Decision to Become an Armed Citizen
By: William P. Flinn
the Initial Leap] [Philosophy
and Reasoning] [The
Practical Side] [Oh
What to Wear]
[Other Gear] [The Mental Side] [Situational Awareness] [Stress Relief] [Out and About]
[Wrapping it All Up] [Resources]
Choosing to be an armed citizen takes a lot of thought and preparation, not to mention the right equipment:
So despite all that, I made a conscious decision to carry a concealed weapon. In this article, I would like to document and share my decision making process with you to help you understand what makes a normal citizen make such a potentially life changing decision. This article will chronicle the decision making process, the social responsibilities of carrying a concealed weapon (as I understand them to be), and the significant lifestyle changes that one goes through once getting the permit and carrying a firearm.
Making the Initial Leap:
First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the
“how” of my decision making processes. This is
not, or certainly SHOULD not be an easy
decision. I happen to be a person of faith, so in my case, it took a great deal of
thought, prayer, research, and certainly
training. Thought and prayer in this decision
were the easy part. I felt that if I placed my
trust in the Lord’s hands, that He would guide
me toward the answers – and I believe He did.
Faith that God designed us to be responsible for
certain aspects of our lives, self defense being
one of them, led me to what I believe is the
right conclusion about carrying a weapon during
my daily life.
For the research, I consulted many sources, among which being the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, and various other Internet discussion forums. Then, there are numerous blogs, discussion forums, and news sources documenting the many instances where an armed citizen was able to save themselves and others around them by carrying and calling upon their weapon.
For the training, I relied partly on my prior experiences handling firearms, which told me that constant training is always needed. It started out as a venture to take my spouse to a basic pistol course, to get her familiar with firearms, and to pick up new insights on concealed carry for myself. From there, training evolved into regular visits to the range, getting involved in competitive shooting events, and constantly reading articles and books from noted authors on concealed carry and self defense. Training and gaining new knowledge about firearms and self defense is a daily part of my routine these days.
Now for the seemingly more philosophical yet most important part - the “why” part - of this whole decision process: It has become painfully clear to me that even in a small town like the one in which my family and I live, there are still bad people who wish to do others harm. We still hear about home invasions, store robberies, people getting robbed in their own driveways, and various other violent crimes, right here in our part of the state! A major city with noted gang activity is not far away – it is only a matter of time before the criminals get bored and decide to take their show on the road. And because I have a spouse, children, and two dogs, all of whom I love very much, I am willing to protect them. My willingness to protect them includes using deadly force if necessary.
My willingness to protect my family goes beyond a mere philosophical need to prove that I am a good person and provider, however. I believe that I have a personal responsibility to protect them and provide for their safety. This responsibility is found in Biblical teaching, and further rooted in my own beliefs. The Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that the government and police have no obligation to protect us as individuals (a noteworthy example being the 2005 case of Castle Rock versus Gonzales). In a more recent case in Madison Wisconsin, a young woman (student) was slain. She had called 911 but her call for help was ignored, the 911 operator hung up, and police were never called to investigate. So I am responsible for myself as an individual, and for my family as individuals. I accept this. I am perfectly willing and able to take on this obligation and do my part.
But I feel this obligation even transcends my obligation to just my family. Research has shown that areas that have more armed citizens experience fewer violent crimes. The more armed citizens there are the more uncertainty the criminals have. Who is carrying a weapon and who is not? This dramatically increases the criminal’s risks of being stopped, injured, or even killed during the commission of their crime. Studies by people such as Dr. John Lott have shown that an entire community is safer because of the population of people who carries concealed weapons. In fact, even noted anti-gun advocate and University of Pennsylvania professor David Mustard has had to admit that citizens who carry do not add to gun violence and do in fact make their communities safer:
"When I started my research on guns in 1995, I disliked firearms... My views on this subject were formed primarily by media accounts of firearms, which unknowingly to me systematically emphasized the cost of firearms while virtually ignoring their benefits. I thought it obvious that passing laws that permitted law abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms would create many problems. But research has convinced me that laws that require right-to-carry permits to be granted unless the applicant has a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness reduce violent crime and have no impact on accidental deaths."
