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Ten Commandments Of Carrying A Firearm

October 15th, 2009 by Kevin

As many know, I have a carry permit (not conceal&carry) for Minnesota (and other states) and frequently choose to exercise my right to protect myself from harm that hopefully never materializes. I\’ve carried for awhile now but by no means am I an expert, for that you can read the writings of some who are. However, I did feel up to the task of review an article titled 10 Commandments of Concealed Carry, because while it\’s generally a good article, I feel there are some parts that are incorrect, or at the very least need clarification.

First though, I want to address a pet peeve of mine in the very title of the article, although to be fair this pet peeve is very Minnesota-centric. In Minnesota, we do not have a \”Concealed Carry\” permit. We don\’t have a \”Concealed Carry\” law. In fact nowhere in any legislation will you find \”Concealed Carry\”. We simply have the Minnesota Personal Protection Act of 2003, which in summary, gives permitted citizens the right to carry a firearm in public places. No concealment is required, it is purely optional. But it\’s amazing how many people, including some permit holders and even instructors tend to forget that.

Okay that rant aside, on with the article.

If You Carry, Always Carry

Or so says the article…and quite simply I have to passionately disagree.

It\’s a personal choice and it\’s entirely up to the person, and depends on the situation. Quite simply there are some situations where one could make a very informed decision not to carry. For example, during the RNC I mingled with the protesters and kept an eye on their doings, dressed up as a fellow protester. Now was there a chance I could face personal danger, especially if \”outed\”. Certainly. Would a firearm have helped me in a crowd of people? No. Could it have made things worse? Sure. Firearm stayed at home that day.

Now to be fair to the author, Massad Ayoob, do I personally think carrying every day is a good idea? Sure. As he quite rationally states it:

The armed citizen, the intended victim, does not know when or where that attack will come. Therefore, he or she must be constantly prepared and constantly vigilant.

You never know when trouble will find you, even if you do your best to avoid it. Most people if they know they are going to need a firearm if they go someplace, elect to stay at home. So almost by definition, danger will find you in a place you don\’t expect it. Are you ready? If not, remember you are the defenseless sheep depending on the sheepdog.

Don’t Carry If You Aren’t Prepared To Use It

Eh, I\’m sure most of my objections come down to semantics, because in more words I think he does dance around my objection. Nobody goes out looking for a gunfight. Someone who does probably isn\’t going to bother with the hassle of getting a carry permit anyway. And I doubt anyone is truly prepared to use a firearm in a hostile encounter, for normal-minded folk it\’s simply not in our nature to harm others.

I\’d argue don\’t carry if you don\’t think you\’d be able to use it even in the protection of your own life.

And even phrased like that, you shouldn\’t interpret that to mean that you shouldn\’t draw your weapon without firing it. In some 99% of encounters involving a defensive use of a firearm, the situation was resolved without shots being fired. Criminals may be dumb, but they aren\’t stupid. They can weight pros and cons just as well as the rest of us. Faced with potential victim who has just revealed themselves to be armed versus finding a more vulnerable potential victim is not a huge logical hurdle, even for a criminal.

Although again, that doesn\’t mean to draw your firearm at the slightest provocation.

However, I\’d say he\’s spot on with this:

The irony: The person who is prepared to kill if he or she must, is the person who is least likely to have to do so.

Don’t Let The Gun Make You Reckless

Is what he writes wrong? No. But in generally it\’s advice in search of a problem. Gun control advocates thought for sure that permit holders would turn every argument in the OK Corral. Every fender bender would be a gun fight. It hasn\’t happened, ANYWHERE in the United States.

I don\’t know that I\’ve met anyone that considers a carry permit a Junior Police Officer badge. For one, the legal ramifications of using your firearm are financially and legally prohibitive, even if you\’re legitimately defending yourself. Going out looking for trouble isn\’t something any one is going to be done….nor have they.

Instead, the weight on your hip, or wherever you carry, is a constant reminder of the need to be vigilant. Many who carry refer to this as Condition Yellow. I\’ve found rather than being reckless, I\’m more tuned into my surroundings. More aware of others in my vicinity and their behavior. I\’ve taken precautions to avoid even every day mundane situations, because I know that if they were to escalate, my behavior is held to a much higher standard.

Get The License!

Ayoob is completely correctly and while this seems like a \”Well Duh!\”, I know of several people who feel it\’s not the government\’s place to tell them whether they can protect themselves or not. Which means I also know of several people just asking to go to jail.

Do I agree with their rationale? Sure. Do I agree with the logical conclusion to that line of thinking? No. The world isn\’t perfect, neither is our government. Work to improve that, but in the meantime if you\’re going to carry do it legally.

Know What You’re Doing

Well sure, although that\’s good advice any time. In Minnesota, you\’re required to take a class to get your carry permit. Most of the instructors in Minnesota are very good at their job and do an excellent job of explaining how is and what is not allowed, most of them can be found here. That said there are also some not so go instructors such as Joe Penaz and Gary Shade, from whom you will likely receive lots of bad information that may end you up in jail, or worse. So it remains good advice.

Concealed Means Concealed

This is the eternal debate amongst many in the carry community. Whether to open carry or not. First my disclaimer. Do I open carry? No. Do I have any desire to open carry? No. Do I generally think it\’s a good idea? No. Have I opened carried? Yes, at an open carry event.

All that said, do I think Ayoob is wrong here? Yes. Is open carry always a bad idea and something you shouldn\’t do? Absoluteley not. There are reasons both tactically and politically to open carry in certain situations.

