Judging to the reaction to my post entitled "Almost First Draw" (here), there seems to be a major disconnect between those who carry weapons and those that do not. Even the ones go weaponless AND support the right to bear arms, seem to not understand the basic tenants Conceal and Carry Wavier (CCW) holders operate under. It is my goal to bridge the gap between the two groups. Concealed carry is tightly intermixed with the subject of "justifiable use of deadly force" and mindset of self defense, which we will cover in due time. For the beginners, and any that might stumble along this post, I would like to give a little primer on the subject, both political and statistical, to explain where the state of CCW is. I would suggest, you take your time and read the links I provide. They will help your understanding of the CCW culture.
In the beginning
Way back in 1987 Florida was the first state in the Union to pass a modern shall issue CCW law. Since then 39 states (2 this year) have passed similar laws "shall issue" laws and many have reciprocity agreements with each other to respect the licenses of other states, much like drivers licenses. In 8 other states you might be able to get a CCW license if your sheriff is gun friendly or you are well connected enough. In 2 states, the right to carry a gun is denied. You cannot drive coast to coast yet, but a recent national conceal and carry bill that was introduced in the U.S. House might change that.
Since the introduction of conceal and carry laws our nation has experienced a continuous drop in crime, to the point of record low level today(1), this year being a notable exception. There are now more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens, than ever before in the history of America (Page 47). (2) Too determine if you have the ability to get a CCW, please visit www.packing.org for more state by state information.
In fact studies have shown that conceal and carry holders are more law abiding on average than the police who protect us, which should put to rest many people's of the fears (Page 9) . There have been no shootouts between conceal and carry holders over fender benders, that I know of (3). In fact, I can think of a couple stories where conceal and carry holders saved lives, in crowded settings. The right to carry has come a long way, though it is now considered a "privilege" instead of a right by many states. Eventually I hope that situation is remedied along with several other major gun rights issues.
Justifiable use of Deadly force and its requirements (4)
I have not done a survey of all the states, but in the right minded ones, the main principle that determines if the use of deadly force is justifiable or is murder, is if the victim feels that great bodily harm or death could result from an attack. For the most part this does not apply to criminals in the commission of a crime. You can also shoot to defend the life of another, but that is a little more complicated because there are more unknowns. The deadly force test is normally applied both in the grand jury and at trial, if the case makes it that far. This fact has pushed some people to go to great lengths to ensure that IF they do appear in front of a grand jury, their actions are just and that their weapons are politically correct. Appearances could matter to an jury that is uninformed about guns. I personally wonder if you can be sued for NOT intervening to save another's life? I am sure a suit could be brought, though I do not know if it could gain traction.
Another point to note, is that in some states if your home is being invaded while you are present you are presumed to be in danger of your life or limb and can use deadly force against the home invader. Again this only applies to states where common sense actually plays apart in making the laws. In several states this year, castle doctrine was strengthened inside of you home and car. Also, in several of those states the duty to retreat was removed while in public.
Personally, I believe you should also be able to shoot in the defense of property, though the law in most states does not agree with me on that. For example, in my one of my CCW classes it showed a video clip of a man robbing a car and the owner stepping outside of the house. In one version the crook ran away, in that case you could not legally apply deadly force. In another version, the crook turned around with a screwdriver and approached the homeowner, at that point in time the homeowner could legally use deadly force IF he feared for either his life or limb. The one exception that I know of is Texas, there you can shoot in the defense of property, and in some situations you could just be watching the property for someone else, for example house sitting. If you state has a CCW program, it most likely has a CCW class. In that class is where the nuisances of your states laws are explained along with examples of situations and what to do in those situations.
Other comments on the law
It should be pointed out that there are typically laws concerning the brandishing weapons, these typically have a wider variety between states. These laws have led to the general accepted philosophy that if you are going to draw your gun, you had better use it. In other words, before drawing a gun there should be a clear and present danger to your limb or life. Drawing a gun for deterrence is seldom recommended, though according to studies it actually happens more than two million times a year.
Also, in most of the right minded states your attacker (or preferably their family) cannot sue if your use of deadly force was found justifiable based on the attacker's actions. This is the case in Oklahoma. This provides a great peace of mind to the gun owner who uses their gun to defend their self or their family.
