Deciding When to Carry

20121220-214104.jpgIf you’re new to firearms, shooting, and the consciousness of self-reliance and self-sufficiency about personal safety, you’ll probably need to make a decision at some point about whether, when, and how you want to carry a firearm for self-defense. Close to 40 states are “shall-issue” jurisdictions for concealed carry permits; that is, their laws mandate that the authorities MUST issue a permit to any law-abiding citizen who applies and meets their requirements. The lone holdout state with no provision for permitting at all (Illinois) has just been ordered by a court to create a permitting process.

This post isn’t going to be about the “how” of carrying a concealed weapon. Rather, it’s going to be about one of the decisions we make when we decide to carry. When, we have to decide, will we carry our firearm? I’m going to advocate a simple answer, and then explain why I feel that way: Once you have a concealed weapons permit, you should carry your firearm everywhere you legally can do so.

Why do I advocate such a blanket rule? Here are some reasons:

  • Your firearm is safest when it’s under your direct control. One of my Facebook followers wrote, “I have 3 sons aged 7,6 and 19months. I am extremely worried about one of them getting access to firearms.” This is absolutely a valid concern, and it might seem that locking up our firearm would be the best way to keep it out of the hands of children who aren’t equipped to handle it. But, anyone who’s ever been a parent knows that childproof things aren’t in fact childproof, and that kids can and do get into everything. So, in my view, the safest place for my gun to be is on my body and under my direct control at all times. If I know my gun is in a holster on my belt, then I know my daughter isn’t playing with it in the bedroom when my back is turned.
  • Trouble doesn’t make appointments.Sometimes people think we should only carry our firearm when we’re expecting trouble. The problem is, trouble can find us anywhere, anytime, and if we’re doing our job of being aware of our surroundings, we’ll get out of harm’s way if we know trouble is coming. And that’s the rub – since we’re always cultivating our situational awareness, if trouble finds us it’ll be because we failed to see it coming. So, how will we know that we need to go load up our guns? If we want to have our weapons available when danger arrives, the only way to do that is to have our gun available always.
  • Being armed encourages awareness and responsibility. I recognize this is probably not universally true, but most law abiding armed citizens I know say that when they’re lawfully armed, they feel an extra responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, to be cautious and judicious in their behavior, to be measured in their responses and interactions. They say things like, “when I’m carrying my gun, I have to hold myself to a higher standard.” So, if that’s true for you, why not hold yourself to that higher standard all the time?

Now, it’s true there are some places where you simply cannot carry. In many states, you can’t legally carry a gun on a school campus, for example, or into a courtroom. In some states, “no guns” signs on private property have the force of law. Some of us may have family members or friends who ask us not to carry in their houses. In those circumstances, we might not be able to carry our firearms. But my personal feeling is that once we’ve made the choice to be armed, we should always be armed – or, at least, as close to “always” as our local laws allow us.

What do you think? If you have a CCW permit, when do you carry your firearm, and when do you choose not to?

Photo credit: stock.xchng


  1. Except for to/from/at work, when I am strictly forbidden from doing so, I carry everywhere I go and usually at home as well. I’d rather carry it every day and not need it than need it one day and not have it. It’s a cliché, but it happens to be true.

    • This is a very good point: They say that you won’t need your gun until you REALLY need it. And I agree with you – if CCW permits were obtainable where I live, I’d absolutely carry all the time (except for when I go to court – I work part time as a mediator).

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. I carry all day, every day, everywhere I go with very rare exceptions. Generally speaking, if my gun isn’t welcome somewhere, I just don’t go there.

    That’s a personal choice, and not everyone is willing to go that far, but it seems important to remember that criminals (all kinds) want helpless victims, so the VERY places your gun is prohibited is actually the most likely place for an attack. If they openly advertise it (policy, “laws” or signs on the door) as a “gun free zone,” I don’t know why anyone who values their life would go in there.

    • Absolutely agree with you. Of course, there are some places you HAVE to go – court, government offices, and such – that may ban guns. I’m less worried in court than I would be elsewhere, since there are always large numbers of armed sheriff’s deputies around, but it still makes me twitchy.

      And you’re right about criminals and crazies targeting gun-free zones. I read recently that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was the only firearm spree murder with a casualty count over four in the last 30 years that didn’t take place in a place that was gun-free by statute, ordinance, or policy.

      • You have to do what you have to do, obviously. Thankfully, the only “prohibited place” here is the post office. I just don’t go there.

        I recently went to a campout with my club. There were more than a hundred people present openly carrying, and nobody knows how many CC. As a person fully responsible for my own life and safety, it would not have mattered if there had been thousands of people carrying and, as a member of this society, I freely accepted mutual responsibility for the safety of everyone present as well.

        Somebody visiting asked what we were all so afraid of. I laughed and told her, “not a darn thing. Unless needed, the guns are all simply inert chunks of metal and plastic, just like the camp stoves, coolers and tents all around us.”

        “Too many guns” is never the problem, really. It is a matter of too few self responsible people, which gives an open invitation to those who are evil enough to harm the helpless.

      • “Too many guns” is never the problem, really. It is a matter of too few self responsible people, which gives an open invitation to those who are evil enough to harm the helpless.

        Absolutely 100% agree. I often say, “I’m not choosing to be armed because I’m afraid. I’m NOT afraid, because I have the tools, training, equipment and awareness to safeguard myself and my loved ones.” And I believe – and the research supports the belief – that the community as a whole is safer when there are armed, trained, responsible citizens like us in their midst.

  3. Mrs. Groundhog says:

    If I leave the house, it is with me. I carry everywhere that I am legally able to do so. If a store will not allow me to carry, I shop elsewhere. I can not carry in my bank so I use the drive through the majority of the time. I carry to work but must leave it in the car since I teach on a college campus.

    • “I carry to work but must leave it in the car since I teach on a college campus.”

      I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the Gun Free School Zone issue. Do you think teachers should be able to carry on campus? What do you think of the fear some have expressed about students making a grab for a teacher’s weapon?

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and thanks for your friendship!

      • Jaimie says:

        I also work on a college campus, and my gun lives in the center console in the parking lot, but I don’t doubt that I’d catch hell were that to be commonly known, despite the legality of doing so.

        Some of my coworkers and I have talked about it, and responses have been everything from mine which is “I would carry every second of every day” to a moderate “I wouldn’t mind others carrying” to “I would literally quit on the spot if people were allowed to go armed on campus.” Never mind that they may go armed on campus, just not in campus buildings.

        Another of your posts made a good note about students making a grab for a weapon. I’d rather a student be forced to try to grab it from my hip in front of my eyes than be able to steal it from my car without anyone’s knowledge.

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