Why I Carry

The end of the Open Carry Campaign, No. 24, 16 September, 2001

by Paul Hager © 2001

IC Title 35, Article 47, Chapter 2. Regulation of Handguns

Article I, Section 32, Indiana Constitution


After due deliberation, I have decided to end my open carry campaign.  In the world that existed before the September 11 attack, I was going to run the campaign until December.  The world after September 11 is totally different, and plans must be adjusted accordingly.  Permit me to explain my decision.


For starters, there is strong evidence that the public attitudes about being armed have changed.  Gun sales have gone ballistic as many Americans have learned something that Israelis have known for over 50 years: in a battle with terrorism, civilians are in the front lines.  It is not my view that the average American is substantially more at risk from terrorist attack today than a week ago.   But the growing understanding by American citizens that we must all be responsible for defending ourselves – that government can’t protect each and every one of us – is a healthy acknowledgement of how things are in the real world.


Unfortunately, even if the right of self-defense is being rehabilitated, other fundamental rights are now being denigrated, in particular 1st and 4th Amendment rights.  A war or other crisis is an opportunity for those in authority to increase their power, and frightened people are all too willing to sell their rights in the false hope that it will buy them safety.  Changed circumstances require anyone concerned about civil rights to alter priorities accordingly.


There is also the fact, which I’ve stated several times in these articles, that there is a societal benefit – the “halo effect” – resulting from citizens carrying concealed.  Malefactors’ risk calculations are complicated by trying to figure out who is armed and who is not.  Even though my return to concealed carry will generate, at best, a microscopic societal benefit, I believe that it is the responsible thing for me to do at this time.


This is not to say that I will not continue to proselytize for the right of self-defense.  In the past I’ve taken pains to tell women that they should serious consider arming themselves.  Now I recommend that Americans of Middle Eastern extraction or of the Islamic faith take precautions and arm themselves.  Scapegoating of religious or ethnic groups is another common occurrence during wartime.  The U.S. has matured since WW II, when over 100,000 Japanese-American citizens were put in concentration camps.  I think that the overwhelming majority of Americans today would oppose any suggestion that fellow citizens be singled out because of their ethnicity.  However, there is some irreducible minority of hysterics and bigots who might try to take matters into their own hands – there have been a few incidents so this is not idle speculation.


My final reason for ending the campaign is that I’ve probably accomplished about as much as I could expect in any case.  When I started last winter, my opportunities for open carry were limited.  As colder weather now approaches I’ll be carrying my pistol under a coat or jacket a greater percentage of the time. 

Along with that, my campaign for Secretary of State dictates that I’ll frequently be wearing a business suit, which again means that I will be carrying concealed more of the time.


In the lessons learned department, I can say that in Indiana at least, carrying a large frame, semi-auto pistol may elicit glances from people, but they quickly accept it.  Even knowing, as many people in Bloomington did, that I was not a police officer but that I was carrying openly in order to make a political statement didn’t seem to produce an adverse reaction.  On the other hand, I did receive a great deal of approbation from people who support the right of self-defense.


I want to conclude with a personal note.  The most rewarding part of the open carry campaign has been that it’s given me the opportunity of meeting many fellow activists via email or in person.  To these fine people I say, keep your powder dry.  I know we’ll be working together again in the future.