Source: "Culture Affects Our Beliefs About Firearms, But Data Are Also Important," 151 U. Penn. Law Review, 1387, 2003
By the way - this isn’t by any means meant to be a recipe for others to follow. My strategies won’t work for everyone. And there are far greater numbers of experts out there who can tell you more about tactics, training, and self defense than I could ever hope to. Rather, I hope to give some examples of some things that have helped me, and to help you decide for yourself what will work best for you.
So now that I have made this decision, how does it affect my daily life? Surely, one doesn’t just strap on a gun and go walking around. There are certain places an armed citizen can and cannot go, and certain things an armed citizen has to do a bit differently than before. As I mentioned before, the decision to be an armed citizen affects not only the person who is armed, but practically everyone around them. There is still a lot of fear and apprehension about guns out in the community. Some people believe in the right to be armed, but simply choose not to be. Then there are others who don’t believe that citizens should have guns at all, as well as those who are morbidly afraid of firearms. The latter is a result of lack of education (about firearms) and misinformation from a biased media in my opinion, and I will speak more to that in a later segment in this series.
A recent cartoon I saw on the Internet depicted a person who was carrying a concealed weapon making the statement: “Having a concealed weapon is like wearing Power Rangers underwear; both are very cool, but you don’t dare show anybody.” There is a lot of truth to that. Having a concealed weapon, in my opinion, means that it stays concealed – period! There are a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we keep our handguns concealed primarily because it keeps the bad guys guessing and gives us the element of surprise. Secondly, quite a few states have “shall issue laws for concealed carry permits, but not all of those states have “open carry” laws. This means that if you have a concealed firearm, it must stay concealed, lest you be arrested for public menacing. And finally, firearms just make some people frightened. I submit that those fears are irrational, but those fears are very real to those people; why put them through needless worry and stress? They have every right to feel as comfortable in their surroundings as we do. And their worry and stress tends to lead to unwanted attention drawn to yourself, and perhaps the requirement to explain yourself to law enforcement when those more frightened people freak out and call the police.
Wardrobe decisions are
just something that has never plagued me before.
I was in the Navy for twenty years – my daily
attire was chosen for me. After leaving the
service, I have been mostly a jeans and t-shirt
kind of guy. Even when I am at work, jeans and a
decent sport shirt or polo shirt are considered
appropriate for my office. But carrying a
concealed weapon means that your attire has to
support concealment. Flaunting a weapon for the
reasons that I have already discussed is just
not something that I want to do.
One of the guns I often carry
The particular handguns that I carry at the moment both seem to be most conducive to being holstered. They are fairly small (compact, but not sub-compact), but I feel I can retrieve them from a paddle holster on my hip better than some of the other types of holsters I have tried. And I tried several holsters before making this decision. I have a few other holsters that I try from time to time. As moods change and clothing changes, so too can the holster if needed.
My main carry gun, the Bersa .45 UC, is large enough, however, that an in-waist-band holster scheme doesn’t seem to feel very comfortable at all. The paddle holster keeps it fairly high on my hip, but I still need to wear a long shirt or sweat-shirt to keep it concealed. I just bought some long shirts and leave them un-tucked – voila! Seems to work well in cooler weather, but in the summer I have to change that strategy a bit. Concealment vests are a good idea, but the looks of some of them on a person seems to scream out “Hey! I’m carrying a gun!” I found that a photographer's vest is a good choice as photography is a popular hobby in these parts. A small fanny pack works well when I go to the gym or am wearing sweats for a long walk or something. Sweats and exercise shorts don't usually have pockets, so it is perfectly normal to see someone in such attire wearing a small fanny pack for carrying wallet, iPod, keys, etc.
The type of holster and how to conceal were really the biggest decisions I had to make. Once I chose the best way to conceal my firearm so I could comfortably carry it around, the big issues were over. Beyond that, however, there are other things that I feel are necessary. Being in the information security biz, the term “defense in depth” is a large part of my daily vocabulary. Securing information takes a variety of tools to keep networks, computers and data safe. Self defense is really no different. A firearm is not always going to be the best or only method for defense from an attack.
