I sit down and I feel it push into my side a little, digging just above where my hip joins my body. When I stand, I can feel the weight pulling at my belt, trying to bring my pants down. Even with a good quality holster setup, there’s no way to put a pistol on your hip that’s really “comfortable.” You know it’s there, and you know why it’s there, and there’s nothing comfortable or cool about it. So why do it at all? Why go through the trouble, the expense, and the stress of applying for the permit, attending the class, getting the certification at the range, and the fingerprints at the Sheriff’s office all to carry around something that’s heavy, at times painful, and increasingly socially taboo?
I’ve been shooting guns since I was eight years old. I grew up around firearms and some of my most fond memories are sitting with my brother and my dad as he cleaned his pistols and long guns, going over the commandments of gun safety over and over. It was a bonding experience, and one that I’ve repeated with my own sons. Growing up in the country, firearms were just a part of everyday life, and I never thought there was anything odd or intimidating about them. My dad used to tell us, “A gun is a tool just like a power saw, and either one can kill you. Keep your head on straight and you can use them both with equal safety.” That’s a sentiment that has stuck with me in the intervening decades, and one that I think of every time I pull out one of my firearms to head to the range, or fire up a circular saw for some home improvements.
It wasn’t until recently (a few years ago) that I actually went through the process of acquiring my Concealed Carry Permit (CCP). With gun control and gun rights in the news A LOT these days, I’ve been hearing a lot of people offer up opinions about why people choose to get a CCP and carry a concealed weapon, and most of it has nothing to do with reality. For the most part, these kinds of comments are offered up by people who don’t own guns, never have owned guns, and certainly don’t have a CCP or carry a gun. And yet they are the ones who get to dictate to the public what motivates people like me, a father of three, Sunday school teacher, and church elder, to carry a concealed handgun.
“You just want to feel tough.”
“You want to look like John Wayne with your six shooter on your hip.”
“You’re only wearing a pistol so you can get the chance to shoot someone.”
These are just some of the idiotic reasons I’ve heard people toss out there to explain why some American citizens feel the need to arm themselves. I’ve read comments like this, and many that are MUCH more vulgar and disrespectful, for months now and I’ve had enough. I can’t sit here and simply swallow what some very vocal opponents of Second Amendment rights are trumpeting about regular law-abiding citizens just because some of us take our personal safety, and that of our family, seriously enough to do what’s necessary to protect it. So I decided to offer my response and clear the record about exactly why I carry.
First off, I don’t carry a concealed handgun in order to “feel tough.” Having a pistol on me isn’t about feeling macho or brave, and it certainly doesn’t feel cool or comfortable to have a hunk of cold metal and formed polymer dragging down my pants and digging into my side whenever I turn or twist the wrong way. When I’m in the store, or walking through a crowd, I don’t feel tough because of my concealed handgun, I feel self-conscious. It feels like every single pair of eyes glancing my way can see through my pull over sweater and my undershirt, and they’re focusing directly on my S&W Shield 9mm. I feel like I have a big spotlight shining on me and I can’t get away from it. It’s not quite like feeling nervous or embarrassed, but rather like you’re under very close and intense inspection. I’m acutely aware that I have now taken my Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms into the general public, and as such my behavior reflects on the rest of the roughly 80 million estimated gun owners in America. If I act the fool, break a law, am disrespectful, or irresponsible then my actions will reflect on every single other gun owner out there. That is a very heavy weight of responsibility and one you can’t shake off easily.
Second, I don’t want anyone to know that I’m carrying a pistol—that’s the whole point of having it concealed. I know there are people out there that are very uncomfortable around firearms, and I can respect that. Maybe they didn’t grow up learning about how to be safe with a firearm, or what these tools can do when put to good and responsible uses. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience with firearms or suffered a loss due to them. Whatever the reason is doesn’t really matter. The fact is, there are lots of people out there who just plain get freaked out by firearms, and I really don’t want to contribute to that. For one thing, people who are nervous, scared, or intimidated are often unpredictable. They could lash out at the person they perceive as a threat (the way some idiotic people did recently in assaulting an African American concealed carry permit holder….. lucky they didn’t get shot) or they may just call the cops on you and report a crime.
When your gun is visible, you become a target either for the people who simply don’t like guns or for criminals who may be intent on doing nefarious things to the people around you. Either way, having your gun out there for everyone to see just isn’t a smart way to go about providing for your safety and your family’s safety. The last thing I want is for my concealed carry pistol to become a lightning rod that attracts animosity or the wrong kind of attention and ends up putting us at greater risk. If everything goes according to plan, then no one will ever know that I stood in line at the grocery store behind them with a loaded 9mm on my hip. The only reason anyone around me would know that I have my pistol in the first place is if I had to draw it and use it, and at that point there are going to be much bigger things to worry about than someone becoming offended that I take my Second Amendment rights as seriously as I take my family’s safety.
And finally, the most ridiculous claim of all, I don’t want to shoot anyone. The last thing I have in mind to look forward to when I clip on my concealed carry holster is the possibility that I might actually be faced with a situation where I have to draw my weapon and use it on a fellow human being. I honestly don’t know what that would do to me mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. I have read personal accounts of law enforcement officers and military members that have deep, permanent scars because they were forced to take a life. It’s not something that anyone with a shred of decency or morality goes into with feelings of anticipation or excitement. A concealed handgun is a last resort to preserve my life, the life of my family, or the life of an innocent person. Especially with the current political and social climate, a CCP holder has to be absolutely certain of the threat to life before they use their weapon. And even then, there is still the chance that you’ll face criminal and civil charges that can literally ruin the rest of your life.
The reason I got my CCP, and the reason I carry a pistol is very simple. The average violent interaction between a victim and a criminal is over in 90-120 seconds, but the average response time for police on a 911 call is 9-12 minutes. Unless you are someone that has a police escort with you at all times that means that even if you were able to call 911, or someone called on your behalf and reported the crime as soon as it began, the police officer will get to you long after whatever violent and horrible thing has been done. As much as it is uncomfortable to think about the horrible, vile, evil things that people do to each other, it’s the truth. And in that minute and a half to two minutes when a criminal decides to do something terrible to me, to my family, or to someone near me, I want to have the ability to do whatever is possible to stop them.
As much as I don’t want to find myself in a position where I end up shooting someone, I find the alternative of finding myself a helpless victim at the hands of a criminal even more abhorrent; not just for myself, but more importantly for my family. The story that recently came out of New York about a man being forced at gun point out of a playground where five animals then took turns raping his daughter is a perfect example. While I don’t want to shoot anyone, if I find myself in a similar situation, I will absolutely draw my concealed carry pistol and defend my daughter with everything I have, including my life if need be.
And that is why I carry.