Open Carry of Arms is the Moral Mode of Ordinary CitizenshipDecember 20, 2018
While I believe that all responsible adults should carry at least one firearm on their person at all times, I have long been no fan of the practice of open carry of a defensive pistol or other arms, mostly for strategic and tactical defense reasons. I see no benefit in giving away a significant tactical advantage when dealing with evil people and violent criminals. By the same token, I have seen little reason to introduce firearms visibly into polite public life because they can be a bit incongruous with many modern public interactions and they tend to collect unwanted, unpleasant attention from wrongly civilized folks.1 That said, I have begun to change my mind.
With this essay I want to try and change your mind, as well. I’ll attempt to do so with the same approach I used for myself: reasoned examinations of modern circumstances, logical arguments and human-behavior lessons extrapolated from those examinations, and that thing we all should use to measure deeds and ideas: objective morality 2 (and my every reference here to morality or moral responsibility is specifically about that).
On deep reflection, I now believe that American society desperately needs to better adopt—and in some measure, return to—the common practice of adults openly carrying arms. Even though there are many individuals who today do carry arms openly as a matter of habit, I note how the widespread dearth of this practice may have led directly or indirectly to many of the ills that plague our society, and allow for or even fuel the decay and downright destruction of American culture.
Ours is a culture unlike any on earth throughout all of history and that distinction made ours, by every measure, the greatest nation ever conceived. But we are humans and we therefore become what we behold. For almost 150 years we have beheld a society of people voluntarily disarmed, or at least apparently disarmed and, therefore, unable to enforce our liberty. It is easy for folks to draw erroneous conclusions from this picture and too many Americans have. As a result there have, I believe, been terrible consequences that require redress.
The primary reason for my change of heart is my growing understandings that we citizens need to and have the power to correct the false, anti-American, and dangerous ideas that have taken hold in our society. Namely…
- that firearms are extreme and barbaric and, therefore, so are those who employ them
- that upholding our inalienable rights is extreme and sinister
- that our rights and liberty must be enforced and championed by our proxies and not by ourselves
- that we ordinary citizens are somehow morally and authoritatively inferior to law enforcement officers
- that we have no responsisbility to be capable of defending ourselves because that’s what the police are for
- that only law enforcement officers should have guns
- that police should view any armed citizen as a threat (usually, to be shot down)
…all making it easier to hold with the idea that we may allow our representatives to enact laws that infringe on the people’s inalienable right to keep and bear arms.
All of these ideas are false yet they gain broader acceptance by the day. As such, they are components of moral and societal decay. I think there are remedies to these fallacies and I have begun to believe that the core of these remedies lies in a habitually and visibly armed populace.
Subverted Societal Norms and Mores
Too many Americans today regard firearms as barbaric. They hold this notion because for many the only time they ever see or hear about firearms is when some criminal or group of criminals uses firearms in a barbaric act to harm people. Then, “the authorities” go after the bad, armed criminals and either take them down or stand in front of a camera and describe them and the evil gun(s) they used to commit their crimes.
Too few Americans see the responsible father, sidearm on his hip, stopping for gas on his way home from work; or the loving mom, pistol on her belt, shopping for groceries; or the group of young friends, pistols at their sides, enjoying conversation and fellowship along with a good meal at a local diner. When folks do see armed ordinary citizens today it is too often as they gather together to march down the street or stand on the roadside, en masse during a conspicuous protest, desperately seeking attention. Mostly what they garner is notoriety and disgust. Those mass public tantrums have significant cringe factor and often smack of extremism.
As a result of these things and too few Americans being visibly armed in public, it is easy for folks to get the idea and ruminate on the notion that firearms and their exponents are barbaric; or at least extraordinary and extreme. Yet firearms have never been objectively extraordinary or extreme in American society. We’ve simply taken a more discreet and tactically sound approach to being armed in public. While tactically wise, I believe that with our concealed-carry approach we may have been too smart by half.
One of the primary components of my thesis here is that people need to see armed citizens as a part of ordinary, daily life. We all need to get used to seeing armed citizens. And not just ordinary citizens, but law enforcement officers need to get used to seeing an armed populace. A great many citizens are already armed in public and at home, but we have taken to hiding our arms with concealed or discreet carry and, therefore, hiding our morality and sense of personal responsibility…as if these things were shameful. Now I know that is not the point of concealed carry, but that misconception has become a common cultural inference; an unfortunate result of the wise and moral practice.
Leftist opponents of liberty love these effects. They have throughout history worked tirelessly to cast morality as an assault and responsibility as a vice. Our culture is not decaying causelessly, but rather it is being deliberately destroyed by leftists doing what leftists always do. Moral Americans have a responsibility to oppose and interrupt those evil works. What I touch on in this essay is, I believe, a necessary part of that responsible effort.
Enforcing Your Rights and Liberty
As component to objective morality, your individual rights and personal liberty are not negotiable, but imperative. Anyone who says differently is trying to profit from your enslavement or demise. Note that neither law enforcement officers nor your elected representatives can enforce your rights or liberty for you! Law enforcement officers merely enforce law and your elected representatives merely bargain with your rights, your property, and your liberty…mostly for their own profit and edification. You and only you are your agent of enforcement in matters of liberty. It has ever been so, but seemingly few understand this today.
