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Open Carry, The Armed Populace

Last weekend, an 11 year old girl was shot and killed by a stray bullet while in a friend’s home. Three others in Chicago succumbed to this same fate as well that same weekend. Over this last weekend, fifty shootings were reported by law enforcement, resulting in a total of thirty-two injuries and four fatalities. Since the beginning of Summer 2014, ten children have been killed in more than one hundred shootings. While this is attributed primarily to gang violence spilling over into the innocent bystander population, the bloodshed shows no sign of slowing, despite Chicago clinging tightly to the #2 most tightly restricted city in the United States in terms of Gun Control. Many argue that these tighter gun ownership and carry laws serve only to turn law-abiding citizens into victims, while criminals disregard the law regardless.

Citizens in many states – most prominently Texas, as of late – are increasingly beginning to adopt a controversial strategy known as Open Carry. The vast majority of the armed populace has, throughout US history, preferred to conceal with issuance of a valid permit. With the spike in firearms-related homicides/violence in metropolitan areas such as Chicago, a growing number of carry-rights activists now advocate visual deterrent – the sight of an Openly Carried firearm.

Understandably, many people oppose this move, as many Open Carry advocates choose to demonstrate with long arms – rifles and the like. In the case of Texas, this controversial move to carrying rifles in public is a protest of Texas’ prohibition on the open carry of pistols. While understandable in their intention, the public is justifiably concerned when they sit down for lunch at Chipotle, and see four men at the next table with offensive long arms in hand. Some large chains such as Target, Starbucks and Chili’s have asked patrons to refrain from openly carrying firearms at all into their establishments, following media pressure by gun control advocate groups such as Mothers Demand Action. Their argument is that these are family establishments, and that visible weapons can lead to customers feeling uncomfortable and threatened, which gun control advocates argue is both bad for business and the public safety in general.

Open Carry proponents claim these prohibitions are a mistake – they argue that Open Carrying a safely holstered, legally permitted pistol in public is a red flag, alerting criminals that they chose the wrong time and place to commit whatever crime they had in mind. Conversely, Open Carry proponents claim that any establishment which publicly proclaims prohibition of firearms on its property is quite literally inviting armed criminals through its doors, assuring them that their criminal activity may now proceed unopposed due to average police response times measured in the tens of minutes anywhere in the nation. Any Open Carry proponent will tell you - if a criminal knows that patrons are/could be armed, the criminal will bypass that location entirely due to the risk. Currently, in Illinois, it is illegal to Open Carry at all, with or without a permit. While it is legal to carry a concealed pistol in the state of Illinois with a state permit, these permits are – by all accounts, nearly impossible to obtain for an ordinary citizen.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe that Open Carrying would decrease crime in areas such as Chicago?