I have covered this topic in a previous post but the post continues to be extremely popular and I get multiple direct and search hits every day on that post. So I figured I would post a follow-up to my previous open carry post with more information for a comprehensive open carry post.
Open carry simply means “openly carrying a firearm in public.” In the United States the laws concerning open carry vary from state to state. In Kentucky, open carry is permitted without a license or permit. Don’t get this confused with concealed carry where it is required to have a license. With open carry you can carry into any place of business (as long as it is not clearly posted that carrying is not allowed) with full protection under Kentucky Law. Of course you can’t carry into a bank or courthouse and a few other government buildings, but even those buildings are required to post that you aren’t allowed to carry so it’s always important to check if you are openly carrying a firearm.
Opencarry.org, a non-profit organization that lobbies for open carry rights in the US describe Kentucky as a “Gold Star” state for open carry. Their summary is as follows:
Kentucky is one of our “Gold Star” open carry states. There is complete state preemption of all firearms laws, open carry is constitutionally protected with court precedent and law enforcement is aware of its legality.
That’s right, open carry is protected under the state Constitution and we have the right to openly carry firearms legally. As stated above, a business has the right to prohibit guns from being carried into the store, whether openly or concealed. The flip side is that as a gun carrier, you can choose not to purchase the businesses goods or services.
In a vehicle it is legal to openly carry a firearm as long as it is in plain view or in the glove box. If it’s under the seat, or stashed away, it becomes concealed and at that point illegal if you don’t have a concealed weapons license. This is stated in KRS 527.020 and does not include a center console.
The Kentucky constitution has a strong preemptive gun law that prevents firearms from being locally regulated. This means that no local governments (city or county) can pass any law concerning gun rights that go against the Kentucky Constitution. The preemption law also applies to college campuses, but not public school systems (K-12). Federal law prohibits firearms on K-12 school property, but the laws regarding carry on college campuses in KY are left up to the policy of the individual college. If you plan on carrying on a college campus, make sure to check the school’s policies because most don’t allow it.
Unless posted by private businesses or companies, you can legally carry into a church, bar, restaurant, shopping center, mall, or supermarket. Opencarry.org’s slogan is “a right not exercised is a right lost.” This is very true. I know there are a lot of arguments against open carry, but I will not be going into those at this time. What I will say is that if we don’t show that responsible citizens can carry weapons openly then the public will continue to be scared and uneasy around someone carrying. The reality of the situation is that people would be safer, not less safe, if responsible people openly carried more. When you’re carrying openly you are the least likely person to be targeted for a crime. And if you’re in public, others around you are less likely to be targeted by a criminal. Criminals are weak and not looking for a fight. They prey on the weak and helpless, and anyone carrying a firearm is showing that their not helpless and ready to defend themselves.
Kentucky Constitution, Bill of Rights, Section I
All men are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned: First: The right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties. Seventh: The right to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the State, subject to the power of the General Assembly to enact laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed weapons.
If you plan on exercising your open carry rights, it’s important to be familiar with the law in case you get harassed by law enforcement. Kentucky law enforcement officials are suppose to be aware of the law and the open carry right, but it doesn’t stop people from getting harassed and sometimes jailed temporarily. Know your rights and watch the signs and you will be alright when openly carrying.