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Excluding criminals, the percentage of Americans who carry a gun is a small percentage of the small percentage of Americans who have a license to carry a concealed weapon. Here’s a 2004 table ranking the states by the percentage of residents who have concealed carry permits. South Dakota leads with . . . 7.45 percent. While there’s been plenty of gun rights action since then, I doubt any of the states have cracked 10 percent. Even if half of those permitted residents carry—a generous number—you’re still looking at five percent of the total population. So round it to zero. There are more than 150 million guns in America, but zero percent of Americans carry a gun . . .

And how many of those who carry a concealed weapon in public carry one at home? You know: that place where they spend at least half their day. Hardly any, I’d imagine. So even the ones who do carry, don’t. Not all the time. At the risk make that certainty of being called paranoid, I believe all Americans who own a handgun for self-defense should carry a gun all the time, from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night.

To that end, let’s set aside the first rule of a gunfight (have a gun). For our purposes, the more important question: when might you need a gun for self-defense? For most people, the answer seems obvious: when they’re all alone, late at night, walking to their car in a dingy parking garage (with echoing footsteps). Either that or in the middle of the night, when they’re rudely awakened from a deep sleep by a loud crashing noise.

Seriously. Check out the ads for guns. Watch the self-defense TV shows. Read the blogs. Those are the prototypical perhaps even archetypal scenarios for defensive gun use (DGU). I’m not saying they don’t happen. I’m saying that focusing on them is a “can’t-see-the-forest-from-the-trees” deal.

I reckon the majority of gun owners (and thus advertisers) dwell on this type of threat because they’ve pretty much eliminated other high risk situations. They don’t hang out in crack dens or biker bars or walk down lonely streets in a bad part of town. They follow the rabbi’s advice: avoid stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places. (If we’re talking about home carry, they lock their doors and treat strangers with suspicion.)

The success of this approach—nothing bad has happened (yet)—leads them to believe they’ve managed the risk well enough to let their guard down. Taking the kids to lacrosse practice? Hakuna mutata. Chilling at home? The gun’s in the safe if I need it. Statistically, they’re absolutely correct. The average DGU doesn’t happen at work or in the middle of a school play or walking down a busy city street in the bright summer sun or when you’re watching American Idol.

Except when it does.

As the old saying goes, if you have one foot in freezing water and one foot in boiling water, on average you’re comfortable. Averages tend to blind us to “extreme” possibilities; they’re dismissed as statistical anomalies. “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than robbed on Main Street.” Yes, well, people do get struck by lightning and it’s usually lethal.

And people do get robbed on Main Street. And raped in their office. And shot in shopping malls. And killed in class. And assassinated in diners. A deadly threat can happen anywhere at any time.

A gun may not solve the problem. It should not be your first line of defense. But if you have a gun you’ll have self-defense options that you wouldn’t have without one. You can respond to the most serious threats to your life and/or the lives of your loved ones with a serious solution.

Let me put it this way: how often do you wear your seat belt? If I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chances of needing a seat belt on a given highway were statistically insignificant, would you take off your seatbelt when you hit that stretch of road?

Just yesterday, I was watching my  daughter play lacrosse. Beautiful afternoon. Dozens of happy healthy children playing on a private school field. Parents. Coaches. All’s right with the world.

A man started to walk by the field outside the gate. Single guy. Mid-50’s. Unshaven. He stopped and watched, shifting his weight from side to side. No briefcase, shopping bag, backpack, car, nothing.

What are the odds that he posed any threat to the children? A million to one? Ten million to one? A hundred million to one? If I dared suggest danger to one of my fellow parents, if I even pointed out the guy, they’d think I was a psycho. And yet I wonder how many of them buy a lottery ticket. Or know that there are seven sex offenders living within a mile of that spot.

Bottom line: if you have a license to carry a gun or live in a state where no license is required, carry a gun all the time. Do it for two reasons. First, it protects my right to keep and bear arms. Second, you might need it. It’s as simple as that.


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  1. “There are more than 150 million guns in America, but zero percent of Americans carry a gun . . .” With a CWL, right?

    Therefore lawbreakers cannot also be Americans?

  2. Like. +1.

    “A gun may not solve your problem, but if you have one you’ll have options.”

    This is what the common sense folks can’t grasp. It’s the last option. Not the first option.

    • Indeed. Using a gun is a choice of absolute last resort. I don’t think people with no exposure to firearms understand this.

  3. Guns may not be the solution to most problems, but it would really suck if you didn’t have one when you really needed it.