Most of Ayoob\’s disagreement is that it freaks people out. Sure but that\’s only because they aren\’t used to seeing normal law-abiding every day Joes openly carrying. How do you fix that? Well if they start seeing people carrying and the street doesn\’t immediatly erupt into a bloodbath, they start to get used to it.

So open carry has it\’s time and place. Some choose to open carry all the time, and that is fine for them. Granted they experience more hassles from the police, although the police are slowly learning. But they also are more likely to engage in conversations with people and have the opportunity to educate them. Nothing wrong with that, admirable even.

But if you do carry concealed, just understand, your style of dress my dictate how you carry. In some cases you may need to slightly modify your style of dress to accomodate concealment.

Maximize Your Firearms Familiarity

Absolutely, although I think this can be summarized as \”Train, Train, Train\”. Waiting until a life threatening situation presents itself is not the time to learn how to use your weapon or fire accurately. Moreover, Ayoob doesn\’t mention, you may not be physically capable of doing so due to the Tachy Psyche Effect, otherwise known as the \”Fight or Flight\” response of the body. Symptoms vary from person to person, but common side-effects are narrowing of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of higher brain functions (such as math), slowing of time, etc.

Now you can minimize all of these effects if you recognize them for what they are, expect them and account for them. Mostly that comes down to training, so that when the adrenaline starts flowing your body already knows what to do, even if your brain is freaking out. You\’ll know how to clear a jam without thinking about it. You\’ll hold the weapon properly right away. Sight alignment will come naturally without conscious effort.

Plus, even in a non-life threatening situation, you\’ll be safer if you know what things like a \”hammer release switch\” is for and how to use it. Or that just because you\’ve ejected the magazine from your semi-auto doesn\’t mean it\’s unloaded (although to be safe no gun is ever unloaded).

Practice with the firearm you intended to carry, and practice often, once a month minimum.

Understand The Fine Points

Yeah, this can\’t be emphasized enough. And very quickly this part will come to either annoy your or intrique you. And it\’s a large part of the reason I stay involved in the carry movement, because even someone who has carried for awhile and has stayed educated on the latest happenings still comes across situations every no and again where the legal action isn\’t immediatly obvious.

For example, can you carry in a store that has one of those silly signs banning firearms?? Sure, until you are asked to leave, although if you\’re carrying concealed what\’s the liklihood they will? Can you carry in public areas at a public university?? If you\’re a non-student sure and they can\’t do much about it. If you\’re a student or staff, the University can put limits on what you can do. Okay what about grade schools? Generally no, but you can in the parking lot. However, if the principal and/or administrator gives you written permission, you can carry in that school. Churches? Sure Bars? Sure, although you\’re limited to a BAC of 0.04, although most firearm owners already know firearms and alcohol don\’t mix.

Already dizzy? Yeah, it\’s only the start, but there are overall themes which eventually you\’ll catch onto. And then you\’ll just scratch your head at the really puzzling ones, like can you carry in church if your church is also a school?? Answer, it depends.

Carry An Adequate Firearm

Hopefully you\’re asking the same question I had, \”What\’s Adequate?\” The answer to that is \”It depends\”.

Is a .50 caliber Desert Eagle adequate? Sure. Is a .22 caliber adequate? It might be. Is an 8-round magazine big enough? Probably.

Let\’s just get this part out of the way, is bigger better? Not necessarily. Shot placement is a lot more important that the size of the hole. If you\’re a petite woman, perhaps a big ass hand cannon is not the best for you, as you may not be able to control it\’s recoil. Even if you\’re a large framed man, some simply can\’t shoot a revolver, but do just fine with a semi-auto, or vice-versa. Is the recoil of a .45 too much? Try a .38. Find something you can shoot accurately.

Part of that can also be the firearm itself. Find something that fits comfortably in your hand. Find something that when you raise it, your natural motion brings the firearm up level. If you don\’t even have to consciously line up the sights that one less thing for you to worry about.

Plus consider that firing this firearm isn\’t going to be it\’s primary or even secondary usage. Most of the time it will be sitting quietly in a holster. It\’ll be heavy. It\’ll be uncomfortable. And it doesn\’t get less heavy or uncomfortable as the day goes on. So if you\’re a thin, slightly built woman are you likely to carry a .50 caliber Desert Eagle more than once? Doubtful. Instead you should consider firearms that you will feel comfortable, both physically and psychologically, carrying on a daily basis if that is your intention.

Caliber in my opinion is way over-rated in the determining factor of choosing a carry weapon. In the end, I choose a .40 because it was a larger caliber that I could still comfortably control, yet it still allowed for a reasonable amount of rounds in a standard magazine. Remember, larger the round, the more space they take up, hence less round in a magazine.

And no you don\’t need a twenty round magazine. You might want to consider two 10-round magazines though. Let\’s be realistic, a gunfight you get into isn\’t going to be a drawn out affair. You don\’t need a packmule to carry a sufficient amount of ammunition. However, you might want to carry a second magazine or a speed loader, especially if you are using a semi-automatic. In a semi-auto if you have a jam, most can be clearly be ejecting the magazine and inserting another one. On the other hand, if you carry jam a revolver, you clear the jam by pulling the trigger again.

All important things to consider.

Use Common Sense

I would argue you\’ve already demonstrated Common Sense by deciding to carry, but I\’m biased. And here I don\’t think I could have phrased it better than Ayoob,

The gun carries with it the power of life and death. That power belongs only in the hands of responsible people who care about consequences, who are respectful of life and limb and human safety. Carrying a gun is a practice that is becoming increasingly common among ordinary American citizens. Common sense must always accompany it.

Well said.

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