Why do we carry a concealed firearm? Note the question. We know why we carry a firearm in general – for self defense, to save our lives and the lives of those who rely on us for protection.
But why do we carry it concealed? In Washington state, we are allowed open carry – indeed, we don’t even need any sort of permit for that. Anyone can carry openly, only those of us with concealed carry permits can carry a concealed weapon.
You might think this is the opposite of the way it should be, but the reason that concealed carry is considered more dangerous is because, well, it sort of is – to other people, but not to those of us who are carrying.
Arguments For/Against Open Carry
Some people advocate open carry, and say that if we don’t all make use of this right more, we risk losing it. That’s for sure what happened in California just a couple of months back – prior to then, it was lawful to open carry pistols, but only if they were unloaded. A group of pro-carry activists started prominently open carrying, which alarmed/terrified the more delicate citizens of California, and now new legislation has passed and you can’t even open carry an unloaded pistol in California.
We are – self evidently – enthusiastic supporters of the Second Amendment. But we’re not enthusiastic open carriers, because open carry gives the bad guy the advantage. He can see you, and he can see your gun. But you can’t see him – he’s just one more person in the crowd in front of you. Or, even worse, he’s behind you, and the next thing you know, he’s alongside you, and all of a sudden, your gun has been taken from you. Ouch.
If you open carry you also run the risk of being confronted by ill-trained police officers. We’ve had experienced police officers tell us directly that open carry is illegal in WA, and/or they’ve invented all sorts of weird restrictions on open carry. They are utterly and totally wrong, but that’s not really relevant when they are surrounding you with weapons drawn and requiring you to turn away with your hands in the air and then kneel on the ground, etc.
Washington’s open carry law is also a bit ambiguous – you can’t open carry in a manner likely to cause alarm. For some folks, simply seeing a gun on a person’s belt is enough to alarm them and have them dialing 911 on their cell phone. And then you have the self-fulfilling prophecy – if a person calls 911 to say “I’m alarmed to see this person with a firearm” then prima facie they are alarmed, and if they are a sensible decent person and respected member of the local community, you then have to somehow prove that their alarm was inappropriate and unnecessary, rather than them having to prove that their alarm was justified.
Or, even worse, some drunken jerk decides to pick a fight with you, based on seeing you having a gun, and ends up backing you into a corner, both figuratively and perhaps literally too, daring you to shoot him, and threatening you with negative consequences if you don’t. Sounds ridiculous, right? But it does happen.
Visible handguns are magnets that irresistibly draw bad guys and idiots to you.
So, enough about open carry. We don’t recommend it, and only open carry on ‘special occasions’. But we’re very appreciative to see others ‘fight the good fight’ and keep those rights alive, and there’s one thing that we all should be very thankful for – most of the time, if our concealed weapon is briefly sighted by someone, somewhere, we haven’t committed a crime.
We’ve simply transitioned from concealed carry to still lawful open carry before then transitioning back to concealed carry again. In states that don’t allow open carry, such a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ could (and does) have you up on a charge of brandishing. You’d probably lose your concealed weapons permit, and might even suffer some jail time too.
The Danger of Letting People Know You are Carrying Concealed
So you don’t want to open carry, because that lets other people know you have a gun and allows them to plan and surprise you, rather than allowing you to react and surprise them. However, while this is bad, at least in such cases, you know that other people know you are carrying, and you’re in a heightened stage of alertness and more protective of people getting close to you and your gun.
But there’s one thing much worse than this. That is when you think your weapon is concealed, but when – unknown to you – other people actually do know you have a concealed pistol on your person. In that sort of case, any actions they take against you based on that knowledge totally surprise you, even more than if you were open carrying.
Now, we’re not just writing here about the need to use good concealment when carrying your pistol. We’re instead talking about not telling your friends, your family, your co-workers, and other people you meet and mix with about how you sometimes carry a concealed pistol.
Sure, you might trust people you tell this to completely. But what say they in turn then tell other people? Do you trust them, too – even if you don’t know them? And then these people might pass it on to other people, with some sort of exaggeration of inaccuracy added on each retelling of the story.
