Escalatoring into the bowels of the SHOT show, you leave the world of slick corporate PR and descend into an in-your-face arena of entrepreneurial adrenalin. In other words, a souk of small companies with massive ‘tude. Hot Leathers is one such outfit, appealing as they do to people who’d rather sit on a Harley than a fat pension (although a number do both). There’s an obvious intersection between the Outlaw Biker Lifestyle™ and firearms; as illustrated above and after the jump. While I salute Hot Leather’s artistic interpretation of Second Amendment righteousness, you might not want to wear this stuff on a daily basis . . .

Your gun rights are absolute. Only they aren’t. No matter what the Constitution or the law says, they depend entirely on the “reasonable person test.” It all comes down to whether a jury of your peers thinks a reasonable person would have done what you did in your situation.

Anything you do or don’t do to help a [theoretical] jury think of you as a reasonable person will help you survive the aftermath of a defensive gun use (DGU).

You needn’t get too concerned about looking like a gun loon. All the internet chatter about using a lever gun instead of a black modern sporting home defense rifle to defend life and limb—just in case the prosecutor waves your “assault rifle” in front of the jury—is a bit over-the-top.

Let’s face it: your ability to STFU and the quality of your lawyer are a far more important variables than the scariness of your firearm. A good lawyer will have the words “prejudicial” and “inadmissible evidence” on the tip of his [forked] tongue.

If that doesn’t work, you’re already there, gun-nut-wise. How much ammo do you have? How big’s your gun safe? How many gun-related posts have you made on the Internet? How often do you go to the range? An assault rifle’s just another brick in that wall. Again, lawyer-up and hunker down.

Post-DGU, your criminal record (or lack thereof) and your general attitude is more important than your equipment. The jury will consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the DGU and, more importantly, the totality of you.

It’s one thing to be a biker. It’s quite another to be a member of a biker gang with a rap sheet who’s photographed wearing one of these T-shirts. Especially if it’s a mug shot.

Yes, they’re all garments adorned with politically perfect sentiments—fully endorsed by yours truly. But do you want your brief to have to defend your political views as well as your decision to defend your life? You do not.

And then there’s the question of tactics. As Adam Z points out below, wearing this kind of shirt openly telegraphs the fact that you’re tooled-up—without any of the advantages of actual open carry (unless you’re one of the Merry .05 Percenters who open carries in public who happens to be wearing a guntastic T).

Do you want to tell the world you’re carrying a concealed weapon? Even if you do, you do not. With all due respect, what part of “concealed” are you having trouble with?

Don’t get me wrong. By all means, wear what you like, drive what you like and join any fraternal organization you like. God bless America. But ask any [real] special ops guy: the lower your profile the better. In all sorts of ways.

To paraphrase the sign above: Danger. Avoid Needless Prosecution. Keep your pro-gun machismo to yourself. FYI: Hot Leathers’ shirts make great PJ tops.

24 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: It Pays Not to Advertise

  1. One of the things I enjoy most about riding a crotch rocket is that the immediate visual impression to just about anyone is “some kid going fast”, to bluehair and donut shark alike.

    In many settings it is less conspicuous than “guy wearing khakis and an un-tucked shirt”.

    The H-F-D guys who wear this stuff, while in many cases great people, are largely asking for a fishing trip or six.

  2. I did see a similar style of shirt that I liked. It said “Guns don’t kill people, it’s mostly the bullets…”.

  3. I’ve gotten to the point where the few gun-related t-shirts that I own (3 total – 1 Ruger shirt, 1 local gun store shirt, and one RKBA-related shirt) only get worn at home. I figure that whenever I wear one it is pretty much broadcasting that I’m armed – so why bother concealing a gun under such a shirt. If I don’t mind people knowing that I’m armed, then I simply open carry (and I often do just that). Granted, I wouldn’t open carry while wearing one of the said shirts, as I feel that a gun/2a shirt + OC is overkill & in poor taste.

  4. I’ve always thought that one’s ability to defend one’s self was a lot like having a hot car: If you have a car IS actually hot, there’s really no need to advertise unless you are looking for a contest. Quiet, unassuming, something serious under the hood, that always appealed to me.

  5. I think the most likely danger is in the civil realm. A DA may try to get you into court based on your “Insured by Smith and Wesson” sign out front, but there is a good chance a judge will not allow the DA to allow such prejudicial evidence into court.

    Civil trials, where the scumbag you shot tries to make good on the back of your insurance company, have a much different standard of evidence and a lower burden of proof.

  6. I agree with the idea about not blaring out your ownership of guns and support for the second amendment.
    However, I do wear small gun pins affixed to my jackets and/or Trilby hat on occasion, and I make sure to wear something gun related on every vacation I go on – it’s a pretty sure conversation starter, but always in a good way…

  7. From a purely tactical sense, broadcasting that you are potentially armed definitely does negate the benefits of concealed carry. If I had to steal a gun in a hurry I would probably start by checking every car and truck with a gun bumper sticker I could find.

    • How does it “from a purely tactical sense…negate the benefits of concealed carry”? Please, don’t tell me it has to do with the mythical ‘element of surprise’ that so many ccw holders believe they possess.

      • I’m not sure how you can argue that a concealed weapon does not provide some sort of surprise over an openly carried one.

        Lets try two similar hypothetical situations. You walk in to a store in an attempt to rob it. Ten people are in the store.
        In situation A you have an openly carrying or openly concealed carrying (you know wearing a shirt that says hey look at me I’m carrying a gun). You the bad guy doesn’t want to deal with a hero so you ‘bust a cap’ in his ass before he has a chance to do anything.
        In situation B someone in the crowd is carry concealed and doesn’t give any indication he is carrying. He can go through the whole situation without using that weapon, but if he chooses to use it the bad guy has no indication who in the crowd might give him trouble.

        It is known that bad guys will size up their potential targets, that doesn’t mean they always have a clue if the target is armed.

        So yes I would argue that the ‘element of surprise’ is very much real, and not the myth that you claim it to be.

        • Your argument rests on the econmists’ “ceterus parabus” (everything else held equal). The open or declared carrier may be a target if he is the only one in the store but if there is a crowd that open declaration is a reminder that there could be more then one carrier. In the fomer case the BG just might pop the other customer. In the latter case he is very likely to go somewhere else.

        • Assuming that open carry will deter a bad guy is an optimistic view. Open carry has in more than one case has made someone vulnerable and gotten them killed.

          When you play poker do you start each hand by laying all your cards out on the table?

        • In at least one case someone open carrying has either been targeted or had their weapon used against them. Open carrying is not a guaranteed to deter anyone, so why rely on it? I would rather rely on the skills I practice every day.

          When you play cards do you start by laying all your cards out on the table?

  8. Good advice which, unfortunately, will fall on mainly deaf ears.

    I was surprised how many commenters accepted your suggestion to run away from a home invasion if possible in order to avoid the gunfight. But even some of them will resist when it comes to T-shirt discretion.

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