Another thing to keep in mind that, if you fire you gun you will most likely be responsible for any damages you bullet causes outside of the attacker. Just because the criminal cannot sue does not mean your neighbor next door cannot sue for bullet holes in their house. Even pistol rounds will penetrate walls. One thing to note, and I will expound on the implications of this later, is that as a civilian you are at a tactical disadvantage in many dynamic self defense situations because "Action always beats reaction".
Preparing to carry
As you can see from the proceeding passages, the choice to carry a gun has its own set of problems legally and morally. In spite of the legal risks and the moral implications many choose to carry everyday. Some have decided that the upside, survival, is worth the downside, possibility killing someone and then having to go through the required legal proceedings, which will be extremely expensive and time consuming, not to mention emotionally disturbing. Some feel that rights are lost if not exercised. Regardless of how you feel you must come to terms with the moral, ethical, and legal issues surrounding conceal and carry -- BEFORE you carry your gun. If you let the issues linger, doubts, second guessing, and indecision could haunt you when action is needed most. Most likely, you would have died with or without the gun, but the sad thing is that with proper information beforehand and forethought on your part a productive and useful life (yours) might have been saved. In other words, if you have a flawed understanding of the law, are unwilling to use the gun for your defense, or if you do not have the skill to properly use a gun for your defense (5), you might should rethink your decision to carry and just run at the first sight of trouble. The one thing conceal and carry does bring to the table is options, which are not present if you are gunless.
The state of mind while carrying
Once you have thought critically about carrying an weapon and have decided that it is the right decision for you, you have crossed an important milestone but your journey is not done. A gun is an important part of a personal protection strategy, but it is not a magic ward against the threats you could face. Should you be faced with a threat you will go though the OODA loop. In order for you to get to the response level (act) of the loop you have to elevate the threat past the threat threshold level. Fortunately, this is easy to achieve though situational awareness or more of a hyper-awareness. The tool of a color coded threat system helps out tremendously in explaining the topic of situational awareness. Once a threat is recognized, the level of the threat must be accessed, and then you can choose an appropriate course of action to save yourself or your loved ones. If you are aware, you can complete the OODA loop quicker than your attacker and hopefully survive to pass on your genes. Failing to orient quicker than your attacker seals your fate. Even if you do recognize the threat early your life is far from safe because you may lack the skill to properly deploy the means to protect yourself. I feel that training is the part many CCW holders skip.
Fight as you train, train as you fight.
I believe training is absolutely necessary to if you are going to carry a concealed weapon. Without training, you will not be able to complete the OODA loop quickly or effectively, which will hinder your chances of surviving a life and death encounter. I do not believe it should be mandated by the state (the quality would decline), but I do believe that the CCW community should place social pressure on its members to be as well trained as they can afford to be. It takes time to develop the muscle memory to draw and aim a gun accurately, especially from the varied locations a gun could be (your glove box, your purse, inside your waist band, etc.) Also, when you are placed under stress many of your fine motor skills will disappear due to the adrenaline surge. This is the one part that I have not completed. I currently am saving the money and the class I am eyeing will be two days and cost about 400 dollars not including the nearly 1000 rounds of ammo I will use.
When you are carrying a weapon, I believe you also carry a responsibility. You must prepare yourself mentally, buy knowing the laws of the land and by being aware of your surroundings. I also believe that your must be fully aware of the deep emotional and moral issues surrounding the use of deadly force in the protection of yourself or others. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, your must train so that your reactions will be sure and quick. This will increase the chance of your survival and decrease the chance that you could miss and injure someone else.
(1) This is not to say that conceal and carry has lowered crime, but it has not risen because of it either.
(2) This is not to say that guns have lowered crime, but it has not risen because of it either.
(3) Probably because when one person pulls a gun, the other person then asks if the have a CCW, if the other person does, both then hug and kiss like Italian brothers.
(4) I am not a lawyer, yada yada, please consult one for laws in you area.
(5) Keep in mind, the skill level for using a gun at typical self defense distances is extremely low.