Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Open carry is the law in a lot of places, but that doesn't mean it's accepted.

A meeting of four-like minded people laid the groundwork for Michigan Open Carry Inc., which holds events to try to remove the public stigma on open carry.

One day last November, Mike Stollenwerk ran several errands near his northern Virginia home, as he always does--while openly carrying his Beretta 92F 9mm handgun in a hip holster.

"I went to the library and got some books," Stollenwerk, a retired Army lieutenant colonel says. "Went to Home Depot. Bought an air filter there, then came back to my house, walked through my neighborhood. Nobody noticed or, if they did, they didn't care. That's the big secret about open carry: It's very uneventful."


Well, it can be, if people and the police accept it. That's not always the case. In Wisconsin, for example, open carry became an issue in 2009 when police ticketed a man for openly toting a handgun while doing yard work on his property. Wisconsin's attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, issued a memo to prosecutors explaining that open carry is allowed under state law.



That didn't matter to Milwaukee police Chief Ed Flynn, who told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we'll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it."

That's open carry's potential double-edged sword: Though legal in most states, public officials often don't like it, and it's not just law enforcement. Once Wisconsin's attorney general, for example, let it be known open carry was legal, one state representative began work on a bill to ban open carry.


Currently, open carry is legal in all but seven states and the District of Columbia. Regulations, of course, can and do vary by state and other jurisdictions. For instance, more than a dozen states require a license to practice open carry. Open carry's legal in Kansas and Missouri, though some municipalities ban it.


"In states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, you have to have a concealed carry permit in order to open carry while in your vehicle," says Stollenwerk, who co-founded OpenCarry.org in 2004 along with fellow Virginian John Pierce.

The group's website has a series of maps showing where open carry is allowed or not (as well as maps detailing regulations on carrying in vehicles, restaurants, on college campuses and more). The site also includes documents and links detailing specific carry requirements.

Open carry is taking off in Michigan. In 2007, four open carriers met at a McDonald's in Brighton, sidearms visible, and from that meeting came Michigan Open Carry, Inc. Last summer, says president Brian Jeffs, the group hosted more than two dozen open-carry events, each attracting between 30 to 75 people in most cases.

"We had nearly 300 people show up at one gathering," Jeffs notes. "We're trying to bring firearms out of the closet, so to speak, and into the mainstream. When law-abiding people practice open carry, it helps get over this stigma that guns equal bad."

The media attention these events draw, Jeffs points out, also inform the larger public and law enforcement of open carry's legality.

Yet in Connecticut, open carry practitioners still find themselves being arrested at gunpoint and charged with breaching the peace, though those charges are routinely dropped.

"There's still not a standard acceptance across the state by police chiefs, and especially the state police, on open carry," says Scott Wilson Sr., who heads up the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

A freedom of information act request filed by Wilson's gropu discovered that Connecticut's Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state police, will forward a bill to the state legislature to ban open carry. The bill would make a first offense punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a year in jail.

"It's going to be a fight," says Wilson. "We're gearing up for it."

Surprisingly, open carry is not the law in pro-gun Texas. A bill to allow it was being drafted, but the Texas legislator working on the bill withdrew it under vigorous attack by anti-gunners.

He probably could've used some help from the pro-gun side.

"We didn't see a ground swell of support for open carry," notes Alice Tripp, legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association.

With 400,000 licensed concealed carry holders, she adds, Texans simply may not have seen the need.

Recommended for You

Training

Perfecting the One-Handed Draw

Richard Nance - July 02, 2019

Learn the keys to a successful one-handed draw.

Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

All About Handgun Ammo

Rich and Jim get into the nitty gritty of the FBI ammo protocol, firing into various barriers to illustrate what can happen to a bullet.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

1911

Remington Timeline: 2011 - R1 Pistol Is Introduced

Handguns Online Staff - September 09, 2016

Eliphalet Remington's world initially revolved around flintlock rifles at the time, and while...

Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

Compact

Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review

Jeff Chudwin - January 29, 2019

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol...

See More Stories

More Training

Training

Handgun Fit

Handguns Online Staff - December 27, 2017

By Eve Flanigan Too many women approach shopping for a firearm the same way they shop for

Training

Improve Your Draw Stroke Through Slow-Motion Video

Richard Nance - September 17, 2018

An ordinary smartphone with slow-motion capability will reveal flaws in your draw stroke you...

Training

Tactical Tip: One-Handed Shooting

Richard Nance - January 12, 2018

Richard Nance demonstrates training techniques to improve your one-handed shooting skills.

See More Training

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×