and a police officer has once again raised awareness — not to mention some blood pressures — about the small, but determined movement that promotes open carry of sidearms in a peaceable manner.

In Florida, as in other states, it’s legal to openly carry a firearm under statute — in this case 790.25(3), subsection (h) — that recognizes and allows the practice while “engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition.”

However, the June 24 incident has already elicited an outraged reaction from the Florida Carry board of directors. Then, on July 4 at Ormond Beach, members of Florida Carry were “walking around at Ormond Beach carrying firearms,” according to WFTV.

“The group says it is doing this to raise awareness about people’s Second Amendment rights and open-carry laws,” the report said. “The group has done similar events like this throughout Florida.”

At the far corner of the Lower 48, there was something of a snit developing for a group of veterans planning a gathering on the third weekend of this month at the Wenatchee Confluence State Park in east-central Washington, where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia. There have been annual open carry campouts at this park for quite some time, but now, according to a discussion in the Washington section of the popular forum, there was a problem with a park ranger.

Open carry is a legal practice over much of the American landscape. Various state statutes regulate how firearms may be carried, often based on a generic standard that if it “warrants alarm” by another person. That’s what carrying “in a peaceable manner” is all about. Someone merely walking down a sidewalk in a casual manner with a holstered pistol on his/her belt shouldn’t rise to the level of “warranting alarm” although some people might disagree.

Perhaps it was best summed up in an unpublished opinion by a Washington State appeals court ruling in a case known as “State v. Gregory Elijah Casad.” The details of this case were a bit complicated, but the opinion of the court was clear as glass:

“We note that, in connection with this case, several individuals have commented that they would find it strange, maybe shocking, to see a man carrying a gun down the street in broad daylight. Casad’s appellate counsel conceded that she would personally react with shock, but she emphasized that an individual’s lack of comfort with firearms does not equate to reasonable alarm. We agree. It is not unlawful for a person to responsibly walk down the street with a visible firearm, even if this action would shock some people.”

The Florida incident was reported by the Miami Herald, and one of the participants made a video of the interaction with a police officer who approached the group with a drawn sidearm. The video isn’t so good — remember, never use a cell phone to video something by holding it in a vertical position; hold it horizontally — but the audio isn’t bad.

Insider Online has open-carried, especially in the outdoors where having a firearm isn’t unusual and might be considered prudent, especially if there are “things with teeth” in the vicinity. That’s a consideration primarily anywhere in the West, where the odds of encountering trouble increase exponentially with one’s distance from the nearest help. Trying to punch in 9-1-1 in the backcountry, where cell service may be questionable at best offers two immediate realizations: Help isn’t coming, and even if it did come, it’s going to be very late.

As one might guess, there is considerable disagreement, even in the firearms community, about the wisdom (or lack of it) of openly carrying a sidearm. Proponents see it as a deterrent, Opponents see it as something of a stunt that just might seem menacing, depending upon the circumstances.

Perhaps, like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

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