There are many types of attacks, and there are many types of defenses. Criminal attacks are not the only attacks. And certainly there are people who feel bold enough to get in your personal space because they are angry for whatever reason, but they aren’t really intent on committing a violent crime. I live in an area with lots of wildlife. We have foxes in the neighborhood regularly. Bears and mountain lions have been known to come down out of the mountains, as have coyotes. There are stray dogs as well. For example, at least twice in recent weeks while walking my dog, some stray dogs have attacked me and one other person near me while I was out. My dog is small, so I picked him up, and kicking the attacking dogs was enough to send them off. On a walk the other day, a gentleman and his dog were attacked by a large dog, and the dog drew blood. If I had not turned around to retrieve a forgotten item from the house before the walk that would have been my dog and me getting attacked. But had that happened to us, would drawing my weapon and shooting the dog been a viable solution? Certainly not! It was simply a case of a large, strong dog getting away from its owner. A good shot of pepper spray would have likely turned the dog away, and the dog would have lived. The owner would have been upset, but that would have been their problem. When animal control showed up, I think they had enough to worry about explaining how their big dog got away and attacked someone.
My wife and I both carry the
The point is that a firearm is not always the best or even most responsible defense. Shooting a dog or their owner, or even just shooting an obnoxious jerk that is getting in your face, for example, will probably land you in jail. But using the amount of defensive force commensurate with the attack is usually considered reasonable and prudent. If someone refuses to get out of your face and is getting close enough to be a threat, a shot in the face with pepper spray may do the trick. A potential attacker approaching in a dark parking lot may be scared away when a tactical grade flashlight is shined in their eyes, temporarily blinding them. I don’t care how “bad” you think you are – someone flashing a tactical grade flashlight in your eyes gives you pause to think about what else that person might also be carrying. So carrying other defensive tools might also serve as a deterrent in that it says that you are prepared and willing to act – and escalate your actions if warranted.
Having multiple tools at your disposal is a wise decision. So for that reason, besides the firearm, I carry other items such as a cell phone, pepper spray, a knife, and a flashlight. I consider these items the absolute minimum. And the beauty is that these additional items are relatively small, and I don’t have to feel like I am carrying a hardware store around in my pockets. Even if I am in a place where I cannot carry a gun for legal or other reasons, the other items are usually acceptable and legal.
By choosing the right types of self defense items, you will also have useful tools to deploy in multiple ways. For example, a good defensive flashlight and certain types of pepper spray come in the same shape and size of a kubotan stick. These can then be easily used to jab into bony or fleshy parts and inflict a great deal of pain in a close-in encounter. Surefire, for example makes a flashlight known as the E2D Executive Defender, which has a crenellated strike bezel which can also be used as a close-in striking tool to inflict injury and pain. A good tactical flashlight will help you look inside and underneath your car in a poorly lit parking lot, and will also temporarily blind someone who is approaching you.
Having defense in depth provides a greater deal of security than simply replying on one single tool – just as you have many tools to do all your household chores, so should you have many tools to provide for your safety.
And NO – I am not referring to anything even hinting of those of us who carry having mental illness, being a mental defective, or any such nonsense. In fact, all of the gun owners and CCW permit holders I know are at the top of the list of the most mentally and emotionally stable people I know. Having acute awareness and mental abilities is a key factor in the persona who carries a concealed weapon. Mindset is an important ingredient in self defense, and being mentally prepared for the worst is a part of my strategy. Thinking about the various scenarios and knowing what actions I will take is one of my most valuable weapons.
In the following sections, I would like to focus one of the most valuable self defense weapons available – the human mind. And while I am by no means a psychologist or expert of emotional well being in any way (I am a computer geek, after all), I do know that being aware, mentally prepared, and decisive in action is a key ingredient to survival.
