Photo and Story by Joseph Boyle
When we watch western movies, the films depict the guys and gals of the old West walking around with guns strapped to their hips. This is now referred to as Open Carry.
As decades passed, we became more civilized. When I was growing up and until just a short time ago, we did not see people openly carrying guns in public, except for police officers.
A citizen wishing to legally carry a concealed pistol must obtain a Concealed Pistol License (CPL).
With clear memories of being personally targeted for injury and death by criminals, I have chosen to carry a handgun since my 21st birthday.
Additionally, as a member of law enforcement for over 20 years, I am expected to carry a handgun should the need arise to protect a member of the public.
I am certainly eligible to Open Carry, especially if I intelligently display my badge next to my gun. A gun and badge does not alarm or offend the public, assuming you are not a criminal.
Even though I possess a CPL, am eligible for Open Carry and am a member of law enforcement, most of you would never know I have a handgun on my person. Why? Because I always cover my pistol with a vest, jacket or other appropriate device. By doing so I do not offend or alarm the public and I do not tip off the criminal element that I am a threat to their wrongdoing.
In my opinion there is absolutely no reason to Open Carry. To me, common sense requires that we be discrete by concealing our handguns. Not everyone agrees with me on this point.
It appears that we are now returning to the days of the old West.
As we approach the warm days of summer, do not be surprised to see some of our citizens walking around carrying guns strapped to their hips, just like the old West.
There is no law enforcement badge displayed next to the pistol because they are not police officers.
These 21st century cowboys offend and alarm me. If they are willing to publicly flaunt their possession of a handgun, what is the rest of their brain doing? I have no way of knowing if I am looking at a good citizen who is well trained with his firearm merely taking advantage of Washington law or a nut job with a felony record who might draw and fire if I looked at him cross eyed.
In all fairness, I must tell you that Open Carry is legal, but not without certain limitations as spelled out under Washington State RCW 9.41.270.
A CPL is not required for Open Carry. A CPL does not require a citizen to conceal a handgun. A CPL is required only if you wish to conceal a handgun. (Two readings may be required.)
In order to obtain a CPL, a citizen must pass a background check, which is a beneficial process for the public. There is no background check or CPL required for Open Carry.
Although we may be offended and alarmed by the Open Carry behavior, our alarm is not enough for local law enforcement to be able to do much about it. Any sense of being offended or alarmed must be more substantial than simply observing a citizen walking around with a gun. There has to be some additional negative behavior.
There are individuals and bands of individuals who are purposefully demonstrating their right to carry weapons in the open by intentionally hanging out in public places such as coffee shops, public right-of-ways and other locations where the public will see them.
If you engage one of these “gunslingers” in a conversation, they will tell you things like, “It is my right to Open Carry.” “I am preventing crime with my Open Carry.” While that may be true in some cases, in other cases, their Open Carry will simply make them the first person the criminal shoots before committing his intended crime.
If challenged by the police, these exhibitionists savor the possibility of registering a complaint or generating a lawsuit.
It is not my intent to stimulate a great gun debate. I simply want to help you be aware, should you see a throwback gunslinger from the old West strutting his stuff.
To my friends who are on the other side of this issue, I apologize if my words offend you; but please rethink what you are doing as it can negatively impact on you, the public and our right to bear arms. Keep it up and you may find that you have shot yourself in the foot.