Unless you follow this stuff closely, you probably hadn’t heard this. And why would you have? Although it was breathlessly reported in some of the year-end roundups, the rule actually went into effect in September. And, as a result … nothing happened. Nothing at all.
This pattern—of a freakout, followed by silence—is a boringly familiar one, the product in part of a widespread misunderstanding as to how common and innocuous open carry laws are. When, in 2015, Texas repealed its prohibition on the open carry of handguns, critics cast the move as both an innovation and as a neat illustration of how “crazy” the Lone Star State had become. Naturally, neither accusation was correct. Texas was, in fact, the 45th American state to respect the right to bear arms, and, far from blazing trails, was joining liberal states such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland and New Jersey. In so doing, it was not jumping on a bandwagon, but restoring an ancient and imperative right that pre-dates the United States by centuries.
And still the critics carped.
To understand just how misplaced was the reaction, consider that Texas’ open carry law was not only one of the last in the United States but that it is also among the strictest. In Texas, as in 15 other states, citizens must apply for a permit before they can carry openly; in the remaining 30 states in which open carry is protected—including in decidedly non-Texas-like states such as Delaware, Vermont and Oregon—no such requirement exists. A quick review of the law confirms that this area of policy doesn’t break down easily along modern political lines. Among the five states that prohibit open carry completely, there are three that one would expect to see: California, Illinois and New York. But surprisingly enough, so does Florida, and so does South Carolina. Likewise, among the states that limit open carry to rural areas, we find Oregon, Nebraska and Missouri, but not Delaware, Connecticut or Hawaii. Even in states with anti-gun legislative majorities, open carry has been mostly left alone.