Carrying a Firearm While Toting a Toddler – USCCA

This article will discuss on methods on how parents should carry a gun while toting a toddler that has parent-specific advantages.

Problem: Carrying a child on the strong-side hip positions them on top of the gun. Uncomfortable for the child, and inconvenient for the parent—a fast draw is not possible.

In today’s expanding market of publications geared towards legally armed citizens, there’s a certain demographic that still gets short shrift when it comes to tailored information.

Sure, both the print and online gun magazines have no shortage of information for properly and effectively toting a gun when you’re male, female, thin, obese, handicapped, six feet tall, or five feet short—but there’s very little out there for the segment of the population that has to worry about concealing a pistol, and managing an infant or toddler in public at the same time.

 

The fanny pack, long dismissed by “serious” gun owners as a fashion faux pas and an obvious indicator to criminals, really comes into its own when used as a gun carrier by the toddler-slinging parent.

 

In states where the population has the option to legally carry a concealed weapon, between two and five percent of citizens jump through the legal hoops and get concealed carry permits. If you live in such a state, you can assume that statistically, one or two out of every fifty people you see in public are legally carrying a handgun. That includes the segment of the population that ventures into public with strollers, baby carriers, and diaper bags. Some people consider it irresponsible to have handguns in the proximity of small children, while others recognize that having those children increases the need for carrying a weapon.

Not only are you entrusted with the protection of more lives than your own, but you’re also in a position that usually doesn’t allow you to flee from danger easily. When you have small children in your charge, your handgun is no longer a self-defense tool, but a family-defense device.

The armed parent has to face a set of challenges that the average gun owner seldom has to consider. You have an obligation to keep and carry your gun in a safe manner, inaccessible to your children, yet reasonably fast to access in case of emergency.

The trigger lock (the cure-all solution for the gun-phobic groups who would love to see all parents store their guns disassembled and in a separate zip code from the ammunition) is patently useless to anyone who wants to be able to use the weapon for defense against muggers, carjackers, or home invaders, who don’t have the good manners to announce their intentions in advance.

Leaving the house with small children is an exercise in logistics, and a minor hassle on the best of days. You have to remember snacks, bottles, diaper bags, and toys. Throw in the need to comfortably carry, and efficiently conceal, a two-pound lump of steel on your person, and it’s a major challenge.

Your average gun toter usually puts a holster onto their belt, covers the weapon up with a jacket or other garment, and goes about their business. Strong-side carry is still the best way to keep a weapon ready for quick access, but for the toddler-carrying parent, it doesn’t work so well. First of all, consider how moms and dads usually carry a small child in need of carrying: on the strong-side hip, so that the weight of the child is on the hip bone instead of in the parent’s arms, and the parent can support the child with their strong-side arm.

 

Becoming a parent means an increased need for protection, not a decreased one, and with a little bit of experimentation, most parents will find a way to consolidate the need for safe storage and discreet concealment while keeping their defensive tool readily accessible.

 

This places the child right on top of the spot where the gun sits, right behind the point of the hip bone. Not only is it uncomfortable for your toddler to sit on the lump of steel on your hip, but it also makes fast retrieval of the gun impossible. In addition, some of the most comfortable ways to carry a small child—the baby sling, or the backpack-like carrier harness known as the Snugli—completely rule out carrying anything on the waist, because the support strap interferes with anything you may wear on your belt or in your front pockets.

There are also environmental considerations that make the traditional method of strong-side carry less than ideal for the parent. Parents of infants and toddlers tend to move in circles where the inadvertent exposure of a gun may provoke strong reactions. While people may shrug off seeing an exposed weapon on your belt at the grocery store, it becomes a bigger issue when you’re on the playground at the park, surrounded by lots of other parents and their small children, or in the children’s section at the bookstore or library.

Concealed carry: Weapon carried in crossdraw holster can be drawn by the strong hand, or by the weak hand in “cavalry draw”.

Weapon carried in crossdraw holster can be drawn by the strong hand, or by the weak hand in “cavalry draw”.

