More on Rifle OC

Both Caleb and Tam have had more to say on the whole Starbucks thing. Someone also left a comment this morning pointing there’s a lot of local variation when it comes to acceptability of seeing firearms in public (though, I would suggest we’re being far too suburban, in that I doubt rifle OC is common in suburban or urban Atlanta, Nashville, Little Rock or Houston, even during hunting season). I get that. I have an old post that speaks of having to pay attention to the context around you before deciding what the wise course of action is regarding OC. If rifle OC is normal and accepted in your area, knock yourself out. That’s not most places in America.

A useful analogy might be to put this in a fire awareness scheme. People die in fires. A fire can strike anywhere, unexpectedly. But you don’t see people carrying big fire extinguishers around with them everywhere they go. You don’t even see firefighters doing, and if you saw a firefighter doing it, you’d probably assume there was a fire somewhere in the area. You might even become a bit alarmed. Don’t get me wrong, I like fire extinguishers. I keep a big CO2 fire extinguisher in my house, and I keep a smaller extinguisher in my car. But it’s too much of a burden to carry one around on my person for the rare chance I might need one to put out a fire.

A rifle is about as burdensome to carry as a fire extinguisher (assuming you could make a sling for one). I’d dare say someone carrying a fire extinguisher slung over his back, just in case there is a fire, would be seen as a little weird. If you asked and that person told you “I’m carrying this to make people more aware of the risk of fire, and to show people that carrying a fire extinguishers is normal, and could save your life,” you’d probably still think the person was a bit of a whack job. Why? Because everyone can see that carrying that thing is a huge pain in the ass, and most people understand the risk of fire in most public places is pretty low.

And going back to firearms, most of us don’t carry because we’re all that worried we’re going to be victims of crime. If you’re an average middle class suburbanite, the chance of you being a victim of violent crime is pretty small. You may actually be more likely to die in a fire. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us are carrying out a sense that it’s better to be responsible for yourself. It is a statement of rugged individualism in a society increasingly composed of people who are just fine with dependance on the state for the basics of life. What brings someone to decide to carry a firearm is a rather complex thing, and I don’t think there’s an easy or quick way to communicate it to people who haven’t arrived at that place yet, or perhaps never could get there.

I do think if people see rifle OC enough, they do get somewhat used to it, but I think the best you can hope for is to take people from “That person is dangerous!,” to “Peh, what a tool.” Maybe that’s progress, but I think the desirability of the result is questionable enough to make me wonder whether the energy people put into activism via OCing rifles might be better spent on other endeavors within the gun rights movement.

47 thoughts on “More on Rifle OC”

  1. For your last paragraph do you mean to refer to all OC or OC of rifles?

    Given your preceding argument of the inhernent difficulties of merely carrying a rifle (CC or OC) versus the far lesser ones of carrying a pistol.

    Because if you spend a while going on the burderns of OCing a rifle and the resultant sense of “what danger does that person see?” and then apply it to all OC.

    Well… there’s a bit of bait and switch there isn’t it?

    So I guess the question is if you think people OCing pistols will also, at best, be elevated to toolboxes.

    Because if so… that’s not quite what Tam was saying was it?

      1. That has the last paragraph make a lot more sense.

        Personally, I like the way Tam explained it in the comment to her post. Using the Cosplay analogy.

        As it is a form of gunny cosplay and geekery. Espeically if there’s any costuming alongside the burdensom and visible acoutrement.

  2. I don’t mind Open Carry of Rifles if it were done practically…

    But even I struggle to find a practical use for carrying one. It’s one of those things that should be legal and normal… but isn’t.

  3. Just thinking aloud:

    There was a time (1920s and 1930s) when my dad and his brother would ride their bicycles down the streets of South Philly with their shotguns over the handlebars, to go hunting “down The Neck,” south of the city. No one would bat an eye at a 12-year-old with a shotgun because they assume what they were up to. (There is an oral history about people laughing at my uncle carrying both a shotgun and a hound dog on his bike.)

