The Second Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
We assess this, in the 21st century, as the basis for providing an individual the right to possess and use a firearm.
However, much contention has arisen from this statement, particularly over the phrase: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The definition of “bear arms” (as an idiom) means, “to carry weapons,” and the above statement can be read as thus: “The right of the people to keep and carry weapons.” Yet, even with the translation, an ambiguity still exists. There are numerous ways in which a firearm can be “carried,” and the controversy is whether it should be publicly bared or concealed.
Proponents of either argument have taken sides, under the names “open carry” and “concealed carry.” Open carriers argue that open carry is a crime deterrent, and allows for more accessibility in the case of an incident.
Concealed carriers argue that concealed carry offers the element of surprise, and is more appropriate for certain environments (church, shopping malls, etc).
Logistics show that the majority of states are leaning toward open carry, evidenced by the fact that only seven states (and the District of Columbia) disallow it. Fourteen of the remaining states permit open carry with a license and 29 states allow unlicensed open carry.
The issue has become prevalent, thanks to a recent lawsuit by Charles Nichols, the president of CaliforniaRightToCarry.Org. Nichols, a resident of Los Angeles County, openly carried a shotgun through the Redondo Beach Pier Shopping Center and adjacent city park, before he was detained and his firearm was seized. Nichols was apparently under the impression that his public demonstration would be ignored. His previous petition for a license to open carry was denied, because California only grants licenses to open carry to residents of counties with less than 200,000 people - L.A. County outnumbers the quota by 9.8 million people.
In filing a lawsuit, Nichols became the first individual to challenge California’s open carry gun ban. The ban was brought forth in 1967, banning the open carry of a loaded firearm. Nichols is jointly challenging the state statute that denies open carry licenses to residents of counties of more than 200,000 people.
Regardless of the official ruling, the age-old question of what the 2nd Amendment entails will have to be answered. In Charles Nichols' case, he hopes it will include the open carry of firearms, reducing the number of states that disallow open carry to six.