Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Michael Martin that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 12, Issue 7, October 2015 under the title, “Why Aren’t You Carrying?”
When I became a member of my local fire department a few years back, I have to admit that I didn’t openly advertise the fact that I was a concealed carry instructor until I had a chance to gauge the attitudes of the men and women with whom I’d be working. Imagine my pleasant surprise when firefighter after firefighter approached me over time, indicating that they’d heard I was an instructor (or they’d read my book), and they were hoping that I could fit them into a class, teach a renewal class for them or teach their spouses/friends/families, etc. Five years later, it would be fair to say that at least 80 percent of my department (and their spouses) have their concealed carry permits.
But, not too long ago I noticed something odd. When I’d run into a fellow firefighter off duty at the local Target or Home Depot, I began asking, “Are you carrying today?” More often than not, I’d get an embarrassed look and an answer of, “Umm, not today,” usually followed by an excuse of something like, “It was too hot today,” “I was just running out for some quick errands” or “I haven’t found a carry gun I really like.” While I can’t necessarily translate my unscientific study to the nation as a whole, I’d have to estimate that at least 80 to 90 percent of the permit holders that I know personally don’t carry regularly or even carry at all. The question is, “Why?”
I recently had a chance to sit down with a dozen of my fellow firefighters, where I asked the question, “Why aren’t you carrying?” There was no universal answer, but after some back-and-forth dialogue, I’d categorize the reasons for not carrying into four general excuses.
Excuse No. 1: Carrying can be a pain.
Let’s face it: There is nothing inherently comfortable about sticking a piece of steel on our side or in our pocket. If carrying a firearm was as comfortable as slipping a credit card into a wallet, we’d see the percentage of permit holders actually carrying their firearms skyrocket. (Editor’s note: Funny, but maybe that’s why Trailblazer Firearms have sold more than 6,000 “Credit Card” Pistols.)
A close second to the “comfort” issue is the problem that can occur when the permit holder’s routine for the day might require them to enter a location that bans firearms by state statute or federal law, when a business has chosen to “post” their location as banning firearms or when the permit holder’s own employer bans firearms while at work.
If you’re not carrying because of the “comfort” problem, I’d suggest that you’re probably suffering from excuse No. 4, and you haven’t found a carry gun that works for you.
If you’re neglecting to carry because your daily routine includes entering places that ban firearms, then you need to invest in a trustworthy lockbox that is securely mounted in your vehicle, rather than leave your gun at home. A vehicle-mounted lockbox can be as simple as a steel box mounted by a cable to the base of your driver or passenger seat, or it can be as innovative as a Console Vault, whose creators custom design vaults by vehicle make and model to fit snugly into the vehicle’s center console. Pop open your center console and instead of seeing cough drops covered in lint and last week’s French fries, you’ll see the top of a vault perfectly fitted for the space in 12-gauge cold-rolled steel secured by a keyed or a three- or four-tumbler lock. While the vault can still store your cough drops, it can also secure your firearm while you run into a “banned” location or head into work.
The simple advice I offer to my new students who have never carried a gun before is that their initial investment must include three things — a carry gun that works for them, a good holster that also works for them and a good vehicle safe.
Excuse No. 2: The novelty has worn off, and I’m just not thinking about it when I leave the house.
With over 11 million permit holders in the U.S. and even after three decades of history behind the concealed carry movement, as a culture, we still don’t view carrying firearms for personal protection the same way we view buckling our seatbelts or maintaining smoke alarms in our homes. Seat belts and smoke alarms have been with us for so long that they no longer seem like “active” methods of protecting us from risk, and they’ve now moved into the background of our thinking and are just always there and always ready. When is the last time you got into your car and thought, “I am going to buckle my seatbelt today, because today there is a risk that I might get into a car crash”? For me, when I slide into the driver’s seat, it’s an automated process to reach over my left shoulder, grab the seatbelt and click it just before I start the car. I no longer think about it. It just happens. Is wearing a seatbelt comfortable? If I had to be honest, I’d probably say “no,” but I’ve done it for so long that I no longer notice.
The same thing is true with my gun. Putting it on my side in the morning is as automated as putting my wallet and cell phone in my pockets and putting my seatbelt on before I hit the road. So how did I get to that point? Like any other task that you want to make automated, repetition matters. That “automated” feeling won’t occur after a week, but it will occur after a month or two, and carrying your firearm won’t just become the new “normal,” it will feel abnormal if you’re forced to leave it behind. As a comparison, how uncomfortable would you feel if you were forced to take a cross-country (or even cross-town) trip without wearing your seatbelt? For me, I’d have a feeling of discomfort until the moment I pulled safely back into my garage.