In all honesty, I feel that a significant part of our society is made up of unaware, self consumed individuals. For example, I ride a motorcycle – and I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have been cutoff and almost hit by people on their cell phones or engaging in other activities while driving which distracts them to the point that they can’t even pay attention to what is going on around them. These people can’t stop for simple stop-signs, and even by one woman I observed was eating a bowl of cereal (I’m not kidding) while driving her minivan. Some people seem to always be on their phones, and the funny thing is, they don’t really seem to be talking about anything earth shattering.
Then there are just those who seem to be looking at their shoes all the time, or are obviously in another place while they are out and about. I have a name for these people: they are simply the “unaware” of our society. Unfortunately, the criminal element is aware of these people as well, and they have their own name for them: “Victim!”“How to Win a Gunfight: Gaining the Half-Second Advantage” by Tony Walker (ISBN 0-7414-4341-4. This wonderful book is full of insights on how to become more aware, and how to practice some of the other elements of self defense.
I read somewhere that anger has no place in the life of someone who carries a concealed weapon. That really struck me as profound. One of the wildest stereotypes that the anti-gun people have of us is that we will get angry and go on a wild shooting rampage. Well for one thing, multitudes of studies have shown that the “wild west” and “road rage” aspects of regular citizens carrying concealed weapons has never come to pass. In fact, the more articles I read, the more I am convinced of something I already believed; law abiding citizens who carry weapons tend to be more polite and avoiding of situations that would illicit an armed response. If someone is unhappy with me, I simply nod and walk away. They may call me names, and they may insult me. But that is just something that I have learned to live with over the years. Getting into any type of altercation, armed or not, has just never been worth the outcomes.
So what does one do to get rid of the stress and anger? We all get angry, we all get stressed. And in the case of having to walk away from a situation, it is likely that pride and dignity will suffer to some extent. For me, physical fitness plays an important part of that stress relief. I’m not a spring chicken any more, so going to the gym regularly helps to relieve stress, but it also helps to add longevity and quality to life. In fact, one of the other aspects of self defense is agility, stamina, and the ability to gain (as Tony Walker puts it) that “half-second advantage.” An hour in the gym and I feel totally different and recharged.
But since I’m mentioning stress relief, there is another technique that my wife and I use for stress relief: going to the range! And no, I’m not talking about taking along effigies of our most hated co-worker or anything like that. We participate in a weekly shooting league at our favorite indoor pistol range. Each week, the targets are varied, the distances of the targets are varied, and the scoring is varied. For about an hour a week, we go to the range, the shooting scenario unknown to us until we arrive, and we spend that time concentrating on those targets and getting the best score that we can. During that time, we are thinking of nothing else! All thoughts of our hectic work day have literally vanished, and we are all consumed in having fun at the range. We share ideas on shooting techniques, we meet new people, and we enjoy talking with the proprietors on the gun shop. This relates to physical fitness also because we are practicing new and varied ways to shoot, different types of targets, and shooting at different ranges. In other words, we are getting a frequently changing look at the dynamic of shooting and practicing with our weapons. We go home and talk about the evening at the range and just enjoy the fact that we have yet another activity that we enjoy doing together. Having that aspect of my life in solidly good shape allows me personally to put everything else into place as well.
So what am I thinking about while out there running my daily errands? Mostly on my minds is how to be as completely invisible as possible. I want to be the person that no one notices. So to that end, I don’t go out of my way to attract attention, and I certainly don’t go out of my way to give any clue that I am carrying a weapon. What this means is that I am careful about how I get out of my car, lest my firearm be exposed, and I am aware of what other types of people are in the area. For example, if a mother and her young children are in the area, I especially don’t want the youngsters seeing my gun. I know that some people are afraid of guns, no matter how much we have proven that there is nothing to be afraid of, and I don’t want anyone needlessly feeling afraid or uneasy around me. So for those reasons alone, I am very cognizant of making sure that my concealed weapon is just that: concealed!
