In his article Carry On-Body or Not At All, Johannes Paulsen makes some arguments against carrying a weapon anyplace but affixed to your body. And he has a point, but with a little imagination we can see that there is more to the issue. So let me now argue with Johannes and hope that he is of good humor. It’s amusing to consider that a gun carried anywhere but right against you reduces the thing to a talisman, a meaningless trinket that we hope will ward off evil. Wrong answer. Unlike a talisman I can aim and fire my gun, which is considerably more effective than pelting you with my rabbit’s foot . . .
It’s an interesting point, though. This sort of thinking is not unique to off-body carriers (sounds like a disease state, no?). As Clint Smith said, “If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. That’s ridiculous. If I have a gun, what in the hell do I have to be paranoid for?” You’re not going to prevent people from doing wrong, you’re going to try to manage the outcome.
That’s really what weapons are all about when it comes to self defense. A weapon of any sort is a management option. And here, off-body carry is nearly never as good as on-body carry. Nearly never. If you’re crawling around under a truck working, you might have more, not less access to your weapon if it isn’t in your holster. With a little imagination you can quickly dream up other situations in which your body position and immediate environment might dictate that on-body carry is not ideal.
Now let’s really let our imaginations run wild. Imagine you work in an environment where it’s both illegal and unwise to carry concealed. If your transit to and from such a vile place is a walk of some distance, it may be convenient to carry your hardware in your briefcase and stow it somewhere safe and either legal, or less likely to be detected when you arrive. It happens.
Imagine you have disabilities. Your need for protection has risen, and your ability to draw diminished. Drawing takes certain movements and capabilities that we don’t all have any more. Maybe off-body, but on-board your wheelchair makes sense.
Imagine that you have to don protective gear for a while and carry a toolbox with you. The gear makes any sort of a draw impossible. Are you better off with your weapon in the tool box, or totally inaccessible?
Are you driving? That might make accessing your weapon more difficult from certain carry locations. Sure, an on-body solution can be found for that, but an on-body solution that’s good for drawing while seated in a car and going into meetings in hoplophobic environs while wearing specialized clothing may not be possible. Briefcase carry might be better than nothing.
So Johannes, when you find the perfect spot where all the stars align and conditions are always ideal, let me know and I’ll move there with you. I’ll always carry on-body and be ready for anything. Well, anything bullets can solve. Well, little bullets flying relatively slowly. I’ve got bigger, better, faster bullets at home, it’s just that I can’t carry the long gun that shoots them conveniently. I had to compromise.
Carrying any weapon for defense is a compromise, an attempt to pick a solution when you don’t know exactly what, when or if the problem will be. When I carry a pistol I compromise effectiveness for convenience and concealability. Rifles are better. So should we only carry a rifle or not at all, right? Or do you balance needs and options and compromise? So it is with your concealed carrying method. It’s a compromise that must be made wisely depending on the existing realities.
Are there risks to off-body carry? Sure. Off-body increases the potential for access by others to your weapon. But that isn’t absolute. The gun on your hip is more secure, but there are people who can take it away from you, trust me. No toddler has every shot anyone with a gun that’s not accessible to her. True enough, but I suspect that guns carried in purses have saved many more lives than they have cost.
The on-body-or-not-at-all diktat is logically identical to essentially all of the arguments against the right to keep and bear arms. If people never handled guns, there would be no negligent or accidental or intentional discharges. If no one carried concealed weapons, no one would ever draw a gun and use it to hurt other people (whether they needed it or not). Gun violence would go down, never mind anything else. No guns, no gun violence. I was hoping for more from the People of the Gun. We usually pride ourselves at being able to get past step one, unlike our political opponents.
Of course there are risks with off-body carry. Just as there are risks to on-body carry. Plenty of people have unintentionally shot themselves or others while “presenting”, dropping, fumbling or otherwise mishandling their gun from their on-body “carry solution.”
The response here is that none of that would have happened if so-and-so was done correctly. Which is true, of course. Heck, that’s pretty much true of all problems. Nothing would go wrong if everything would be done right. Which makes it virtually meaningless due to its overwhelming obviousness.
Off-body carry? Yes, there are problems with it that must be recognized and managed. Presumably we can trust people who are competent to own and carry a weapon to figure it out.
In the end, on-body carry is always better than off-body if everything is ideal. It’s just that things are never always ideal. So it’s like this: IF you can wear the clothing of your choice, and IF you can carry legally anywhere you deem it appropriate, and IF no one is ever meaningfully offended if you happen to briefly reveal your secret in sensitive environs, and IF you are never in a position where access to your on-body weapon is impossible, and IF you are physically capable, THEN always carry on body. If all of those things are not true, though, you do the best you can, like you do with all other aspects of life on earth.
That’s my advice. Consider your individual circumstances and carry accordingly. You’re going to have to act like a grown-up here. Realize that you’re going to have to compromise something. Balance effectiveness, safety, access and social realities. Then make the right compromises. You won’t achieve perfection in any area. Then go forth and live your life in peace and be careful out there.