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An armed robber was shot to death in Baton Rouge last weekend by an armed citizen after he attempted to rob the victim in front of a convenience store.
According to the news report, the robber was standing outside of the convenience store and asked the victim/defender for money. The victim said that he would give him some change on the way out of the store, which he did. Even after giving him some money, the robber decided that it was not enough. He pulled a gun and demanded more. The victim defended himself, drew his own pistol, and killed the robber.
Fortunately for the victim, the scene was captured on the store’s surveillance camera, which appears to be enough for police to believe that he acted in self-defense.
This sort of scenario is, unfortunately, all to common. I’m sure everyone has, at one point or another, been approached at a gas station or convenience store and asked for money. It happens to me all the time, and as a concealed carrier, it is one of the most frightening situations. While I have never been robbed, this story makes clear that this is always a possibility, and it is always a concern of mine when approached under similar circumstances. What makes it extra frightening for a concealed carrier is how quickly it can go from innocent to deadly, and how quickly you may be forced to make a life-or-death decision. You can’t pull a gun on someone simply for asking you for money. You are often boxed in between your car and the pump, and they can maneuver themselves to prevent your escape. Essentially, there are many such encounters where, no matter how aware you are of the situation, you simply cannot prevent a possible attacker from having the upper hand. This is precisely why criminals often choose these tactics. You can’t know if drawing your gun is justifiable until after a gun has been drawn on you, and you may have very limited options for escape.
In this case, even though the defender had to draw on a drawn gun, he was still able to defend himself successfully. However, it could very easily go the other way, so think very hard about that decision. If you choose to draw against someone who already has you at gunpoint, make sure to utilize movement and cover to the best of your ability – a moving target is harder to hit, and running and drawing are not mutually exclusive – they can be done together.
Finally, avoidance is important. However, as I stated before, I have not been able to avoid parking lot beggars many times, despite my best efforts. Sometimes you just have to go somewhere. Sometimes they aren’t there until you are leaving. In larger parking lots, there are many places to hide. If you drive up to a store and see a suspicious person in the parking lot, maybe the best plan is to keep driving and try the next store. But what if they appear after you’re in the store? You can’t just stay in the store forever, waiting to see if they leave. Calling the police may be an option, but most of the time a suspicious looking person is not actually suspicious and is not doing anything wrong. There are just so many reasons that total avoidance of this scenario is simply not practical.
Even so, it is important to make your best effort to both stay aware and stay collected. You don’t want to get ambushed at the gas pump or coming out of a store, but you also don’t want to be so afraid that you pull a gun on anyone who walks by and end up committing a crime yourself. Try your best to go to safer, well-lit stores and parking lots, and try to go when there are plenty of other customers around. However, unless you shut yourself inside forever, there is no guarantee that all of these situations can be avoided. So far, I’ve had a 100% success rate in dealing with these situations by simply telling people that I don’t carry cash. However, because I do carry a gun, it is important that I make my best effort to ensure that, if I have to use it, that I do so as responsibly and effectively as possible.
Yesterday, a Jefferson Parish Jury reached a verdict in this highly publicized case, sentencing the shooter to 30 years in prison for manslaughter. Take a moment to read this article.
I believe that the court reached the correct result in this case under our laws, at least based on the information I have. I have only read the news articles. I have not pulled the court records or anything. It will be interesting to see if this is appealed and reported as caselaw, in which case it may be very useful indeed.
But for the time being, here is what I believe happened, legally speaking. For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that the law was applied properly, and that neither the judge nor the attorneys made a grievous error of any kind.
As you can see from the article, “the trial showed [defendant Gasser] passed up many opportunities to defuse the situation by pulling off the road, calling 911 or even rolling up his car window.” This may, of course, cause one with any familiarity with Louisiana self-defense laws to ask: “but wait, I thought we had no duty to retreat!”
It does seem like the court imposed a duty to retreat on Gasser in determining whether or not he held the reasonable fear for his life that would justify a homicide. But why? After all, the justifiable homicide statute says, among other things, that “no finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used deadly force had a reasonable belief that deadly force was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a violent or forcible felony involving life or great bodily harm or to prevent the unlawful entry.”
