Open Carry of Firearms is Strong, Protected, Political, Symbolic Speech

Michigan Open Carry Rally
Michigan Open Carry Rally

U.S.A.-(– The open carry of firearms is strong, protected, symbolic, and political speech. It sends a clear, specific political message:

The power of government is limited by the Constitution.

The government is not allowed to disarm free people who are peaceable. 

Symbolic political speech is protected by the First Amendment. From

Symbolic speech consists of nonverbal, nonwritten forms of communication, such as flag burning, wearing arm bands, and burning of draft cards. It is generally protected by the First Amendment unless it causes a specific, direct threat to another individual or public order.

The simple wearing or carrying of firearms is not a direct threat to any individual or to public order. If it were, the open carry of firearms by police would directly threaten individuals or public order.

Pointing firearms at individuals or even in their general direction could be a direct threat. Holstered sidearms and slung rifles are not a direct threat.  They are an expression of political power and limited governmental power.

The Supreme Court has ruled symbolic political speech can be limited if very specific qualifications are met. The case was United States v. O’Brien. The qualifications are:

  • Any limitation has to be allowed by the Constitution.
  • The limitation must be necessary for an important government interest
  • The governmental interest is not related to the suppression of free speech
  •  The restriction is limited to the minimum necessary to meet the important government interest.

Open carry of firearms has been the most protected part of the right to bear arms. It isn’t easy to see an important government interest served by banning open carry, especially as part of demonstrations.

There are only four states which ban the open carry of firearms. They are California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida. This strongly implies there is no compelling government interest in banning the open carry of firearms.

California specifically banned the open carry of unloaded firearms, as well as loaded firearms. This strongly implies the California ban’s purpose was to suppress strong, symbolic, political, free speech.

There is no right in the United States to be free from being offended or to be free from irrational fear. In an opinion piece in the Daily Montanan, there was what appears to be a case of projection. From opinion in the Daily Montanan:

Second Amendment supporters say they believe in the Constitution enough to exercise their rights by carrying a gun, but what happens when I believe in those same laws enough to trust law enforcement or believe in the peace of the country enough to be certain that there are few instances where I need a weapon?

A gun isn’t a sign of solidarity for the Second Amendment, instead it’s more of an affirmation of fear.

Who is showing they are afraid, the person who is open carrying or the person who is afraid of people who open carry?

It reminds me of the joke where a state trooper stops an older woman and asks her if she has any weapons in her car.

She says, “I have a 9mm pistol on my person.”

The trooper asks: “Do you have any other weapons?”

She replies, “I have a .38 revolver in the glove box, a 12 gauge shotgun, and an AR15 in the trunk of the car.”

The trooper asks: what are you afraid of?

She says, absolutely nothing.

In Maryland, the editorial board of The Daily Record attempts to make the case that open carry of firearms terrorizes the population. They claim the ability to ban open carry comes from old English common law, which they mischaracterize.  The crux of the argument is: people fear the open carry of firearms, so open carry can be banned.

From the

Public safety and breach of the peace are not the same as physical harm and injury. Public safety as well as preventing physical harm must also be a goal of modern gun regulation. Such a goal helps protect the constitutional order and provides a feeling of security to citizens within their communities.

Imagine speaking ill of certain politicians at rallies attended by their heavily armed supporters. The  government’s interest in regulating the ability to carry any weapon, in any manner and for any purpose is strong, and it is needed to protect against intimidation in addition to physical harm.

The editorial board does not see the irony of politicians, surrounded by armed government agents, as possibly intimidating when those government agents have far more legal power and protections than armed citizens who open carry.

People who are terrorized by the open carry of firearms are a tiny minority. If it were otherwise, police would be required to conceal their duty weapons. The fear expressed is not for openly carried weapons. It is a fear of ordinary citizens having political power.

The open carry of firearms is strong, protected, political, and symbolic speech. It is protected by the First Amendment as much as by the Second Amendment.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dean, this is a great article. I sure hope Dan Reedy reads this piece too. Reedy seems to think that there is absolutely no place in our society where a law-abiding citizen should Open Carry. Reedy went so far as to tell me that OC is “inviting trouble” ! EXERCISING A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT IS INVITING TROUBLE,? ..NOT! Reedy seems to care more about not upsetting the gun-grabbers, scaring them, and hurting their feelings.

Last edited 26 days ago by Ope

Ope… You ask me if I was in favor of open carry , answer I have no problem either way you would prefer . A conundrum I have I can give you an example . I have a neighbor lives about 1/4 mile down the road . I know a little too much about him . He was involved in an auto accident , suffered a brain injury enough to be on disability and is/was prescribed medication . He carries open all the time . Second hand information has it that he sells drugs . I don’t know that but… Read more »

Last edited 25 days ago by Oldvet

To them, feelings trump rights. They would love poll results to be law. Schools are doing a rotten job with future voters and leaders. It’s long past time for a change!