    I grew up a country boy, but lots of people my age remember OCing their shotguns to the end of the line on public transportation in Philly (trollies or buses) to go hunting, and no one batting an eye. It was widely done, and again everyone could assume what they were doing.

    Les Edelman, now of Kimber, started business on South Street in Philly, with a pawn shop that specialized in guns, and also retailed Herter’s products. Several times in my late teens (early-mid-1960s) I and/or my friends OCed long guns down South Street, that we had just bought at Edelman’s pawn shop. Everyone assumed we were OK.

    I agree that the key is “acclimation,” linked to a rational purpose. If I saw someone OCing a rifle in a rural-state town, I would probably assume they were going hunting/shooting, and were reluctant to leave a valuable gun in their car. If I saw it in the center of Philly, or very urbanized suburbia, I’d probably assume the guy or gal was some kind of tool. That of course does not mean I would advocate limiting their right to do what was legal, anymore than I would advocate limiting the right of LaRouchies to set up their table in front of the post office.

    1. I think a really interesting question is how we got from that society to this one. You’d think the answer is urbanization, but then you have stories like yours, and I’ve heard other people tell similar ones. Even Justice Scalia speaks of openly toting an M1903 on the New York Subway system without anyone thinking anything of it, back when he was in school and shot high-power on the rifle team.

      When did the change start? Was it sudden? Was it gradual? I think understanding how we got here from there might be instructive for how to go back, if we can go back. It might boil down to no one batted an eye because there were so many ways people, including kids, could buy the farm, that guns didn’t register on people’s radar as anything to be concerned about, much like no one thought much of seat belts in cars back then either, even for kids. Maybe it was the World Wars. Who knows. But I think it would be useful to know.

      1. “I think understanding how we got here from there might be instructive for how to go back, if we can go back.”

        In many ways, we’ve already come back. 30 years ago, who would have imagined that some form of legal CC would be available in 50 states? Admittedly, for some blue states, that CC is more legal technicality than reality, and Illinois was brought into the present kicking and screaming. But it’s here.

        Can we go back the rest of the way? Probably not, at least in urban areas. Where I live, few people think twice at the sight of a long gun, at least during hunting season. But why, for the love of God, would you want to take it into Starbuck’s? Just to make a point? What is the point, exactly? Scaring the sheep does not make the point that there’s nothing to fear . . . .

        We win, folks, because we operate on rationality and facts; the facts are on our side. History and law is with us. The Constitution is with us. We are the adults in the room here. The other side is full of hysterical imaginings (“blood will run in the streets”) that have proven to be wrong time and again. Why would we play into their hands by appearing to be just what they accuse us of being?

      2. It is an overall cultural shift that took place over decades. The vast majority of Americans no longer hunt, and if they do, it is not out of necessity. A firearm owned for any reason is a symbol of self reliance in a culture that has continually shifted towards institutional dependence.

        I think the urbanization and some other reasons given for the shift in the normalcy of carrying firearms is more of a symptom of the same cultural shift.

        The cultural shift, I think, is a result of the typical progression of a governed society. We started off as a group of people seeking independence and freedom. But government naturally grows and becomes a more central piece of the average citizens life over time. Especially when we take our freedoms and individuality for granted.

          1. There are surprisingly few WordPress functions that mimic the Facebook “Like.” At least last I checked. I’ve wanted one on here for a while.

            1. You have no idea how giddy I was that Tam thought a comment chain I was involved in was full of win…

      3. I know that growing up in South Jersey I had a couple High School Classmates who hunted, and even brought their shotguns to school cased and kept in their lockers during the day, ammo stayed in their cars, but due to car break-ins they didn’t want to risk leaving them in a car all day. I assume they had permission to do this as nobody got in trouble for it, and this was in the late 70’s in NJ.

        I even carried my dad’s 22 rifle out Trick or Treating as part of an Army costume and no-one said anything about it….

