[Paul Hager is a long-time Bloomington resident and active member of the Libertarian Party.]
I began a campaign of social activism, combined with a measure of participant-observer sociological research, 6 months ago in December of 2000. It involved carrying my personal defense handgun openly instead of concealed, as I had been doing since 1993. I explain my background and the reasons why I chose to engage in this campaign in articles 1 through 5 on my website (/www.paulhager.org/).
Some readers may already be familiar with the campaign, because the press release I issued when it began almost immediately produced a story in the Herald-Times. That story was, in turn, picked up by the AP wire and appeared in the Indianapolis Star. I was also on talk radio both here and in Indy in December and January.
For the last 6 months, I've been wearing a Bulgarian-made 9mm Makarov. It is based on a Russian design, which is actually a reverse engineered German Walther PPK (James Bond's gun). The Makarov was the standard sidearm for East Bloc police. After the Soviet Union collapsed, a torrent of inexpensive police and military East Bloc firearms, such as the Makarov, flooded the market. I saw a bargain and picked one up on the cheap. The Makarov also has something of the mystique of the souvenir Lugers GIs brought back from Europe after WW II. Being a good free market libertarian, I just had to have a tangible symbol of our victory in the Cold War.
My Makarov came with a police flap holster. It was ideal for carrying my pistol openly since the holster makes it very difficult for anyone to get the pistol away from me, yet it is unmistakably a gun holster. I do, after all, intend for the gun to be seen.
Thus far, I've generated very little attention, either negative or positive. As I stated on the website when I began this campaign, I started with the Makarov in order to establish a baseline response. Now I'm ready to shift to a gun that is larger and harder to overlook: a .45 caliber Glock 21 semi-auto. This will allow me to determine whether changing to a more obtrusive gun affects the way people respond.
Glock pistols will be familiar to most readers, at least subliminally, because they are a favorite of police departments all around the country as well as those in our fair state. The Indianapolis police carry the Glock 22, which fires the .40 caliber S&W round. I think that's the same model Glock the Bloomington police carry.
For carrying my Glock, I bought a top-of-the-line, high-retention police-style holster. This makes sure that the only person who can take the gun out of the holster is me.
I will begin open carry of the Glock on Independence Day. As is my wont, I plan to be in Bloomington's 4th of July parade marching with the Libertarian contingent. Independence Day is an ideal time to make the switch because it will serve to remind people that self-defense is one of our inalienable rights.
Between 8% and 9% of voting age Hoosiers hold Personal Protection licenses entitling them to carry a pistol. All told, probably close to half of all Hoosier households have at least one gun, which is used for home defense but not carried. Despite our numbers, we gun owners are under incessant attack. Prejudice thrives on ignorance, and as long as gun owners do nothing to dispel negative stereotypes the attacks will increase and our rights will be slowly attritioned away. Ending stereotypes requires that the public be shown what gun owners are really like - who we really are. Gays didn't start to get respect until they came out of the closet. That's what my campaign is about: coming out of the closet as a gun owner.
I encourage everyone who normally carries concealed to begin carrying openly. If you are uncomfortable doing it on a daily basis, start out doing it once a week. A good day to start is Independence Day. It's the perfect time to come out of the closet and begin educating your neighbors. Join with me in celebrating all of the rights free Americans won by exercising their right of self-defense.