“Hope and Change” – Obama Perhaps it would be better to focus on the fundamentals of a Post WWII society as laid out in generations past?

Wild Bill

Yes, we should, but …. Investigation Into George Soros for Controlling Information


Wild Bill … I am reading now that soros is also spending money trying to influence changing the make up of the SCOTUS .

Wild Bill

Why can’t that rat bastard expire?


Bill, I was unaware of that Twitter rumor about that SOB dying. I really did think the bastard bought the farm. Coming up soon I hope.


Ope … The problem there his son is just as bad as he is !


WB ,,, He just needs a little help .


Excellent article. OK, so now what are citizens to do when their government, the federal one, is rogue and disregards the Constitution and their fellow citizens do not even know what their rights are and do not understand where their rights come from? Here is the answer: teach. You can host a Patriot Academy Biblical Citizenship class right in your own home. Get your family, neighbors, hunting partners and shooting partners and start with them. This grass roots educational effort is spreading across the land like a prairie fire and is the tonic best suited to beat back the Prairie… Read more »


Another thing you could do is live in a more frugal lifestyle and TEACH YOUR OWN CHILDREN. After all, the REASON for “Public” school is NOT education… But there’s a reason. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big… Read more »

10th Plank.png

All y’all taking about how dumb or tactically unsound open carry might be are totally missing the author’s point.


The problem lies within this article…The SSRI Connection to Suicides, Spontaneous Murder and Mass Shootings


Great article, Dean.

Something for readers to remember is the same people you hear poo pooing open carry because of the “first target” myth or “muh concealed carry surprise” are the same people who will tell you guns deter crime and the reason certain places are more susceptible to crime and/or mass shootings is because those places don’t allow guns. They can’t have it both ways.


On the good news side. Yesterday the judge in the true Oregon stayed the implementation of the new unconstitutional gun law until the courts determine if it is legal or not. Another anti gun group is going to challenge it with another court to over ride his decision so we have some time to breathe until and if that happens.

The thought came to me the other day. If orgoneistanians think they can vote my rights away then why cant we vote for constitutional carry. Come see come saw!!!!!

We should have that right regardless.

Rob J

Washington state is an open carry state, even though it has been steadily going strong anti-gun, the state Supreme Court ruled quite eloquently (State v Casad 2007) that open carry of a firearm is a legal action and does not justification to warrant alarm… “We note that, in connection with this case, several individuals have commented that they would find it strange, maybe shocking, to see a man carrying a gun down the street in broad daylight. Casad’s appellate counsel conceded that she would personally react with shock, but she emphasized that an individual’s lack of comfort with firearms does… Read more »




There is a reason why stealth technology was developed. Concealed Carry is low level technology. Don’t let the bad guy know you are coming.
Worked in Iraq and other places.


Living in a small city with a lower crime rate but close to a larger city which has a high level of violence per capita, I rarely open carry due to not wanting to show my card(s) so to speak. When my wife and I go camping, fishing etc..I never hesitate to open carry. More comfortable, easy access etc..However, one picture stands out. In Texas, years ago, when there was the big decision about Constitutional carry, I saw a photo of 3 men, standing at the counter of a Jack in the Box Restaurant in Dallas after that bill was… Read more »


Steve, I’ll second your point. On open carry, I try to put myself in the mind frame of the bad guy. If I walk into someplace intending to rob it, and I see a guy with a 9mm hanging on his belt, he’s the first person I’m going to shoot. Now, I am not a bad guy, and I carry concealed so when that bad guy shoots the open carry guy, there might be a chance I can get off a shot at the bad guy before he shoots anyone else. There will be those who disagree with this thought… Read more »


As logical as that scenario seems to be, from my reading it is an extremely rare occurrence.


Agreed that it is an unlikely postulate at this time, but I am old and would like to continue getting older. The world is getting more violent and I expect incidents to increase.


I am going to agree with that comment. Most gang bangers are pussies and cant handle a fair challenge. It is easier to rob and steal guns from homes and get them that way instead of taking a chance on losing their life. In a constitutional state they would be nuts to try that. I was talking on the radio the other day to a gentleman in New Mexico in the northern section. He said that someone came into the diner with a gun and was going to rob the diner. He said that one man said freeze or your… Read more »


Everywhere should be like a cop bar, extremely stupid to try to rob.


Rarer than hens teeth.


I don’t advertise that I have a gun because I don’t want gang bangers that work in groups to think they can disarm me or just flat out kill me and take my gun in broad daylight because I am the disabled old man. I have however thought of carrying a sidearm in the open, unloaded without a firing pin and still have my concealed in my waistband.