I believe it is the previous statement in that same statute that decided this case against Gasser (or, if it did not, could have anyway, which is what matters for the purposes of this discussion): “A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”
I think this “engaged in unlawful activity” language likely vitiated Gasser’s “no duty to retreat” protections. Gasser apparently made a statement to police that he became irritated and set off after McKnight and they continued a “tit-for-tat” argument arguing as they drove. So it seems like Gasser, in engaging in a rolling car chase argument, was probably doing at least something unlawful during the course of the encounter. This was likely enough to remove his protections under the statute and allow the jury to consider his opportunities to retreat, which were many, in determining whether or not he held a reasonable fear. Being allowed to consider those facts probably made all the difference, as someone who truly feels threatened would take an easy opportunity to escape if presented with one, or would call the police.
I don’t think that a determination of who was the aggressor made the difference here, despite how much it was talked about in previous news articles, though it may have. I base this pretty much solely on the fact that they don’t mention it in this article with specificity, and don’t seem to discuss the law or trial in a way that would necessarily be consistent with the outcome relying on that determination. But, for the sake of this article, let’s run through some analysis of how it could have come into play. In Louisiana, the aggressor cannot claim self-defense at all unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith and in such a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict. In this article, they were discussing whether or not his fear was reasonable, not whether he had the right to self-defense whatsoever, leading me to believe this was not the core issue.
However, it could have been important. The jury may have been considering his duty to retreat in terms of trying to decide if he was the aggressor or not. Had they found him to be the aggressor at any point, they would have to determine whether or not he had, prior to the shooting, withdrawn from the conflict in good faith and in such a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict. This requirement of withdrawal from the conflict is, essentially, a duty to retreat. As I state in my classes, an aggressor does have a duty to retreat (withdraw) before he can claim self-defense.
So again, whether or not you look at it as “unlawful activity” or Gasser’s status as the aggressor that provided a duty to retreat, it seems like the court got this one right. It is a great example of why I call my operation “PaciFIST Firearms” and why I have my PaciFIST Principles. Even if the law does not impose a duty to retreat on you, if retreat is the better option (as it seemed to be in this case) retreat is a good idea. Even if McKnight started the altercation, this result goes to show you why taking the bait and choosing to engage further in an altercation, even if you didn’t “start it,” is never a good idea.
Piece be with you,
Everett C. Baudean
PaciFIST Firearms LLC
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Concealed Carry Insurance is a topic that gets discussed in concealed carry circles and online quite a lot. A lot of this discussion focuses on whether or not it is worth the money, necessary at all, or just some kind of scam. The opinions vary considerably, with the general consensus seeming to be “it doesn’t hurt to have it.” Some “entry level” plans can be as low as around $10 a month, with prices going up to around $30-$40 a month for a higher level of coverage. Recently, the NRA announced that it is entering the concealed carry insurance market, which is what prompted me to write this article, as all indications are pointing toward this sort of insurance becoming more and more mainstream.
As a practicing attorney, though, it is another interdisciplinary topic for me. I’m familiar with the costs of litigation, the potential criminal and civil liability, and in dealing with insurance companies generally. So I’ve usually got something to add to the frequent conversations about concealed carry insurance coverage, and I would be remiss not to repeat my recommendations on my own blog.
Whenever someone asks whether or not they should get concealed carry insurance, I always ask them this: How much uninsured motorist (UM) coverage do you carry? This might seem like a completely unrelated issue, but stick with me for a minute. I work on a lot of plaintiff personal injury cases and I constantly run in to the same problem – the client is hurt in a car wreck, and the person who hit them has little to no insurance. Then we find out that the client also has a little to no UM coverage (the insurance companies often try to convince you to waive the coverage to save on your premium, and many people don’t realize how terrible of an idea this is). So client is hurt, and can’t get any money. Sucks to be them, and sucks to be me, because I can’t make any money on the case, either.
This happens all the time, every day. A huge number of drivers out there, if not the majority, carry no more than state minimum coverage. Chances are, the person most likely to be driving irresponsibly and causing a wreck is also pretty irresponsible about having a lot of insurance coverage, or any worthwhile assets to even bother suing over. On the other hand, the only insurance you can guarantee is available to you if you are hurt in an accident is your UM coverage.
