CCW Weekend: Can You Get In Legal Trouble For Printing?
What if you are concealed carrying and your gun is shown? Is that brandishing in a state when no open carry is allowed?
One of the most common concerns for people who carry concealed is that of printing, or where an otherwise concealed firearm “prints” through clothing. Look at almost any forum for concealed carry, and you’ll see questions, comments, stories about printing.
It’s natural for people to be concerned about printing – for one, the operative word in concealed carry is “concealed.” Some might also be concerned about what constitutes the differences between mere printing and brandishing, a criminal action in which a person displays a firearm or other weapon to intimidate, harass or otherwise inflict mental distress on a person who wasn’t threatening the brandisher.
Bear in mind, this is not legal advice and one should not construe it as such – this is rather a discussion about the topic.
In many states, the legal difference between concealed and open carry is that open carry must be done so that the firearm is completely, utterly and totally in plain sight at all times. Concealment requires that it be covered or otherwise hidden. Brandishing a weapon is to display a firearm for ill intent, which is different from openly carrying – which is merely carrying a firearm openly for all to see.
Granted, some people might say that open carry is tantamount to brandishing, since the goal is to make sure other see it. That’s a matter of opinion rather than a matter of law for the most part, and frankly, the “open carry vs concealed carry” trope is already a dead horse – no need to kick it further. Those who want to conceal will do so; those who want to open carry will do so.
Where an accidental uncovering of one’s firearm could conceivably land a person in hot water is in states which forbid open carrying. Currently, four states (Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina) and the District of Columbia, prohibit open carrying of handguns, though exceptions are made for hunting or whilst at a gun range. California and Oregon generally prohibit open carry except in rural areas.
Since concealment generally requires the firearm to be hidden from view, an uncovering that isn’t attended to might be considered a violation of statutes forbidding open carry. For instance, open carry is legal in Massachusetts but there are a number of cases where otherwise licensed and legal carriers were charged with disturbing the peace or stripped of their licenses for open carrying, as doing so disturbed others.
In these states, a firearm becoming uncovered – which is different than printing – could therefore be construed as a criminal act, since carrying openly is not permitted, even if one has a license.
In most other states, however, it isn’t an issue – since almost all states in the union allow open carry. Many don’t even require a license to do so.
Could printing be construed as brandishing? Anything is possible, and stranger things have certainly happened. However, in order for a person to be engaging in brandishing, they have to be intentionally displaying a firearm with the end goal being to achieve a particular psychological effect.
There aren’t any states that strictly define printing – such as it is – to be brandishing or even a crime.
In truth, a lot of people could probably worry about printing a little less. Excessive concern is especially acute to people who are just starting to carry or have a new holster, gun, or shirt they wear while carrying.
People pay less attention than one imagines they do. A person who is carrying is a bit more sensitive to what it looks like when a gun is tucked under one’s clothes, but the typical person going about their business in Wally World isn’t paying much attention to a couple of contours of your shirt.
Look at the same forums where people discuss the issue – mostly you’ll find experienced daily carriers telling the newbies not to worry so much. If the gun isn’t blatantly obvious in the mirror at home, it’s not going to be that obvious out and about.