PaciFIST Firearms, LLC

Concealed Handgun Permit Training in the Baton Rouge Area

Constitutional Carry Bill Could Cause Legal Jams

I start with this provocative image because, much like a poorly designed gun, a poorly designed piece of legislation could get you all jammed up.

Constitutional Carry is back on the docket, again, for the 2021 regular session of the Louisiana State Legislature. Again introduced by District 1 State Rep. Danny McCormick of Bossier and Caddo Parishes, this time as HB16. The bill is essentially the same as the one that has failed several times before.

First, I would of course like to commend Representative McCormick and the other sponsors of this bill for their support and enthusiasm for the lawful carrying of defensive weapons. But as I’ve seen the news of this bill pop up again this year, I’ve again seen the same confusion and misinformation flying around, not only from the news media, but in concealed carry circles as well. I hope to set straight the debate and ease the collective head-scratching before the accumulated dandruff shed from it all blinds everyone to what is actually going on.

The most important thing to know about this bill, and the same problems it has had every time before, is that it really doesn’t do much at all, at least not for anyone who is serious about concealed carry. Yes, it gets rid of the requirements for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything you can currently do with a permit. All it does is treat permitless carry the same as open carry is currently treated. Legal, yes, but fraught with peril for the uninitiated. As a result, anyone who is really going to carry a gun with any regularity will still need to get the permit, and the existence of permits is (fortunately), still preserved by this bill.

If this bill were to pass, permitless carry would have these same major problems that open carry currently has:

  1. You cannot carry in ANY place that sells ANY alcohol for consumption on the premises. See LA R.S. 41:95.5. In this state, that’s pretty much everywhere that serves food short of fast-food restaurants. The only exceptions in 95.5 are for concealed carry permits issued pursuant to the CHP statute (LA R.S. 40:1379.3), and nothing in the Constitutional Carry bill would change that with respect to permitless carry.
  2. You cannot carry within 1000 feet of a school, and a violation of this is a FELONY. See LA R.S. 14:95.2. Again, there is an exception to the prohibition of guns within 1000 feet of a school for permits, but there would not be one for permitless carry. As a matter of practicality, no one knows with certainty where these 1000 zones all begin and end, and I see this as a pretty dangerous trap, especially in municipalities hostile to concealed carry.
  3. You would have no concealed carry reciprocity with other states, unless of course you were in another constitutional carry state. And some other constitutional carry states don’t let non-residents carry without a permit.

I’m sure there are some more problems that I’m just not even thinking about right now, but these three should be enough to show that these perennial constitutional carry bills are more symbolic than useful. Constitutional Carry might prove useful for the casual carrier, someone who isn’t interested in carrying on a regular basis and might just want to pocket a pistol only in times of particular concern. However, anyone who is serious about carry won’t notice any difference and will still need a permit. Another major concern that I have for this hypothetical future is that the permitting scheme could be legislated away “because we don’t need it anymore,” while the above-listed problems with permitless carry still exist.

On the flip side, there really isn’t any need for alarm among the anti-gun community, either. Again, this bill doesn’t really do much. No one can carry in places they couldn’t carry before. No one can carry a gun who wasn’t allowed to carry a gun before. It just allows people who currently can (and probably already do) open carry to put their jacket on, as Representative McCormick’s video proclaimed: Constitutional Carry defends your right to wear a jacket without a permit. I would hope that even some on the left might find a silver lining on a bill like this – illegal carrying of weapons is one more crime that, by itself, is victimless and disproportionately affects minority communities, further contributing to our mass incarceration problem. If this bill were to pass, the biggest effect it would likely have is a reduction in the “crime” of “carrying while black.”

I hope this helps to frame the debate and what it is really about, and to both temper the expectations and ease the fears of the pro- and anti-carry crowds, respectively. And if nothing else, if this bill DOES pass, I hope my explanations can keep some people out of trouble they didn’t otherwise expect.

I will still support this bill, as I did last time. However, I would prefer bills to make changes to the concealed carry climate in this state that would be more helpful to those WITH permits, and I am never a huge fan of throwing the same bill before the legislature every year after repeated failures. I know this is a sentiment that is shared by other pro-gun legislators, and I agree that it would be better to devote our efforts to well-crafted bills calculated to have a chance of passing over symbolic measures that will only make our political opponents ever more numb to our pleas.

As always, piece be with you.

Myths and Misconceptions – “Grain Weights”

I answered a question recently which cleared up some misinformation that I realize I’ve heard many times over the years, so I think it is worth posting about. I hope I can clear up what is apparently a common misconception as so many people are rushing out to stock up on guns and ammo in stores and online.

When buying ammunition, many people believe that the grain weight (gr) listed on the box refers to different powder charges and, therefore, power levels. This is not true. The grain weight listed refers ONLY to the weight of the projectile itself – the bullet that leaves the barrel when fired.

The confusion is understandable. It is easy to see how someone would assume that “grains” means “grains of gunpowder” or something. Grains, however, are archaic units of measurement of weight/mass, not a number of flakes of powder. One grain is 1/7000 of a pound, supposedly the weight of a single grain of wheat or barley. What is more confusing is that gunpowder charge weights are measured in grains as well, but this isn’t published on the box, as different formulas of powder can have very different weights for the same level of performance.

