Wednesday, 11 June 2008
IN OUR VIEW: 'Open carry' goes too far
Those would-be John Waynes who are carrying around pistols in plain sight need to use a little more common sense.
A story in the Sunday Herald talked about the "open carry" movement, a fledgling effort to exercise the right to carry a firearm openly. The story profiled men and women along the Wasatch Front who tote their pistols on their hips as they work, shop, dine or drop their children off at school.
Open carry is legal in Utah, so long as the gun is unloaded -- and that's just fine. But the radical gun-righters don't exhibit the sense that God gave a pencil eraser. Just because something can be done doesn't mean that it should be. In today's society, the presence of a handgun on somebody's hip -- other than an officer of the law -- is likely to make people uncomfortable.
If the advocates' theory is that forcing the general public to see the guns on the hips of law-abiding individuals will eventually result in more public acceptance of guns, we think they are mistaken. Their boat-rocking is more likely to bring on restrictive legislation.
"Well," advocates of open carry say, "I have a permit for concealed carry, but concealed weapons are uncomfortable and make me feel furtive, like I've got something to hide."
Yes, folks, you do have something to hide, and you should hide it -- not because guns are bad or because you're a threat, but because guns make a lot of people uncomfortable, and they think you might be a threat. After all, most of the people in the grocery store parking lot don't know you, and from their point of view you could be a threat. Odds are that you look more like a criminal than a lawyer.
So why would you want negative thoughts crossing the minds of a bunch of total strangers?
Open carry has become something of a cause. A Web site backing the idea, opencarry.org, claims more than 4,000 supporters who want to make guns as common a sight in public as cell phones.
But the Wild West is long gone, folks. The strutting of deadly machismo is unnecessary. Be happy with your concealed guns.
Though carrying an unloaded gun openly in a holster should remain legal, this doesn't mean people should go out of their way to rub the community's face in it. We can also see how, in some circumstances, police might view this as just one more thing to worry about -- even the rank-and-file officers who, unlike much of police leadership in America, are friends of private firearms guns and the right to self-defense.
This is not to backtrack at all from the importance of liberal concealed-carry laws. Research indicates that states that widely allow concealed-carry permits show decreases in crime, with no rise in gunshot accidents. Permit holders are among the most law-abiding people in the country.
Some of the best known evidence for the benefits of liberal concealed-carry laws comes in the work of John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime." So it is revealing when Lott expresses doubts about "open carry."
On his blog, johnrlott.blogspot.com, Lott recently wrote that, compared to open carry, "there are probably greater social benefits to people carrying guns concealed since it protects people who don't carry. In addition, if a criminal is going to attack a group of people in public, he can wait for the people who are openly carrying to leave the area or [he can] take those people out first."
In an e-mail to the Daily Herald, he added, "I understand the desire for some to carry openly to show that people do it and to get others comfortable with law-abiding citizens with guns. That is something valuable. On the other hand, I think that it is more useful with regard to crime for you to have concealed carry." In other words, with concealed carry, every person on the street might be packing. This is a deterrent because a criminal doesn't know who might be able to defend himself.
The open-carry movement just goes too far. Socially, it's thoughtless; politically, it's short-sighted; and even tactically, it's unsound.
It's better all around for those who want to pack a weapon to get a concealed-carry permit. In today's world, we doubt even John Wayne would strap on his Colt .45 just to go shopping at Costco.