Here are some stats:
On an average, there are more than 6 million car accidents on the roads of the US, annually.
More than 3 million people get injured due to car accidents, with more than 2 million of these injuries being permanent.
There are in excess of 40,000 deaths due to car accidents every year.
Every 12 minutes, one person dies because of a car accident. Every 14 seconds, a car accident results in an injured victim.
For those in the age group of 1 to 30 years, the leading cause of death is due to being involved in a car accident.
By car insurance industry estimates, you will file a claim for a collision about once every 17.9 years. That’s if you’re an average driver, which, whether you’re willing to admit it or not, you likely are.
The point is, you will almost certainly be in a car accident in your life, perhaps several. You also stand a very substantial chance of being injured very seriously. This can be extremely expensive (follow up question – how much health insurance do you have?) and permanently debilitating.
But here are a bunch of people who just started carrying a gun, worried about the super rare occasion of facing prosecution for shooting someone, and willing to pay money to insure against that, though they probably haven’t given any thought to their UM coverage since buying their policy. They may have even waived UM coverage. I recently found out that my own mother had a state minimum, 15/30 policy. She was paying around $600 (six month premium, I believe) for this. I convinced her to raise her coverage. For a $900 premium, she now has a 300/500 policy. So for a 50% increase in premium, she has a 2000% increase in coverage. That same day, we almost got T-boned by a car going 55 mph.
Back to concealed carry insurance, I think it is probably a good thing to have. I would generally subscribe to the “it doesn’t hurt” line of reasoning. I’m a fan of insurance generally. But if you’re willing to spend X dollars a year on insurance, you should really be spending it first on insurance you are most likely to use, like UM.
I personally don’t have concealed carry insurance, and wouldn’t bother buying it, until I at least had half a million in UM coverage. Maybe even a million. (I don’t have that level of coverage yet, but a man can dream). The chances of getting in a car wreck with 6 figure medical bills is much more likely than the chances of being prosecuted for shooting someone in self-defense, especially because you can limit your exposure for a defensive shooting with good training. If you make sure you don’t shoot anyone under questionable circumstances, and that your actions are justified, your chances of prosecution or civil liability are very low.
Concealed Carry insurance policies often also come with an attorney referral service, or the insurer will provide an attorney for you (as your car insurance company would). However, I think it would be much better to go ahead and independently establish a relationship with a criminal defense lawyer. Make sure it is someone you like and can trust before you actually need him. There is no guaranteeing that your lawyer from the concealed carry insurer is any good or cares much about your case. There are very few lawyers with a lot of experience in self defense shootings anyway, because such shootings are reasonably rare, and prosecution for them is rarer still. There are a ton of experienced car wreck lawyers, though, because like I said before, car wrecks happen constantly. But a good criminal defense lawyer would be the best person to consult with regarding how to behave after shooting someone, and it is generally a good idea to have a relationship with one anyway. When you’ve been arrested and you’re asserting your right to an attorney, you at least want to know who that is. You don’t want to have to go shopping around for lawyers while you’ve got pending charges. You won’t be in the best state of mind at that point. So pick a lawyer, maybe have a meeting with him, which should only be a fairly small consultation fee, about how to act if you shoot someone. Keep his number in your phone, so you know who to call.
If you’ve done all these things, you have great uninsured motorist coverage, and you already know who your criminal lawyer is, by all means, buy concealed carry insurance if you want it. After all, the monthly premiums start at about the same price as a single box of ammo.
The topic of “what to wear” while carrying a concealed handgun is discussed pretty frequently, especially here in the South. Garments must be sufficient to keep your gun concealed, and hopefully still be comfortable and look decent. In colder climates, where it is possible to wear layers and jackets for most of the year without sweating too badly, this is less of a concern. However, here in Louisiana, and as of this writing, it is the middle of February but already 80 degrees outside. Few people are willing to wear anything more than they have to when it gets above 80 and stays there for 3/4 of the year. As a fan of both carrying guns and dressing well, this is a fun interdisciplinary topic to write about.