  4. Hence the appeal of the small gun. The huge gap is between no gun and any gun. I’ve carried more days than not since the early 90’s, and I think guns like my Ruger LCP are brilliant.

  5. “…I believe all Americans who own a handgun for self-defense should carry a gun all the time, from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to sleep at night.”

    I agree and I do.

  6. Wish it were possible for me to use my carry license at all times. As it is, I’m on a college campus about 95% of my time right now (including asleep) so I’m (in)conveniently disarmed most of the time 🙁

  7. My decision to carry depends on a lot of factors. I can’t bring a gun to work and won’t leave it in the car so on most days I don’t carry. I don’t walk around the house with a gun strapped to my hip. If I felt I had to home carry it would be a signal to move. I have two large seemingly aggressive hunting dogs that would give enough time for me and/or my wife to get one our several firearms.

    I can’t say what will cause me to walk out of the house armed but I can tell you when I have carried:

    I carry in the winter when I take my dogs out for a two hour walk in the park.
    I have carried when there was a serial rapist on the loose for the protection of others.
    I carry at the mall during the holidays or when I perceive a potential terrorist threat.
    I carried when the DC sniper was on the loose more for my own piece of mind then for actual effectiveness. By the end of the ordeal I had even thrown my Remington 700/270 in the back of the car. (Mohammed and Malvoux were trapped by armed citizens at a rest stop who call the cops)
    I carried when I was the financial secretary at my church when I did the count and went to make the deposit drop.
    I carried for a few days when I got shadowed by a coyote in the park and only had one dog. (Coyotes hunt in pairs.)
    I carry when I travel by car and don’t have to go through a gun grabber jurisdiction.

    I don’t feel a need to carry all the time because there is little threat.

    • Do you only insure your cars on rainy days? Only when you go to the big city? You never see the threat until it’s too late. See? You don’t see it now, and think you can get to your gun in time.

      Good luck.

      • Insurance is about risk. I have a much larger chance of being in an automobile accident then being in a situation where I need my gun when I don’t carry. Do you really think that I was at less risk from the DC sniper just because I was carrying? Life isn’t like a TV show where a 45 has a 100 yard range. If walking around the house with a holstered gun makes you feel better than do it. The purpose of a hand gun in home defense is to buy you time to get to your rifle or 12 gauge pump.

        • I’ve heard that saying about the handgun as merely a bridge to a long gun for donkey’s years—and I’m not buying it. Not entirely. Post to follow.

          • I changed from 12ga to an AR to a Glock 17. I find a handgun to be much better at moving around the house.

        • Wait. My .45 has 100 yard range.

          Okay, it won’t be a 1″ group, but a man-sized target? No problem! I’ve hit 2-liter soda bottles at 100 meters.

          From a practical perspective, a typical 230gr bullet will lose about 100fps and drop about 12″ at 100 yards.

          That’s still 230 grains moving at 800fps… more than enough to do the job.

          • Let’s see how accurate you are when you are being shot at and the adrenaline is pumping, the wind is blowing and the target is not accurately Ided

            To your post below. The sniper gets the first shot with a rifle and you don’t know where he is located.

            When a man with a rifle meets a man with a 45…

        • BTW, the DC “snipers” were shooting at ranges of 25 to 50 yards. This is something law enforcement would have known if they’d bothered to think about .223 ballistics.

          The bullets they recovered were fragments. This indicates a shot somewhere in the 50-yard range. At 100 yards, the bullet will often break at the cannelure, but won’t fragment. Beyond 100 yards, the bullet stays in one piece.

          Consequently, it was only another failure of law enforcement to recognize what they were dealing with – “snipers” who were firing from within 50 yards of their target – well within range of a .45ACP.

  8. I had a job where I saw bad things happen to good people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I put a seat belt on not because I expect an accident, but because I might be in one. I carry a handgun for the same reason. And as the Ranger said, “If I was expecting trouble, I’d carry my rifle.”

  9. I’m wearing mine right now. From when I dress in the morning until I undress at night.
    It’s kinda like insurance – it doesn’t work if it’s not there. What did I get that permit for, if not to carry?

    So it ain’t quite zero. And I don’t tell people, don’t show people, don’t do anything out of the ordinary.

    This sheepdog looks like a sheep. Meet my leetle friend….

  10. I am the sheepdog. I carry every day, all day. I sleep with a Springfield XD45 (with a tac lite) under the pillow. My rifles and shotguns are available in various locations in the house. The pistols will let me fight my way to the long-guns. The only time I’n not in arms reach of a weapon is while swimming in the backyard pool. Then it may be a few strokes away.

