Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Open Carry Of A Firearm Is Legal In Michigan

As a credentialed firearms instructor, I meet a lot of people who are disappointed to learn that they are not eligible to apply for a Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL). Sometimes, the reason for the ineligibility is major.

For example, the would-be CPL applicant has a felony conviction or is currently under a Personal Protection Order. However, in other cases the prospective CPL is only temporarily ineligible due to the fact that he has not yet reached his twenty-first birthday or has to wait for a disqualifying CPL application factor to expire.

In situations where a Michigan resident is still able to legally own a firearm but is not currently eligible for a CPL, there is an available remedy that will allow him to protect himself outside of the home with a handgun: Open Carry.

For example, I was recently contacted by a young man who is 19 years of age. Therefore, he is not old enough to acquire a CPL. He works as a valet for a popular metro Detroit location and handles a lot of cash. Accordingly, he has been robbed several times at gun-point and has no desire to seek employment elsewhere. He can openly carry a firearm without a permit, if he has his firearm rights intact, to protect himself while on the job.

Open Carry is a manner of toting a handgun physically on a person's body - in a holster - whereby it is totally visible to anyone who is looking at that person. Open Carry is completely legal in Michigan but is not popular. This article will explore both sides of Open Carry debate in an effort to educate Michigan residents who are ignorant about this personal protection option.

Reasons Why People Don't Open Carry
The biggest reason why people do not openly carry a handgun is due to ignorance. For many, they have not been informed that it is legal. In the minds of many people, it doesn't feel right and as a consequence must be illegal, as the only people who seem to do it are uniformed police officers, security guards, and couriers.

In contrast, many knowledgeable gun owners - with or without CPLs - elect not to open carry because of their desire not to make make waves in the community. In many areas of Michigan, the sight of an armed private citizen might cause some citizens to be unduly alarmed and generate unwanted attention from law enforcement.

Surprisingly, many law enforcement officers are not aware of the fact that open carry is legal in Michigan. Accordingly, many persons openly displaying a handgun in a holster have been illegally detained, harassed, and arrested. Some gun owners don't relish the opportunity of having to educate law enforcement officers about the law even though financial recourse through the court system is available.

Due to a decent probability of being questioned by law enforcement at some point in time, it is imperative that open carriers know the law inside out - perhaps even better than the police: pistol free zones, how to respond to a police officer's questions, proper transport of a handgun without a CPL, and etc. Many elect not to open carry because of the perceived hassle they will endure.

Moreover, if you have ever spent anytime visiting self defense, martial arts, or firearms forums on the Internet, you will most likely have heard that persons who open carry lose the vaunted "tactical advantage" if they are around during a crime. This line of thinking presumes that an armed citizen with a legally concealed handgun has the upper-hand when dealing with an assault from a predator who mistakenly assumes his victim is unarmed.

Many folks have an alternative point of view. An openly displayed handgun can be drawn faster than a concealed firearm and has an obvious deterrent effect if it is seen before-hand by a bad guy who is contemplating an assault.

This debate rages back and forth on the Internet boards. Some folks think bad guys will shoot an openly armed citizen while others think that the bad guys will seek out a safer victim elsewhere. Which option is more plausible? No one knows for sure but it makes for very interesting and sometimes boisterous debate online.

Reasons Why People Do Open Carry
One huge reason why people elect to openly carry a handgun is political activism. Some gun rights activists choose to affirmatively exercise their Constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" however odd or illegal it might seem to the ignorant public. For them, a right that is not exercised is a right that is lost. Accordingly, they are willing to peaceably educate the public that open carry is legal in Michigan.

Another reason why someone might open carry a handgun is that it is the only armed option for them because he is currently ineligible for a CPL. Certainly, in the minds of people in this circumstance, being openly armed is better than being not armed.

Bottom Line:
Open carry is legal in the state of Michigan without a permit. For those who choose to exercise this right, for whatever reason, they can expect to be viewed with suspicion from the general public and local law enforcement. However, the right to keep and bear arms is firmly established in our country's Constitution as a matter of settled law and if it is important to a specific person to exercise that right, he should.


Bob said...

Excellent article and very informative. I had not realized it is legal to carry my pistol (I do not have a concealed permit) openly. I don't think I will for the reasons you mentioned, but it is nice to know the option is available. I firmly believe in my 2nd amendment rights and wrote about it in my blog:

Travis said...

I open carried for the first time last week while putting air in my tires at a local gas station. I wouldn't enter the station itself with my sidearm showing, but I needed air and the air pump is located in the back of the station, a "perfect" place to be robbed. When I finished with my tire, another car pulled in front of mine and the drive climbed halfway out of his car and asked if I was a cop. I informed him that open carry is legal in Michigan. It felt odd for me to say that. At any rate, one more person is now "informed".

Jager said...

In your example of the 19-year-old it would be illegal for him to carry a pistol, either open or concealed, because 21 is the minimum age.

detroitccw said...

A 19 year-old can legally open carry if he is on foot, has a handgun registered in his name, and is not in a pistol-free zone.