A group to which I belong was recently written up on the front page of the Washington Post concerning an incident in which we were openly carrying holstered firearms in a resaurant. [...] I'm in a group that practices firing arms at a local range, and after the session we often go out to a restaurant. It's a social outing growing from common interests and conversation. Most of us in the group, which includes a number of women, have permits to carry a concealed weapon. Virgina law, however, restricts concealed carry in any establishment with a liquor license, which includes most restaurants. The accepted and lawful response to the restriction is to simply expose the holstered weapon in order to conform to the law, a practice called "open carry." A number of us in the "Friday Night Group" were approached by a small cadre of policemen in a local Champps restaurant after a citizen (possibly the restaurant manager) called 911.
The problem with open carry is simple: it attracts attention, often the wrong sort of attention, from people unfamiliar with firearms. And that often attracts attention from the local police. Even if they merely question you and let you go, it's an embarassing and potentially dangerous situation.
If you're willing to give up some time and put yourself at risk in return for the chance to convince people, open-carry offers advantages. The only way we are going to return to a more normal national awareness of firearms is to come "out of the closet": to let people know that people around them own guns, use guns, and carry guns without causing problems. Concealed carry allows for some of the benefits, and avoids the hassle of dealing with the hoplophic, but also removes the opportunity for education.
The more often people see other people, openly carrying arms but not harming anyone, the more comfortable they will become around weapons. Gun owners have been forced into the "closet" for two long, allowing our opponents to paint lurid pictures in the minds of the ignorant. It's time we started coming out.