    I have always carried, even when I “couldn’t:” at work where it was prohibted by company policy, in states where it was not permitted at all. The only time I was truly unable to carry was when flying commercial to foriegn lands. (Good thing I’m pretty proficient with a knife.)

    My right to self-defense does not stop at the border of a gun-unfriendly town, or state, or campus. My right is unalienable.

    Molon labe!

  11. I worked to pass concealed carry in my state for years.

    Why do people get the permit? I began to get the feeling that most people want to have one to show their buddies down at the bar. Constutional carry isn’t much good for that.

    • They get the permit because, while Constitutional carry may exist in YOUR state, other states may not be as evolved on the issue, and may require a permit. They often have reciprocity with other state permits, but they don’t have reciprocity for Constitutional carry.

      There are bills in Congress to try to make one’s permit good in all states. The next logical step is to do away with the requirement for permits – but logic is a rare element in politics.

  12. People who got a permit last year and don’t carry evolved from people who had no permit. As time goes by more will get permits and more of those who don’t bother to carry now will become constant carriers. Tdiinva has the disadvantage of living in an area were most people see guns as a tool of criminals instead of a tool of the citizen. Constantly walking through business doors with gun slashes, metal detectors, gun free zones, and blanket laws against citizen carry make it very difficult to carry on much of the east coast. The real problem however is PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND RISK AND THEIR EXPOSURE TO IT.

    Let me establish a credential that I do not tell many people about. By chance I got a roommate in college that came from an interesting family. They were in the middle of a honest to God mafia war and people were dying left and right during the 70’s and 80’s. A best selling book and a very successful movie were the direct result of my roommate’s grandfather being murdered. Most of you have seen it. Before I continue, let me say that mafia kids are like preacher kids. They tend to be either very straight or really wicked people. My roommate was determined to be the former. Today he lives in California and none of his friends or co-workers have a clue about his long ago family issues. He is a Scout leader, and all of his sons are Eagle Scouts.

    That said, I learned a lot about risk in the three years I lived around this fellow.

    Places that you are predictable to be in are risky areas. Predictably is your Achilles heal. You can’t avoid this, it is just a fact of life. Your work place parking lot, your church, and especially as you return home are problems. If someone is out to get you, the easiest way to do it is to wait for you to come home, in your house or your garage. You would not believe the number of people who get killed walking in their own home. If you work in a small or uncontrolled office environment you are a sitting duck. Bad Guy walks in, pop, and walks out. He doesn’t care about the surveillance system. His long billed cap fixed that and his distinctive clothes, along with that cap will be destroyed in a few minutes.

    Private places such as elevators and rest rooms are kill zones. One day a sliding bolt appeared on the inside of the Men’s room door. The next day a man who worked in the building was found sitting on a toilet with a neat hole in his forehead. Believe it or not the police did not pick up on the connection between the two. The building maintenance man figured it out and told the police about the lock the killer installed to insure no one walked in at the wrong time. Unsolved.

    As you enter or leave your car in a parking lot, you are at higher risk. Don’t believe it? When you go into a store it is certain you will return to your car and probably in a reasonable amount of time. Getting out of your car is the worst. You turn off the car and open the door. Your left hand is on the armrest. You did not see the man walking up from behind. He was careful to stay in your blind spot. You hear a strange sound. It is the noise of a collapsible steel baton reaching full length as it comes crashing down on your arm. The pain is blinding. You are not sure, but your arm is probably broken. The door is now wide open and you are being yanked out of your car. You are off balance and falling. The pain suddenly gets worst as you start to black out from the blows to your head. If you are very, very lucky he just wanted your ride and he leaves you in a heap, minus your billfold. In seven seconds your life has changed and no one fired a shot or even had a gun. Sucker.

    Remember what I said about being predictable? The only thing more predictable than coming home is leaving for work in the morning. As you drive down the driveway you see an obstruction. It may be a tire, a board, or even a pallet. Whatever it is you have to move it in order to get out of your driveway. As you stop, you become aware of the guy walking to your driver’s window. Maybe he wants to talk. He uses a spring loaded center punch to take out your window. Now things get real personal. He tells you exactly how you are messing up. Perhaps you are a judge. Or a prosecutor. Or a cop. He drops a piece of paper in your lap and disappears. For the first time in your life you understand how easy it is for someone to make you wet your pants. The paper tells you how to quit “messing up”. Nothing happened that you can really get any traction on, even with the paper. As you report the incident it becomes clear no one else is shaken by it like you are.

