Sunday, February 26, 2012

Open Carry in Oregon

I got a comment, today, at the grocery store. I'd like to expound, for a moment, on the subject of Open Carry.

Open Carry draws a lot of heated debate, and is the source of one of the larger schisms in the Gunblog realm. I would say, in its own right, it is nearly as hotly debated at 9mm v .45, or .30-06 v .270. I have been party to debates that rapidly devolved as ugly as any with an anti-rights viewpoint.

For myself, however, I can only give my personal experience. This, as with any singular source, is anecdotal and not 'evidence.' But it is mine.

In Montana, where I was born, Open Carry is perfectly legal. As a matter of fact (and a matter of law) Concealed Carry without a license is perfectly legal, provided you are not inside the city limits of an incorporated city or town. Only within the legal boundaries of a municipality does the state of Montana require a Concealed Carry permit. In Arizona, my next port of call, the rules were somewhat different, requiring, at first, a specific testing course to receive a Carry license (I don't know how difficult it was, I never took it). A little later on, of course, Arizona changed to Constitutional Carry, and I carried concealed without any worries. Arizona is also an Open Carry legal state.

In neither of these states did I habitually carry my firearm openly. I maintained a Concealed Weapons permit in the state of Montana for several years, and mostly practiced what I call 'discreet carry,' which is an openly worn belt holster with a cover garment. I tried the Inside the Waistband holster, but was not a fan. I would point out that whenever I carried in this manner, I was carrying a full size automatic pistol. With a cover garment, usually a long sleeve shirt, to my knowledge I was never 'made' by anyone unless I took the cover shirt off. When outside city limits, of course, I generally wore Openly, as I would be actively engaged in shooting, hunting, hiking, etc. In Arizona, I wore my gun in a similar manner, discretely holstered under my shirt. On a few occasions, I did carry openly into, for example, convenience stores on my way out of town to go shooting.

This brings me to our recent relocation to Oregon. Oregon is an Open Carry state with a curious mix of preemption laws. Municipal code can preempt state-allowed Open Carry, without a permit. The concealed carry permit, however, allows the holder to carry either Openly or Concealed, effectively preempting those municipal laws. Currently there are several cities that have laws such as these on the books, including Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, and Eugene. Without a carry permit, which time and funding have not allowed at this juncture, I am limited to Open Carry. This means that I am not allowed to carry my firearm into the city limits of those previously mentioned places.

Since moving here to Oregon, I have undertaken to carry my firearm whenever and wherever possible. This means grocery stores, gas stations, the Home Depot, basically everywhere. At first, it was a little bit nerve-racking, but I soon settled into it. I do use a thumbsnap holster (of my own creation) so rest assured, I maintain pretty good retention. In the last year, I have gotten a few comments/reactions, but I would say that number is in the single digits. Quite frankly, it is a non-starter, and I don't think very many people even notice that I am armed, despite wearing my firearm plainly in a belt holster, in full accordance with the law. Of the few comments I have received, or in one case overheard, the majority have been decidedly neutral. I have had a couple of conversations with store employees at the grocery store, but mostly regarding the novelty of the situation. I have overheard a very observant and responsible young man (of about 10) draw attention to my going visibly armed, whose mother (despite my obvious non-LEO appearance) explained that I was probably a cop. On one occasion, I had quite a conversation with a fellow at the magazine rack in a store, who had a great many questions regarding Open Carry, which I gladly answered to the best of my knowledge. Once, an older couple at Wendy's expressed their approval, commenting that it would be nice to see more people showing some responsibility for their own safety. On only one occasion have I received any negative feedback on my armed presence, and it was in a Convenience store. The manager, in that case, politely requested that I not continue to carry in his store, and I have obliged (which is to say, I don't go in there if I am armed).

And that's it, really. Of all the 'world ending' hypotheses put about by people critical of the practice, not a single one has befallen me in an entire year. On average, I don't even receive a comment once a month. No-one has ever tried to grab my gun, I have never been targeted by criminal, cops, or security guards, and I have never had to use (or even handle) my firearm in a public place. I am truly beginning to believe that the 'public opinion' is not. In truth, the public doesn't care. So wear your gun. Exercise your right. Sure, it is possible to come across the Officer Harless' of the world, but that happened to a concealed carrier. It has not happened, and I do not expect it. On the other hand, I have, I believe, made some headway in the battle to accept Open Carry. I'll continue to do so at every possible opportunity.

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