John Lott On Texas Open Carry

BY Herschel Smith
9 years ago

The Austin-American Statesman is carrying an opinion piece by John Lott on the open carry bills in Texas.  It is subscription, but Mr. Lott also mirrors the entire commentary on the web site Crime Prevention Research Center (where he is president).  Mr. Lott felt the latitude to undercut the Austin-American Statesman by publishing the entire piece on his site, but I will only provide excerpts.

With well over 700,000 concealed handgun permit holders in Texas, there is a good chance that someone next you in a grocery store or restaurant is carrying a concealed handgun. But some are only satisfied if others actually know that they are carrying.  They think that by openly carrying guns they can make others comfortable with guns. They want to make a statement.

Texas lawmakers are now wrestling with the questions of campus carry and open carry. They couldn’t face a clearer choice between enhancing safety or making political statements.

Open carry advocates carry rifles because they can’t legally openly carry handguns. While no problems have occurred, simply handling a rifle as opposed to keeping a handgun in a holster, raises the risk that something might go wrong.

Open carry advocates have not been the best at public relations and they have scared some people. Much has been made of supposed gun bans by Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s and Sonic’s supposedly banning guns. In fact, these companies merely “respectfully request” that customers not openly carry guns. Passing an open carry law where proponents carried handguns, instead of rifles, would be less threatening and thus likely make it less of a PR issue.

Still, there is a more basic problem with open carry – it isn’t as effective in protecting people.

Criminals and terrorists can strike anywhere and at any time, that gives them a huge strategic advantage. When an attacker sees someone openly carrying a gun, they can either attack that person or wait for a more opportune moment. Alternatively, they can select another target.

Concealed carry makes attacks riskier. A killer can’t attack an auditorium in Texas without facing near-certain resistance. And, of course, an attacker has no idea who might be packing heat.

[ … ]

Open carry isn’t bad, but concealed carry is better. There are more important changes to be made. At $140, Texas has one of the highest permit fees in the US. Lower fees would increase the number of people who can protect others. It would especially help those who are most likely to be victims of violent crime — poor blacks living in high-crime urban areas.

If safety is the goal, let’s eliminate gun-free zones or lower permit fees. Open carry may make a political statement, but is that really the top priority?

In order fully to answer this, I have to point folks back to an article I wrote entitled Suburban Battle Rattle.  I didn’t write this to be silly, trivial or even tendentious.  I did it in order to get feedback from readers about what they do and how they approach this subject.

Mike Vanderboegh linked it, and one reader in particular put me on edge by saying this.

I would not recommend an ankle rig unless it was for your “third gun”. For years I worked plain clothes assignments as a DA Investigator. I was in some of the worst areas of SoCal. My duty weapon was a Glock 19 in a very secure DeSantis rig on my right hip. In my left front pants pocket was a S&W model 37 with a bobbed hammer in a Galco pocket rig. Extra mags were on my belt and in the left pocket of my sport coat, I kept an impact device, edged device, and a few other lightweight goodies.

If you have to evac and area in a hurry, ankle rigs will not only slow you down, they can loosen and start spinning around your ankle. Been there, done that.

The best weapon I had was the one between my two ears. Situational awareness and OODA techniques kept me in one piece until I was eligible to retire. H/T to Mr. Mike: I did not poke any wolverines in their nether regions unless I had a good plan in place and a secure method of egress.

” …ankle rigs will not only slow you down, they can loosen and start spinning around your ankle. Been there, done that.”  I don’t so much disagree with him, as dismiss it as bluster if he doesn’t back it all up by political action and other necessary things to force changes to both law and cultural norms to allow open carry.  Let me explain a bit and then I’ll get back to John Lott.

I’ve had my ankle rig swing around on me too, and beyond that, if I needed it quickly I am hampered by the location of the weapon and its being covered by my trousers.  But it’s one thing to complain about ankle rigs while you’re a LEO who can open carry, and quite another to work to change the situation for those of us who cannot open carry all of the time.

Even though my own home state is a traditional open carry state, I cannot open carry all of the time because of cultural norms.  Sometimes I am left with concealed carry IWB or ankle rig.  I find IWB carry obnoxious for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: (1) sweat and body oils rust and corrode your weapon, (2) it’s uncomfortable, and (3) you must use a small handgun or print your clothing.

With swollen knuckles due to my arthritis, I cannot efficiently handle small frame subcompacts (I do just fine with larger frame weapons).  So I am left with a large frame weapon which weighs too much and prints at my side.  I may as well use a rigger’s belt and open carry, which I find significantly more comfortable than IWB carry.  I’m saying all of this to suggest that Lott’s assertion that open carry is done in order to make a political statement is both insulting and ignorant.  When I open carry, I don’t do it to make any kind of statement.

But beyond being insulting and ignorant, Lott’s procedure is the same as he has used before, and it is as objectionable as it has always been.  As I’ve stated before:

What happens to society at the macroscopic level is immaterial.  My rights involve me and my family, and don’t depend on being able to demonstrate that the general health effects in society are not a corollary to or adversely affected by the free exercise of them.  It’s insidious and even dangerous to argue gun rights as a part of crime prevention based on statistics because it presupposes what the social planners do, i.e., that I’m part of the collective.”  I object to John Lott’s procedure, and have stated frequently that I do not believe in the second amendment.  I believe in God.  The Almighty grants me the rights to be armed, and when the Almighty has spoken, it is eternal law for all men everywhere and in all ages and epochs.  See also Holding Human Rights Hostage To Favorable Statistical Outcomes, and Kurt Hoffman on the same subject.

And that’s the main problem with John Lott and his procedure.  If you need to, read his commentary above again, very carefully.  He doesn’t come right out and say he is opposed to the legalization of open carry, but he spends his entire time trying to prove that it is inferior to concealed carry, and ends with the question, is it “really a top priority?”

He is trying to talk the Texas legislators into letting the bills perish in committee.  It isn’t good enough for him to enable the practice of God-given rights.  It isn’t good enough for him to couple with other gun rights activists to press forward to the enjoyment of more freedom.  No, for some inexplicable reason he must work to undermine the gun rights community and be divisive and schismatic.  Being quiet isn’t good enough.  He must engage in chest pounding, blathering on in front of people about how much he knows.  As to how much he supposedly knows, I do Monte Carlo particle transport calculations, worrying over things like the first, second and third moments of a problem, sampling statistics, variance reduction and meeting the central limit theorem.  John Lott doesn’t impress me (with his anecdotal accounts in the distribution “tails”) any more than the VPC or Brady gun controllers.

Ironically, while various anti-gun groups such as the VPC attempt to use arguments like this to prohibit the practice of God-given rights by a subterfuge of worthless “statistics” they don’t really understand, John Lott attempts to do the very same thing under the guise of being safe and ensuring the best response to potential attackers.  He is more like the anti-gun crowd than he would be willing to admit.  It isn’t enough that we must do battle with the collectivists to ensure the free exercise of our rights.  We must also do battle with self-proclaimed gun rights advocates like John Lott.  Working to legalize open carry in Texas doesn’t change cultural norms, but it’s a starting point.  Those of us who favor such legalization will have to step over the “gun rights” activists to make this happen.

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  1. On February 13, 2015 at 11:05 am, Billy Mullins said:

    “while various anti-gun groups such as the VPC attempt to use arguments like this to prohibit the practice of God-given rights … John Lott attempts to do the very same thing under the guise of being safe and ensuring the best response to potential attackers.”

    100% agree, Herschel. I took away the message of “We HAVE concealed carry (even though the fee is the highest of any state) so we do not NEED open carry. Besides, concealed carry is superior anyhow.” Anybody who argues from “need” is already off in the weeds. It’s not about “needs” but CREATOR ENDOWED RIGHTS.

    I am a big guy (6’4″) and carry a full-size Glock in a Remora IWB holster comfortably. Plus, so far as I can tell, imprinting is not an issue in Texas. That said, a nice double or triple retention holster on my belt would be vastly more comfortable – not to mention convenient.

    Unfortunately, I seriously doubt we have much of a chance to get open cary in Texas any time soon. I read a piece not long ago (wish I had bookmarked it) where a senior legislator (House Speaker?) said something to the effect that he perceived no great motivation to pass an open carry bill this legislative session so none of the bills is even likely to make it to the floor for a vote. That attitude gets my dander up. Wouldn’t the democratic process demand that, since multiple bills have been submitted, at least ONE of them (if not all) should get to the floor for an honest, up-or-down vote? My suspicion is that the RINOs in the Texas legislature don’t WANT the bills to get to the floor so they do not have to show their true colors regarding 2nd Amendment rights. Both the representative and state senator from the district in which I reside are Democrats so we already KNOW how they’d vote.

  2. On February 13, 2015 at 11:37 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    Exactly, Billy – it’s not about what’s tactically “better,” it’s about state usurpation of rights. Lott essentially makes a Straw-Man argument. It amounts to diversion. I find this position by Lott to be very disappointing.

    It’s about the RIGHTS, stupid.

  3. On February 13, 2015 at 2:45 pm, Archer said:

    Quite right. As much as I love watching Lott casually rip apart the anti-gunners’ “more guns mean more crime” arguments, and as much as I appreciate the Crime Prevention Research Center’s work on what measures might actually prevent crime, I wish he’d butt out of the OC/CC debate. Gun rights are gun rights, and personally (though I believe I’m speaking for everyone here), I want it all. OC, CC, handguns, long guns, standard-capacity magazines, real high-capacity magazines, MSRs/EBRs, suppressors/silencers, SBRs and SBSs, full-autos, an end to all permitting/licensing schemes and “Gun Free Zones”, abolished import restrictions, interstate transfers, interstate carry…. Everything. The whole enchilada.

    If someone has a problem with EBRs and OC’d handguns, they don’t have to own/do it, but that doesn’t mean they get to dictate what constitutes “responsible ownership”, and by extension what I can/can’t do.

  4. On February 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Concerning “casually rip apart …,” be careful what you trust.

  5. On February 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm, Archer said:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t put too much stock into the “98% of DGUs end with no shots fired” claim. There’s no numbers to back it up. Similarly, the total number of DGUs every year – between 80,000 and 3.5 million, depending on source – has no hard numbers, so I try not to use that.

    On the other hand, we DO know approximately how many guns are purchased year-to-year, and we DO know how many violent crimes are committed year-to-year. Using those data sets, we CAN conclusively determine that “more guns means more crime” is hogwash. Whether guns contribute to crime prevention is a bigger leap, but any positive correlation between the number of guns and the crime rate is pretty well disproved.

  6. On February 13, 2015 at 8:43 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    That’s not what I was referring to. See response to Ned below. Sock puppetry.

  7. On February 13, 2015 at 8:07 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    Thanks for the Mary Rosh reminder. Kinda in the same league as Brian Williams – except Williams wasn’t pumping himself up with false platitudes.

  8. On February 13, 2015 at 8:28 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Yea. Sock puppetry. Gross.

  9. On February 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm, pjb1 said:

    Well, I think people often do OC for political reasons. And sometimes they OC for other reasons. I don’t particularly find the notion insulting in any way. It’s political to say, “I WILL defend my life and my family, no matter what the law says.”

    As to the rest of it, Lott lives in a world of utilitarian arguments. I don’t think such arguments are worthless, and it’s good he found that more guns means less crime. But the problem with such arguments is that either (1) he might have honestly found that more guns mean more crime – what then? and (2) it’s easy enough to cook up a study that finds more guns mean more crime, even if the study is dishonest. The point is, in the end, it doesn’t really matter what the studies say. To Hell with utilitarian arguments. I will go armed if it suits me to do so.

    Finally, the distinction between OC and CC is, in the end, not a useful one (to anyone except the ruling class). I just want to carry, and without bothering to beg or getting permission from a bureaucrat. If my sweater falls over the gun, or not, shouldn’t make any difference. I don’t mind people OC-ing “politically” because other people need to learn not to shit a brick when they see a gun, and exposure is how they learn.

  10. On February 13, 2015 at 2:10 pm, Billy Mullins said:

    “people need to learn not to shit a brick when they see a gun, and exposure is how they learn.”

    Exactly! And that’s why we need to keep openly carrying whenever, wherever, HOWever we can.

  11. On February 13, 2015 at 2:21 pm, Archer said:

    The Mrs. and I are getting CCW permits (“CHL” here in Oregon) for two reasons:
    1. In our town, OC without a CHL is legal, but the gun must be unloaded – we’d (naturally) prefer to carry loaded, which requires a CHL; and,
    2. We don’t want any trouble if we throw on a jacket (it rains frequently) and get into trouble for “accidentally” concealing.

    We don’t give a rip about the whole “OC vs. CC” divide, we’re not looking to make political statements, and we’re not even that worried about what’s tactically “better”. We’re just covering all our legal bases, so we can carry our guns, live our lives, and not worry about the legalities of doing so. We’d OC if we could legally do it loaded, but we can’t without a CHL. Having a CHL allows us to OC, or conceal with a shirt or jacket if necessary, so it’s a win-win.

    Still not ideal – “Vermont-style carry” is ideal – but we have to work with what we’ve got, until we can change it to something better.

  12. On February 13, 2015 at 5:16 pm, ABeagleKnots said:

    “When an attacker sees someone openly carrying a gun, they can … wait for a more opportune moment.” By this, Lott provides a case for how open carry can benefit the gun owner. A frail elder, or a lithe young woman might be an attractive target, but not when the holstered pistol is visible. People deserve the freedom of a choice that provides a real deterrence, as opposed to the societal benefit of undercovers who will shoot back. Perhaps many criminals will avoid even picking another victim when there is a known carrier in the area, so that open carry does provide a halo of deterrence and increased safety. Whether or not, freedom of choice is the best policy.

  13. On February 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    That’s a good point. In some cases it may act as a deterence, in other cases perhaps not. In some cases I open carry, in other cases not. In some cases people might choose to in Texas, in other cases not. See, the difference between Lott and us is that we won’t make those kind of sweeping judgments and prohibit people from doing things based on our own preferences.

  14. On February 14, 2015 at 4:19 pm, Billy Mullins said:

    +1 to both Herschel and ABK. I don’t have a CHL for anyone but me – and mine. It’s like the sign in my front yard (and on windows on the other tree sides of my house) which says that I have a security system or the one on my porch which says that the owner is heavily armed and has NO sense of humor. As long as it discourages badguys from robbing me, I could not be less concerned about whether or not they consider robbing somebody else. My neighbors are welcome to provide for the security of their belongings as they see fit. If my open carrying would discourage badguys from seeing me as a target of opportunity then that is fine with me. To paraphrase a phrase currently popular with the left these days, “Badguys gonna do bad things”.

    BTW, as a matter of fact, I AM old (thought not yet frail looking) and am dying (for sure have less than 10 years left) so anything I can do to encourage badguys to look at somebody else instead of me is a good thing. Right?

  15. On February 14, 2015 at 11:50 am, Pat Hines said:

    Open carry isn’t lawful in South Carolina, it is, in fact, unlawful as a result of a specific law prohibiting it.

    I favor open carry under the following, personal, circumstance.

    I use kydex inside the waistband holsters. In the winter, early spring, and late fall I can easily carry concealed under various sweaters, light and heavy jackets, and other outerwear. That’s what I do. However, in the summer here, even in the Upcountry of South Carolina it’s more than warm, it’s frequently blazing hot. When it’s that warm, I want to be able to continue to carry as I normally do, but not have to put on a jacket to maintain legality. The simple expedient of pulling my shirttail out, I’m usually wearing a cotton T-Shirt or polo shirt, leaves the pistol and holster rubbing against my bare skin, ultimately rubbing me almost raw. There are no holsters that stop that while maintaining their shape to permit reholstering without looking at the holster and/or using both hands to do that. That’s not safe.

    To me, open carry is the solution for the above, it’s a health and safety issue.

  16. On February 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I agree Pat, but State Senator Larry Martin of Pickens has stopped all open carry legislation in S.C. I have my communists to deal with where I am, you have yours.

  17. On February 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm, Pat Hines said:

    You are correct. We’re working up a strategy to nullify L. Martin, that’s all I’ll say.

  18. On February 14, 2015 at 10:40 pm, John Lott said:

    Despite your claims to the contrary, I don’t oppose Open Carry. My point of priorities is that during the last two legislative sessions the campus carry bill just barely failed because of filibuster tactics by Democrats. The Republicans are still one vote short of stopping a filibuster in the state Senate. They might be able to get it through, but when delaying tactics are being used they have to decide what is their priority.

    People can already legally openly carry rifles. The question is what is the additional gain to them being able to openly carry a handgun when they can already carry it concealed. Getting rid of gun free zones seems much more important than allowing the few people who will openly carry handguns to do so.

    Let me give you one other example. Cutting Texas’ current fee from $140 down to Pennsylvania’s $20 would increase the number of permit holders by around 200,000 after a few years. Are you going to have that many more people carry if you allow open carry of handguns and what is the impact of the two options on crime?

    As I tried to make clear, I have nothing really against openly carry handguns, but it is one of priorities.

  19. On February 16, 2015 at 3:33 pm, Western Gunowner said:

    The “priority” is re-storing freedom.
    Before the Civil War in an infamous case known as Dredd Scott the Supreme Court said that “if blacks were citizens they would have the right to keep and carry arms wherever they went”.
    There was no mention of whether that was concealed or openly carried.
    The citizens of Texas should have the freedoms (the “rights”) that existed prior to the Civil War.
    Your article changes the argument to a utilitarian one – which enhances safety more, open or concealed carry?
    It doesn’t matter.
    Freedom is what enhances safety the MOST.

  20. On February 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    It was a misdirect to discuss “priority” anyway, as if only one bill can pass at any one time. It’s a smokescreen and I didn’t want to play that game. I didn’t respond to John because in my estimation his response said everything I needed it to.