    2. I had a similar thought. Just the other day I was reading Charlotte’s Web to my children, and in chapter one Fern’s brother runs off to catch the school bus carrying an air rifle and wooden dagger. (!) Seems like even today there are parts of the country where it’s normal for high school kids to park cars with full gun racks so they can go hunting after class. I’m not really disagreeing with Sebastian, but in some places it might be less weird than others.

  4. The point, and well taken, is that even if it’s legal to OC a rifle, it isn’t a good idea. If the idea is to get people to acclimate to the idea of open carry, while that may be a good idea, the fact of the matter is that most people will never acclimate to that. That simply isn’t our society today.

    Instead, we’ll just take people who could be reasoned with, who might be on our side or simply not interested in the issue, and push them to the other side.

    In short, even if OC of long guns is legal, it’s usually counterproductive, geeky, and plain dumb. Do you have a right to do so? Sure. Is it a good idea? Hell no. Especially at Starbuck’s; here we have a company who, at some risk to their business (remember who they tend to appeal to) has simply followed the law. The last thing we want to do is make that more difficult to them. If some Starbucks are closing (and I understand they are) rather than risk alienating some of their clientele with yahoos open carrying rifles, that’s a big neon sign to knock it off. You’re not helping; you’re helping the other side.

    That said, there are those who would favor shutting down the LaRouchies in front of the post office too, and they are by and large the same folks who want to restrict your gun rights. They are the real threat.

  5. As someone that’s been OC’ing for years, I’ve never really understood the rifle carry thing either. Sure, if you’re at a political gathering, hunting, or just bought the thing, well, go for it. But those that choose to OC a rifle simply for getting attention, well, I look at them the same way I look at kids wearing all black, trench coats and tall boots when it 80+ degrees outside. But hey, whatever blows their (blue) hair back I guess…

  6. “If you’re an average middle class suburbanite, the chance of you being a victim of violent crime is pretty small.”

    Not only is fire a greater danger, heart disease or cancer is a FAR greater danger. What astonishes me is how both sides of the gun control debate focus on what is for nearly all demographics, a relatively low risk problem. Unless you are black person living in a big city, your chances of dying from violent crime are trivial compared to your chances of dying from a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Your chances of being robbed (adjusted for the size of the loss) are trivial compared to the costs of these health problems destroying your assets.

    1. If there was something I could carry all the time to substantially lower my risk of heart disease and cancer, if it was about the size of a pistol, strap me the hell up. I’d find that much easier than finding time for exercise, or giving up french fries :)

      1. Trust me, when the time comes that you have a surgery like mine (or the much more unpleasant rib cage opening surgery), you will suddenly realize that you really did have time to exercise all those years.

  7. I’ll add to my ancient history reflections above, that even many of our immigrant grandparents brought something of a “gun” tradition with them from Europe.

    My paternal grandfather immigrated in 1900. He was far from a gun hobbyist, but he owned guns. Apparently among the stories he told his kids about Europe, were several about “the wolf.” They had a pretty big farm (I’ve been there, since it was retrieved from the Soviets) and apparently the area livestock was deviled by wolves during the 19th century. One story was about how he saw the wolf, and got so excited he shot away his ramrod, missed the wolf, and couldn’t reload his gun.

    But speaking of changes in culture — here — the one story from this side of the ocean involving him and a gun is, that one day he planted a little tree in his backyard, facing a little back street between row houses in Philly. That night a drunk came down the back street, and tried to tear up the tree by its roots. So, my grandfather went out with a break-open, chrome-plated revolver and shot him. He didn’t kill him, and when the police came around, the neighbors told them what had happened, so they locked up the wounded drunk and never even spoke to my grandfather. One can imagine how different that incident would have turned out in today’s culture! And remember that was Philadelphia, not Tombstone.

  8. How did we go from Scalia carrying a 1903 on the subway to today? We allowed the mock-offended to shame us into voluntarily giving up our rights. They have succeeded long enough now that they are claiming a type of “adverse possession” of a new right of theirs to “not be offended”. They are now pushing this new right as trumping 2A rights.

