So a couple of nights ago, I had to go out on a late-night milk run. I was already carrying my trusty Springfield XDm on my hip — yes, I do wear a loaded pistol while I’m cooking dinner (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — and even though it’s not difficult to set up the concealed carry holster, for some reason I really didn’t feel like doing it.
Then it occurred to me — I didn’t have to.
This is Washington. The state, not the DC. Unlike the home of the beltway fart-sniffers, here in the great Northwest the right to keep and bear arms is still (mostly) uninfringed. I could just…well…use it. My right, I mean.
Since the Second Amendment still applies here, aside from a short list of prohibited locations (arenas, festivals, public transit, federal buildings, and vehicles in general), anyone can strap on a pistol and just walk around with it. Loaded, even.
The one universal requirement is that it has to be openly carried. If you try to hide it, you’re breaking the law. That is, unless you have a concealed carry license (which I do; it’s very handy).
So, to make a long story short, there I was at the local grocery store, with shirt tucked in and pistol hanging out (not that there’s anything wrong with that), trying to look like I carried a gun every time I shopped for groceries. Which actually, I do. Just not openly.
I was worried at first. I’ve carried openly out in the boonies while target shooting or camping, but there’s a whole different set of variables in town. I mean, what if somebody freaked out and called the police? I was prepared to calmly explain that I was merely exercising a constitutional right, but I’ve also heard about incidents where a police officer is either ignorant or an asshole about it, and I didn’t want to risk that kind of mess. And I knew there was a chance that I might be asked to leave if the store didn’t want people carrying inside; that’s fine, they’re within their rights to ask anyone to leave, but it still could have been awkward.
However, the few late-night shoppers that shared the aisles with me didn’t seem to bat an eyelash. If they noticed the gun at all, they were keeping it pretty cool. No confrontations, no police, hardly even a doubletake or a stare. Just me and my gun, shopping for milk and breakfast cereal. All told, it was completely uneventful.
Well, not completely uneventful. When I got home, I had a lively little dispute with my wife, who hadn’t seen me leave all tooled up.
She was certain I had done something illegal. It took a lot of doing to convince her that open carry is in fact the default setting in Washington and several other states where the Second Amendment is still respected. Even when she conceded that point, she still remained certain that someone would have called 911 and the police were going to track me down for terrorizing our local grocery store (note: it hasn’t happened…yet).
Nothing I said could convince her that I hadn’t just played a dangerous prank. Constitutional or not, according to her it was irresponsible.
She’s probably right. If you can get a concealed carry permit, there’s practically no reason to carry openly. The benefits are few, especially when you consider that it opens you up to potential encounters with frightened hoplophobes and power-tripping police. Even a polite conversation with the police about your open-carried gun is at best a waste of time for both of you.
On the other hand, reason schmeason! It’s a constitutional right. Call it irresponsible if you will (I will), but the bedrock fact is that no one has to produce a reason or ask permission. It’s a right.
And it’s strange, but even though I don’t plan to do it again and don’t agree with the people who insist on open-carrying everywhere, it felt good. It was a small thing, but it was symbolic. A rite of passage. A responsibility, almost.
Like going to a political protest, writing your congresslizard, or insulting the president (any president will do), it’s something every American citizen should try at least once. What good is a right if no one dares to exercise it?