A very important part of my thought process is in knowing where I can or cannot go if I am carrying a firearm. I know that some establishments don’t care either way, while still others adamantly refuse entrance to holders of valid CCW permits if they have weapons. So essentially, I do the best I can to know who has what policy, and to respect their wishes. But I will say this about the establishments who refuse to allow law abiding citizens to carry their concealed weapons into their businesses: I won’t give them my business period. But it’s not because I think they possess some liberal, anti-gun mind-set. It is specifically because they have made the statement that I am not welcome to use my chosen method of self defense while on their premises. If I or my family were to be in one of these types of places, and an armed gunman appears, they are disallowing me the means to defend myself. They have no intention of providing for my protection while I am there, however, as seen by the lack of armed guards in any of these places. Additionally, my state law makers have made it clear to me that I cannot hold them legally liable for damages, death, or injury if I or my family is harmed in their “gun free” zone.
Constantly on my mind when I am out and about is an awareness of other people, particularly who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” I try not to be judgmental, but let’s face it: you can just tell sometimes, who are the average citizens walking around, and who the lower forms of human existence are. Going to the mall, for example, it is painfully obvious who the vultures are because you can see them sizing up everyone, following people around, and in general looking like they have no purpose in life other than to find their next victim. This is the same behavior seen on nature channels when the jackals are sizing up their next meal. The baggy pants, the hat cocked sideways, the less than understandable grammar. It is obvious they aren’t there to do their shopping and leave – they just seem to be there perpetually as if that is their place of employment. Well, perhaps it is. I’m suspicious of everyone, and I spend a lot of time observing people. Unless you are completely unaware of your surroundings, you kind of have an idea who you can (mostly) ignore, and who you need to keep your eye on. Being aware is to be prepared, and being prepared means you are watching them more closely than the rest. The best thing I try to do is just avoid the places where these maggots seem to congregate the most, but sometimes what you need is at the place where the vultures hang out: The shopping mall and Wal-Mart seem to be the two most likely places where the dregs of society can be found here in my small town.
To me, carrying concealed means just what it implies. I don’t want anyone to know I am carrying a firearm, or any other weapons for that matter. It is important to me that the bad guys don’t know who is carrying – it keeps them guessing. And I know that there are a lot of frightened people out there who freak out at even the mention of firearms. Why put them through undue stress? In fact, as I am sitting here typing this from a public coffee shop, none of the people here have a clue that there is an armed citizen in their midst – and I intend to keep it that way. I’m not going to change their minds about the benefit of being armed in the time of our brief encounter – so why try? Why go through having to explain to them that their fears are irrational and that they are safe as kittens around me? It just isn’t worth it, but it is worth avoiding the situation altogether.
Beyond the act of concealment, I consider self defense to be a matter of employing the right tools for the job. That is why I carry a variety of self defense items such as cell phones, a knife, tactical flashlight, and pepper spray, and of course - my wits.
As you can see throughout this article, I have tried to illustrate that I do indeed consider being an armed citizen to be a serious and awesome responsibility. These aren’t the ravings of some “gun nut” who just wants to be able to carry his “toys” everywhere. This is the mindset of a free man who values his and his family’s safety above all else. Self defense is a basic human right. I owe it to my family to live a long life and provide for their well being and safety. This is my responsibility, not that of the government. I don’t want to rely on anyone else to carry out those responsibilities which are mine alone, but at the same time I don’t want anyone thinking that they have the right to take my abilities to perform my duties as a responsible citizen away from me. The founders of our country made it clear that we were endowed these rights by our Creator, and that idea is still valid today. Technologies have changed, and the population of criminals has increased from their day, but what was spoken then is still valid now. My right to defend myself and my family is absolutely and unequivocally non-negotiable!
The Cornered Cat (by Kathy Jackson, who writes for Concealed Carry Magazine)
U.S. Concealed Carry Association (The Premier Website for Concealed Carry Resources)
Concealed Carry in the United States (Wikipedia)
Civilian Gun Defense Blog (Examples of Firearms Used to Protect People)
Concealed Carry Links (Sponsored by Concealed Clothiers)
ProtectMeFirst (Self Defense Products)
Article: Obama Misfires on Concealed Carry (Investor' Business Daily Editorial)
The Rocky Mountain Gun Owner's Association (Colorado's ONLY no-compromise gun lobby)
Keep and Bear Arms dot Com (Cartoons)
"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws."
- Ayn Rand