    What is the solution? Carrying ARs until people get tired of hearing from the mock offended, or the mock offended themeselves get tired of whining about nothing, is a reasonable approach.

    1. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know, but what WOULD be THE LAW today regarding carrying a 1903 on a NYC subway? I haven’t a doubt you’d be hassled, but has THE LAW changed? NYC’s Sullivan Law long predates Scalia’s birth, so apparently it did/does not apply to long guns.

      I admit though, that this sounds like another example of us being “browbeat” out of doing something perfectly legal, as I wrote about PA handgun OC a day or so ago.

      1. Or the police punishing you despite it being legal.

        Take Mass OC for example. It’s prefectly legal to Open Carry in that state. But if the cops see you, you’ll get a talking too and then your permit will be yanked or later on refused for renewal. Due to “poor judgement.”

        1. Or a story from my parents 30-40 years ago about NJ “FOP carry”.

          That’s where if you had a Friends Of Police card signed by the Chief of the county you were in the police would do a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with regards to you being armed.

          They knew odds were good you were armed, but since you had “the right friends” they wouldn’t confirm it.

      2. Damned good question. That might make a good topic for a future post if I can find time to research it. And yes, the Sullivan Law only applied to handguns. My admittedly superficial understanding from speaking casually with experts is that most of NYCs most draconian shit is relatively modern, dating back a decade or three.

        1. Yes. The New York City Gun Control Act of 1967 is really when this craziness started. Up to this point, there was effectively no regulation of long guns. I have a vague memory of either Ed Beame or Ed Koch (can’t remember which mayor) explaining in television interview that the reason that NYC started to regulate long guns was that people were being released from mental hospitals, going into stores, buying rifles, and immediately going on shooting rampages in the streets. At the time, this sounded completely absurd to me. I now realize that the New York State mental health law reforms of 1964 meant a substantial increase in the number of deinstitutionalized mental patients. Maybe this wasn’t so absurd.

    2. Ken, I totally disagree.

      Note the -context-. Scalia wasn’t “OC-ing” the rifle in the sense of “carrying it for potential defensive use during the day”, which is what we are generally talking about when we talk about OC-ing any firearm.

      He was simply -transporting- it from one place, his home, to another place, the range, without bothering to put it in a case (or at least a not-rifle-case-looking-case.

      Very different context and more alike the anecdotes of folks taking deer rifles to school and such. They weren’t “carrying them to school” for the sake of defense or even to be carrying them; they were transporting them from home to go hunting and ‘going to school for a class day’ happened to be on the way to their hunting destination.

      Thus such carry, really transport, was “normalized” at that time and place by the context of the activity the transport was for, not in and of itself. Which ties back in to what Sebastian and others have said about societal change.

      To re-normalize what Scalia did we don’t start by packing ’03’s on the subway hither and yon to “make a point”: we get the idea and actuality of rifle classes and teams “normalized” back into urban NYC schools. The context of transporting firearms to enable those activities will then naturally follow.

      Same with urban hunting, or rifle target shooting, etc, etc. Until we can change the culture to allow the contextual activities to be normalized, the transporting firearms to -do- those activities (quite rationally) never will be.

      1. I think this observation is particularly insightful. I have wondered, more than once, whether gathering as groups for monthly muster (with a variety of guns, from muskets to AR-15s, and a range of costumes, from Revolutionary War Soldier to WWII Soldier to business attire, with guns and uniforms not necessarily matching), then carrying their rifles with them to Starbucks or to a local restaurant for breakfast, would do a lot in restoring gun normalcy.

        I think the key is that it isn’t just carrying to make a statement–it’s carrying because you’re doing something else that requires the use of the gun, and it’s convenient to carry it rather than leave it in the car!

      2. I agree, another comment full of win. Carrying for the sake of making a statement can actually have quite the opposite effect. Carrying a firearm around town will only be seen as normal once the activities that require you to do so are seen as normal. Hunting after school or work, school rifle teams, more youth shooting leagues and matches etc….

