Why Carry A Concealed Firearm?

How do I go about doing so legally?

The title of this article poses an excellent question. Why would you want to carry a concealed firearm? It is not a decision to make lightly.

Let me ask you this. When was the last time you heard the news and it went something like this...

"Tonight, police foiled an attempted rape as they saw a man stalking a woman back to her car at the mall parking lot. Police watched the man long enough to determine his intentions, then arrested him just before he pulled a knife on the woman as she placed her child in a car seat"?

Or when did you last hear...

"Today, police nabbed a would-be mugger as he approached a man making a withdrawal at an ATM. The mugger was about to pull a pistol on the man as police came up behind him and put the cuffs on"?

Unfortunately, you don't. The fact is that in the world of today, the police are there to investigate AFTER the crime and attempt to determine who did it so that prosecutors can decide whether or not to press charges. They don't rush in and stop the criminal just in the nick of time.

Remember the "O.J. Trial"? The police were no where to be found as "the attacker" brutally murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. There were plenty of police on the scene later, but they were just there to collect evidence.

It's not their fault, really. Just take a look at the world around you, and at the funding for police departments. There is no way they could keep up without bankrupting all of us.

If you plan to rely on the police to protect you BEFORE or DURING the crime, you may just end up like Nicole and Ron. If one of them would have had a firearm at their disposal - the situation "might" have turned out VERY differently - and the "O.J. Trial" would never have happened.

I say "might" because the attack was so brutal and apparently quick - almost as if someone with the moves and experience of a football player performed it - that they might never have had a chance to draw the weapon and employ it in their defense. Unfortunately, we will never know.

In making the decision to carry a concealed firearm [a decision you make every day - not just on the day you get your permit] you are deciding to take responsibility for your own protection, and for the protection of those you elect to cover.

The first step in deciding to carry a concealed firearm is a personal assessment. You need to ask yourself an important question, and give yourself an honest answer...

If I had to, could I use lethal force to defend myself, my family, or even others around me?

If the answer is no, then you need to find another way to protect yourself - a bodyguard, perhaps someone WITH a concealed carry permit. I am told that Rosie O'Donnell can give you some names and phone numbers for armed bodyguards. But you had better be a well-paid celebrity - such protection does not come cheap.

If the answer to that question is yes, then you need to get some training on - and some experience with - the proper, safe handling of personal defensive firearms, also called handguns. You need to know how to maintain, load, unload, aim, and fire your chosen personal protection firearm. You need to learn when you CAN and when you can NOT use it.

You need to be able to hit what you aim at, and you need to develop excellent situational awareness. Both of these are critically important if you want to carry a concealed firearm.

When you need it, there may be others around - even people a block or more behind the party performing whatever act is was that necessitated the use of lethal force, cars moving behind the target, etc. You need to be able to hit your target, not those around or behind that target UNLESS THEY ARE WORKING WITH THE TARGET. In this case, you may need to be able to quickly hit multiple targets. You need to be able to determine what your bullets will hit if they miss the target - or go through the target.

Situational awareness is another key factor. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times when you carry a firearm. You need to know where other people are around you., and what they are doing.

Does one of these people seem to be acting squirrley or seem to be following me? Am I walking into a potential trouble situation? Should I be where I am now?

You need to be able to spot potential trouble and AVOID IT IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. Rather than walking into the situation, if you can take some other course to avoid getting involved in trouble - DO IT.

Sometimes trouble comes looking for you as in the scenarios at the beginning of this article. It is in those cases where a concealed firearm is highly useful. But you do not want to look for trouble.

If you are a person who goes looking for trouble, you don't want a Concealed Carry Permit. A permit does NOT make you a cop, and it will get you into more trouble than you can handle.

Also, if you are a person who is subject to cases of road rage - don't get a CCW permit. Get a bus pass. You have to become a VERY calm person when you carry a loaded firearm.

I have a metal sign in my office with an old seafarers saying on it...

"A SUPERIOR SAILOR is one who uses his SUPERIOR JUDGEMENT to avoid situations requiring the use of his SUPERIOR SKILLS"

I keep this in mind whenever I am carrying a firearm. The firearm I carry is the "superior skill" in this saying. I avoid places where the sort of activities often necessitating a lethal-force response may be found.

I do not frequent bars or places where alcohol is in abundance. I avoid rock concerts, and places that look like trouble - such as gatherings of Ohio football fans after a lost game, or certain gatherings of European soccer fans.

I use my situational awareness to determine if it looks like someone is following me with intent to perform harm. If I find this - and I have a couple of times in my life - I head for an area where that person would not be able to perform any acts that might require a lethal-force response.

In short, I do not go looking for situations to use my concealed firearm. I avoid them whenever possible so that I don't need to use it. If I have done what I can to avoid the situation and wind up in the middle of it anyway - then I know that I have it and I am prepared to employ it if necessary.

Another aspect of having a firearm at your disposal is the fact that you KNOW that you have it. Just knowing that you are prepared for such a situation means that you carry yourself with more confidence - something that a potential criminal will pick up on and look for a less confident target.

