A bristling debate has erupted on the U.S. News & World Report Debate Club website over Open Carry, and the Seattle Gun Rights Examiner, joined by Minneapolis Gun Rights Examiner John Pierce, is right in the middle of it.
This column has frequently discussed Open Carry, and now the issue appears to be garnering national attention.
Gun prohibitionists have chimed in with the typical objections. For example, Josh Sugarmann with the Violence Policy Center, has this to say:
At least 402 victims have been killed in 32 states since May 2007 in non-self-defense incidents involving private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns, according to the Violence Policy Center’s Concealed Carry Killers online resource.
Sugarmann should be careful about making such statements; months after the Detroit Free Press did a two-part series on how Michigan’s concealed carry reform law had not resulted in the carnage that had been predicted ten years earlier, when the statute was adopted. It was in Part II of that series that veteran reporter Dawson Bell noted:
Some of what passes for research and analysis of the effect of permissive concealed weapons laws on crime and violence is pretty crude.
Take, for instance, the anti-gun Violence Policy Center’s Web page called “Concealed Carry Killers.” ( www.vpc.org/ccwkillers.htm )
It purports to tally the carnage that results when states, such as Michigan, authorize ordinary citizens under most circumstances to be licensed to carry concealed guns.
Concealed carry licensees “routinely” kill cops, perpetrate mass murders and other gun homicides, writes VPC. The center counted 308 “Private Citizens Killed By Concealed Carry Killer” since 2007. A lot of them — 78 — were Michiganders.
A closer look at VPC’s data doesn’t necessarily confirm a CCW crime nightmare scenario. The overwhelming majority of Michigan victims the center cites (62) were licensees who committed suicide. Michigan’s concealed weapons law requires the State Police to report annually on deaths by suicide of license holders.
But the reports contain no information about how the licensee died or whether a firearm was involved.
Several other “victims” in the VPC report appear to have been criminals themselves, shot attempting to rob legally armed citizens. But with 276,000 concealed pistol license holders, even the unscrubbed VPC numbers hardly establish evidence of a crime wave.—Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press
Then there is the comment from Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He is no fan of concealed carry, so the subject of packing firearms openly raises his hackles:
Open carry is not only dangerous to our communities but to the very foundation of our democracy. In a fascinating new article for the New Yorker, journalist Jill Lepore said something that strongly echoes my own beliefs about contemporary America. “When carrying a…weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted,” Lepore noted, “there is little civilian life left.”
According to the Roberts Supreme Court, the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms to protect “hearth and home.” Carrying a loaded gun in public is therefore a privilege that can, and should be regulated by the state for the benefit of all Americans.—Josh Horwitz
On the other hand, Pierce – a co-founder of Open Carry.org and one of the Open Carry movement’s most prominent leaders – sagely notes in his remarks:
Open carry on the other hand is very much in keeping with the framers’ view of the constitutional right to bear arms. Today, in a whopping 29 states (that’s a majority for those who are keeping score), any law-abiding citizen who is not prohibited by law from possessing firearms may openly carry with no government permit or license required.—John Pierce
Pierce, for the record, is one of the most level-headed guys on the landscape, and his leadership role in the movement has garnered for him the considerable respect of “OC” activists across the country. His common sense approach to Open Carry contrasts significantly with what many would consider the hysteria-driven comment from Lindsay Nichols with the Legal Community Against Violence:
The open carrying of firearms, and the display of aggressiveness involved, only makes these situations more frequent, creating the potential for everyday interpersonal conflicts to turn into deadly shootouts.—Lindsay Nichols
And finally comes this columnist, whose remarks were solicited – along with those from the other participants – by U.S. News & World Report:
Though open carry does alarm some people, there is nothing fundamentally wrong about carrying a firearm in a peaceable manner while going about one’s business. There was a more peaceful time in this country when it was common practice.
Gun control advocates have long insisted that the government and the public have a right to know who has a firearm. What better way to visibly accomplish that than by accepting open carry once again as common behavior?
The discussion also includes Larry Pratt from Gun Owners of America and Oklahoma State Sen. Constance M. Johnson. It is worth reading through the comments of all participants to understand what the Open Carry movement, and its critics, think about the practice.
One can also visit Pierce’s Facebook thread on the debate here.
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