Open carry is not the same as disorderly conduct

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – Utah’s lack of restrictive gun laws is one reason the state generally receives high marks in terms of personal freedoms. In 1995 lawmakers liberalized Utah’s laws regarding concealed weapon permits and opponents of concealed carry made predictions of blood in the streets, shootouts over parking spaces and police in constant fear for their lives. Not surprisingly, these grave expectations turned out to be false on every count.

Concealed carry permit holders have proven themselves to be among the most law-abiding members of society with only the tiniest fraction of permits being revoked in the past 17 years. Many people who opt to openly carry a personal firearm have chosen not to get a concealed carry permit but still take responsibility for their personal defense. State law dictates that an openly carried firearm must be two actions away from firing unless the individual has a concealed carry permit; in which case it may be carried fully loaded. Of course, secured areas such as courthouses, jails, and airports are still off limits.

Now the legislature is considering a bill clarifying and affirming the right of law-abiding citizens to openly carry a firearm without undue harassment by law enforcement. Representative Paul Ray’s HB49 would ensure that someone openly carrying a firearm while simply going about their business could not be charged by police with disorderly conduct.

Some municipalities in the state have used the disorderly conduct charge as a kind of catchall offense to discourage individuals who’ve chosen to exercise their right to bear arms by openly carrying a firearm. The problem here is that a single phone call from some well-intentioned busybody who doesn’t like guns can result in officers being sent to investigate. Representative Ray’s bill would ensure that, absent any elements of crime, no one could be cited for disorderly conduct as some sort of political statement.

Of course, not everyone agrees and the measure is inspiring dizzying new heights of fear-mongering language among the bill’s opponents.

A major Salt Lake newspaper has run back to back editorial pieces invoking how the sight of a firearm in the possession of a mere citizen causes “fear, if not panic” and would soon be “terrifying the bejesus out of everyone.” At least they didn’t have to stoop to hyperbole to make their case.

But the most astonishing language in opposition to the measure comes from Salt Lake City police chief Chris Burbank who stated that the purpose of open carry of a firearm is the “intimidation factor. In law enforcement, that’s the message you send.”

That’s a far cry from the idea that police exist to serve and protect the public.  Or are we to assume intimidation is somehow a respectable quality so long as its source is a member of the state’s punitive priesthood?

Distrust of the general public seems to be a common theme among those who quail at the thought of firearms in the control of someone who isn’t an agent of the state. But the right of self-defense extends to all and a police officer’s life is not more valuable than the lives of those citizens whom he serves. Under a just government, where all are equal before the law, his life is worth precisely the same as his fellow citizens. Therefore, they deserve the ability to protect their lives with the best tools available. To this end, the state cannot be allowed to claim a monopoly on the use of defensive force to protect innocent life and property.

There is nothing inherently threatening or alarming about a citizen openly carrying a firearm, except perhaps to those whose controlling natures are offended by such things. Generations of otherwise reasonable people have been conditioned to believe that only the state can be trusted with firearms. To them, anything that’s not under the direct control of the state is, by definition, out of control. This is the classic definition of statism.

There is another thing to consider regarding open carry. Concealed carry allows an individual to move through society without attracting undue attention. Avoiding drawing the attention of your fellow citizens, opportunistic criminals, or government agents, is a desirable thing in our increasingly hypervigilant, threat-oriented society.

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twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • Mike H February 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    There seems to be a lot of the double standard from time to time from our police re: the Sheriff’s comment about intimidation. These almost seems to be a common attitude about many things. I have noticed cruisers with much darker windows than I can legally have and of late I have seen most of the motorcycle police in this area filter, or lane splitting, between cars. As far as my Utah Motorcycle Operator’s Handbook is concerned lane sharing in this state is illegal. Meaning a car cannot share the lane with me, nor can I zip between all the cars at a red light and jump to the front of the line. But I see policeman on their motorcycles here do it constantly. I understand in the event of an emergency, but I’ve yet to see one go after anyone, they just toodle away from the light. Something you might check into is the legality of this. The police represent the law, they are not above it. I have a ton of respect for the police, but this type of thing concerns me for a couple of reasons, one is the assumption of being above the law, and 2, their safety. Even if lane splitting was legal in this town I wouldn’t do it, there are just too many things that can go wrong. I’d rather an officer is able to perform his duties than lying on the ground under his bike because some ponce opened his door to spit a mouthful of chaw on the ground or suddenly decides to change lanes.
    Sorry, kind of a tangent there. lol

  • Mark February 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Spot on my friend!

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