Politics Blog

Does 'Open Carry' Actually Increase Gun Violence?

An interesting piece in http://www.salon.com/2013/12/18/gun_activists_have_a_new_craze_and_its_more_dangerous_than_you_think/">Salon this week seems to have discovered (bless their little San Francisco hearts) that 'open carry' is a "new craze" (ahem) out here in flyover country.

But, now that they've caught on, the piece does take a fascinating look at some of the psychology of open carry and presents a case for the idea that open carry actually contributes to violence instead of curbing it.

How can that be? Here's a couple of the key points they make:

  • People with guns tend to see guns, even when they're not there. Result: higher chance of shooting an unarmed "threat."

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that when people are holding a gun, they’re less capable of evaluating a threat than they would be if they didn’t have a weapon in their own hands.

  • The presence of a weapon can make a hostile environment more hostile.

Since 1967, researchers have been observing the “weapons effect,” a phenomenon in which the mere presence of a weapon can stimulate aggressive behavior. Of course, a person doesn’t respond to a gun the way a cartoon bull reacts to the matador’s cape; we aren’t spontaneously enraged every time we notice a firearm. But empirical research has repeatedly shown that when people are already aggravated, seeing a gun will motivate them to behave more aggressively.

  • Your body responds involuntarily to threats, and the presence of weapons is frequently interpreted as a superior threat in a given environment.

“The ‘threat superiority effect’ is the tendency for people to be able to pick out very quickly in their environment things that might pose a threat to their security — anything that might be dangerous,” explains Isabelle Blanchette, a professor of psychology at the University of Quebec. “People have a tendency to be able to see these things before they see other things.”

Read the whole piece; it'll fly in the face of some people's worldview, but if you've got an open mind about this topic it really is food for thought on the psychology of open carry.


BHirsh 10 years, 2 months ago

Please. This is "trigger pulling the finger" gobbledegook. For example, does the knowledge of being armed that causes one to see guns where there aren't any translate to people carrying concealed? Where is the evidence to support this?

Psychobabble, emanating from the same kind of fools who decided in the 1970's that homosexuality wasn't a mental disorder, and now see PTSD everywhere they look.


AyurvedicMom 10 years ago

People are already overly violent with guns, with or without the law being pronounced. I am an advocate for the 2nd Amendment and really only believe and have witnessed that tighter gun laws only adversely affect the law abiders. Criminals are underground and could care less about any laws. They are going to carry regardless. What we need to do is not make it difficult for the law abiders to carry. Relax the concealment laws is my call.


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