By Rachel Brody |
Private citizens should not be allowed to carry firearms openly in public. The open carrying of firearms on the street and in places like restaurants and parks intimidates the public, wastes law enforcement resources, and increases the risk that someone will be injured or killed from the accidental or intentional use of firearms. In response to these dangers and an aggressive "open carry movement" in California, in 2011 the California Legislature banned the open carrying of handguns. Other states should consider similar action.
When individuals openly carry firearms in public, other citizens may become concerned about impending crime and contact the police. In this way, the open carrying of firearms causes a waste of law enforcement resources, but more importantly, it threatens public safety. A press release issued by the San Mateo County, Calif. Sheriff's Office in 2010 described the particular challenges facing officers who must respond to these 911 calls:
[blockqoute]Open carry advocates create a potentially very dangerous situation. When police are called to a "man with a gun" call they typically are responding to a situation about which they have few details other than that one or more people are present at a location and are armed. Officers may have no idea that these people are simply "exercising their rights." Consequently, the law enforcement response is one of "hypervigilant urgency" in order to protect the public from an armed threat. Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It's well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply "exercising their rights" but the result could be deadly. Simply put, it is not recommended to openly carry firearms. [/blockqoute]
It is appropriate for law enforcement officers and the public to treat these situations as extremely dangerous. Open carry advocates claim they need a gun for self-defense. However, if the Trayvon Martin case has taught us anything, it is that an individual carrying a gun may misjudge a situation, think self-defense is called for, and erroneously—and often tragically—reach for the gun. 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.
About Lindsay Nichols Staff Attorney with Legal Community Against Violence
Dave Workman Senior Editor of TheGunMag.com
Ralph Shortey Republican State Senator in Oklahoma
Josh Sugarmann Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center