P1 First Person: The dilemma with 'open carry' advocates

Editor's Note: In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. This week’s essay comes from PoliceOne Member Ken Hardesty, an officer and trainer with the San Jose (Calif.) Police Department. Here, Ken writes about the officer safety implications of California residents exercising their 2nd Amendment right to carry a holstered, unloaded firearm in an exposed fashion. Do you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members? Send us an e-mail with your story.

By Ken Hardesty
San Jose (Calif.) Police Department

Due in large part to the political climate and challenges that face police officers in this state, California has long been the pioneer in nationwide law enforcement training and tactics. The latest political hot button to arrive on the California landscape is the issue of Open Carry.

Open Carry refers to California residents exercising their 2nd Amendment right to carry a holstered, unloaded firearm in an exposed fashion. As most readers are aware, it can be incredibly difficult in most California counties to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Hence, the arrival of Open Carry advocates. Most citizens who avail themselves of Open Carry rights also carry loaded magazines, thereby enabling themselves to quickly and efficiently put the weapon in service should the need arise. When the issue first gained prominence in California, many law enforcement agencies and trainers thought little of it — the fact was, this was not the segment of armed society that caused us anxiety.

We were more concerned with young gang members out to make a name for themselves, or career criminals not interested in a park hopper pass to California’s penal system. While there are segments of Open Carry advocates who simply wish to exercise their Constitutional rights, there is a growing portion that will openly challenge local law enforcement, and attempt to use first responders as pawns to further their political agenda. These are the individuals who should rouse the officer safety antenna of every first responder who comes in contact with them.

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