Should You Carry Your Handgun Open Or Concealed ?

October 15, 2019




Syndicated by: Montana News

By: Marc Kelley

When it comes to carrying a weapon in Montana, we are subject to the regulations of a "Shall Issue" state.. This term, like many other pieces of firearm related law, is often misunderstood and it is this misunderstanding which often leads to heated discussions. The phrase "Constitutional Carry", reflects the view, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, permits no restrictions or other regulations on gun ownership including the right to carry a weapon either openly or concealed. However, in the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the case of District of Columbia vs Heller, the Court found that some state or local controls may be allowed on certain types of weapons; thus, paving the way for the establishment and legislation of rules and regulations for a "Shall Issue" state.





Under current Montana law, as a "Shall Issue" state for concealed weapons, and a "Constitutional Carry" approach for non-concealed weapons, it is easy to understand the confusion surrounding this subject. The process by which an individual can apply for and be granted a concealed weapons permit is very straight forward and relatively easy to accomplish. In Yellowstone County, applications for concealed weapons permits are administered by the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department. In addition to Montana's concealed weapons permit system, state law provides an exception for legally carrying a concealed weapon for "a person who is outside the official boundaries of a city or town or in the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining, or railroad camp or who is lawfully engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, backpacking, farming, ranching, or other outdoor activity in which weapons are often carried for recreation or protection."





In 2015, House Bill 298 was introduced in the Montana Legislative session. This bill would have legalized firearms carry statewide, for all persons who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm. The bill passed the House 56-43 and the Senate 28-21; however, the bill was vetoed by Governor Steve Bullock who maintained that HB 298 would have eliminated Montana’s concealed weapons permit process and thereby asserting his belief that the Government does in fact have the right to impose controls on firearms and no one should be allowed to own a firearm without Government permission.





Whether you agree with Governor Bullock's position or not the real question at hand is, if you choose to carry a firearm, should you carry it openly or should you carry it concealed.


Pros to open carry:


A visual deterrent

Many believe if an individual who is intent on harming another, could be dissuaded, if in fact, they saw another individual with a firearm which was being openly carried.


Quicker access

A firearm which is openly carried allows faster access to the weapon, if the situation is fluid. 


Expressing your 2nd Amendment Right

You will have to look long and hard to find a more pro 2nd Amendment individual than myself. So if you want to carry open... That is your right!


Cons to open carry:


You may be the first target

If your firearm is visible, you lose the tactical advantage of surprise and may put yourself at risk for being the first person attacked.


You run the risk of losing control of your firearm

There are many examples where a criminal was able to gain access to a firearm from both law enforcement and private individuals alike. Consider using a holster with some type of security device or pressure lock.


Social stigma

Without question, there are many in society today who are intimidated by, scared of, or simply do not like firearms. So, if you are going to carry openly, be prepared to attract some negative attention. 


Pros to concealed carry:


Choose the right firearm and use the right holster

Many choices are available today for concealed carry firearms. Choose a weapon that suits you, consider your size, your clothing choices or a concealed carry purse and it will take a trained eye to identify you as a person carrying a firearm.


You maintain your tactical advantage

You get to decide when and if, you will engage with your firearm. Action will always be faster than reaction.


Cons to concealed carry:


You can not engage your firearm as quickly

Situational awareness is critical. Pay attention to your surroundings, identify prospective threats, but pay attention to rule # 1… avoid the gunfight if possible. 





Regardless if you choose to carry a firearm openly or concealed, by choosing to arm yourself you create several obligations which must be considered. You must be mindful to keep control of your firearm, and the best place for that is on your person. You must be willing to practice and become familiar with your firearm. Understand how it functions when it works properly, as well as how to clear a malfunction if the firearm fails. You must maintain a level of competence with your firearm, so you must shoot it on a regular basis. You must be committed to safety and to teaching your children firearm safety by your actions.





I am constantly asked…what is the best firearm for self protection? My answer is always the same…the firearm you have access to should you need it. Choosing a firearm for personal defense is a very individual sort of thing. Many considerations including price, ability to operate, commitment to training and personal preference must all be considered. It is my belief, everyone should carry a firearm for personal protection and by that choice, we choose not to be victims, not to hide and hope the Police will get there in time to save us, but rather to say… It's not that I simply love my guns, but rather, I love what they protect.



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