Even a right must be exercised responsibly, and carrying a gun is a grave responsibility. In previous articles, I have discussed my belief that carrying a gun is not for everyone. If you carry, you should do so intelligently. If you go armed and act stupidly, you may lose your right (or privilege) to carry. Make intelligent choices and carry responsibly.
1. Be A.W.A.R.E.
Being A.W.A.R.E. entails being Alert, being Willing, having a good Attitude, being Ready, and being Even tempered.
Be Alert. You need to watch your 360 so you can see trouble coming in advance. Action is faster than reaction, so if you see trouble coming, you can stack the deck in your favor. That might mean just leaving.
Be Willing. You need to be willing to do whatever you have to do to survive a lethal force confrontation. You need to be willing to use deadly force if you find yourself in the gravest of extremes. This would be when you believe your life, or that of someone under the mantle of your protection, is in imminent danger as a result of your being confronted by a person (or persons) presenting an immediate and unavoidable threat of death or grave bodily harm.
Have a good Attitude. Be thoughtful, willing to learn, humble, and reasonably friendly, although certainly not overly friendly. Lawful concealed carry is for the “good guys and gals.” Lawful concealed carry is for those who are pro-social, not anti-social.
Be Ready. A gun will do you no good if you are not ready. Being in a state of readiness entails being alert and aware so you can observe what is going on around you. You have to be observant to notice something out of the ordinary. Once you observe something is out of kilter, then you will orient to it in order to rapidly analyze the situation and decide what to do. Dithering means death. Once you decide, you must act.
Be Even tempered. You mustn’t be impulsive, angry, or rash. These qualities do not go together with carrying a gun. They do not go along with thinking clearly or rationally. Remember that we carry a gun for self defense, not to intimidate or punish.
2. Be invisible.
This means that you do not want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. It is best to go unnoticed. Be polite. It is better to dress plainly dull and boring than it is to dress spicy and exciting. “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” to quote President Teddy Roosevelt. Good people who go unnoticed are less likely to get in trouble. Also do your best to avoid “hot spots.” These are places where hot-tempered people butt heads, such as bars late at night and political rallies or confrontations.
3. Know your equipment and practice with it regularly.
If you are not intimately acquainted with your equipment (read gun, holster, and other accessories), how will you be able to operate your equipment smoothly and efficiently in an emergency? Do you get this bullet point? The idea is to drill and practice regularly with your equipment so that its deployment becomes second nature—that is, a habit. If you are a musician, you get to Carnegie Hall through practice. If you carry a gun, you get to survive through practice.
4. Practice safe gun handling.
Guns are dangerous. Always handle them with a focus on safety. That means you should (a) always handle all guns as if they are loaded, (b) never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy, (c) keep your finger off the trigger in a stable “register” position at all times, unless your gun is on target and you have made the decision to shoot at that moment, and (d) positively know your target and what is around and behind it.
5. Know the laws and always carry your license to carry.
Ignorance is no excuse before the law. Know and follow the law. Sure, the laws can be confusing, especially in anti gun rights, heavily gun controlled states such as New Jersey. But, as gun lawyer Kevin Jamison, says, “It’s just the law.” Many laws do not make sense. But you need to know what they are. If you break the law and are caught, you can lose your gun rights. Recognize that our hard won gun rights, unfortunately are very fragile; that is, they can be easily taken away though a stupid mistake.
1. Don’t be impulsive.
Impulsiveness and guns do not mix. It’s like mixing guns, drugs, and alcohol. If you cannot control your aggressive impulses or your rage, you probably should not carry a gun. You need to keep a cool head. Hot heads get in trouble. Add a gun and you have the makings of a news flash. You must learn to stop, think, and act appropriately.
Don’t get into fights when you are packing heat if you can help it. When you are packing heat, wherever you go is hot. So, if you get into a fist fight, you are adding the potential for the introduction of deadly force into the mix. That is a bad thing. I have read about guns falling onto the floor in tussles (bad weapon retention), and guns being grabbed (also bad weapon retention). Nothing good will come of this.
2. Don’t advertise for your favorite gun manufacturer.
Don’t let people know what you are carrying, where you are toting it, or even that you are carrying. You don’t want anyone to have the drop on you. You want to retain the element of surprise—your trump card. If you want to advertise for your favorite gun manufacturer, apply for a PR job in the firearms industry.
3. Don’t develop “gun courage.”
Have you ever heard of “canned courage?” Have you ever heard of anything good coming of it? No and no. Similarly, gun courage is destructive. Never think you should go anywhere with a gun (unless you have no other choice), where you would not dare to go without one. We do not carry to intimidate, except to intimidate a violent criminal into finding something to do other than preying on us.
4. Don’t ever lose your gun!
Hold onto your gun. Practice sound weapon retention. You cannot afford to lose your gun. If anyone other than someone you authorize gets their mitts on your gun, you are in for big trouble! So, carry in a secure retention holster. Keep your roscoe accessible but at the same time well concealed and out of sight. If you have trouble with this, consider pocket carry. It is the easiest way to securely tote a concealed handgun out of sight. Last but not least, don’t become complacent
5. Don’t become complacent.
I have written about the dangers of complacency in a previous issue. It bears repeating. Complacency and false confidence can spell R-I-P. Don’t rest on your laurels. Shooting is a perishable skill, so practice regularly. Do not neglect to maintain your carry guns. Inspect and clean them regularly. Don’t be the guy whose carry pistol accumulates several ounces of lint and greasy mush. Don’t develop false confidence because you are armed. If you are caught in Condition White, that is, unaware, what will your gun do for you when you are way behind the reactionary gap?
We have examined five key dos and don’ts of intelligent concealed carry. The major point is that concealed carry of defensive handguns is not for folks who lack, or do not exercise, good judgment and restraint. Carrying a gun is a grave responsibility. Carry intelligently and retain your precious right to keep and bear arms.
[ Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D., psychologist, NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, and founder of the online forum www.DefensiveHandguns.com, teaches concealed carry classes for the Florida, Virginia, and Utah carry permits. Bruce provides private firearm instruction and co-authored the book, Essential Guide to Handguns. Visit his website at www.PersonalDefenseSolutions.net ]
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