There are plenty of small, lightweight guns on the market today, which is great. It is easier to comfortably conceal and carry these small firearms, and many of them can be carried in a pocket. But not everyone wants to carry a pocket pistol. They are less powerful, hold less ammunition, and are among the most difficult guns to shoot. Many people find that comfortably carrying a larger gun often requires a sacrifice in the fashion department, often wearing over-sized T-Shirts and polos to stay cool but have enough billowing fabric to prevent their gun from printing (showing its shape through the clothing). However, in my experience with carrying pistols in the Deep South, and as someone who appreciates a snappy outfit, I’ve come up with a few wardrobe tips of my own that help things out a bit.
Tip 1: Seersucker
I can’t think of a more classic southern style than seersucker. If you’re unfamiliar with seersucker, it is a type of light fabric, usually made from cotton, that is woven in such a way to give it a puckered, crinkly texture. This texture helps hold the fabric slightly away from the body, and promote cooling by better air circulation. It also resists wrinkles. I can personally attest that it works, too. I got a seersucker suit in law school and was surprised how much cooler I was than in other suits. I started buying seersucker button-down shirts because I liked how they looked and I wanted these same benefits the suit offered in more casual settings. The coolness really helps when it comes to carrying a gun, and my usual “casual” wear in the summer is an un-tucked seersucker button-down. It looks so much more presentable than a T-shirt or another boring polo. However, I also immediately discovered that there are more benefits to seersucker when it comes to concealed handguns.
My wife used to like to watch “What Not to Wear” when it was still on TV. I must confess I watched plenty of it with her. The hosts of that show would always talk about “color, pattern, texture, and shine” as factors to consider when trying to buy clothes that don’t look boring. Well, seersucker has everything but shine (unless you get all-white, then it doesn’t have color). Many people say that patterned shirts help reduce the visibility your gun printing, and this is true. Seersucker shirts go one step further, though. In addition to the striped pattern, the crinkly texture goes even further to break up the look of any potential printing. Of all shirts I’ve ever tried, seersucker shirts help with printing most of all.
If you’re interested in investigating the cooling and anti-printing qualities of seersucker shirts yourself, you’re in luck. Seersucker clothing has had a big resurgence in popularity since about 2010, and every year I see more and more of it for less and less money. When I first started buying seersucker shirts, I could only find them online at LL Bean and at Brooks Brothers. The online LL Bean price and the outlet store Brooks Brothers price were about $40 a shirt, so a bit on the high end of what I am willing to pay. However, since then I’ve found several seersucker shirts at other stores, from Dockers and Old Navy, for much less money. Most department stores at the mall seem to carry at least a few, and it is not uncommon to find them on the sale rack, either. They seem to be considered pretty seasonal, which helps with finding sales, even though it is hot enough around here to wear them from March until November, or sometimes, like today, in February.
Tip 2: Casual Blazers
I know what you’re thinking – this isn’t much of a tip. Everyone knows that wearing a jacket helps hide a gun. The reason I’m including this is that few people seem to shop for them with their gun in mind. I constantly hear blazers being dismissed as an impractical carry-facilitating garment during hot weather. However, if you shop with carry in mind, you can find many blazers that are designed for the heat, made of breathable materials. In fact, there are tons of great seersucker blazers on the market these days, and cheap! Seersucker blazers can be had for less than many other blazers. Even in the hot Louisiana summer, a seersucker blazer can still be worn pretty comfortably, unless you plan to be outside in the heat for long periods of time, when pretty much nothing helps. But if that’s the case, you’re probably ok with a more casual look anyway. A seersucker blazer is a great cover garment for the summer months when you need to look a little dressier (keeping your shirt tucked in), without having to go through the hassle and slowed draw speed of a tuckable holster. I like tuckable holsters, until I actually have to tuck my shirt into it, or have to practice drawing from it. It is a feature that is better in theory than in practice. If I have a tucked in shirt, you can bet I’m wearing a blazer or other cover garment.
