An interesting piece in 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.