    A more deadly variant of this happened recently in West Memphis, Arkansas. A doctor who was head of the state disciplinary commission had pissed off another doctor. As he was leaving home he saw a tire and wheel laying at the end of his drive. Under the tire a grenade was waiting. The spoon was on top and the pin had been removed. The good doctor picked up the tire and started to roll it off of his drive way when the blast hit him. He survived, barely. One eye is gone and he is still recovering but he is back to work. The other doctor was convicted of attempted murder a few months ago. Case solved. By the way, the guilty dude was also a Class Three dealer/collector. Sorry.

    Back to the idea of constant carry. Bad guys have a much harder time dealing with someone who is savvy and packing. The one thing I can assure you is that you will not be able to predict when you will need a gun. Life does not work that way. A month ago I was sitting at an intersection when a guy decided he could make it across the intersection despite a truck coming down the highway. A three car pile up happened in front of me. The guy who caused the wreck managed to back up and drive off. Not on my watch, baby. I followed and saw him hide his van behind a church. This church had only one egress so when I pulled in I had him cornered. I called the cops and waited as the driver walked around the church and watched me. After taking my report, the cop said what I had done was gutsy but he liked it. I told him it was an example of unreported social benefit of my state having carry permits. If I had been unarmed I would not have been in a position to give chase. The hit and run driver was an illegal alien with no license and no insurance. The next thing he gets to say is “Hello, Mexico”.

    You want to be safe? Like Robert says avoid risky lifestyles and friends (hey, I was young and dumb). Get a dog. Unless there is an extreme reason not to (like having seven kids), install an alarm. Cut a wall cavity near your front and back doors. Cover the cavity with a picture on a hinge and stock the hole with a shotgun and a handgun you are competent to use. For most people this is a revolver. Buy a remote control alarm for use in an apartment and hotel rooms. Carry a few wood wedges in your travel bag. If you are like Tdiinva and have to live in a place that makes carry extremely difficult, carry bear spray and a plastic dagger. Exercise. Get fit and tone up. If you can’t get out of a chair in less than three seconds or without using your hands you can’t fight. Your carry gun is a great “last option” tool. Be sure to have it but don’t make it your only option.

    For the better part of a decade I would drop my keys and pick them up before getting into my parked car. No one ever caught on but if you have ever personally seen the results of a remote control shoebox bomb placed under a Caddy….. The driver was the best friend of my roommate’s father. We found one of his legs on top of a nearby building. Case unsolved.

    One last tip. Glance under the steering column BEFORE you turn on the ignition. If there is a six inch pipe strapped to the column it will have a shotgun shell inside. The blue wire from the wiring harness has been cut and attached to the cap on the bottom end of the pipe. Turn the key and you will feel a sudden…

    • First, Virginia is a gold star gun state. Concealed carry is very common. I can’t carry when I go to work because you can’t bring firearms or ammo onto the Pentagon reservation. At least a half dozen people in office are permit holders. My wife can’t carry because she works in DC. Since we spent most of our time at work we go unarmed.

      Since I, like most people here, am not associated with organized crime and am not a target. If you thing you are going to come out on top in a gun fight with pros you are living in a video game.

      If you want to get juvenile I can go around targeting mobsters with impunity because without a connection they or the LEOs would ever connect me.

      The rest of advice is sound. I have to undergo annual force protection training to be allowed to travel outside of CONUS and we get the same info

      • To Tdiinva:
        Let me clarify an impression my previous post makes that is not true. I was age 18 through 20 when I was watching this Mafia war transpire. I had a front row seat and when the heat got too hot I transferred to another college out of the area. My friend who was born into this stuck around another year and graduated. He then immediately moved to California. We both lived relatively clean lives for college students (no pot smoking, no crime involvement, etc.). I am now in my fifties. I have not had a sip of alcohol in thirty years, have been married to the same woman for twenty eight years, and I have a bunch of good kids. My old roommate has had a similar life since college. We are in frequent contact and both of us have absolutely nothing to do with the mob. Since he lives in Cali he cannot get a carry permit but I have had one for seven years. The mob threat to our lives has ceased long ago due to the passage of time, and people dying off. At one time we were targets because we might have known the location of a “person of extreme interest”. That person has passed away and since we have decided long ago to lay low we are out of the picture. There is simply no one from that era that cares to harm us. They are all dead.

        However, my friend flew back to his home town to attend a funeral of a relative (natural causes) and when he picked up his suitcase an employee of the airline told him they had a courtesy car waiting for him. Lets just say in this town his last name still packs a punch.

