Last week when I spoke at the Rivannah Rifle and Pistol Club near
Charlottesville (thanks, again, to RRPC for their hospitality!), I was
asked if I could address VCDL's position on open carry vs concealed
carry. It turned out that one person who might normally have come to
the meeting didn't do so because he apparently didn't like VCDL
promoting open carry.
I addressed the issue at the meeting, but the more I thought of it,
the more I thought it should be addressed on VA-ALERT, as it had been
a while since we have done so.
While VCDL's predecessor organization (NVCDL) was formed in 1994
specifically to push for concealed carry reform, VCDL does not promote
one form of carry over the other. In fact, at VCDL events we don't
even suggest that anyone carry at all. We have always felt that our
members can decide for themselves as to whether they want to carry at
an event openly or concealed, or even carry at all for that matter.
VCDL does not sponsor open carry or concealed carry events at all. We
may sponsor an event celebrating a legislative victory, such as the
end of the restaurant ban, but we leave the decision on whether or not
to carry and the carry method up to the individual.
We WILL remind you if the law requires a certain form of carry for
those that are carrying. For example, when we held some of our
picnics in State Parks, we reminded everyone that concealed carry is
required by law for those carrying. Same for open carrying in a
restaurant that serves alcohol hosting an event before July 1, 2010.
There are two camps of thought on open carry:
1. Open carry is a right that helps advance our visibility, educates
the public by disproving the TV & movie stereotypes that the only
people who carry guns are cops or bad guys, moves our rights forward,
and doesn't require government permission
2. Open carry is a right, but politically dangerous, is too much "in-
your-face," takes away tactical advantages, and could end up being
banned or hurting our gun rights
VCDL, as an organization, does not subscribe to camp #2's view of open
carry. While we don't encourage or discourage open carry, we have
found that it has been an avenue to showing the general public that
everyday people, including friends and neighbors, are gun owners and
carry a gun in a responsible manner for self-defense.
But this issue is more complicated, with each method of carry having
advantages and disadvantages:
Open carry is more comfortable, especially in the hot summertime. It
allows fast access to the handgun in an emergency. It can deter crime
by a criminal seeing the gun and deciding to not go forward with a
crime, keeping the gun owner from even having to draw the gun (lots
of such cases documented, including within VCDL membership). HOWEVER,
you had better know the gun laws and know if you are in a "no carry"
zone. Although quite rare, you might be asked to leave private
property. IF YOU ARE ask to leave, do NOT demand that the property be
POSTED! Just politely leave.
Concealed carry can allow a handgun to be presented in a way that is a
surprise to criminal who has begun an attack, which, although
generally slower than open carry, can be a tactical advantage in many
cases because it allows YOU to decide whether or not to present your
firearm. It is very handy if you have inadvertently wandered into a
location where you aren't supposed to have a gun. Since the gun is
hidden, no one knows that you goofed up. It also avoids the problem
of carrying on private property where open carry is prohibited.
The argument by camp #2 that makes me pull out what is left of my hair
is that if someone open carries, they could cause us to lose that right.
My response to that argument is simple:
1. If you are afraid to exercise a right because it might be taken
away, then you don't really have that right in the first place and
2. If you are not exercising a right and don't feel that others
should either, then what do you really care if that right is taken
away or not?
VCDL will strongly fight to protect both methods of carry from any
attack in the General Assembly.
And the debate goes on... If you wish to comment on this alert, you
can do so on VCDL's blog site:
VA-ALERT is a project of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
(VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization
dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to
Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right.
VCDL web page: Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL)