Representing gun owners

Quite a few people have taken umbrage at the 10 Steps for Successful Open Carry post I wrote last week; while many of the upset persons are the typical sort who just read enough to get offended, there are a few that have raised a point I believe is critical to address, and indeed I’ve touched on before.

In the post, I recommend that if you’re going to OC, you should “dress like a grown-up”, which is slang for dress nicely. Wear clean clothes, no flip-flops, a shirt with a collar, comb your hair and trim your beard. Ideally, you want to look like Bob from accounting. The reason for this is because whether or not you like, when you OC you are representing all gun owners. This is something that many OC advocates don’t understand, because they’re inside the movement. When you’re a part of a sub-culture, it’s very difficult to recognize how outsiders perceive you. For example, car enthusiasts. I prefer muscle cars, specifically the Dodge/Mopar line of cars, both classic and modern. There are car enthusiasts who prefer Italian super-cars, Ford muscle cars, etc etc. The variations are endless. To people not part of that sub-culture, they’re all just “car guys”.

The same is true of the gun culture – just because as an OC advocate you believe you’re only representing yourself, that’s just not true. When you’re out OC’ing, you’re representing all gun owners simply by the fact that you are very clearly a gun owner as evidenced by the gun that you’re openly carrying.

This is why we hit on attitude and appearance. You may think I’m elitist, but I don’t want a public representative of gun owners to be a sloppy-looking dude that goes around causing a scene with the cops. I just don’t.

No one is saying that OC should be illegal; in fact Open Carry should be legal in all 50 states. But until it is, if you are going to Open Carry, remember that you’re not just representing yourself out there. You’re an ambassador for all gun rights every time you OC, and it benefits us all if you’re a good ambassador. If you’re uncomfortable with that responsibility, maybe Open Carry isn’t for you.


  1. Arizona isn’t New York, which isn’t Wyoming, Which isn’t California, which isn’t Florida, which isn’t Texas.

    Not only do they all have different prevailing attitudes about open carry, they all have different attitudes about what constitutes being dressed nicely.

    Rather than trying to give the whole country one set of rules on what works and what doesn’t Caleb, I think you should stick with the simple message “Don’t be a dick”.

    Hell, that works even if you’re not open carrying or even carrying at all.

  2. It’s interesting after I read these two post that tonight I’m at the grocery store. At the register is a pretty normal looking guy with a woman waiting her turn after him then me. The woman turns to me and in a louder then required voice ask me if I’m carrying a gun. I never answer that question to people I don’t know so I started to ask why she asked and she blurts out the man at the register has a gun. I look up and he has a Glock in a holster out in the open. (My first thought was where was his coat because it is chilly outside.) He obviously heard the woman but continued with his transaction without engaging her since she didn’t speak to him directly. He was cool, paid and left. He wasn’t a dick. The woman then starts in on why anybody would bring a gun in a grocery store was beyond her. “They should post signs to keep the guns out!” She then said she had guns at home and that is where they stay. Normally I wouldn’t engage someone on the verge of a public rant but out of curiosity on her answers I couldn’t help reminding her that this store sold guns. “That isn’t the same as carrying a gun” she said. I reminded her it was perfectly legal here in Alaska to carry openly or concealed she said “If they put signs up then nobody would bring in a gun.” Finally, I asked her the old standby, “Do you wear a seat belt all the time?” She replied “That isn’t the same thing at all since I probably won’t be in an accident because I’m a good driver and if I am I don’t know when it will happen and it’s the law anyway.” So she made my point for me, spent a few minutes taking things out of her order because she didn’t have enough cash for it all then left. She was a dick by making a scene and not dressing well even by Alaska standards. The nice young lady at the register was smiling and apologied for the small scene and I told her it was OK and that I was taken by surprise by the previous customers outburst and question on if I had a gun since I happen to be a firearms instructor and help teach concealed carry classes. I ended up getting her name and number (no not like that, my wife wouldn’t approve) so I could sign her up for a basic pistol class. One person had her opinion and didn’t want to see reason (or can’t) and I don’t want to even try engaging with her. The other, a new and interested student. Take your wins where you can. Be nice and respectful and good things happen.

  3. The problem isn’t the sloppy open carry advocate it’s the person that thinks they are better than other because the ( to them ) look better.

    Dress how you want. Be who you want. And stop worrying what others think.

  4. “Dress how you want. Be who you want. And stop worrying what others think.”

    As Caleb said above, this would a great way to live if other peoples views didn’t have the potential to take away our rights to self defense.

  5. You are free to dress how you want and be who you want, but nothing happens in a vaccuum. People, for better or for worse, WILL judge you based on how you look. and that judgement will affect their interaction with you. So, if you CHOOSE to dress like a slob, go ahead. But don’t complain about the poor reception you get from strangers on the street.

  6. If one is specifically trying to make a political point, then yes, appearance really does matter.

  7. Appearance matters.

    What constitutes a nice appearance isn’t universal though. Jeans and a Hawaiian shirt probably look slovenly by New York or Boston standards, but are perfectly acceptable elsewhere.

    Shorts and a tank top may look scummy to some, but many people in Phoenix would consider wearing more in the summer to be simply masochistic.

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