Things To Know Before Carrying A Gun

A GLOCK 19X 9mm pistol and a GLOCK 30 45 ACP pistol.

Between the panic induced by the Chinese Flu and the civil unrest in certain cities across the nation, you managed to square yourself away with a quality pistol. You got yourself a proper holster. You’ve even gone the extra mile and got yourself some essential accessories like a spare magazine pouch and a sturdy gun belt. You’ve done what you had to in order to legally carry a gun in your state. You’re cocked, locked, and ready to rock as an armed citizen of our great Republic.

However, there’s a few things you should know before carrying a gun…

Carrying a gun is an inherent human right. With that right comes a great responsibilty. It’ll weigh on you a little at first, along with some other “quirks”.

You Will Feel Like Everyone Is Looking At You

When you go out into the world with your gun holstered on your hip, you’ll feel like everyone’s staring at you. You’ll probably have heart palpitations if you walk by a cop. Rest assured, if you are conducting yourself in a safe and appropriate manner, you have nothing to worry about from a legal perspective. Also, with regards to police and other people in general, no one is really going around eyeballing everyone in the area for a concealed weapon. Most people are too busy tapping away at their phones, dealing with their kids, and otherwise running in “Condition White”, which is Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper’s term for having your head up your ass.

In a word, no one will notice, and if they do, it’s most likely they themselves are “squared away” and won’t really care.

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You’ll Have To Modify How You Do Things

Just because people are wandering around in Condition White doesn’t mean you have carte blanche (see what I did there? Ha ha) to walk around, printing (where your firearm is visible beneath your clothes) like crazy, and acting the fool. You’ll have to kind of take stock in how you do things. For example, if something is on a low shelf, you’ll have to kind of do a Slav Squat to get the item, lest the butt of your firearm poke out on your shirt. Or if you’re reaching for that last can of Bang Energy Lemon Drop on the top shelf, you risk exposing your concealed firearm to the masses. Again, most people are too wrapped up in their own BS to notice, but don’t ride on that assumption.

Of course if you live in an open carry jurisdiction and the specific location you are at is cool with it, then you do you.

You’ll Have To Adopt A Specific Mindset

You’re armed. You have a tool on your belt which makes it markedly easier to dispatch an assailant to the great beyond if so needed. The gun is the great equalizer. You’ll not only need to operate with a zen-like calm, you’ll need to have a certain awareness about you.

With regards to being calm, you’ll have to learn to brush off almost everything that doesn’t involve a direct physical threat to yourself or an innocent person in your care. Road ragers? Ignore them. If some jackass thinks you cut him off and speeds around to flip you the bird, let him do so. It’s just a gesture. Now of course if he tries to force you to stop, etc it’s a different story, but a gesture is just a gesture. Ladies, if some street urchin hoots and hollers at you and makes cockroach noises, let him do so. He’s a cockroach and not worth the effort. Keep moving. Unless the situation ratchets up to a direct threat, just keep going. Legally, you can’t flash a gun to win an argument. Outside of legal issues, you’ll be escalating the situation. The opposing person may have a gun of his own.

We spoke of “Condition White” earlier, referencing Lt. Col. Cooper’s color codes, which are White, Yellow, Orange, and Black, as referenced in the diagram below.

Jeff Cooper's Color Codes.

Condition White, as we spoke of, is running around completely tuned out. You have headphones on, pecking away at your phone, goofing on some crap on Instagram, swiping right on some thot on Tinder, or whatever. You’re stuck in your phone and not the wide world around you. Most of us have done it, and thankfully (despite current events), our nation is a safe place, and we can get away with it. However, we’re carrying a weapon on the off chance the world around us becomes unsafe. You can’t carry a gun and run in Condition White. If anything, it’s more dangerous since an assailant can overcome you, relieve you of your firearm, and shoot you.

For the most part, if you walk out the door, you should run in “Condition Yellow”, which is to say that you’re relaxed, but you’re keeping an eye on things, and ready for any potential issues. Condition Yellow can also involve some pre-planning. Is there a protest Downtown today? Plan to go around it. You’re aware of the protest, but you’re taking chances not to get caught up in it.

Condition Orange and Red basically mean that you know something is likely to happen, i.e. “Oh crap, that homeless dude wasn’t as doped up as he seems and he’s coming my way…” so you’re getting ready to respond if needed. There’s a specific threat and you’re going to address it.

Condition Black (as a condition) is disputed in some circles, but basically is a condition where someone who is in “White” fails to respond and succumbs to fear and shock.

Regardless, if one is to be armed, we go into the world calm, and ready to fight back. We avoid known dangerous situations. The best way to win a gunfight is to not get into one.

You Have To Watch Where You Go

Unfortunately, carrying a weapon can legally prevent you from going certain places. There’s no cut-and-dry answer to this problem, as “gun free zones” vary from state to state, and there’s overreaching federal laws as well, especially when it comes to schools. Your best bet is to know your local laws. The best resource I’ve found is handgunlaw.us - yes, the design is a little dated, but the information is extraordinarily current - the owners put a great deal of effort into it. Also, if you wish to overturn the laws, it’s good to know what they are.