Any given cartridge can use projectiles of various weights, but the overall “power” of the cartridge often has little to do with the bullet weight. “Power” is determined mostly by the maximum pressure the cartridge can safely achieve. So a lighter bullet can be fired at a higher velocity than a heavier bullet within that same safe pressure range, and the added velocity of the lighter bullet (or reduced velocity of the heavier) will likely make the different weight bullets very close in “power” to one another.

An excerpt from the Hornady catalog, showing available 9mm FMJ projectiles.

For example, 9mm Luger (AKA 9mm Parabellum, 9x19mm, etc.), is the most popular and common handgun cartridge there is. 9mm loads are available in a wide variety of bullet weights, but the most common are 115 grain, 124 grain, and 147 grain. As you can see from the image above, these bullets are different lengths (the heavier ones are longer of course), but they are the same diameter (9mm, or .355 inches). Again, the grains listed is only the weight of the bullet, and doesn’t say anything about the “power.” You don’t have any “power” until you’ve loaded the bullet into a cartridge case with a powder charge and primer. The barrel length of your gun also affects power. Longer barrels allow bullets to accelerate for longer under pressure, up to a point when all the powder has burned. You can have, for example, a very hot-loaded, powerful 115-grain load, or a very light-loaded, mild 147-grain load. The maximum “power” of any given cartridge will be more or less the same with a max load of any weight bullet, with slight variations.

When purchasing factory ammunition, the overall power of most bullet weights will be more-or-less the same. The lighter bullets will move faster and the heavier bullets slower. You will usually only see a noticeable difference in power if you move up to +P loaded cartridges, or down to anything marked “reduced recoil.” When it comes to full-metal jacket (FMJ) target loads, the difference isn’t important for most purposes for most shooters. If you’re just looking to shoot at the range, you don’t really need to be concerned. Get whatever is cheap and reliable.

If you’re buying premium hollow-points for self-defense, it might matter a little more. Certain bullet weights might provide better performance in certain guns. Proper hollow-point expansion requires a certain velocity. That being said, if you’ve got a common defensive gun using a common defensive cartridge, performance will probably be just fine. The best loads on the market, such as Federal HST and Speer Gold Dot, are designed to perform properly in all common barrel lengths. Many are marked on the box whether they are intended for short-barreled, compact guns. Finding optimum performance requires a little bit of research on the various tests that have been performed in different sized guns, but again, the differences are not usually very pronounced. 

So why are there so many choices? For practice ammo, some people prefer to train with a load that performs as closely as possible to that which they carry. Choosing the same grain weight usually helps with that. Sometimes different bullet weights will differ slightly in point-of-impact on the target, or might have slightly different feeling recoil. Additionally, as I stated before, there are slight performance differences with different weights, different loads, and different barrel lengths. As people demand the best performance, small changes do matter. It is the same reason that there are so many very similar guns on the market. Sometimes small differences matter, even if they are subjective. Additionally, if you have a suppressor, heavier bullets (like 147 grain 9mm), may be subsonic in your gun and thus quieter. 

Most people using a handgun for defensive purposes don’t need to worry too much about different weights. Just stick with the standard weights available and they should work as desired if you’re using a reputable, high-quality defensive load. When in doubt, just get the middle weight in the range (like 124 grain in 9mm). It matters a lot more with rifle rounds. Different guns may have wildly different levels of accuracy with different bullet weights depending on many factors. After all, the shooting with rifles is usually done at much greater distances. AR-15s, for example, come with varying twist rates on the rifling, with some bullet weights being more suitable for certain rates of spin than others for best performance. Further, with hunting, different sized game may require different bullet construction for the most effective, ethical kill.

But what about the different levels of “power” in handgun loads? Why do I keep putting “power” in quotes? It is true that different loads can have varying levels of power, but what “power” is when it comes to self-defense with a handgun is very misunderstood. I will have another post in the future explaining what you need to know about the myths of handgun “stopping power.”

As always, Piece be With You.

Walker man who shot home invader sentenced to 3 years; case tested ‘stand your ground’ law

I came across an interesting article today:

As usual, the media seems to get the legal terminology a little bit wrong. “Stand your ground” law best refers to “no duty to retreat,” which is in Sections C and D of LA R.S. 14:19 and 14:20, respectively. All that says is that the jury is not allowed to consider the possibility of a peaceful retreat as a factor in whether or not you acted in self-defense (if you were not engaged in unlawful activity yourself at the time of the shooting). Prior to this, the possibility of a peaceful retreat was a factor which was traditionally considered by the courts (though there was still no unqualified duty to retreat). 

The problem faced by the shooter in this case is that there were plenty of factors that were against him without even having to consider the duty to retreat, so whether or not the duty to retreat was considered was almost certainly not the deciding factor. In this case, while deadly force was certainly justified while the robber was in his house actively robbing his family, by the time the robber was fleeing in his car there was no longer a threat. Further, since both the robber and the shooter were outside of the dwelling at the time of the shooting, the presumptions that the force was necessary were no longer present under 14:19(B). 

It is strange that he (almost certainly) would have been lawfully allowed to kill this guy during most of the encounter, but he didn’t actually shoot until the threat had ended. It is hard to blame the shooter, considering what his state of mind must have been at the time, but it is an important lesson nonetheless. Once there is no longer a threat, the use of force is no longer justified. This is why regular mental/legal training is important – you will not have time to think hard about the circumstances when you are in the heat of the moment and will default to your internalized training.