Be advised: There is a political theme in this blog posting that is both pro-police and pro-gun. The pro-gun opinions stated are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Cygnus Business Media, the Cygnus Law Enforcement team or Officer.com.
This morning as I read through the news I saw an article about American University’s campus being on lock down for about an hour and a half on Wednesday (12/11/13) because someone on a shuttle bus saw part of a holster that someone else was wearing. Later it as revealed that the holster resided on the hip of an off-duty police officer and no threat ever existed.
My first thoughts after reading the article were:
Cops are imperfect people and unexpected things happen. Whoever reported a “gunman” on campus after seeing part of the off-duty officer’s holster maybe shouldn’t have reacted in such an alarmed fashion.
People who legally carry concealed weapons are imperfect. Occasionally, “concealed” isn’t always 100% although we should always try to insure that it is.
Cops make up a significant portion of those who carry a concealed weapon as the large majority of them carry concealed when off duty, so it’s inevitable that someone will see an off duty cop’s weapon or holster. In fact, it probably happens more often than we realize but people don’t generally freak out about it.
Which lead me to this thought:
Why do some folks panic at the idea of the presence of a gun? The person who reported a “gunman” on the campus shuttle bus reportedly never saw a gun but only a portion of the holster. I hope that the campus police department and/or that officer’s agency (no indication it was an off-duty campus officer) don’t discipline him although it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened. Agencies today – at least all the ones I’m familiar with – require their officers to be armed off-duty but also require them to keep the weapon concealed.
When I was in the academy I remember being taught that keeping the weapon concealed was an officer survival issue. If we happened to be out and about and a bad guy decided to act stupid (criminally and in a life threatening manner) by keeping our weapon concealed we didn’t become his (or her) first target. Further, by keeping our identity as a police officer concealed, we kept ourselves from being a target of those who hate the police in general.
While I understand that philosophy, I chuckle at how easy it is to spot an off-duty officer 99% of the time. Our appearance, behavior and body language gives us away pretty quick – at least to anyone who has a passing familiarity with law enforcement professionals.
What I’m beginning to wonder – and have been for some time now – is if we, the pro-gun portion of society – are doing ourselves long term harm by fighting for the ability to carry concealed, and if the pro-gun portions of law enforcement aren’t adding to the fight by mandating concealed carry. Let me explain…
In some places in this great nation of ours, open carry is perfectly legal. In some of those places, those who do carry openly are the exception instead of the norm. In those same places, the cops (as far as I know) are required to keep their weapons concealed while off duty. As a result, it is uncommon to actually see someone out and about with a gun on and in plain view. As a police officer my first thought in thinking about carrying openly has to do with identifying myself as a police officer and making sure my badge is right there on my belt next to my gun. That badge also makes me a potential target to bad guys so we go right back to thinking about keeping it hidden.
Our thought process needs adjustment. If everyone was carrying openly, then carrying openly by off duty officers wouldn’t require a badge to be displayed. If everyone who can legally carry concealed today could legally open carry tomorrow, how many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people would we see with guns on? It would be so common that there’d be no need to identify ourselves as law enforcement officers unless our day brought us into contact with other law enforcement officers doing their job.