And speaking of a more casual look, I feel like casual blazers are somewhat overlooked. Many people skip the blazer as part of their carry clothing repertoire because they “don’t need to dress up” that often. Well, I can offer two bits of criticism to that idea: one, there are many casual looking blazers out there that are appropriate with jeans and even just a T-shirt. And two, you will look better with a casual blazer than just a casual outfit alone. Short of exercising or doing other physical activities, there really isn’t any situation where a casual blazer is inappropriately dressy. I wouldn’t pair one with shorts, but if I’m in shorts, I’m not tucking my shirt in, so the blazer is less necessary. Trust me, if you always dress slightly better than you need to, people seem to have a slightly better disposition toward you, and it gives you more options to conceal your gun. It is never bad to look good. The very slight extra effort of putting on a nicer outfit, even just to go run errands, is worth the improvement in how people interact with you and how you feel about yourself.
Tip 3: Sweater Vests
To break from the “dealing with heat” theme slightly, a sweater vest is a very versatile garment to have for a concealed carrier. When it is “technically fall” here in Louisiana, it is still very often too hot for an actual sweater. This is often true even into the middle of what we call “winter.” A light, cotton sweater vest, though, doesn’t really provide a lot of warmth. What it does provide is a cover garment for your gun that goes over your otherwise tucked-in shirt. This can allow you to have a neat, professional look, without even the necessity of the blazer, and still carry (and draw) your gun easily. The sweater vest is a little less useful than the blazer, and won’t provide as much coverage for bigger guns, but can be more style appropriate for our “fall” than a seersucker blazer would be, and still cooler than a heavier blazer or jacket.
Tip 4: A Shirts instead of T Shirts
When I started carrying a gun, I quickly realized that an undershirt was pretty much mandatory. The feeling of a holster against my bare skin, regardless of the material, is just not comfortable. At the time, most of my undershirts were white T-shirts. However, wearing two shirts in the summer is unnecessarily warm. I made the switch to A shirts (AKA wifebeaters), and they are much cooler, while still providing just enough of a buffer between holster and skin. Not to mention, they tend to fit the body more closely, which will make you less likely to feel “bunched up” around the holster.
Tip 5: Proper Shoes
I may have more pairs of shoes than my wife does, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a pretty minor tip, as I don’t think you need to wear athletic shoes or combat boots every day for maximum effectiveness in a fight. I usually wear oxfords or loafers. But one thing you should be aware of is that, whatever shoes you wear, you need to be able to move well in them. Make sure your shoes fit properly, and that you could go into a flat out run in them if you had to. I can run in my loafers, but I do have one pair of what are commonly called “boat shoes” that don’t fit well enough to properly run in, so I avoid wearing them. Being able to run might be more important to your survival than having a gun on you, anyway. So if you’re going through the effort of lugging a gun around with you, you should probably avoid going around in just flip flops, crocs or similar shoes. While they are comfortable in the heat, they are difficult to run or maneuver quickly in, and even if you managed to kick them off to run, you might not be on a surface that plays well with bare feet. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear sandals of any kind, just make sure they fit on your foot securely with some kind of back strap at least. There are many varieties of sandals that are suitable for running.
Please note, though, that I don’t think this applies to women. I wouldn’t tell female carriers to give up on all forms of high heeled shoes, even though you can’t run away in them. The important difference is that there is a style value to heels that makes them appropriate, or even required, in many social situations, whereas there really is no time that flip flops are socially expected attire, so it isn’t much of a sacrifice.
If you put a little effort in to your wardrobe, it is not difficult to find clothes that both look good and accommodate your carry needs. Dressing a little nicer than absolutely necessary on a daily basis not only provides you with more concealment options, but also can enrich your life in other ways. There are also other incidental benefits from dressing well while carrying. First, you’re less likely to be “outed” in public. If you’re wearing nice clothes, people are more likely to notice your clothes than the gun hidden under them. Wearing accessories like ties and pocket squares, especially colorful ones, naturally draws the eye to the accessories and takes attention away from your gun. And finally, if something does happen and your gun is seen, or if you have to use it, being dressed well will improve the disposition of the bystanders and police toward you. People are more likely to think you’re a “good guy,” and the police are less likely to be suspicious of your motives, if you’re well dressed. That goes for everything in life, too.
