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Right To Open Carry Requires Responsibility

If the pro-gun community doesn’t take some action to rein in people like Dmitriy Andreychenko, the right to carry a gun could be easily lost.

Like many people, I was disappointed in Walmart’s decision to stop carrying certain types of ammunition and ask customers to refrain from open carry of guns in their stores. The decision is undoubtedly linked to the mass murder in an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead on August 3, but I think that it also has a lot to do with people like Dmitriy Andreychenko.

For those of you who don’t remember, Mr. Andreychenko entered a Springfield, Missouri Walmart on August 8, 2019, carrying a rifle, a pistol, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and wearing body armor. Rather than opening fire, he took videos of himself and panicked customers with a cell phone while he pushed a shopping cart around the store. Ironically, Andreychenko was held at gunpoint by an off-duty firefighter, a good guy with a gun, when he attempted to leave.

Andreychenko later told police, “I wanted to know if Walmart honored the Second Amendment.”

Even though Missouri is an open carry state, he is still in serious trouble. Andreychenko was arrested and is currently awaiting trial for making a terrorist threat in the second degree, a charge that carries a jail term of up to four years and a fine of up to $10,000.

“Missouri protects the right of people to open carry a firearm, but that does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner endangering other citizens,” Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press, who likened the act of walking into Walmart carrying a loaded rifle while wearing body armor to “falsely shouting fire in a theater causing a panic.”

“His intent was not to cause peace or comfort,” Lieutenant Mike Lucas of the Springfield Police Department told KYTV. “He’s lucky he’s alive still, to be honest.”

Both Andreychenko’s wife and sister told investigators that he had asked them to film his visit to Walmart and both told him that it was a bad idea. Their testimony is now being used as proof that Andreychenko’s intent was to cause a disturbance.

While open carry is a right in many states, rights come with responsibilities. Andreychenko’s actions were clearly irresponsible, but what about other open carry activists who stage public demonstrations? I’ve seen many pictures floating around the internet of heavily armed open-carry activists doing things like ordering food at restaurants with AR-15s or AK-47s slung across their shoulders. In my opinion, this is a very bad idea.

There is a right way and a wrong way to open carry and making a public spectacle of yourself is the wrong way. In this age of frequent active shooter incidents, gun owners should be conscious that a great many members of the public are very nervous about guns. If voters get freaked out by people in the grocery store who look like refugees from “The Walking Dead” or a Wild West cowboy, it will likely not end well for gun owners. Open carry laws can be repealed just as easy as they were passed. Probably easier.

In open carry states, it is still somewhat unusual to see someone with a gun on their hip. I lived in Texas when open carry became law there and now live in Georgia, another open carry state. In both places, I can go months without seeing anyone exercising the right to open carry. Even then, weapons have been exclusively small pistols that are not very noticeable. This is the correct way to open carry, a way that doesn’t spark fear from other shoppers.

Personally, I favor concealed carry over open carry for a couple of reasons. First, you can’t set off an anti-gun backlash if people don’t know that you are carrying a gun. Second, I don’t want bad guys to know that I am armed until I am ready for them to know.

If you want to open carry a gun, you have a responsibility to get training on how to do so safely, regardless of whether your state requires it. When you carry a gun in the open, you make yourself a target. If a criminal sees your gun, he may decide to shoot you rather than take the risk that you will shoot him. Proper training will teach you how to draw your gun quickly and shoot with accuracy in a high-stress situation.

Further, open carry also makes you a target for someone to take your gun and use it against you. Preventing theft of your gun requires good situational awareness and training in gun-retention techniques. If you think it can’t happen to you, consider that about 10 percent of police officers who are killed by gunshots are killed with their own guns.

You should also become familiar with the laws governing how and where you carry a gun. Some places are off-limits for carrying a weapon and some state define how you can legally carry. For instance, public buildings are frequently off-limits and you may be required to use a holster rather than simply putting a pistol in your pocket. If you plan on carrying in a different state, you are also responsible for knowing the law in the state that you will be visiting and whether the two states have reciprocity for their permit holders.

I support the right to carry and I believe that allowing good guys to arm themselves is a reasonable idea. A study by the Rand Corporation last year found that the effect of shall-issue carry laws on violent crime was inconclusive, but giving people the right to decide for themselves on whether they need to be armed for protection is a good thing.  

Guns are a valuable protective resource but if the pro-gun community doesn’t take some action to rein in people like Dmitriy Andreychenko, the right to carry a gun could be easily lost. The fear of heavily armed people in public is a reasonable fear in a time when large numbers of innocent people are being gunned down. Gun owners should not abuse the right to carry and, if they choose to exercise it, should get training and practice on a regular basis.

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