Excuse No. 3: I’m just not comfortable carrying a gun in public.
This is an excuse I can relate to, because the very first time I carried a concealed firearm in public, I swore that everyone knew I was carrying. I really couldn’t think of anything else other than, “Oh my God, I’m carrying a gun!” At one point at a local mall, I bent down to tie my son’s shoe, and I realized that my jacket had hitched up and had (shock!) exposed the bottom of my holster. I turned three shades of red and was sure that a mall security guard would tackle me at any moment (OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit). Today, if I find that my covering garment has hitched up and exposed my firearm, I simply readjust my shirt or jacket and carry on.
If your discomfort at carrying is based upon your belief that having a concealed carry permit still puts you on the fringe of society, you can put your mind at ease. There are [at the time this article was written] an estimated 12 million permit holders in the United States (Editor’s note: There are as many as 17.25 million now, in 2018). That means that approximately six percent of the eligible population in the U.S. are card-carrying permit holders, just like you. While that might not sound like a lot, think about this: Let’s say you work at a large manufacturing plant with 10,000 employees. That means that on average, 600 of your fellow employees will have a concealed carry permit. If you work at Walmart and have a concealed carry permit, you’re in good company. With 1.3 million U.S. employees, that means that about 78,000 other Walmart employees also have their permits.
I’ve seen the evolution myself. When I first got my permit, someone mentioned that fact at a social event I was attending. It was instantly apparent that even among the generally conservative crowd, my permit was considered an “oddity,” and I had no fewer than 10 people ask to see my permit or ask me if they could see my gun. More than a dozen years later, having a permit is considered mainstream among my social circles, including other parents at my sons’ school, our friends at church, the leaders and parents within my sons’ Boy Scout troop and among my pals at the fire department.
Excuse No. 4: I haven’t found a good carry gun.
The gun industry is going through a great evolution, and it isn’t to make larger guns in higher calibers. Instead, it’s to make guns smaller and in more moderate calibers. In other words, they are now building more guns that are more likely to be carried. While there are plenty of local and national instructors who will turn their noses up at the thought of carrying anything smaller than a 9mm, I’m not one of them. While I am a huge fan of the 9mm, I’m a bigger fan of actually carrying. If that larger caliber/larger frame firearm is keeping you from carrying, its threat-stopping ability is zero.
If the carry gun that works for you is a Walther P22 chambered in the diminutive .22 Long Rifle, then I applaud your choice. That’s the choice my mother happened to make. She’s in her 70s, and the P22 allows her to easily rack the slide and manage the recoil, which leads to much more time on the range. The ammunition is also cheap enough that she fires more rounds during a single practice session than plenty of high-speed, low-drag operators whose carry gun caliber starts with a “4.”
I’ve heard time and time again about how lower calibers have no stopping power, but I have yet to hear a single story of a responsibly armed American who was killed because his or her attacker fought his way through a hail of .22- or .380-caliber slugs. Remember that violent predators by their very nature are cowards, and the sign of any gun in the hands of their potential victims will make them change their plans in the blink of an eye. I feel sorry for any potential attacker targeting my mother because she will not miss.
Can’t afford one? My suggestion is that if you’re not carrying your full-sized gun because it’s “too big,” then it’s worthless to you. Trade it in for something you’ll actually carry.
Why should we care?
So, I mentioned that about six percent of all eligible Americans have their concealed carry licenses, but based upon my own informal surveys, less than 10 percent of those permit holders regularly carry (Editor’s note: A 2017 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 3 million Americans carry a firearm every single day, so the percent that carries regularly is likely higher than the author’s 10 percent estimate but the fact remains that too few permit holders carry every day). Why is that important? Well, that six percent might be all that stands between us and the next rapid mass murderer.
On July 22, 2012, when James Holmes opened fire at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, there were 421 men, women and children packed into the midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises. If you figure half of those were adults over the age of 21, we should have had 12 to 13 responsibly armed Americans in that theater, ready to drop Holmes in his tracks. Instead, Holmes got nine long minutes to methodically shoot up Theater 9 prior to being apprehended by the police. The result was 12 dead and 70 injured.
OK, I’m ignoring the fact that the theater was posted with a “No Guns Allowed” sign, but that’s another battle to be fought. Get comfortable with carrying, get a gun and holster option that works for you, and quit worrying that everyone knows you’re carrying a gun.
Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.