  21. On February 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm, John Lott said:

    In two separate legislative sessions the push to get rid of gun-free zones on college campuses failed because Democrats filibustered the bills. You can only push so many things at once. If you want to make it a third legislative session that you can’t get rid of gun-free zones, you should think about it more.

  22. On February 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm, Western Gunowner said:

    I fully understand incrementalism. We went from NO concealed carry to Constitutional carry in about 15 years in AZ.
    The problem with your article is you phrase it in a utilitarian manner – “if the idea is safety”.
    Well, the problem is not one for utilitarianism to solve.
    Argue for a legislative strategy that achieves the goals but leave the utilitarian qualifications out of it.
    Rights are not subject to utilitarian considerations.

  23. On February 17, 2015 at 4:58 pm, John Lott said:

    Incrementalism is normally viewed as have a watered down bill that gets you part of the way towards where you want to go. The Campus Carry bill is a good bill that will let permit holder carry a concealed handgun on college campuses.

    You appear to not care that over the last two sessions a filibuster was used to stop campus carry bill and just demand that everything gets passed. If you think that argument is wrong, please explain why. Simply saying you want everything and you want it now isn’t an answer. I would rather have two good bill passed (one this session and one next session) then have nothing passed either session.

  24. On February 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm, Western Gunowner said:

    You seem to keep missing my point.

    And btw, I do have 2 of your books.

    I don’t know enough about the Texas legislature to argue the fine point of how to get a bill thru it. I’m in AZ, which has been voted the BEST place to own a gun.

    I only care that your article cast the argument from a utilitarian viewpoint – which means of carry provides the best net benefit to society?

    That is NOT why we want either open carry or concealed carry.

    We want one or both (I have both) because that is what the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is all about. And whether or not it, or a manner of carry benefits society or NOT is of no consequence.

    It is the benefit of having INDIVIDUAL rights which best benefits society period.

    Don’t let the anti-gunners use utilitarian arguments to deny any portion of the right to arms.

    “Safety” is not the goal. The removal of an arbitrary state restriction on an individual right is.

    ps: I’ll edit that to say “safety” of society is not the goal – safety of the individual is – which is why the right to bear arms exists, because “man as man” requires it to be free.

  25. On February 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm, John Lott said:

    If you want to win this debate, you have to make an argument that deals with concerns for people in the middle of the spectrum. This is one place where freedom and safety surely go together. You can argue freedom with your diehard compatriots, but you should be glad that others are explaining to people in the middle that allowing people to protect themselves also improves safety.

    BTW, the change in opposition to more gun control parallels the changing view that people have that guns make them safer.

    Thanks very much for taking the time to get and look at my books.

  26. On February 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm, Western Gunowner said:

    We won the debate in AZ without making the utilitarian argument that concealed carry was “better” for “safety” than open carry.
    Of course we already had open carry so that was an advantage.
    But TX can make the argument that many states have open carry without problems, and indeed that at least 4 have Constitutional carry and no problems.
    So I don’t think making the argument for freedom and individual “safety” has to be made from a utilitarian viewpoint.
    Saying that “concealed carry” is better, contributes to “safety” more, is a utilitarian argument.
    Besides, it isn’t necessarily true. Nor, is it practical all the time in warmer states such as AZ or TX.
    So, if concealed carry is all that is allowed, how do I do that on a summers day?

  27. On February 17, 2015 at 5:20 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    There is no reason at all that you cannot obviate gun free zones with one bill and legalize open carry with another, except that the people who said they would push those bills or vote for those bills lied. It’s a matter of choices, with the the trivial bills being pushed in Texas right now (I have a son who lives in Austin) there is no reason the choice cannot be made to have two gun bills. One potential good outcome of said legislative malfeasance is knowing who the liars are and holding them accountable.
    As for the open carry bill being a good bill, i disagree. It’s licensed open carry, and done without Texas being a “stop and identify” state (which I have pointed out before, along with the fact that I don’t support stop and identify). So Texas proposes to pass licensed open carry without a legal framework in place to enforce it. This has disaster written all over it.
    They may as well stop now. They lied on open carry, and voters should have known to press for open, honest answers on constitutional carry, not just open carry. Well enough.
    Liars all of them, and they can be held accountable. As for filibuster, as I said, when something is important, the believers find a way. I don’t want half-ass agreement or begrudging acceptance. I want openness and honesty, and men willing to do what they say they will do. Open carry was one of the most talked-about issues in the run-up to the election among everyone running. Dancing on the head of a pin in order to get them to do what they said they would do shouldn’t be necessary. The paradigm must change. You support the existing paradigm and want to continue the dance. I don’t.

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