Personal defense aside, a police officer carries arms to enforce compliance when the need arises. As an ordinary citizen, defense aside, I carry arms to enforce my rights and liberty should the need arise. For many reasons, Americans have largely forgotten or otherwise gotten out of practice of enforcing their rights and liberty. And there are consequences. One of the reasons the idea and practice of enforcing one’s own rights and liberty has fallen out of practice is that leftists work tirelessly to demonize doing so, along with the moral notions associated with it (for they despise individual rights and liberty). But while many today still understand and may advocate for personal defense from deadly threats as a legitimate basis for keeping and bearing arms, few ever reference or advocate for individuals enforcing their individual rights and liberty. As I mentioned, there are grave societal consequences for failing to maintain this vital component of moral, personal responsibility. Let’s examine just one here.
Take, for instance, the advent of the leftist mob massing on and shutting down roads and highways in “peaceful demonstrations” of their indefatigable opinion on some silly matter or fallacy. Doing so illegally infringes on the liberty of every citizen driving on that motorway. But, with few exceptions, ordinary citizens today are content to meekly accept their illegal detention and the assault on their liberty because most have forgotten the fact that they have the right to enforce their liberty. This abdication of moral responsibility has emboldened the anti-liberty hordes, both in the street and in offices in Washington DC. While it should take little more than six or seven motorists getting out of their vehicles to show the criminal protestors that they are openly armed and ready to enforce their liberty, few today can do so. Those who are armed are both too few among the victims to make any significant statement and they likely have their arms concealed; meaning that they must “brandish” or draw their pistols or rifles and level them at the people in the gathered masses in order to convey what should be a simple, obvious and peaceful idea. Such forceful actions rise perhaps a bit beyond the pale in some circumstances (but not all) and those who might draw their defensive weapons may find themselves facing charges of making a deadly or terroristic threat.
Were most folks openly armed, such actions would not be needed.
The inevitable result is that those who mean to enforce their liberty must today do so by deliberately crashing the lines with their vehicles, dealing injury and death to those criminals in their path. While this form of escape is usually legal and moral, it is also destructive and shocking, something that the enemies of individual liberty habitually leap to criticize by way of fueling their tyrannical agenda. This is the inevitable, required result of allowing a society to abandon moral order and the widespread practice of being visibly, responsibly armed. Ironically, it also gives the enemies of liberty more ammunition with which to destroy reason, justice, and our culture.
It should not be this way. There should be no emboldened hordes of criminals getting away with or even assuming that they might escape prosecution or injury for violating other citizens’ liberty. They and everyone else in our society should know that such actions are criminal and, therefore, dangerous to them. These things would not happen or be far more rare in a society where everyone knows most people are armed and ready to enforce their rights and liberty. This is the basis for the accurate adage that an armed society is a polite society (so long as it is a society of moral and Godly people).
I carry arms discreetly so that I may defend myself and those under my mantle of protection, but also to enforce my rights and my liberty. I recognize more and more that openly carrying arms instead of concealing them would be far more effective for enforcing my rights and liberty without having to engage in “shocking” threats or deadly force.
Police Are Neither a Special Class Nor Proxies for Individual Responsibility
The fact that few Americans openly carry arms in daily life has allowed for another ridiculous fallacy to take hold. Namely, that law enforcement officers occupy a morally and authoritatively superior position to ordinary citizens in society. There is no legal or moral basis for that ridiculous idea. One conclusion held by the victims of this flawed logic, however, is that only law enforcement officers should be armed.
Think about it: when you’re already immorally predisposed to subordinate yourself and your fellow citizens to some special armed-and-superior societal class (conveniently relieving you of personal responsibility) and the only time you ever see or hear about guns is when some criminal uses them to harm people, it can be easy and comforting to imagine that guns should be exclusive to those with more moral authority than you and your slovenly co-workers. If the only armed people you ever see are violent criminals and “local authorities” who take them down, your mores can perhaps become skewed. Life among irresponsible sheeple has consequences (we become what we behold).
Perhaps few realize this fact, but every ordinary citizen has exactly the same moral, legal, and social authority as every police officer. Anything a police officer can do—for example; execute an arrest, pursue a suspect, compel compliance by force—an ordinary citizen can do. So long as our actions are within the bounds of the law, just like with police officers, we can act as any police officer in pretty much any capacity. Now, unlike most police officers, ordinary citizens are not generally immune from certain error liabilities (suspect misidentification, etc…) or traffic laws, but beyond that, our authority is entirely equal to theirs. There are some procedural esoterica specific to the law-enforcement professions and how members of various agencies deal with one another—from which ordinary citizens are excluded—but beyond that, police officers are merely armed citizens whose job it is to enforce the law (and not to protect anyone or anything).