Concealed Carry Fashion Dont’s
No discussion of concealed carry fashion, or fashion generally, would be complete without the “what not to wear” list. My list is not going to be much different than the conventional wisdom, but if you’ve read this far and haven’t heard this kind of stuff discussed yet, it is worth going over.
Don’t #1: “Tactical” Clothing
The point of concealed carry is to hide the fact that you have a gun, so don’t go around like you’re cosplaying a cop. Gun stores are full of “tactical” pants and “tactical” vests, but none of this stuff is worth buying. All “tactical” pants I’ve seen are just overpriced cargo pants that advertise to everyone that you’re carrying a gun, and cargo pants stopped being cool long ago anyway. “Tactical vests”/photographer vests (basically any vest with lots of pockets) are commonly mocked in the concealed carry community as “shoot me first vests,” because they all but scream “I’m carrying a gun” if you’re wearing them around in public. All “tactical” pants and vests do is provide you with a whole bunch of pockets that you will never use, and trick you into spending money on stuff you don’t actually need. And think about it – even if you did fill all those pockets with “totally necessary” gear, that means you have to wear a vest or tactical pants literally every day.
Basically, if it isn’t something you’d wear if you weren’t carrying the gun, it isn’t something you should wear when you are. Even if you do need extra pockets, my beloved blazers have several, and I use them to carry all kinds of stuff like pens, business cards, and sunglasses.
Don’t #2: Concealed-Carry Specific Clothing
Similar to tactical clothing, these are nothing more than gimmicks to separate new carriers from their money (money which would be better spent on ammunition). There are tons of shirts on the market that have built-in “holsters,” Velcro slits in the sides that let you draw through the shirt, or a variety of other gimmicks to make you think they’re useful. They aren’t useful. First of all, these things aren’t cheap. Shirts with holsters built in are unnecessarily expensive, usually as expensive as just buying a holster, and you can use a real holster with any outfit. If you get an undershirt with built in holster, are you going to by a ton of them, or worse, wear the same undershirt every day?
And if you get these shirts that are meant to facilitate easier draws, they suffer from the same general problem. If you buy shirts that are supposed to facilitate an easier draw, you would still have to wear the same style of shirt every day. You need to carry in a consistent manner, so that if you need to draw, you don’t have to hesitate and remember where your gun is and what drawstroke is needed. If you have a holster-shirt, you will have to either wear that shirt every day or train for different kinds of draws. The same thing goes for the shirts that break away or something to help drawing – you also need to train how to draw with a normal shirt unless you plan to wear the breakaway shirts exclusively. Even if you train with both kinds of draw, in the heat of the moment, you still need to remember which draw to use. It would be a tragedy to try and reach through a Velcro pouch that isn’t there because you are wearing a different shirt. And if you practice your draw adequately with a normal shirt, you don’t really need the help from the breakaway shirt, because you can draw plenty fast. So don’t bother wasting your money on this kind of stuff. Just carry in a real holster and wear normal clothes, and practice a consistent drawstroke until it is second nature.
Don’t #3: Gun-Related or Aggressive Apparel
For a lot of the same reasons “tactical” clothing is bad, you probably don’t want to walk around sporting your Smith and Wesson or Glock T-shirt. There’s nothing wrong with having this stuff. I have tons of gun-branded T-shirts. But I used to wear them when I was working at a gun store, or when I was in college and not allowed to carry on campus anyway. Now I just wear them around the house. If you’re carrying, a gun-themed shirt tends to advertise the fact that you might be carrying. This might make people more likely to spot your concealed gun. Also, if you find yourself in a situation where your gun might be necessary, there’s a chance the bad guys might have identified you as a potential threat before you even realized something was going down, and have made a mental note to send the first bullet your way.
The same goes for any other “aggressive” type clothing. In addition to potentially making you a target, or making people think you might be a bad guy, it doesn’t make a good impression on the police if you actually have to shoot someone. If you’re going around in a shirt that says “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out,” that’s probably not the first thing you want the police to see if you’ve just shot someone in self defense. You should avoid wearing anything that makes you look like you’re out looking for trouble, or anything that might look bad if you end up shooting someone. This is the specific reason I quit wearing my Charles Bronson Death Wish T-shirt long ago. A guy wearing a Tapout shirt looks a bit less innocent to the cops than someone just wearing a plain shirt, just because of the preconceptions that most people have. If you wear a confederate flag T-shirt and shoot someone who is a minority, you’re going to have a bad time, even if it was clearly self-defense.
