To open carry, or conceal carry? That is a question around which a raging debate exists in the gun community. I'm an advocate of carrying a firearm for personal and the common defense under any and all circumstances, and I've argued till blue in the face that BOTH concealed and open carry have their place and their strengths.
Concealed carry seems to be far less objectionable to the gun community at large, and yet more objectionable to those with less firearms experience and knowledge. Oftentimes charges of public endangerment surround concealed carry, that the very inability to determine if a person is armed or not emboldens and enables criminal elements. Those same people will insist that a firearm carried about one's person is inherently dangerous to those around the individual in question. I dismiss both of these comments quite readily by pointing out that most LEO's in this country would readily admit that criminals have very little difficulty obtaining firearms regardless of the law, and a firearm in a holster is as safe as a parked car. They're only dangerous when they're in motion and in the hands of an inexperienced or negligent user, or one intending malice.
Concealed carry, on the other hand, bares several advantages to open carry. Anonymity could give a potential victim an element of surprise because their assailant may not realize they are armed at all. I also cite a potential umbrella effect, in which the mere potential for an encounter with a concealed carrier (as you can't tell who is and isn't armed) tends to have a marked effect on violent crime within the municipality governed by those laws. This seems to be born out in statistics, as those provinces within the US in which concealed carry permits are readily available for law abiding citizens tend to show fewer instances of violent crime, while Chicago, IL displays an epidemic of gun violence despite extremely restrictive civilian gun laws. Mostly in my case, I appreciate being able to carry and defend my family without being hassled by busy bodies in the community that view a man carrying a firearm with distrust.
Open carry on the other hand is much less common, I tend to think because it is viewed in a poor light by both the gun community and those outside of the community alike. Many will cite that the lack of anonymity places someone at a greater risk of being targeted, either that they would be targeted for the theft of their firearm or simply to remove the threat of an impedance to their intended criminal activity. Others simply point out (correctly I tend to think) that open carry is a show of force that many in the community find intimidating....
to which I reply "That's the point." Open carry is an advantage in only two aspects. First of all, often additional speed of draw/implementing your firearm can be found with open carry. There are no cover garments to clear, and holsters can be optimized for draw speed without consideration for concealment, not to mention the ability to carry long guns which would be near impossible to do concealed. Also, there are instances in which a show of force is warranted if not advantageous. Consider a WROL (without rule of law) situation like what I saw in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where law enforcement was what you could manage on your own while the police response time climbed to hours if not days. Carrying a long gun, openly and in full view of the public, would certainly give Johnny Gangbanger an opportunity to find another place to be that doesn't involved an armed confrontation with a citizen defending his home.
More important than the debate about whether to conceal or open carry is to simply carry in the first place. The more law abiding, armed citizens we have in the community the better able we are to defend ourselves and each other against violence. So, while we are all entitled to our individual opinions, I ask that we all stand together and demand that ANY method of carry be respected and honored. Too often the gun community is quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater and denigrate those among us we disagree with. - Phil Rabalais