What’s the number one thing that most people new to the world of concealed carry don’t know, and that most training courses — whether state-mandated or not — fail to address? It isn’t basic gun safety. It isn’t the intentionally burdensome firearms rules imposed by federal, state, and (in non-preemption states,) municipal authorities on gun owners. And it isn’t self-defense tactics.
No, the silent killer that no one wants to talk about is this:
What the hell are you supposed to do with your concealed, belt-holstered sidearm when you’re visiting a public lavatory?
Admit it: when you were a newbie on your first visit to Walmart for nachos after getting your shiny new license and concealed carry permit, you felt more than a little anxiety when you headed into lavatory stall. That’s because American public lavatory designers prioritize janitorial convenience over privacy and someone might notice that you had something in your pants that typically isn’t seen in the loo.
So you had to improvise on your own. Some of you sought out that semi-private handicapped stall in the corner. Others wrapped the waistband of your undergarments around the butt of the pistol to keep those Larry Craig-style looky-loos from noticing it.
And some of you — I’m not judging here, but you know who you are — decided that the safest and most covert route would be to simply remove the handgun and stick it on the handicapped hand hold, the paper dispenser, or other handy surface.
It’s to this latter group that I’d like to gently suggest that a different strategy might be appropriate.
Look, everyone has different priorities. For some of you, avoiding discovery tops the list because the stakes of being ‘made’ while carrying a gun during the typical day are high both socially and in terms of future career prospects. Others may worry about the local constabulary, who could take an aggressive interest in people discovered to be carrying a firearm in public, regardless of the legal particulars.
It isn’t easy. People of different body types, genders, sartorial tastes, and tolerances for being ‘outed’ may find the solution that works for me (for the record: the waistband solution mentioned above is my preference) is impractical for them. But this is something worth thinking about, because it’s a problem that, eventually, we all have to face.
If you’re embarrassed by this, well, suck it up, buttercup – these are the things adults who carry concealed firearms need to consider.
In my experience, removing the firearm from the holster during a typical bathroom visit is something to be avoided at all costs. It’s a version of off-body carry (which I don’t endorse either), but it’s a particularly malignant one that requires its practitioner to be on their game when they are vulnerable to distraction.
A system that requires you to do the right thing 100% of the time is not a good one. We’re all fallible. We all have off days, and the way the human mind works, unexpected sights, sounds, and smells — anything that gets us to split our attention — can cause us to get distracted.
Some of these sights, sounds, and smells can make us to want to GTFO of Dodge as fast as we can without going through our usual checklist before we do. Especially in a public lavatory.
Did you ever leave anything behind in a bathroom — say, a cell phone — and have to go back to retrieve it later? Yeah, that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about. Except instead of the next visitor getting to check out the pic of your kids on your cell phone lock screen, that person gets free access to a deadly weapon.
I bring this up because a 63-year-old school teacher in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, had to resign from her job and is facing charges from the D.A. because she left her gun behind in the classroom toilet, where some elementary school children found it.
Beth Jean Dixon, 63, put her holstered pistol on a toilet tank when she used the unisex, one-toilet bathroom Aug. 25 at Cumberland Christian School, in Chambersburg, police said. They said she forgot about it and left.
Four children, ages 6 to 8, used the bathroom while the gun was on the toilet. One child told his parent, who told a teacher.
Dixon informed administrators of what happened and immediately resigned from the school, police said.
No one was injured….
Dixon was charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the latter charge is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree, which means a maximum penalty of not more than five years.
A conviction like that would mean that you will be prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm and, at best, will have a convoluted path toward ever getting those gun rights restored after your time in the justice system is finished.
One moment of forgetfulness took away this person’s job, threatened her freedom, has no doubt caused no end of embarrassment for her, and has even turned an employer that was apparently neutral on guns into one that’s now imposing more official requirements for legal concealed-carriers.
If concealment is truly a priority for you and you believe that the lavatory is a high-risk zone for whatever reason, perhaps a smaller, .380 pistol carried in a pocket holster might be more appropriate.
Concealed carry is really just a series of compromises, after all. Whatever your solution happens to be, just make sure it doesn’t require you to be perfect 100% of the time.
We all have enough to worry about — don’t make it harder on yourself.
This post was originally published in 2016.