The basic standard for the lawful use of deadly force is the reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. It is harder to explain to the prosecution or to a jury why you were in fear for your life if you deliberately try to look like a tough guy, or like someone who wants to be a vigilante. Is this fair? Absolutely not. It is total bullshit for things like clothing choice to be used against you, but the fact is, plenty of things influence the mindset of cops, prosecutors, judges, and jurors.
Here is an example of an aggressive inscription on a rifle being used against the shooter (a cop) in court. As far as I know, this case is still ongoing (or has ended in a non-newsworthy way), so I’m not sure if this argument held any water. Even so, there’s no point in even risking these sort of things, and graphic tees with distasteful things written on them aren’t really fashion forward anyway.
There is, of course, more to be said on this topic. I will probably write future articles in this same vein, and would like to collaborate with veteran female carriers to come up with similar tips for women, especially since women tend to have a harder time making a gun work with their wardrobe. For the time being, if any readers have any tips they would like to share, please send them to me! If I get enough good suggestions, I’ll compile them into another article.
Piece be with you,
The other morning, I read an article about a toddler finding a gun in his mother’s purse and discharging it, injuring his sister. I’ve used similar examples in my course to warn against the dangers of off-body carry, and seeing the same fact pattern yet again made me decide to give the topic a bit more of an in-depth discussion in this post.
This is a very frequent source of gun accidents, and it often ends much worse, with the child or the parent dead. Please take the time to review these examples:
Off-body carry is very controversial in the Concealed Carry community for this exact reason. Defenders of off-body carry will say that this is more of a negligence issue than a problem with off-body carry per se, and that if the parent was doing it properly this kind of thing wouldn’t happen. However, “doing it right” means you have to be extremely vigilant, and not let your bag out of your sight or out of arms reach for even a second. This is at odds with the main reason that people choose to carry off-body, however, which is often for the comfort and convenience. It is easy to put a gun in a bag. You don’t have to clip a holster on and off. It isn’t uncomfortable. You don’t have to dress around it or have a variety of holsters for different situations. However, the hassle associated with comfortably concealing a gun in an on-body holster, while real, is less of a hassle than the constant attention and control of a bag containing a gun. The hassle of a holster is over after a few minutes while dressing. You have to worry about the bag all day long. So practically speaking, very few people who consider off-body carry are really going to “do it right.”
Let’s assume, however, that it is “done right.” In several of the above linked articles, there is a recurring theme: people who know the parent say they were responsible people who wouldn’t let something like this happen. Yet something like this happened anyway. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to do off-body carry safely, but the fact is there are more ways that it can go wrong than with other carry methods. It is possible even for the most diligent person to have a momentary lapse in attention. Those people may have been very responsible gun owners, but if a carry method is vulnerable to tragedy with a single moment of inattention, it should be discouraged in favor of other methods. Simply put, the extra risks involved with off-body carry almost always outweigh the benefits.
There are other problems that can arise aside from those posed by curious toddlers, so even people who are never in the presence of children should think hard about off-body carry. Think about common street crime. In a mugging, for example, an attacker is very likely to commence an attack by grabbing a purse or bag. At best, your attacker only wants the bag, and you lose your gun along with the rest of your valuables. At worst, your attacker means to do you harm, and he may have just taken your best means of self-defense. Even if he doesn’t manage to get the bag away from you, the struggle can make your draw difficult or impossible.
There is also the ever present risk of your bag getting separated from you. If you put it down, someone could swipe it. You could walk away from it and forget it. Even if you don’t forget it, if you are at all separated from it when attacked, you would have to get to your bag before you could get your gun. If your bag is always by your side, never out of arm’s reach, or even better, always on your shoulder… why not just use a holster?