In general though, you’ll have to be aware of the legal situation. You might think nothing of going to the post office to drop off a package, but federal law prohibits you from going inside while armed. You’ll have to securely stash your gun in your vehicle, or make alternate arrangements to use the USPS. They offer parcel pickup services, etc. Or use FedEx.

Along those same lines, private businesses have every right to ban firearms on their premises. In most places, the signs carry no legal weight, nor do the employees care enough to enforce the policy. In this case, “you do you”, but be aware of the store policy. However, in some states, the store policy, if correctly displayed, can have the force of law, and you can suffer legal penalties just by being caught on the property while armed. Texas has it’s infamous 30.06 and 30.07 laws - just by being on the premises while armed is breaking the law. Whereas in Florida, unless it’s a place already proscribed by other laws, the signs merely mean the store has the right to ask you to leave if you are armed.

In a lot of places, it also gets complicated where alcohol becomes involved. A restaurant might not care either way about guns, but legally they may have to if they serve alcohol and derive a certain amount of income from it. Yes, guns and alcohol don’t mix - and you might not choose to partake, but just being on the premises while armed could present a legal issue.

Again, check your local laws before going out.

Also worth doing is noting which businesses have gunbuster signs when they don’t have to have them. For example, there’s no reason why a Target in Florida needs a GFZ sign. It’s useless window dressing and carries no force of law, or force period. If someone is going to bring a gun into Target, they’ll do so. It’s worth noting, and spreading the word to fellow gun owners and others to not shop there. Nothing wrong with a good old boycott.

Traveling With A Gun

Threats don’t take a break just because you are traveling. Fortunately, in most states of the Union, possessing a firearm despite not being a resident of said state is a non-issue. Furthermore, most states have reciprocity agreements with other states, which means if you have a carry permit in State A, it’s accepted in X amount of other states. For example, if one has a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License (CWFL), it permits the holder to legally carry a firearm in 35+ states in the country. So, if you drive up to Georgia from Florida, you needn’t worry about the legality of carrying a gun on you. Also the nice thing about reciprocity is that if the state you are going to has looser carry laws than your home state, you abide by those laws. Georgia permits licensed open carry, so if you have a Florida carry permit (where open carry isn’t permitted except under limited circumstances), you can open carry in Florida. Conversely if you have a Georgia Weapons Carry License and go to Florida, you gotta cover up. Basically reciprocity permits carry between the states signatory to the agreements, but the local laws concerning carry take precedence. Again, check handgunlaw.us for the specifics. It sucks, but those are the breaks.

Nuances do come into play, especially when as a resident of a free state, you live close to a non-free state. One primary example is Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, the carry laws are generally on par with most states in the Union - there’s a permit scheme, and that’s about it. However, right next door is New Jersey, which goes out of it’s way to deny not only the right to carry a firearm, but the right to purchase one. Unfortunately New Jersey is an American state in name only. And they take a dim view of those who carry guns in the state and haven’t gotten the blessing of the local mob boss judge/chief of police. At the border of PA and NJ, it’s quite easy to make a wrong turn and end up on the wrong side of the line. And NJ cops delight in flagging out-of-state drivers as a source of revenue. There’s horror stories of citizens who lawfully carry in PA, getting arrested in NJ, and having to beg to retain their property and rights. In other words, know your state, and know the laws of nearby states.

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Now, for travel, there’s a federal law known as the Firearms Owners Protection Act, which can provide some cover if you are forced to travel through a non-permissive jurisdiction by land. For example, if you live in Pennsylvania, and choose to bring your gun to your final destination of New Hampshire, you’ll have to traverse New York State. The “Empire” State’s boss and henchmen of course take a dim view of armed citizens, but legally you have the right to traverse the state, provided your gun is not accessible and ready. However, when the rubber meets the road, the police respect of the FOPA law is often capricious and arbitrary, especially if the weapon you possess is patently illegal in the state. Driving through with a suppressed AR may be legal, but good luck explaining that to the NYSP if you get pulled over. Do so at your own risk, or fly.

Flying with a gun is a bit of a pain, but can obviate some of these extenuating circumstances. As long as your guns are packed and secured according to FAA and airline guidelines, you are safe and good to go. Just be aware of the laws of your final destination, and any layovers you might have to take. While the airline assumes the role of a “common carrier” with respect to you luggage (i.e. like UPS hauls guns all over the country and uses big airports like Newark as hubs), you’ll have to be cautious if you get delayed and they try to give you back your luggage. If you’re delayed in a right-denied state, do not take your gun back, by law they have to securely stow it until you resume your journey.

Continuing Education

Getting squared away to legally carry a weapon is one thing. The training requirements to get your permit are usually low, and in Constitutional Carry states, nonexistent. Which on a philosophical and human rights level, is how it should be. A licensed right is no right at all. However, don’t let the ease of carrying instill false confidence. Take classes. Get some force-on-force work in. Learn how to manipulate a weapon in a vehicle (hint: it’s a horrible situation to be in if it happens!) Dry fire at home. Unlike most trainings, firearms training is fun. Even a bad day at the range is more fun than a good day at work, as they say.

Most of all, be a great advocate and role model for gun owners.

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