Oregoneistan where there is a sucker born every minute in portland.


That’s an idea…SURPRISE!


Isn’t the BAIT the thing that always dies?


Robbers don’t particularly want to get shot at all, and unless he is a total psycho he will go somewhere that he doesn’t see someone carrying a weapon.


Cappy, it’s interesting that someone would put themselves into a criminals mindset when discussing Open Carry. I don’t personally give a hoot in hell what a criminal thinks about anything , and I’m certainly not going to carry my firearm in a way that criminal scum might or might not prefer. I OC because that’s they way I’m most comfortable,confident and feel the safest. Carry how you prefer and always be aware of your surroundings.

Last edited 25 days ago by Ope

Wrong, because an armed licensed carrier like me would have went pop pop pop and we would of had him and his 380 to give to the police and the morgue.


If I carry in the open, I carry it in the front with a cross draw holster. On the side is an issue because I only have eyes in the front of my head. My effort at having a couple of other pairs of them installed were nixed by my eye doctor. Unless you keep your hand on the one on your side the whole time you are carrying it, I feel it IS vulnerable to a person who would be intent on taking the weapon away.


I like a nice shoulder holster like I had as a Tanker. Easy to carry & work in.

China Berry

“If it were, the open carry of firearms by police would directly threaten individuals or public order.”

When you go to a city meeting regarding police issues and they ring the room standing with most of their members with guns open carried, when they don’t normally do this as part of their job, it sure looks like a threat or intimidation.

Open carry can be a threat or can be a normal activity.


Same has been true at school board meetings.


That’s the perception – I don’t worry about other people’s perception. I worry about the law, how well I can handle that tool if, God forbid, I’m required to defend me or my family. The rest is those other folk’s problem. I’m not intimidated by the cops open carrying. Why? They’re cops. Besides, I can shoot better than 99% of them. (I have more experience than most all of them anyway).


I agree you should be able to carry however your like. But I also believe no one is guaranteed to avoid the consequences of their actions. I’d love to see a study of the number of innocent people shot by police or others who were open carrying vs. concealed.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.


So, open carriers being shot by government employees is a possible rationale for restricting the right to open carry, pending the results of a study?


Rationale? No. But does it happen way more than it should because people open carry? You bet ‘cha.

There’s what we want, and there is what is. Wishful thinking means nothing in the real world.


Since a drawn and/or raised gun looks the same whether or not it was concealed, I would argue that the behavior of the armed citizen is not the causal behavior and thus not the behavior that needs to be corrected. That is, if this is indeed an issue that wouldn’t arise if the gun is concealed. In that case, you are asserting that police are shooting people with holstered pistols or, more uncommonly, with a slung and lowered rifle. Sounds like you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you are confused as to which party is guilty with… Read more »


JNew, I’ve heard people make that ridiculous statement for years now,….. “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” ! If you’re exercising a constitutional right my question to you is ,why not? Just because you don’t personally like OC doesn’t mean the millions that prefer that method of carry are doing something they shouldn’t. That’s just your opinion.

Wild Bill

That is some twisted logic, ain’t it!


Bill, yes it is, ..convoluted logic.


Liberalism is a mental disorder.


Group-think is far worse. Some might even make the connection between your statement and that very illness.


Of course, it’s my opinion. It’s also based on over half a century of life lessons. My point (not that I need to make it since you appear to have decided for me) was that no matter what you think should happen, it doesn’t always work that way. I would *LOVE* for my family members to walk alone at night in our populated downtown area and – here’s the interesting part – they have every right to do so. But will their husband/father allow them to? Hell no, and a quick peek at the week’s police activity will tell you… Read more »

Wild Bill

Maybe we all should just to get the libtards used to our Rights and what those Rights mean.


Kind of difficult to do a study on something so rare.


So that’s by weapon carried… am I wrong to assume that either some, many, or all (unknown) of these incidents included wrongdoing with the firearm and not just open carry, stowed or slung?

Am I wrong to think that if the firearm was stowed or slung, that the police could and should be expected to restrain themselves?


“In 2022, 613 people carrying a gun were shot and killed by the U.S. police.”

WOW. Are the police that badly trained? I guess so.


Stag, very true. It’s actually closer to non-existent than rare.


That’s NOT a valid argument for denying someone, or discouraging someone the right to open carry. So many folks constantly view this issue in terms of high population density cities – otherwise known as open sewers. I have never even gotten a second look in many towns/suburban or rural areas when carrying my Kimber .45 open carry. I do so because it is easier to access, I know many folks in those areas are more accepting. Now, do I carry open in larger cities that I travel to even though it’s legal in my state? No. Why? Too easy to… Read more »