For the sake of fairness, though, there are some things that are good about off-body carry. One of the best things about it is that it is much easier to carry a much larger gun. As long as the bag is big enough, you can carry the largest of full-size, high-capacity handguns, with very little extra effort. It also doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, either. You can carry the same gun, even a big gun, regardless of your clothing. With regular holster carry, it is very difficult to carry a large gun in tight clothing, and this is one reason there are so many small guns available. Most people can’t always dress around a big gun, don’t want to deal with the weight, or don’t want to have to sacrifice style for protection.
There are other situational benefits of off-body carry as well. If you’re walking to your car in a dark parking lot at night (a classic, cliché mugging setup), you can have your hand in your bag, with your gun in full ready grip, and it just looks like you’re getting your keys. Starting with your hand on the gun is the fastest you can possibly draw. You can do a similar thing with pocket carry, but again, pocket carry requires a pocket sized gun, which are generally the weakest, hardest to shoot, and lowest capacity guns. Another scenario that can arise is when going to places where you can technically carry, but where you are likely to be found out, like your doctor’s office. Almost all medical facilities I’ve gone to prohibit firearms, but not all do. If you go in to see your doctor, and your doctor needs to to disrobe, or needs to take an Xray, or any other thing that would get your gun seen, you either need to have a very understanding doctor or just leave your gun at home or in the car during your appointment, unless you off-body carry. You can leave your gun in your bag, and even if you’re in the Xray machine, generally no one is going to be able to swipe your bag in the otherwise private room.
Even with these situational benefits, in my experience, the average off-body carrier is not “doing it right.” Most people aren’t using their purse or briefcase or other bag to carry a large gun. They’re just putting their compact gun in the bag. Furthermore, I doubt that the average off-body carrier is keeping a truly constant vigil over their bag. I personally find the necessary level of concern over a bag to be unsustainable in the long term. And even though there are some situations where off-body carry makes sense, too many people just let it become their default method, regardless of the situation. But as a default method, off-body carry is at its most dangerous. When you just become complacent about it, that’s when a kid gets in your bag, or you lose track of it, or you simply aren’t able to access your gun under the pile of receipts when you really need it.
So if you’re considering off-body carry, really ask yourself why. If you’re doing it because it seems easy, you should probably reconsider. Doing off-body carry “right” is actually more work than carrying on-body in a holster. The situational benefits rarely outweigh the constant problems. I am a firm believer that off-body carry, if ever used, should only be a situational method, not a default method, for the vast majority of people. It should only be your default method if holster carry simply will not work for you at all, and that’s generally not really true. If carrying in a holster is not working for you, you should consider trying a different holster, or a different gun, before just dropping your piece in a purse. There are countless different holster, carry method, and gun combinations out there. There is a good setup for everyone, it can just be expensive and time-consuming to find. Even so, a drawer full of unused holsters is better than a stolen gun or a dead toddler.
If you’ve given it the thought, are aware of the risks, and are still intent on off-body carry (maybe you’re a yoga instructor or something and there is just no way you could carry on your person during your normal day), please ensure you’re doing everything possible to make sure you’re being safe. Don’t carry around children if at all possible. Lock your bag up if you’re going to be around kids. Keep it near you at all times. Take it with you wherever you go, to every bathroom break or every trip to the water cooler, even if you don’t need it. At restaurants, try to sit in a booth so you can keep it next to you and in your sight. Avoid hanging it on the back of your chair. When carrying your bag, carry it with the strap cross-body whenever possible, as this makes the bag harder to snatch away from you, and keeps the bag better oriented for a fast draw. Keep your bag where you can see it at all times, or at the very least where no one else can see it, to prevent theft. Your gun also needs to be in its own compartment in the bag. You can’t just have it in the bottom of you bag mixed up among all your other things. It needs to be in the same place, and facing the same way, every time. You won’t have the luxury of digging around for it in a violent encounter. It also needs to be holstered within the bag to provide trigger guard protection. A bag with a built in holster, or that at least holds one of your holsters in the proper orientation, is best. The bag also needs to be easy to open quickly when you need to draw. You don’t want to have to fumble with a zipper. This isn’t even an exhaustive list of concerns.
If all that seems like a lot to keep track of, maybe just put your gun in a holster and stick it in your pants.
Piece be with you,