Always be polite. Until it’s time to not be polite.

James Dalton 

Robb asked me to weigh in on the open carry debate over on the USA Carry forums, so here’s my two cents (Canadian) worth on the issue. 

A little background. 

I’m Canadian, which means I grew up in a handgun-free (but not gun-free) environment, but I’ve lived in Arizona for most of my life. The first pistol I saw outside of a museum was when I was 19 and a customer walked into the hobby store I was working in with a hog-leg revolver strapped to the waist. 

That was my “Toto, we’re not in Alberta anymore” moment. 

I’d always shot guns (gophers see me and run in fear), but not handguns. This soon changed, and now I’m known as “that gun guy” to my friends and family. I’ve married a woman who’s a better shot than I am (not that hard of a task, if I’m honest…), had two sons, shoot USPSA, IDPA, and 3 gun and I’m an NRA member and pistol/PPIH instructor. 

And I chose to go about my life with a concealed firearm, rather than openly carry. 

Why? Because a firearm is a potentially lethal weapon, there is just  no getting around that, and the open display of a lethal weapon affects a few (but, thankfully, not most) people. It’s not a gun thing: If swords were the norm and not guns, I’d carry a sword cane and not the ancestral claidheamh mòr. I want people to react to me as a person, and I don’t want my firearm to be an impediment to the few who might take exception. Guns come and guns go, who I am will not change. 

An openly carried firearm changes things: Knowing that a person is carrying affects how I react to them, because it means if things go bad with them and things get violent, things can go very wrong. I am trusting them not to be a jerk, and if they are a jerk, they’re a jerk with a pistol. This is a BAD thing.

Not that I am expecting this to happen. I can count the number of fights I’ve been in since grade school on one hand and still be able to hold a fork while doing so, but that does not change the fact that a loud, aggressive person with an openly carried firearm is MUCH bigger problem (at least on the surface) than one without a visible firearm. 

This is why it is so vital, so unbelievably vital, that if you carry openly, you exceed the standards of polite behaviour for your community and not just act like everybody else. Carrying an openly displayed firearm means you are doing something very few people (even in Arizona) do, and by doing so, you become the standard by which the rest of us gun nuts firearms enthusiasts are judged by. 

It’s also 100% true that an open display of a firearm is a deterrent to potential violent criminals, but to me, the best way to not be a victim is to reduce my time spent in locations where there might be violent criminals. As much as I love la autentíca carne asada, I don’t go out to dinner at my favourite west-side carnicería at 11pm on a Saturday night. 

Now, with all of that being said (and the blood pressure of many of you rising to dangerously high levels), I support open carry completely and fully

And if you haven’t had an aneurysm by now, that last sentence was probably enough to pop a vein. 

We now have constitutional carry in Arizona because enough legislators here realized it was pretty silly to issue permits for people to cover up a gun that is legal for them to carry without a cover garment. This is a good thing, because it normalizes all of firearms throughout Arizona. We have sites like TrainMeAZ because Arizona is leading the way in restoring 2nd Amendment rights to its citizens. This is fantastic, and it’s due, in large part, to the past behaviour of the people here who open carry. 

While I don’t open carry, I support those who do, and I support open carry for all of the U.S. (and maybe one day, my native Canada. Hey, a guy can dream, right?) because proper (non-jerk) open carry takes something that is scary into something that nice people have with them all the time. 

The bottom line is, what a gun actually does is determined by the person who owns it. We in the firearms community tell the same thing to ourselves when we say, “It’s not the Glock/1911/9mm/.45″ that will save your life, it’s you and your training.” In other words, it’s not the gun, it’s who you are and how you act. 

Why do we expect people outside our community to think differently?

A nice person with a gun makes guns nice for everybody. A jerk with a gun helps nobody, not even himself.

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