By: CJ Grisham
With the legalization of open carry of modern handguns by licensed Texans just around the corner, the standard narrative is being furthered by anti-gun fear mongers in the media and on the left. Their target: Texas businesses.
Democrat state representative Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) is even going so far as to buy signs that will ban open carry in businesses and providing them free of charge.
“By providing these signs, I hope to help give customers and business owners peace of mind. I believe it is important to do all we can to help business owners create the atmosphere that best suits them,” Bernal said in an email blast to constituents.
Some form of open carry is legal in forty-four other states. In some states, open carry is only legal in a vehicle. In other states, the licenses to open carry are nearly impossible to obtain, making the practice that much more difficult to do. However, 33 states allow open carry without any permit whatsoever (five states allow constitutional carry, which is open or concealed carry without a license).
So what do businesses have to fear? Nothing. The fact is that open carry can actually contribute to a safer environment to a business’s employees and customers. The most often quoted evidence of this is a recent incident in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Matt Brannan and J.P. Mitchell were dining in the Wafflehouse on Barrett Parkway at I-575 in Kennesaw at 4:45 in the morning recently when a scout for an armed robbery crew entered the restaurant to case it. At the time, Matt and J.P. thought he looked a little suspicious, as he was wandering around the small restaurant like he was looking for someone. Unknown to Matt and J.P., two cars full of armed robbers were parked behind the restaurant waiting for the scout’s report.
The scout saw that two of the customers were wearing holstered 1911 Springfield Mil-Spec .45 pistols, and he immediately turned and left the store.
This isn’t an isolated incident. All over the country, lawfully armed citizens are deterring or responding to crimes in progress every single day. Several studies have been released over the past 15 years that support the claim that an armed society deters criminal activity. In the book, “Criminal Dilemmas: Understanding and Preventing Crime (Studies in Economic Theory),” author Katri K. Sieberg wrote,
56% of the felons [interviewed] agree that “A criminal is not going to mess around with a victim he knows is armed with a gun” and 57% [agree] that “Most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.” Over 80% of the felons [interviewed] felt that a criminal should always try to determine whether his victim was armed, while 39% said they personally had aborted at least one crime because of the belief that the intended victim was armed and 8% said they had done so “many” times.
This is staggering information that should comfort businesses as opposed to frightening them. The fact is that criminals don’t open carry. They want the fewest number of witnesses possible and it’s no secret that when citizens openly carry their firearms, people pay attention. Criminals rarely walk in with an openly displayed firearm when they are intent on committing a crime and when they do, the gun is in their hands and already pointed in a threatening manner.
Even when outgunned, the mere display of a firearm by a law abiding citizen causes criminals to flee. The reasoning is simple: they don’t generally want to die for the few dollars they’re going to get if successful. Most criminals want to stick around to victimize more people in the future. Take this story (also from Georgia) from earlier this year when a man armed with a semi-automatic modern sporting rifle began shooting up a liquor store before being confronted with an openly armed customer:
Police said Pitts left the liquor store, but later returned and opened fire on the owner and customers.
“I assume that this man was not going to stop, so I came up,” said Scott.
Scott was carrying a weapon and fired a shot at Pitts. He said he is not sure whether Pitts was struck.
“That’s when I noticed that there was a customer over here that had been shot,” said Scott.
“I look behind the counter. The clerk was lying on the ground. His wife was next to him,” he adds.
The store owner and the customer died.
Police said Pitts left the liquor store and went home where he lives with his parents.
Having been stationed all over the country, from California to Maryland and points in between, I’ve had the opportunity to open carry in many different states, both licensed and unlicensed. In spite of the hundreds of times I’ve open carried a holstered handgun in public, I’ve only had two people approach me about it and it wasn’t a cop.
While shopping in the toy section of a Walmart in Utah recently, a gentlemen approached me and asked if I’ve had any issues open carrying. I said I had not and he asked whether anyone has even mentioned it. Nope, he was the first. He noted that he’s always been afraid to open carry because he wasn’t sure how people would respond. I said that no one even notices. I’m aware of my surroundings and I’ve seen people notice, but they just went about their business.
In the second incident I was shopping at another retail outlet in the magazine section and two teenage girls approached me and asked if my gun was real. They then asked why I carry it and I was able to explain why self defense was important. They asked if I’d ever been robbed and whether that was why I carry it. I said no, probably never been robbed because I DO carry.
My advice to businesses isn’t to support or oppose open carry. Simply follow state law on the matter and it won’t matter. Customers won’t run away in droves because you follow the law and allow lawful carry. In fact, businesses that openly welcome licensed gun carriers have seen dramatic increases in businesses as opposed to less. Some of these businesses give free food. Others have offered discounts specifically to customers with handgun licenses. In every case where a business has offered discounts or openly accepted law abiding citizens with self defense firearms, business has boomed.
However, businesses that take on a proactive, aggressive approach to banning law abiding gun owners, they are missing out on much needed business by those that mean no harm but simply want to defend themselves. Businesses that openly accept gun owners will lose the business of those that don’t support our right to keep and bear arms. Business that ban guns will lose the patronage of those that do. The best position for a business to take is to take no position at all. As in other states where open carry was recently legalized, the practice will be “a non-issue” in Texas.
CJ Grisham is a retired Army First Sergeant and the President/Founder of Open Carry Texas. His is currently running for Texas Senate District 24 after his success in the getting the open carry law passed during the 84th Legislature. He is married to his beautiful wife Emily and they have three children.