“Stay strapped of get clapped.” – George Washington (I think)
I possess some practical experience on this subject. Let me start with my qualifications. I got my CCW license in 1998, when Tennessee changed their laws to make County Sherriff’s go from May-Issue to Shall-Issue. I have studied and researched for years before that on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA) and concealed carry since. I have spoken many times on this website about the RKBA.
So you have decided that you want to carry a weapon outside your home to have the ability to protect yourself and others from deadly threats. Let us discuss the first concepts. There is a lot of stuff you have to work out internally and externally before you strap up. Here they are:
Can I end a human life?
A firearm is not a magic talisman. You can’t pull it out and wave it around and make the bad guys run away. While they do run away 95% of the time, that’s only because they read the intent of the wielder and their willingness to use that firearm and get the attacker to realize “the juice is not worth the squeeze.” You have to be like Raylan Givens in Justified: “I don’t pull my sidearm unless I’m going to shoot to kill.” Just remember, we “shoot to stop,” which I explain later.
This hurdle you must pass before you do anything else. There is no “I’ll get to this later.” The first thing I did before I even applied for a CCW license was sit down with myself, pull my soul out, turn it around and over and poke it here and there until I could say “Yes” to the question, “Am I okay with ending another human life?” I didn’t qualify that question with intents like “if they were hurting someone else,” because this question needs to be answered unequivocally. This took several months for me. I would suspect that you haven’t really considered it if you don’t take a fair amount of time. This is not a 10 minute decision.
On this subject, there are three kinds of people:
- The one who refuses to end the life of another, even at the cost of their own.
- The one who needs extenuating circumstances to “justify” them committing the act.
- The one who can do it at any time without hesitation.
You really, really need to know which of these groups you fall into. If you’re in the first group, don’t carry. At all. I’m serious. I know people who own and enjoy the shooting sports and even hunt animals. When it comes to ending people, they can’t. I don't think any less of them. They know their limitations and that's what's important to me.
Most people will fall into the second group, and that’s okay. It’s a reasonable stance in the context of our current society. However, being in this group may cause you to freeze or second-guess yourself before pulling the trigger. That hesitation can mean life-or-death. Your life-or-death.
The people in the third group are not necessarily “bad” or “evil.” They just have made the decision that if that time comes, they can and will do it. All that being said, the people in the third group have the best chance of survival in a gunfight.
Know the laws
You need to know the laws concerning the carrying and use of firearms in every state you go with it. Just like traffic laws, gun laws vary between states. In my day job, I visit four different states. What is okay in my state might be an arrestible offense in another state and vice versa.
For example, in my home state, if I were to intentionally reveal my concealed weapon (opening my jacket to show it as opposed to the wind blowing my jacket open), that is considered aggravated assault.
Shoot to stop, not shoot to kill
The linguistic differences between “shooting to stop” and “shooting to kill” seem minor, yet is often times it is the difference between freedom and prison. The government has the sole right to end lives. The government retains a monopoly on the use of deadly force. As an armed citizen, you are authorized to use your firearm to STOP violent threats against you and those around you.
That being said, if you defend yourself and the person perishes from you trying to stop their threat, this would be considered an “undesirable side effect” or some other legal mumbo-jumbo.
When you say “shoot to kill,” that provides a clear intent that you want to end another life. From that point on, the conditions and context of the event no longer matter. You were looking to kill and now you’ve done so.
The limitations of “protecting others”
Let’s say for a moment you are in your local grocery store, near the back. You suddenly hear a crack that sounds like a gunshot and a shout from the front of the store of “EVERYBODY GET DOWN!”
As an armed citizen, at that moment it becomes your responsibility to get out of the store and get those around you to do the same. You do this because you’re not in immediate danger, the bad guys are concerned about the cash at the front of the store. You gather everyone around you and herd them into the stock area and out through the loading dock, calling 911 at the same time. Your purpose is NOT to draw your weapon and charge to the front of the store, with the plan to go all John Wick on the scumbags and “protect the people up there.”
Now, if you’re going down an aisle trying to get out through the back and a guy steps into the aisle with a gun and points it toward you, YES you can and should engage him.
When the police arrive they don’t know who’s the good guy and who's the bad guy
Think of this: You have just defended yourself. You’ve called 911, and gave the operator where you are, your name, what happened and the services you need. If the Bad Guys got away, you give their description. DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR DESCRIPTION. Why? Because the default of the police is when they've been given a description of a person, it's of the Bad Guy. When the responding officers charge into this “shots fired” situation, they are looking for someone and you don't want it to be YOU. Their training is to assume everyone is the bad guy until they sort things out.
Act like the good guy. Holster or lay your weapon on the ground. Keep your hands clear of your body and open. Do exactly what they say and without hesitation. Expect to be handcuffed and maybe even taken to the County lockup until they size the situation up. Don't survive the encounter with the criminal only to die at the hands of the police.
A lawyer is attached to every round you fire off the range
You are responsible, legally, morally and financially, for every round you fire off the range. If you’re justifiably shooting at someone and miss, but strike another person, you might not go to jail for killing the scumbag, however you will be charged and sued by the person you shot or their survivors.
Keep all of these in mind as you make the decision on if you can, should or will strap up.