Maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans who carry a firearm regularly. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are. How many of us are there? John Lott pegged the number of permit holders at 14.5 million back in 2016. That was more than two years ago, though. and we now have 14 constitutional carry states where permits aren’t required to keep and bear arms.
But there are a number of common concealed carry mistakes that many of us make, whether we’re new carriers or have been packing for decades. While most are minor, here are three critical ones that could cost you your anonymity, your gun rights, or even your life.
1) Checking and adjusting your gun repeatedly
This is mostly a problem for newer carriers. Those who are new to concealed carry are always more conscious about that thing they now have on their waist. They go on your first Wally walk and try to forget about it, but they’re convinced that it’s as big as a watermelon and everyone can see what’s on their hip. Because fo that, they tend to adjust their shirt or jacket often, changing the position of their holster or just patting their pistol to make sure it’s still there.
The truth, of course, is that most people go through live in a perpetual state of condition white. Not only do they not notice any bulge under your shirt, their level of situation awareness is low enough that they wouldn’t know what it was if they did.
Continually fidgeting and adjusting your gun only calls attention to it. People who wouldn’t otherwise give you a second thought might notice you and what you’re doing.
The point of concealed carry, after all, is staying on the down low. To blend in with everyone else and not call attention to yourself. Assuming you have a good belt and a quality holster…relax. Leave it alone. Your gun isn’t going anywhere. You don’t need to pat it or check it or move it. You pistol is right where it needs to be should you ever need it. And let’s hope that never happens.
2) Not knowing your state and local laws
This is a big one. If you have a concealed carry license you probably were required to take a course to qualify. Your instructor likely went over the applicable concealed carry laws for your state. But that’s usually a quick overview and the quality and thoroughness of that review can vary widely.
Does your state have a castle doctrine? A stand your ground law? Do you know what those are? Do you have a duty to retreat? Are you aware of facilities and buildings — both federal, state and local — where concealed carry is prohibited (think hospitals, public transportation, government offices)?
How about reciprocity? Do you travel to other states frequently? Do you know if your concealed carry permit is honored in those states?
Does your state have a preemption law that prevents cities from enacting gun laws that are more strict that state level laws? Or do different cities have their own unique requirements and prohibitions? Are you required to inform a law enforcement officer that you’re carrying if you’re stopped?
These are all important aspects of concealed carry. In some states, walking into a business or building that’s posted as a gun-free zone will result in your being asked to leave. It could be a misdemeanor. In others, it can result in a felony charge and the loss of your gun rights. Forever.
There are lots of resources out there where you can find out the laws in your particular state and city. The NRA, USA Carry, USCCA and many others have online resources where you can find out the federal, state and city laws that apply to you.
You may not like that you have to familiarize yourself with these restrictions, but they’re a reality. As a responsible gun owner and concealed carrier, you need to know the laws that apply to you if you want to maintain your gun rights, your bank balance and your freedom.
3) Not carrying whenever you can
There’s no end of reasons you can use to justify not carrying. It’s a hassle. It’s heavy. I’m traveling and don’t want to deal with it. I’m going to the post office and don’t want to leave my carry handgun in the car. I’m just running to the store for a minute.
It’s easy to get complacent. But you went to the trouble of getting a concealed carry permit. You may have paid for some proper training to hone your skills. You have a gun and gear that work for you. The fact is, no one knows when they’re going to need to protect themselves. No one has ever left the house and thought, “This feels like the kind of day I’m going to need my gun.”
The reality is, you could be required to defend yourself in any place and at any time. There’s simply no way to predict or anticipate the need for armed self-defense.
First, remove any excuses you may have for not carrying. If your gun is too heavy or too big, get a new one. If your holster rubs or is a hassle to put on, get another one. There are dozens of good concealed carry holsters out there. Use it with a real gun belt that supports it adequately. Switch to an OWB holster and an un-tucked shirt if an IWB carry rig isn’t for you.
Do whatever you can to make carrying your firearm as simple and comfortable as possible. Any gun you carry will be better than none at all. The last thing you want is to reach for your gun and learn the hard way why it’s important to make carrying every day part of your routine.
Get in the mindset and habit of every day carry. Make it part of your muscle memory as you’re getting ready each day. Keep a small lockbox in your car to secure your gun when you have to enter a “gun-free” zone. You can get one for about $30. It’s better than stashing it under a seat or in the center console.
Whatever you do, carry your gun. And don’t make excuses.