I believe that the fact that most citizens walk around visibly unarmed has led lazy and weak-minded people to believe that they’re freed from authority and responsibility. Adhering to these fallacies detailed earlier has some pretty terrible consequences, but it also proclaims some pretty terrible things about those who do.
For instance, conceiving of oneself to be morally and authoritatively inferior to the agents of one’s representatives (police work for people you’ve elected) proclaims an acceptance of having no means or duty to enforce or defend one’s life or property or rights or liberty. This concept essentially renders a person nothing more than, at best, a ruled subject and, at worst, a slave. That concept is inconsistent with morality and with American culture. Closer to the point, though, it is a declaration that citizens should be freed from personal responsibility. That idea is evil, in the satanic sense, and component to the ongoing leftist effort to subjugate all men. As such, it is morally reprehensible and un-American.
Those who hold with the idea that only cops should be armed need to remember this important fact: no citizen, and therefore no government, can force another citizen to outsource their personal defense. Moreover, unless it is to a full-time, personal bodyguard, such an outsourcing has no possibility of success.
Police officers, by virtue of their professional office, should be armed. But every adult citizen should be armed for exactly the same reasons: personal safety, at the least. So as yet another effect of the aforementioned fallacies, immoral citizens who have mistaken civilization for an obviation of responsibility have taken up the ridiculous belief that since police officers are “there to protect them,” they need not be prepared to protect themselves. That abdication of personal responsibility is negligent, bordering on criminal, for it declares a willingness or even a desire to empawn others into one’s own willfully wrought and otherwise inescapable danger.
The ridiculous notion that “the police are here to protect us” is also pure idiocy, as it is entirely impossible. A police officer is armed in order to protect himself, not others. Assuming that a police officer will come and save you from a violent thug in a parking garage is no more wise than assuming a game warden will come and save you if you’re attacked by a bear or wolf in the wilderness. That savior officer is not going to be there when a criminal decides to violate your rights and liberty. At best, he can clean up the mess left in the aftermath of that unfortunate event. Today as always. our individual protection is our individual responsibility and no law or circumstance can ever change that irrefutable fact.
Law-enforcement officers are not our superiors, but our servants, doing the jobs that we’ve delegated to them with authority that we’ve delegated to them. And by “our” I mean ordinary, moral, peace-loving citizens. That we do not look equal to them—visibly armed as an indication of our capability and will—leads too many, including police officers, to hold that we ordinary citizens are not equal to them. Were a great number of us to adopt the compulsory practice of openly carrying arms in public, it would be far easier to address this flawed perception and reverse the unfortunate and sometimes tragic results of it.
Life Contains a Modicum of Risk and Society Must Accommodate Our Reasoned Response to That Fact
From Federalist 51:
"The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."
But men are not angels and no angels govern our society. Our moral responsibilities remain no matter our desire or efforts to become derelict in our moral obligations. Our plight is that which we create and none other, and no man or seeming-angel can compel us to abdicate our rights or liberty.
In defiance of this moral fact, it is widely “legal” (snicker) to openly carry arms while hunting or fishing among wild predators, but it’s not widely legal to openly carry in cities among human predators and those working to destroy our culture. That assault on liberty, logic, and reason has a name: tyranny. Our society begs for positive examples as fuel for cultural arguments; even for examples against tyranny, for unless we’re prepared to start shooting at the moment our rights are violated, we must learn to use social and political conventions to press our case and effect change. I have come to believe that advocating for and widely adopting the open carry of arms in public is an important component of that effort to effect positive societal and cultural change; both as a toolset and as a projection of moral authority.
As an ordinary citizen I do not feel the need to broadcast my ready toolset and so I’m most comfortable with the concealed carry of my arms and support materials. For several reasons I’ve long adopted the practice of, in some measure, becoming the “gray man,” both for personal and strategic reasons. Doing so makes good sense for all sorts of reasons. But as I have come to understand, it has other unintended effects that work against my values and morality.
In the end I’m faced with the very real possibility that being a “gray man” could be something of a societal betrayal and it might lend aid and comfort to the leftist demons who are working to destroy moral American culture. I don’t want that to happen and since I cannot advocate for something I’m unwilling or unable to do, I’m going to become the change I’m calling for in this essay; the change I want to see in my city and my state and my nation. I hope many others will join me, for when trying to bring about a shift in public perception or even the Overton Window, it takes more than one man with a logical argument can likely muster.
So while I will continue to discreetly carry arms as a matter of course I will also openly carry arms as a matter of course (two is one and one is none!). Even though I’m an old hand at being armed in public, taking this course means I’ll have to go back to being a novice at public carry of arms. It’ll be a bit clumsy for a while, but like anyone I’ll eventually get a handle on my particular strategy for daily carry. I hope to see many or even all of you doing the same.
* * *
- Wrongly civilized people have mistaken civilization for the obviation of responsibility, leading them to view all responsible citizens as either rubes or barbarians, and either in need of correction or a firm lesson in propriety.
- The basis for inalienable rights: the right of every individual to his/her own life, genius, effort, and all profits derived from these things.
Y'all come back now.
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