      3. The purpose for which a rifle is carried is not indicated by it being carried. Attempts to infer intent falls under the category of “assumption”. And you know what happens when we do that.

        Carrying a rifle is carrying a rifle. It is a right of Americans to engage in this behavior. There is no right of the offended (faux or otherwise) to demand that it only be done when part of some other activity.

        The Bill of Needs still doesn’t apply, despite how much some wish it would.

        1. Again, I disagree.

          The purpose for which a rifle is carried can be reasonably inferred by the context of the carry. An informed inference is not a mere “assumption”, we all do them fairly accurately every day. It is, in fact, the essence of situational awareness in a self-defense contect, noting tjings that are out of place in a given context are what inform us to be more alert.

          The type of rifle, the appearance of the carrier, and the known available activities for rifle use in a given area all provide the information needed to make an informed inference. Without society allowing and acknowledging the recreation of those contexts they won’t be available to make the rifle carry normal.

          As for no right to be offended, you are correct, but here in the real world as opposed to theory, offended people also have the right and ability to push their legislators to pass laws restricting our rights. Laws which often pass and are upheld by courts no matter how unConstitutional they may be. Which forces us to waste time and resources trying to get them overturned.

          Noone is saying we shouldn’t work toward normalizing rifle carry, but in many places and contexts simply “doing it” is in reality actively counter-productive.

          1. > No one is saying we shouldn’t work towards normalizing rifle carry.

            So, how should we work towards normalizing rifle carry?

            1. You’re never going to normalize rifle OC for self-defense, because no one wants to haul a rifle around with them all day. Someone who does that will always be weird.

              But you might be able to normalize carrying a rifle openly if you’re going to the range on a bike, or are otherwise engaged in normal activity with a gun. In that case, you need to get more people into that kind of thing.

            2. To re-normalize what Scalia did we don’t start by packing ’03′s on the subway hither and yon to “make a point”: we get the idea and actuality of rifle classes and teams “normalized” back into urban NYC schools. The context of transporting firearms to enable those activities will then naturally follow.
              Same with urban hunting, or rifle target shooting, etc, etc. Until we can change the culture to allow the contextual activities to be normalized, the transporting firearms to -do- those activities (quite rationally) never will be.

  9. Some of the comments about the way back to historic American normalcy are are some of the most intelligent I have read on this blog.

    Maybe the message is that it is not “gun culture”, but “shooting culture”, and that shooting is a very wholesome activity. The gun is not then perceived as an evil object hidden in an urban bedside drawer, but something taken outside at every chance for fun and skill development.

  10. Dear Sebastian and Bitter,
    I realized my previous comment could be misunderstood. I did NOT mean to imply that other comments here were not intelligent. I just thought some of the ones on this post were really good!


    Richard Grossman

  11. I have carried a rifle while in the military (including in mass transit) and have not found it to be uncomfortable from the purely physical standpoint. While of course the social experience of being a soldier is separate from that of being a civilian, the physical experience (i.e. the weight and length of the firearm) does not change. So just from that point I wish to dispute the notion that carrying a rifle is some great physical discomfort.

    1. Well, when people complain about a handgun weighing a pound or two as being too heavy to carry all day and wanting a lighter plastic version of it then a 8 pound plus rifle is WAY too heavy for daily carry!

    2. The “burden” being discussed goes beyond weight and length: it isn’t just about physical discomfort and encumbrance.

      The burden is the overall inconvenience of properly carrying a rifle with you while maintaining constant positive control, obeying all relevant firearm laws not specific to carry, and obeying all safety rules, while also living your normal life and conducting your normal course of business. Basically being fully engaged in activities that have -nothing- to do with carrying a rifle, while carrying a rifle, which done properly is a task in and of itself.

      For example, a briefcase is an inconvenience in much the same sense that you have to haul it around and keep track of it, but a briefcase enables the job, it isn’t an irrelevancy to it.

