Out of Sight, Out of Mind-Keep it Concealed

Carrying your handgun concealed while maintaining a high level of situational awareness is a far better option than carrying openly.

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Vacation trips can often provide opportunities to see how things are going in other states and locales. For instance, when one travels outside of Ohio to the contiguous states which had Concealed Carry permits long before Ohio did-you can see a different attitude towards the concept of licensed law abiding citizens carrying concealed handguns.

For instance, on our annual trip to Michigan this year, I was reminded of how Ohio has maintained an overall negative attitude towards lawful concealed carry by citizens through the display of "no concealed weapons allowed" signs in a large percentage of businesses here.

In Michigan, as well in Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia (I haven't been to Pennsylvania in a while) signs posted by business owners warning those dastardly concealed carry permit holders to leave their handguns outside their businesses are conspicuously absent. While I haven't visited any courthouses or government buildings outside the state, I didn't notice the prolific level of CCW signs we have here in Ohio-even in the somewhat liberal towns that we stayed near.

I also found out that the great State of Michigan (yes I said that) is an open carry state, and I was quite surprised and rather taken aback a bit, when I saw an example of open carry in action-for several reasons.

We had stopped for lunch at a favorite food trailer of ours along the busy MI 31 highway in that aforementioned relatively liberal town. I had just started to take the food to my family at the picnic table when a family of three rolled up in a pickup truck and got out. They appeared to be from the surrounding rural area of the county rather than from the vacation area along the lake. There was an older man, a younger man, and a woman in the group. All three were VERY visibly armed-and in my opinion, quite ridiculously so.

The older male was packing what appeared to be a six inch barreled Smith and Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver. It was carried in a homemade and rather poorly constructed leather belt holster that was positioned butt forward and held the big .44 butt forward and almost parallel with the ground. There was no retention strap on it and it looked that it quite possibly could drop out on the ground with any sudden movement.

The female was armed with a mid-sized Glock, carried in a cheap nylon belt holster with a retention strap. Spare magazines for her gun were carried in a belt pouch. The second, younger male was carrying a medium framed revolver in leather shoulder holster, again in the open. Truthfully, I have never seen an entire group or family carrying openly in public before-anywhere-and in such a sloppy manner. I am sorry, but it just looked bad, and was a scene that anti-gunners would have loved to capture on film to show what a dangerous idea it is to entrust civilians with firearms.

The surprising part of this was that no one-and there were several people in line ahead of them ordering food-appeared to pay much attention to them. In fact the older man spoke with another man ahead of him in line about bringing his pickup truck in for repair. When it was time for the group to order food, the owner of the food trailer obviously knew them as regular customers and waited on them. Nobody freaked and apparently nobody called the police-that I know of. That could have happened but the Sheriff's Department that would have responded appeared to be understaffed. In most places in Ohio and other states, a group like that would probably bring a visit from a SWAT team, especially in urban areas. I had to respond to a call of a man carrying a holstered handgun near one of our banks before I left for vacation-three of us were dispatched to that call. It was resolved easily, but still caused alarm for folks in the bank and for us as responding officers. You can never tell in these days of "active shooters" what people with guns will do. Each time police are called to encounter a person who favors open carry for defensive purposes, or just because they can, reasons "There is always the chance for a tragic accident" and none of us want that.

Because of incidents like the ones I've responded to, and other reasons, I am NOT a fan of open carry by civilians. If fact, I am not in favor of open carry for off-duty officers attending special functions such as training. I don't want to call attention to myself as a police officer these days when I am not wearing body armor or carrying a walkie-talkie to call for extra assistance, so I generally carry an off-duty gun in a trouser pocket, on my ankle, in a waistpack, or under a shirt. Here is an important point to consider: Carrying a handgun openly on your person does not make you impervious to criminal assault. If it did, there would never be a felonious attack on a police officer.

This is especially true for the man carrying the .44 Magnum in that junk holster. Had one wanted to, it would have been easy to disarm him of that gun and use it against him, especially if he was alone. In fact, the two holsters used by the other two people-while not as bad as the .44 holster-were rigs that should not have been carried without a covering garment since they weren't particularly secure either. You are just advertising that your handgun is available for theft under the right circumstances when you carry openly.

Carrying your handgun concealed while maintaining a high level of situational awareness is a far better option than carrying openly. Carrying your defensive handgun concealed eliminates you as a target for theft of your firearm-and including possibly your murder to get it. You might find yourself getting followed home by someone with thoughts of burglary later on, if you carry openly. This is why most police officers don't display any badges or emblems on their personal vehicles these days, and why sadly it isn't a good idea to display your NRA sticker on your vehicle.

"Out of sight out of mind" doesn't mean you should forget about your firearm (a whole other topic). It means that when you carry concealed no one will be thinking of ways to get your firearm from you because it isn't on their mind. It also means that no one will call the police on you as a potential threat because your firearm isn't on THEIR mind. In the Michigan case I don't know if anyone passing by called 911 on these people. I just know that no one responded while I was there. It also won't be on the mind of any anti-gunners who see it and decide to do something about it. Further, carrying your firearm concealed gives you the element of surprise if criminal danger threatens.

I have been on the wrong side of a uniformed law enforcement officer's firearm while working undercover many years ago. It wasn't fun and it isn't something you should want to be a part of. For all the reasons I mentioned, please carry your handgun concealed and not openly. Just because you can do something-and have the right to do it-doesn't mean that should do it. Keep your defensive handgun out of sight-and out of mind.