Well, you did it. You got your License to Carry, CCW, CHL or whatever they call it in your state. Perhaps you did that in response to a nasty incident in your life, the right birthday came along, or you finally arranged the time. Maybe it was out of concern for the uptick in crime or some politician’s rhetoric about taking away that right, but you have your permit.
Now comes an even greater decision – what do you do with it? Have you accomplished your goal or just the first step? Do you take satisfaction in knowing that you have it if needed? Or do you assume that you need it and prepare to make it and the carry of a firearm part of your everyday life? I attended one of the first-ever Concealed Handgun Classes held in the State of Texas, now some 25 years ago. I have also been a License To Carry instructor for more than 13 years. I have taught thousands of people, many with different answers to that question. Knowing my own journey and habits have evolved over time, I can’t begin to answer that question for you. But I do have questions you should ask of yourself in making your decision.
- Do you know what the laws are in your state? Do you know when and where you can carry? In Texas, for example, it may be perfectly legal to carry in a library – unless it is late October, and they are using that location for early voting. Then the answer is absolutely NO. What signage can change a venue from legal to prohibited? Does your state have constitutional carry? If so, are the laws the same for folks exercising that right and for those who are permitted?
- Do you know what the laws are regarding the use of force and deadly force in your jurisdiction? As a general rule, most states recognize the right to protect an innocent life, yours or someone else’s. Property can be a totally different matter. Does your state require that you retreat before using deadly force? Have you talked to an attorney or police about the best way to engage with law enforcement after a use of force?
- What are your beliefs about when it might be appropriate to use force or deadly force? Do those agree with the law? What are your boundaries? Where is the line no one can cross? You need to think about that long before the bad guys show up. Are you willing to back down in some circumstances? Are you willing to change habits to avoid having to use your firearm? Legendary trainer John Farnham once said that most folks get in trouble by “doing stupid things, with stupid people in stupid places.” There are things that I no longer do and places I no longer go because I carry a firearm.
- Do you know how to use your firearm? I don’t mean do you know how to put a hole in a piece of paper 15 yards away. I mean do you know how to fight with it? Can you get it into action? Do you know how to fix it if something goes wrong?
- Do you know how carry the firearm where you can access it and unauthorized people can’t? Do you understand that you have an absolute moral and ethical (and, in most states, legal) obligation to prevent a child’s unsupervised access to your firearm?
My personal belief (these are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Gun Tests Magazine) is that you have a right to defend yourself, your loved ones, and the innocent. If you decide to exercise that right, I believe that you have the absolute responsibility to learn how to do so legally and safely.
Do I think individuals who wish to carry should be able to answer “Yes” to the many questions above? Of course, I do. However, if you are not able to at this point, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Please note that I didn’t say that the state should be allowed to require you to.
As a competitive shooter and instructor, many of those in my everyday life are law enforcement. I intentionally pick a few arguments when I pose to them that they are NOT first responders — they are the cavalry, and I really want them to show up just as quickly as possible. I am the first responder. I have to handle the situation until police can show up. Being an old Boy Scout, and because I want to Always Be Prepared, I want the tools and the training to allow me to do so.
Rory Miller, author of Meditations on Violence once said “Never, ever, ever delegate responsibility for your safety to someone else.” I’ve read the peer-reviewed university studies that estimate that everyday citizens like you and me, use firearms in self-defense as much as 3000 times PER DAY in this country. I’ve put in the time. I’ve done the training. I’ll carry the tool. Your decision is strictly up to you.
Article and photos by Gun Tests Contributing Editor Joe Woolley