News & Politics

"Yeah, It’s Loaded"

The national "open carry" movement, in which gun owners openly—and legally—carry guns in public, began in Virginia a decade ago. Meet three women who aren't bashful about it.

Carrie Moats, Ashburn 

Carrie Moats of Ashburn goes by the name Open Carrie on Internet forums: “I don’t carry every day. When I’m walking my dog, especially at night, I have my gun with me. The most common reaction I get is ‘Are you off-duty?’ People think I’m a police officer.”

Moats, shown shopping at a Target in Sterling, says: “My first gun was a .380, but it kept jamming.” She now carries a 9mm Glock 19. Moats calls herself politically independent: “I’m not right or left wing. The people who want more gun control don’t understand that it just hurts people like me, a law-abiding citizen.” 

Caitlin Rutherford, Age 20

Caitlin Rutherford, 20, talks on the phone while wearing her Glock at her parents’ home in Carrolton, Virginia. The Hampton resident has been carrying since her 18th birthday. “You have to be 18,” she says, “or else I would’ve started much earlier. I get all kinds of reactions. People ask, ‘Is that legal?’ Others say, ‘That’s so awesome—thank you for doing that.’ ”

Caitlin walks her boyfriend’s beagle: “When I’m walking the dog at night, sometimes people will start yelling at me. I’ll turn the other way, and when they see I have a gun, they leave me alone.”

Caitlin’s stepmother, Jadranka—who also carries a gun—sets pizza out for lunch.

Caitlin watches as Jadranka makes brownies. Says Caitlin: “I practice on guns from small .22s all the way up to huge military machine guns. My favorite’s my Glock 19. Many say it’s a manly gun, but I feel like it fits on me most comfortably. The kick isn’t too bad, but it’s still a pretty big bullet.” Caitlin’s father is a former Army Special Forces weapons specialist. “He got me started in middle school, when I was old enough to control a gun,” says Caitlin. “I’m a great shot, by the way—not to brag.”

Michelle Rogers, Mother of Two

Michelle Rogers of Lorton with daughters Rebekah, five, and Maggie, two. “It might be being a woman, but I don’t get a lot of the comments I’ve heard other people have gotten,” Rogers says. “I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Is that thing real?’ ”

Rogers kisses her daughter Rebekah while wearing her SIG Sauer P239. “I didn’t grow up around guns,” Rogers says. “I was raised in New Jersey, where the only people who had guns were police or criminals.” The first time she fired one was in the Army. “I think it should be legal everywhere. But I don’t open-carry in places where it might come off as inappropriate, like my kid’s soccer game or a child’s birthday party.”

Firearms belonging to Rogers and her husband. For everyday carry, she uses her P239: “It’s smaller and only a single-stack magazine, so it’s better for female hands. There have been times where I’ve felt uncomfortable and glad that I had it. But more so, there were times when I was upset I didn’t have it. If I’m driving through DC or Maryland and my car breaks down in the middle of the night, I’m completely without protection.” 

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Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.