Once you know the proper way to use a firearm, are confident that you can hit what you shoot at without hitting innocent bystanders, and have brushed up on your situational awareness - possibly with a good self defense class and with some practice - you are ready to go take a Concealed Carry Weapons class. These are offered in most States and are often a requirement before you can apply for a CCW permit. Note that some States will NOT allow citizen's to carry concealed firearms, so you won't even find a class there! If you live in one of these States, sorry.

These classes will cover the situations under which you may legally employ your concealed firearm. They will also cover the situations in which you may NOT legally employ your concealed firearm - meaning that if you use it in these situations, you are using it ILLEGALLY and you will most likely end up in prison.

They should also cover concealment methods. A concealed weapon should be, well, CONCEALED. You do not want to advertise the fact that you are carrying a firearm. No one should be able to tell by looking at you that you have a firearm. This gives you the element of surprise if you need it [a major factor in the successful use of a concealed firearm], and keeps you from answering questions from other people about your firearm.

Good classes will also cover the proper way to interact with law enforcement officers if you have a legal concealed firearm on your person. Say you are pulled over, what do you do? Just tell the officer you have a gun?

Now, generally I like police. But I had a real interesting experience when I attended a State Of Oregon/FEMA training for HAM Radio Operators in 1999. An official from the Oregon State Police was presenting, and they said that "Police officers are like children, they don't tend to think for themselves sometimes. They hear a bit of something and they act on it without knowing the whole picture.".

That's kind of a scary statement coming from one of their own, but it also tells you something. If you go to say "Officer, I have a gun and a concealed carry permit.", the officer will hear "Officer, I have a gun" and most likely won't give you a chance to finish the sentence.

My first recommendation is that if you get a concealed carry permit, become the best driver possible. DON'T BREAK ANY TRAFFIC LAWS IN THE FIRST PLACE SO THAT YOU DON'T NEED TO INTERACT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS.

What if you do get pulled over? Everyone makes mistakes, I even got a ticket once. What I recommend, and what I do, is keep my drivers license and concealed carry permit in easy reach. I bought a special holder for just these two pieces of identification.

If an officer pulls me over, I will place both hands on the wheel with my DL and CCW permit in the fingers of my left hand. When he/she comes to the window, I will hand them to the officer, place my left hand back on the wheel, and inform him "As you can see officer, I hold a Concealed Firearm permit and I am/am not carrying a firearm in/on _____________. What can I do to make you comfortable?"

This will let him see where my hands are, and gives him the information he needs - in the order in which he can process it. It tells him that I have a permit - the fact that I may be carrying a concealed weapon is not illegal for me. It tells him if I am carrying a weapon and let's him know where it is, and that I am not offering any threat. It also gives them some time to think.

Most officers are cool with this and as long as you let them know where the weapon is, if you are carrying at the time of the stop, they won't hassle you.

A lot of people think that LEO's are against CCW by "civilians". Civilian refers to anyone who is not active military. Police are civilians too. Most of the LEO's I know are NOT opposed to concealed carry by non-LEO's. If you are going to go through the trouble of a background check and fingerprints and classes, they don't think you are threat. I even know of some that are thankful for the potential "backup" that CCW holders provide.

After you have the proper training, are comfortable with firearms and knowledgeable in firearms safety, and feel that your situational awareness is such that you can first AVOID trouble if possible - ask yourself the magic question....

"After all I have learned, am I ready to accept the responsibility for carrying a loaded, concealed firearm in public places to defend myself and those I care for?"

If you can honestly answer yes, you are ready to apply for a permit. The method and ability for doing so varies from state to state.

In Utah, it is necessary to obtain training from a certified instructor, then submit an application to the State Bureau Of Criminal Identification. The training must cover certain minimum requirements...

Such a class may be taken in as little as 4 hours.

When I moved to Utah I took such a class to fulfill that requirement and felt that a lot of good information was given and in which everything was covered - but I would still recommend that you get some experience with live-fire ammunition with your chosen weapon at a firing range, and that you practice your situational awareness before applying for your permit.

Remember, there is a RESPONSIBILITY which goes with carrying a concealed firearm. With all RESPONSIBILITY comes ACCOUNTABILITY.

The actual application itself must include one set of fingerprints on a blue fingerprint card, and one passport-type photo. A photocopy of your drivers license must also be included, and the payment of a $65.25 fee.

You can obtain the fingerpring cards and fingerprint services for $15 @ BCI, and photograph for an additional $15. I have listed the website address for these services from BCI at the end of this page.

A full criminal background check is run through the State and the FBI. Your fingerprints are run to see if they match any in the criminal database, and your application is processed.

If you pass, in about 4 to 8 weeks you receive your CCW permit in the mail. It is much like a drivers license, laminated with your photo and information. It is valid for 5 years. It can be renewed as long as you have no criminal convictions. Renewals cost $10.00.

Once you have the permit, I encourage you to practice and seek more training. Having the permit is a license to carry a loaded, ready-to-fire weapon on your person or in your car. Make sure that you are capable and sufficiently skilled to do so.

Remember that a CCW permit allows you to conceal the weapon. The object is to carry it, but not have it "print" or show through your clothing, thus no one else knows you are carrying a firearm.

I hope this helps you decide if you are ready to get a Concealed Carry Weapons permit. Knowing if you are ready is the biggest challenge.

-- James Bell Jr. - JeepGunner.com