Before you know it, you’ll have strangers coming up to you and asking you about your gun – possibly in front of other people who didn’t know you were carrying – people that you maybe didn’t want to know about this, either.
Here’s an example. You’d told a friend, and then one day you meet him somewhere socially, and he asks you in front of others ‘Hi, John, is that bulge under your jacket your pistol?’. Suddenly the entire crowded rooms goes silent and everyone turns and stares at you.
What happens next depends on the function you’re at and the other people in the room. Let’s hope the people around you when the unwelcome other guy comes up and blurts out his nonsense aren’t gun hating people you were trying to impress! Even gun neutral people will start to look at you a bit strangely, and wonder what color of paranoid to ascribe to you. And what about your gun-hating boss. And the gun-hating client you were trying very hard to close a big sale with. etc etc
Or maybe, after you part, he turns to the people he is with and says ‘See that guy I was just talking to? He’s got a Glock pistol under his shirt – if you look carefully, you can see the clips of his inside-the-waistband holster on his belt – see’. He points at you, and half a dozen people all turn and stare at your belt. Then one of them comes up to you, while you’re talking to someone else, and says ‘I’ve just gotta ask, is that really a Glock you’ve got under your shirt? Joe said those clips on your belt are from its holster.’
Then, again, the room goes silent, etc etc.
And that’s not all. Maybe one of the temporary staff hired to cater the event overhears the discussion, and tells his not so nice friends to watch out for you as you leave the function. They jump you, take your gun, your wallet, and hopefully leave you unharmed in the process (but maybe not). Your gun has made you a target and a victim, rather than what it was intended to do – protect you.
You can even have problems with people much closer to you than in this example. Maybe a former girlfriend invents an untrue allegation about you threatening her with your pistol, and describes to the police both where/how you carry the gun and what it looks like. That’s a lot more credible than an empty claim ‘well, yes, he threatened me with his gun, but I’m not sure where it came from, where he put it afterwards, and I don’t remember even if it was shiny mirror finish, pink, or dull black.
Closer still. Maybe you get in an ugly custody dispute as part of a divorce and your ex-wife invents fictions about you being careless with the gun you carry. If she doesn’t know the details of what/when/how, she’s not going to be nearly as credible as if she knows all these things.
Avoid Other People Knowing
It is possible, if you’re careful and discreet, to prevent even people who know you extremely intimately in other respects from knowing if/when/where you have a gun. We know this from our own personal experience (not just from watching James Bond movies!).
We’ve regularly carried in every sort of business and personal situation, and no-one has ever known if we’re carrying or not. We don’t even talk about it with our spouses – and they know not to enquire. Our children don’t know about it either.
Maybe you have friends who know you’re pro-gun; maybe they even know you have a concealed weapons permit. Perhaps they’ll ask you ‘So do you carry a concealed gun? Do you have one now?’
You have to be careful in your answer, because quite apart from anything else, you want to convey a positive image of gun ownership to this person.
We’d suggest a vague response such as ‘Yes, as you know, I have a concealed carry permit. That makes it easier for me to buy guns without a waiting period, to transport guns, and of course, it allows me to carry a concealed gun too. Sometimes, in some situations, I feel comfortable knowing there’s a gun close to me, and I appreciate the rights my carry permit gives me.’
If pressed further ‘So, tell me, Bob; do you have a gun under your jacket now?’ you could laugh and say ‘You know how the US Navy will never confirm or deny whether its ships have nuclear weapons on board? Well, perhaps I should do the same thing!’ Then seize the conversational initiative and start talking about the other person. ‘And what about you, too, Joe? Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?’. Or whatever else you choose to say.
The One Time You Can Reveal Your Concealed Firearm
The only person who should ever know about your concealed firearm is the bad guy, and preferably mere fractions of a second before he either wisely makes a sudden and profound change of plan; or, if he continues his evil actions, just before he gets a series of very nasty surprises in the center of his chest.