By November 6, 2008

Short notes on being the ideal citizen … who happens to be armed.

I am fortunate to live in a state where I am able to legally carry a concealed firearm. I have possessed a permit for just a touch over twelve years, and I have carried daily the vast majority of that time.

I have written about living with a concealed handgun here before. Part of the phrase is concealed handgun, and daily life presents challenges in our endeavor to keep our weapons out of sight. These challenges may be minor or significant, but they can be overcome with preparation and experience. I would like to talk about a few things I’ve learned or tried to embody these last dozen years, and hope you may consider living by them, regardless if you carry a weapon for defense.

  1. Above all things, remember you have been entrusted by society to be a responsible person. The Commonwealth of Virginia has taken faith in my ability to not only be proficient with a firearm, and to be knowledgeable of her laws, but also in my ability to govern my own behavior. A concealed carry permit is not a license to kill, but it is a license to carry a tool that may be used to exert lethal force.
  2. Think to yourself: is this worth someone potentially dying over? You are now in the big leagues. Gone are the days that you could honk your horn and flip someone the bird if they cut you off. That dude in front of you with fifteen items in the “10 Items or Less” line? Let it slide. You may never know what will set someone off, and when you carry a weapon, things may get ugly very quickly. As Samuel Colt wrote, “an armed society is a polite society.”
  3. Please don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink and carry, either.
  4. Be kind, because one day you may be called upon to be violent. Be polite. Be gentle. Hold the door open for people. Say “please” and “thank you.” Be friendly. My nod or smile has disarmed a suspicious face more than pointing my gun at them through my coat ever has. If I should ever have to use my firearm in self-defense, I want to know that I have lived my life as responsibly as possible. Carry your dignity and politeness as close to you as you do your sidearm.
  5. Use your awareness to help others. You may have heard about (or experienced) living in “condition orange,” the state of readiness just slightly lax of a fighting situation. You will learn to see things most do not. You will sense things that people ignore. As you remain vigilant for bad guys in ski masks, please use your new-found awareness to keep pedestrians safe from cars that don’t stop. Shepherd people who round corners too sharply so they will not bump into someone. When your friend drives, point out the car that is about to pull in front of them.
  6. Be an ambassador. In my experience, most people hate guns because they don’t know anything about them. People fear that which they do not understand. Please take the time to educate those who are curious about firearms, firearm safety, and the laws which govern them. I have taken many people to the shooting range who swore they would never touch a gun — and they have always had a positive experience.

Please remember that often, the public’s only experience with firearms is on the news. Unfortunately guns are on the news because something bad has happened. A shooting at a mall, or a robbery, or a murder-suicide. Live and act as if you were the sole person by which future gun opinions were formulated.

Train. Practice. Be vigilant. May you never have to use your firearm in self-defense. Be safe.

Posted in: guns

10 Comments on "Short notes on being the ideal citizen … who happens to be armed."

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  1. Gremlin says:

    Nice post. I just got my concealed permit. I’m slowly but surely learning to live with my firearm. I can’t carry at work, but I try to always carry the rest of the time. Here is hoping I never have to use it.

  2. erin clare says:

    This is such a good post, you should consider linking to it from other sites out there. You are fantastic at educating newcomers to firearm etiquette.

    While I don’t own a gun, it’s still under consideration (you know which one is my favorite), I am intrigued about the proper etiquette to carrying these…

  3. Chuck J says:

    I also have a permit and live in Virginia. Good rules to live by and very well said.

    Carrying a weapon doesn’t give you a ticket to be a bad-ass. Unfortunately, most of us have taken a bad wrap by the criminals you believe this to be the opposite.

    Guns kill people like spoons make people fat. Carrying a gun is a very serious commitment, and you’ve done an outstanding job illustrating some important rules to live by.

    The subject of Single Action/Double Action in criminal court (justifiable homicide) has taken a ugly turn. If it can be proven that, even if you had the intent to protect yourself, the gun may have accidentally discharge (versus squeezing a round off), that is call manslaughter in our courts. As ridiculous as this sounds, it is important to keep this in the back of your mind.

    This is a great site.

  4. David Gonzalez says:

    What I suggest is for everyone, but especially for Chuck J., as he lives in Virginia. I know a person (a Virginian) who is now in prison for “malicious wounding”. He was accosted, defended himself with his legally-carried CW, and went looking for a phone to report the incident. The perp got to a phone first, so his story was deemed more credible than the one my acquaintance told. Moral: if you’re going to carry a gun, also carry a working cell phone so that the first report the authorities hear is yours, rather than your assailant’s. (Of course, if your assailant doesn’t survive, the point is moot—but you don’t want to leave the scene because flight is interpreted as guilt.) The incident I’m describing occurred in a remote area and my acquaintance felt that he had to flee from the wounded assailant for his own safety. Bad choice, as it turned out.

  5. edmund says:

    Excellent post. Life is too important not to take precautions in defending it.

  6. felix says:

    There is a big responsibility in the carrying of any weapon. The mental awareness of always having it in your immediate possession and the places you can and cannot go with the weapon on you. For example…never leaving your weapon in a coat pocket unattended. Or going into a post office.

    Good article, I am a CCW permit holder since 1990.

  7. Chuck J says:

    Also – regardless of the situation, in most States, if you engage (pull your weapon in self defense), and the perpetrator turns to disengage, going after him is to re-engage or shooting him could result in a manslaughter charge. This is a hard choice to make, but if you confront a knife wielding robber in your house, and he turns and runs out the door, or doesn’t even make it outside in some cases, shooting him is not considered self defense.

    On a separate note:
    I had an embarrassing thing happen to me in California a few years ago which really emphasizes the need for a quality holster. I was in the movie theater with a Glock 20 in an Uncle Bens Shoulder Holster. I didn’t fit the holster correctly and when I stood up out of my chair, the thumbstrap grabbed my belt, undoing the strap, and my Glock fell out of the holster onto the floor. Since the movie was just finishing up, the lights were on and there was people everywhere. Of course they scrammed and shouted gun embarrassing me even further. I know make sure whatever weapon and holster I use, to fit it correctly and follow the manufacturers recommendation for fit.

  8. Monty says:

    Great post! I would like to post this to the Texas CHL forum if it is ok with you ( Also, thanks for the great blog, I have both enjoyed it and learned from it.

    Best regards,


  9. KCM says:

    Just found this informative site! I notice it’s been nearly ten months since the last post. That’s too bad as this could be a great forum for passing on concealed carry lessons learned, tips, etc. I’m hoping that all who get this will pass it on to their friends and acquaintences who carry so we can keep up the dialogue. We can’t all learn the same lessons the hard way and survive!

    My tip: Join an active defensive shooting club or participate in a defensive pistol match. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. Most everyone there either is going or just has gone through the same ritual and is anxious to see you succeed as well. You will learn tons on your current capabilities and what you need to improve. You will carry more confidently knowing your capabilities and limitations. Your increased confidence will carry through to your demeanor and result in less likelihood of being accosted in the first place. And you may find yourself a new and useful fun pastime.

  10. Jamesconn says:

    I am 16 and not old enough to carry although I intend to get my permit on my 21st birthday. This is a great post and should be followed reguardless of if you carry or not and alot of people who carry are unfairly judged.

    If I ever had to use my carry weapon in the future im only going to draw it if its needed my point is if you dont want to kill somebody dont draw the gun that just gets things messy.