Given the number of questions I’ve received over the past few years on concealed carry, and the fact that it’s a particularly hot topic this year with Campus Carry going into effect, alongside the media frenzy surrounding the Presidential Elections, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a few thoughts and observations on the topic.
The questions I’ve received span such a broad spectrum from varying audiences and levels of experience, that I think the topic deserves a solid, objective examination.
First, you do not require a concealed carry permit to own a gun. A concealed carry permit authorizes you to carry a firearm on you or with you that is hidden from plain sight. This may seem obvious to some readers, but it is a question that is very frequently asked and, therefore, worth addressing.
Next, be aware of the laws governing firearms ownership, concealed carry permits (often referred to as CCW or CHL permits), and interstate transport and carry. With transport, be aware of other states’ concealed carry laws, often referred to as concealed carry reciprocity.
You can find more information by taking a look at our interactive concealed carry reciprocity map. There are many differences in how each state regulates and accepts concealed carry and so you should understand your own state’s rules as well as other states’ rules if you plan to travel to and/or through any of them with your firearm.
Additionally, there are restrictions regarding where you may legally carry your firearm, all of which will be covered within any concealed carry class, commonly referred to as CCW classes.
Finally, understand clearly your reason for wanting to obtain a concealed carry permit, just as you would with any other sort of permit or certification. Be honest with yourself and your habits or your abilities and desire to maintain a new discipline. Much like a New Year’s resolution, if you envision or create a plan that you do not have the discipline or desire to maintain, or if the cost to maintain is too high (i.e. time, money, other resources, etc.), then scale that plan accordingly to what you feel confident you will maintain.
If you only plan on keeping a firearm in your home for self-defense purposes and feel that is the only place you would feel confident to defend yourself with deadly force, then, in most US states and territories, you are completely within your rights to do so without a CHL or CCW permit. Many times, I’ve heard people state that they could never take a human life even if it meant their own life was at stake. In that case, having a weapon is an unwise choice as it will pose a larger danger to you (i.e. can be confiscated/used against you; or brandishing with only the intent to threaten puts you in physical and legal jeopardy) than any good or protection it can provide you. Honesty in what you are willing or capable of doing (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) is incredibly important. Even though the efficacy is arguably not as high or reliable, non-lethal self-defense options like stun guns, Tasers, and pepper sprays can provide some measure of protection and should not be discarded as viable alternatives if you doubt your abilities to take another human life in self-defense.
Once you consider the above and make the decision to enroll in a local concealed carry class (in a future blog in our primer series, I will also write about some factors to consider regarding concealed carry classes), you’ll soon want to consider methods to carry concealed which is the primary topic I am covering in this post.
I personally categorize concealed carry into three major categories: On-Body, Near Off-Body, and Far Off-Body. There will be times where one or more type of carry is not possible, either due to apparel requirements, apparel choice, legal regulations, or other restrictions. Below is a description of each type and some of the pros and cons for each method.
The advantage of on-body concealment is that the firearm is always within immediate reach and moves with you no matter what you do. But even within the category of on-body concealed carry holsters, there are pros and cons to all the various options. Within the last several years, various holster companies, specific to the female form and apparel preferences, have surfaced and are providing novel options for women, in particular, to conceal firearms on their person without a complete compromise of their lifestyle or fashion. And no matter what people say, fashion is a factor to consider because fashion is a manifestation of personal lifestyle which is itself a form of liberty. Most people will not permanently give up any form of their liberties and so this is a personal matter of being honest with what and how you compromise with yourself and your priorities. The good news is that there exists a myriad of options for just about anyone, which allows versatility with less to compromise. I will publish a blog post in the near future specifically addressing concealed carry holsters for women.
One thing about on-body carry that I don’t see or hear addressed too often is that I can often tell quite obviously if someone is carrying concealed on-body based upon their mannerisms. The thing I see most often is a constant fidgeting with either their clothing (to ensure they’re not accidentally flashing their firearm due to their shirt tail or jacket getting snagged around the firearm) or their concealed firearm by constantly on the exterior of where the firearm is concealed, oftentimes without being aware they are doing this. This is very common with people who have less experience with consistently carrying a weapon on-body. There will be an adjustment period to get used to the weight, extra bulk, and stiffness/structure of the holster, plus training and practice on how you will access that on-body holster. This is an issue since the practical point of carrying concealed is to not be obvious that you’re carrying a firearm. After all, if it’s obvious you’re carrying a firearm, and a would-be attacker knows it before you are aware of him identifying it, this can turn you into a primary target. The challenges of on-body carry can be easily overcome but it simply requires practice.
Near Off-Body carry to me means that the firearm is not directly on your physical person, but is within arm’s reach and concealed in some manner which does not draw attention. Concealed carry purses, briefcases, iPad cases, or other sort of concealed carry bag or case are examples of this. Some of the benefits of this type of carry are that it allows you a method to quickly carry concealed when you don’t have the option to wear apparel that would conceal a weapon on-body and it’s a quick, unobtrusive, non-obvious way to carry in a pinch. As a woman, I always have a handbag of some sort on me and so there’s no obvious way for people to know whether I am carrying or not based on my wardrobe or mannerisms. If I have to run out the door in an emergency and only have my running gear on, my purse is a quick and easy thing to grab and carry a firearm without alerting people of that fact.
There are also some interesting inserts for holstering a firearm within your own existing bag or purse but you will need to practice how you plan to access the firearm or the other contents of your bag without making your concealed weapon obvious or hard to access.
In my opinion, everyone should own at least one type of near off-body concealed carry bag or case because of the ease and expediency of implementation as well as broad practicality. And remember, even though they can very well serve as an everyday bag, a concealed carry purse or briefcase doesn’t have to be a replacement for what you own – it’s simply a worthy item to have handy in case it is your only practical option for carrying concealed.
Oftentimes, I hear On-Body concealed carry is the only way a person should carry, but this is a categorical statement made without context, understanding or empathy. This is also not an either/or situation, nor a one-size-fits-all situation. Think of it like any other security issue: on the extreme side of the spectrum, if you never want to be in danger of your personal information being compromised, you could try to be completely “off-the-grid”, refusing to ever be on the internet, use credit cards, cell phones, or transact with humans; however, for most people, that would not be possible or would severely detract from quality of life and preclude the benefits to be gained otherwise. And even then, a person can be targeted and found. Ideally, your best information security strategy offers several thoughtful security layers without compromising too many of your liberties, which will adjust situationally according to purpose and context. The best concealed carry strategy is very much the same.
If I can have redundancy in my security layers (on-body, near off-body, and far off-body), that is ideal, but sometimes, only one method is viable for any number of reasons. While it seems like a lot, it really isn’t if you are thoughtful about your habits and have a sustainable plan. I snapped and posted additional pictures below of examples from my own practices to illustrate this point (as an aside, I only recently started trying female-specific on-body holsters and like this line of holsters by Femme Fatale Holsters).
In all cases, the fundamental rule of targeting is to avoid being targeted in the first place. We do this by paying attention to our surroundings and listening to our instincts and judgment as little to nothing can save a person who has been individually singled out for targeting. This will provide the early warning you need to avoid having to reckon with taking another human life, or, worst case, give you the time you need to draw your weapon and apply it against an assailant in self-defense.
-Susan C. Gonzales
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