        I carry because I live in a high crime area and because I would rather “have a gun and not need it than need a gun and not have it”. In the past thirty years I have chased down an armed robber, saved two lives (separate incidents), and recently chased down a hit and run driver. Make of it what you will.

        Do good work when you are in the five sided building.

  13. In reality, the lifetime odds of being killed in a violent crime in the USA is slighly higher than that of being killed in a traffic accident. No one thinks anything about wearing a seatbelt so why would you not carry a gun everywhere. Tell me where violent crime never happens and I will leave it home. Schools? Churchs?, Post Offices?
    Offices?, Airplanes?. Do you see the stupidity of thinking you know where you need to carry a gun. You don’t and never know where you will need it.

    • Rich says: “In reality, the lifetime odds of being killed in a violent crime in the USA is slighly higher than that of being killed in a traffic accident.”

      How do you figure?

  14. A friend of mine (in the US) carries concealed all day, yet when he gets home the first thing he does is remove the gun.
    Next time I see him, I’ll be asking why because at home he also has his wife & kids to protect.

  15. Nice job writing this article Mr. Farago. Unfortunately since implementation of a new CCW law in Iowa, more and more places changed their policies and banned costumers from carrying guns in their stores, companies, state and city buildings and properties. This made us CCW permit holders being restricted in our daily migrations. The best bet is having a few guns, each in one of your cars and your home, instead wearing just one in a holder on your belt. As much as silly it may sound, it is the only way I can see how I can deal with CCW permit restriction some locals enforced.
    Keep your posts coming Mr. Farago.

  16. Lou,

    Vigilance is not an act America does. I think that we succumb to the waves of life that crash upon us and we tire of our responsibility to defend ourselves and other innocent life. I’ve been at this for a decade now. I follow the law:) But, there are days that I wish man would love his fellow man and we could all live in peace. Must sound funny coming from a guy like me. Ben Franklins words ring in my head when I try to convince myself not to arm myself . . . “Experience is the dearest of teachers” that and Cheshire Ct. That one hit me.

    Take Care of yourself,


  17. Robert, You are extremely convincing, especially since you’re preaching to the choir. I can’t believe not one of your readers said you’re nuts. What’s next? Will you train yourself to sleep less and less to be on guard unless the unthinkable happens? I really think you should consider that body armor we talked about, even though the chances are unlikely, it might save your ass.

    One thing I didn’t understand is this. How do other people carrying a gun all the time protect your right to keep and bear arms?

    • The more people who carry guns, the less the chances that someone (not mentioning any names) might be able to abridge our collective and thus individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In other words, it’s a numbers game. Gun owners vs. non-gun owners. AND gun carriers vs. non-gun carriers, ’cause carriers are more vehement and vigilant about their rights than someone with a gun in their safe. Out of sight out of mind out of action out of time out of rights. Or something like that.

  18. Talk about being afraid. Let’s get real. Other than to feel more macho or quell the fear about being hurt, there is no reason to carry at home. Have a gun handy yes, carry no. Your odds of needing a gun are very, very low. Much more chance of needing a lot of other things like a fire extinguisher. Do you carry an extinguisher around with you at home? If I ever feel that I need to carry a gun at home it is time to move to a better location. I have shot guns, at people sometimes, and collected them for over 40 years. It is usually the people who are, lets say, not the athletic type, that have to carry 24/7 or feel afraid. The tough guys I know rarely carry, if at all. I am all for 2nd amendment rights and all that but when I read posts like this I can only picture someone with an exagerated level of fear or someone looking for an excuse to go around armed all the time. Look around you, that is right you, look around you. Of all the people you know, how many needed a gun. I do not know on person in over 60 years who needed a gun. However, if you keep reading the stories about those who did you will have an impression that your risk is much greater than it really is. Sometimes gun people need to be reminded that the overwhelming majority of us will never ever need to even draw our guns in our lifetime. If you feel the need to carry at home I suggest you examine why you live in such a high crime area and then do something about it. I did and now I can walk outside my home without a gun and no fear of being a victim of crime. I only carry when I go to neighborhoods like the author’s I guess. 🙂

  19. If you carry a gun you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot (University of Pennsylvania study). The states with the highest per capita gun death rates are those with the loosest gun laws. In general, it is more dangerous to carry a gun, so you need to decide for yourself what’s safest for you in your specific situation

  20. Sir,

    when you said round 5%to zero i thought you were joking. Then you described the “unshaven” man behind the fence. it appears you are a nit wit. paranoid bigots are certainly more of a concern in our society tban most criminals.

    ccp philly 10mm

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