Open Carry

Visibly carrying a firearm in public or open carry is a hotly contested issue in the gun control debate. Its legality varies from state to state, and federal legislators have fought to change that in both directions.

Updated:
Jun 23, 2022
| Published:
Jun 23, 2022
Open in Google Drive

Open carry is the act of visibly carrying a firearm in public; it can take on various forms and differs from state to state. Currently, under the umbrella definition, 21 states allow permitless open carry. Texas is the most recent state to establish those laws, while California prohibits carrying a loaded gun openly. 

History

The Firearm Owners Protection Act (1986)

The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) modified the Gun Control Act (GCA) without entirely repealing the legislation. Its main goal was to loosen federal control over gun rights. The provisions relaxed restrictions on ammunition production and interstate sales outlined by the GCA and repealed some requirements for licensed sellers and buyers. Additionally, it blocked the federal government from maintaining a national database to monitor sales and purchases and explicitly banned authorities from searching the premises of a seller or manufacturer without a warrant. While the GCA still enforced many regulations, the FOPA emphasized state power over federal control.

Open Carry

Open carry laws vary by state. There are four variations of open carry laws:

  1. Permissive Open Carry: Gun owners can openly carry a gun without a permit or license.
  2. Licensed Open Carry: Gun owners can openly carry a gun after being issued a license to do so.
  3. Anomalous Open Carry: Openly carrying a gun is lawful under state law but illegal according to local laws.
  4. Non-Permissive Open Carry: Openly carrying a gun is illegal under state law and is permitted under very limited circumstances.

States are responsible for determining their open carry laws, subject to frequent changes. The United States has 21 states that allow permitless open or concealed carry, and five states changed their laws in 2021. Texas is the most recent state to establish permitless open carry laws, and it is the largest by population to do so thus far. The pace at which states are shifting towards permitless open carry may signal growing support in state legislatures for fewer gun control policies.

However, other populous states remain on the opposite end of the spectrum by prohibiting open carry, like Florida, New York, and California. Even though Florida has over 300,000 guns registered and an ownership rate of 35.30%, it has been rigid about its open carry prohibition laws. Legislators have repeatedly introduced open carry bills in the Florida state legislature, but they were all shut down in the state Senate. Similarly, in California, open carry of a loaded firearm is prohibited, regardless of if it is a handgun or long gun.

Discussion Questions

  1. List two reasons someone on the Left would be against open carry.
  2. Outline your view on armed victims preventing crimes.
  3. Open carry has four variations. Which variation does your state fall under?

History

Learn More

Narratives

Left Narrative

Open carry makes it difficult for the public and law enforcement officers to identify threats, especially during shootings. There is little evidence to support the claim that open carry acts as a criminal deterrent. In fact, it may present a target for criminals, creating the risk that criminals could take someone’s gun. States like Texas that allow open carry increase public anxiety and the risk of shootings.

Right Narrative

The presence of a firearm deters criminals from committing crimes. 60% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. The question must be answered, “is it better to see who is armed or have the weapon is concealed?”

Bipartisan Narrative

The presence of a firearm deters criminals from committing crimes. 60% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. The question must be answered, “is it better to see who is armed or have the weapon is concealed?”

Activities

No items found.

Classroom Content

Browse videos, podcasts, news and articles from around the web about this topic. All content is tagged by bias so you can find out how people are reacting across party lines.