Thanks for the calm and thoughtful commentary on open carry. I appreciated your points on the value to society of citizen carry, even if you prefer the arms to be concealed.
I understand your concerns about open carry frightening people and creating discomfort, but the reality is that it doesn't happen nearly as much as you might think. Yes, there is some concern, but there is also a great deal of support. I find I get about as many supportive comments as concerned questions -- and there really aren't very many of either. In Utah, responsible open carry simply doesn't occasion much response at all.
What do I mean by responsible? I mean open carry by people who indicate by their manner and dress that they are normal people who pose no threat. I worry that open carry by those who do have a threatening appearance (gang-like clothing, tattoos, piercings, etc.) may frighten people enough to request legislative action, but I think open carry by ordinary, well-dressed folks can counter that danger.
More importantly I think open carry works to counter the increasing stigmatization of firearms. We're already far along the path; many people know guns only from their portrayal in entertainment media and have absolutely no idea that, in fact, any time they're in a crowd in Utah, there are almost certainly one or more law-abiding citizens legally carrying weapons. OC offers people a chance to realize that decent, normal people carry guns on a daily basis, which drives home the point that it's violent people who create violence, not firearms (or knives -- see recent efforts in the UK and Japan to ban long kitchen knives).
Those who open carry do, of course, take some risks. We risk being hassled by police who don't know the law (one open-carrier was arrested in American Fork a few weeks ago, and another in West Valley had a gun drawn on him), we risk unwanted attention from store managers and other citizens. Tactically, we take the risk that a bad guy will shoot us first, although there have been no confirmed cases of that happening.
Why do we do it? It is absolutely not because we want to feel like John Wayne; it has nothing to do with machismo -- which I'm sure is a relief to Clachelle Jensen. A few do it because they can't legally conceal, either because they're under 21 or because they simply haven't received their permit yet, but most do it to make a political statement, to affirm visibly our commitment to the second amendment, to our God-given right of self defense, and to create opportunities to educate people on the law.
Back to the main point, I understand the concern that open carry could create a backlash that results in further restrictions on our right to keep and bear arms. I don't, however, believe it's valid. Intuition to the contrary, open carry doesn't create as much discomfort as you think, and it has much greater support than you would expect. In spite of the surprising nature of an openly-carried firearm, the net reaction is typically neutral to positive. Given that, I think it's very reasonable to expect that some acclimation will calm the fears of most who react negatively, and move the overall consensus toward unworried acceptance, as well as educating the populace on the reality of citizen carry, and working to reduce the stigma of firearms.
Finally, I highly recommend to anyone that would like to further discuss this topic -- for or against -- to create an account on the discussion forums at http://opencarry.org
, and post in the Utah forum there. Please, though, let's keep the discussion thoughtful and fact-based.