      There is a big difference between carrying a slung rifle around as a military member, even while recreating off-duty (particularly in the context of Israel where that is “part of the job”), and engaging in a civilian job and lifestyle day-in and day-out (particularly in the context of the US) while maintaining proper, safe, control of that “irrelevant to those activities” rifle.

      I too have done the former (well, not in Israel) and it was no big deal but doing it right now as I type would be a pain in the ass given the requirements of my job. Though you’d be right to point out it wouldn’t for some folk’s jobs, but that’s (again) due to the context of that particular job, not because proper rifle carry isn’t a task above and beyond any other given job requirements.

      Hell, it’s raining cats and dogs today, if I was OC-ing a long gun (real OC, ready for use, not transporting in a case) I’d spend a big part of the day wiping it down as I went in and out of my car and my sales calls (assuming I could carry into any of them, if not, it’s locked in my car, which defeats the purpose).

      Just doing proper maintenance would mean hauling dry rags and finding a place to unload and do maintenance without muzzling anyone or anything.

      It’s not all sunny trips into the used bookstore, then leaning it against your leg in the coffee shop (my personal goal). If you aren’t willing to do it all day, every day, everywhere you go, but only when it’s convenient, then you are rifle OC-ing merely for the sake of rifle OC, which is an affectation.

      My basic philosophy isn’t to look at the downsides of any given thing, but rather the upsides, rifle OC provides few realistic upsides that pistol carry doesn’t also have. Given that, why bother when it has so many additional downsides compared to pistol carry.

      Obviously “because I can” is a valid response, but to me doing something simply “because you can” doesn’t make much sense when there’s no other real justification to overcome the negatives.

      1. In the original post:

        >A rifle is about as burdensome to carry as a fire extinguisher >(assuming you could make a sling for one)….

        > Because everyone can see that carrying that thing is a huge pain >in the ass, and most people understand the risk of fire in most >public places is pretty low.

        I.E. “carrying a rifle is seen as weird because it is clumsy and uncomfortable, while the situation you might need one is unlikely.”

        The physical discomfort is clearly part of the discussion.

        1. “The “burden” being discussed goes beyond weight and length: it isn’t just about physical discomfort and encumbrance.”

          No one said it wasn’t -part- of the discussion.

          It is simply categorically different carrying a handgun; attached to your person in a holster which allows you to stand and sit and walk and run and get into and out of any given vehicle encountered without requiring additional handling or “touching” of the weapon and which prevents “muzzling” with an uncovered trigger guard the people around you, and which can have mechanical retention devices to assist in preventing unauthorized handling, and carrying a slung rifle.

          The rifle is inherently more burdensome as already discussed. In more detail, you have to unsling or at least handle the rifle to get into and out of cars and chairs. Sitting and having the rifle available for defensive use, particularly in a non-tactical vehicle, requires unslinging it and placing it nearby or in your hand.

          With it not attached to your body it is inherently more likely to be accessed by the unauthorized or even to simply fall to the floor risking damage.

          At all times you are relying on the mechanical safety to prevent an AD due to the trigger being exposed. In a crowd someone could simply hook the trigger deliberately or by accident, even carry in front of the body can’t prevent that.

          To say it is simply a matter of weight and bulk is to dodge the very real issues of what “burdensome” means in the context of carry.

      2. >If you aren’t willing to do it all day, every day, everywhere you >go, but only when it’s convenient, then you are rifle OC-ing merely >for the sake of rifle OC, which is an affectation.

        This is no different from people who carry a bigger pistol in the winter than they do during the summer.

        1. That’s just splitting hairs and arguing for the sake of arguing.

          The situations are categorically different because long guns and hand guns are categorically different things.

          A “large” pistol (say 1911) and a “small” pistol (say Officer’s) differ in size by about an inch in height and length and about a pound in weight at most and can be carried in the same fashion, CC or OC, in effectively the same locations.

          There’s no intellectually honest similarity to carrying a rifle that is at minimum a foot and a half longer and 2-3 times the weight that can only be carried slung or in hand.

Comments are closed.