Even if carrying your weapon in these localities is legal, other parents may vocally disagree with you bringing a loaded weapon into an environment full of children, and that sort of conflict will add unnecessary stress to your day. Therefore, parents must exercise even more diligence than the average CCW holder when it comes to concealment, yet this need must be balanced against the requirement to have the gun available in a timely manner in case of emergency.

Fortunately, there are a few carry methods that, while often ridiculed or dismissed by the childless permit holder as unsuitable, offer a unique set of advantages to the armed parent: the fanny pack and the shoulder holster.

The fanny pack, long dismissed by “serious” gun owners as a fashion faux pas and an obvious indicator to criminals, really comes into its own when used as a gun carrier by the toddler-slinging parent. It covers the gun completely, with no chance of accidental exposure, and it still allows for reasonably fast access. It gives the parent a place to stash wallet and wet wipes, and it keeps the hands and hips free for other uses.

The fanny pack also has the undeniable advantage of being stealthy—while it may look obvious on a guy with a buzz cut and a pair of “tactical” pants, there’s absolutely nothing unusual or uncommon about a parent toting around toddler or infant supplies in a belt pack, and its presence will rarely if ever be questioned or looked upon as unusual by other parents.

Concealed carry: A clean draw is not an option here.

A clean draw is not an option here.

(It’s a good idea to use a fanny pack model that has a separate compartment for the weapon, so you won’t expose the gun while getting out a wallet, cookie, or wet wipe in front of other parents.) Taking the pack off even for a moment is out of the question. Caring for an infant or toddler involves a disregard for fashion dictates and frequent spit-up stains on clothing, so the fashion faux pas accusation against fanny packs has no application to the gun-carrying parent of small children.

The second carry method that has parent-specific advantages is the shoulder holster. When you’re out and about with a child, you do a lot of bending over—taking a baby out of the car seat or putting him in, picking your child up off the ground, fixing shoelaces, wiping noses—and that’s precisely the sort of movement that tends to expose the grip of a holstered pistol on your belt as it presses against the fabric of your covering garment.

Concealed carry: Popular baby carrier leaves the hands free, but interferes with holsters worn on the belt due to the location of the support strap.

Popular baby carrier leaves the hands free, but interferes with holsters worn on the belt due to the location of the support strap.

A shoulder holster keeps the weapon suspended under your weak-side arm, thereby both keeping your strong-side hip free for taxi duties, and keeping the belt line clear. Another big advantage of the shoulder rig is the ease of access to the weapon in a seated position, like being buckled into the driver’s seat of a car, and the lack of exposure of the weapon to anyone walking up behind you while you’re putting the kids in the car seat (a scenario that makes you very vulnerable because you’re in a parking lot, a favored work environment for criminals, and you have your back turned to the likely axis of danger.)

As with any carry method, the fanny pack and the shoulder holster are not universal fix-all solutions for every armed parent out there. They do, however, offer viable alternatives for the diaper-slinging subset of the population, those of us who need to carry wet wipes along with spare magazines, and who want to be equipped to handle emergencies beyond the full diaper and the skinned knee effectively.

Becoming a parent means an increased need for protection, not a decreased one, and with a little bit of experimentation, most parents will find a way to consolidate the need for safe storage and discreet concealment while keeping their defensive tool readily accessible.

After all, the gun is another indispensable tool in the parental toolkit. Everything we take along with us when we leave the house with our kids is designed to take care of their needs: wet wipes and diapers to satisfy the need for hygiene, snacks and bottles to satisfy the need for nutrition, toys to satisfy the need for entertainment…and Mommy’s or Daddy’s gun to satisfy the need for physical safety and a life free from harm.

Of all the parental jobs, that of the Protector is arguably the most essential, and it makes no sense to take along the tools to fix a poopy diaper, but not the tools to fix a car jacker, mugger, rapist, or kidnapper.

 

[ Marko Kloos is a stay-at-home parent and freelance writer who has been carrying guns for over fifteen years, both professionally and as a private citizen. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, two small children, and a pack of attack dachshunds. ]

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