Conceal Carry: Statistics or Emotional?

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On February 22, 2013 the Second Amendment Foundation and the citizens of Illinois won a significant victory for concealed carry when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a December ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that forces Illinois to adopt a concealed carry law, thus affirming that the right to bear arms exists outside the home. The Illinois State police were given six months to set up a conceal carry program. Their agency estimates about 300,000 applications will apply for permits within the first year.

In November of 2011 Wisconsin passed a conceal carry law; agency officials claimed over 30,000 permits were applied for in 14 days. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ohio is on pace to nearly double last year’s total of 65,000 new permits. A dozen states also surveyed by the Wall Street Journal, including Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, issued 537,000 permits last year, an 18-percent increase compared with the year prior, and more than double the number issued in 2007. Early figures for 2013 show many states are on pace for their biggest year ever.

“I suppose it’s the same reason people are reporting gun sales are up and ammunition sales are up,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, referring to concern among gun owners about the recent push for gun control. “It’s nothing unique in Ohio…It seems to be a consistent trend across the board.”

As of April 2012, in the state of Washington where I am from, there have been 359,342 active carry permits issued. According to legallyarmed.com, since December 2012 over 10,000 permits were issued alone, over 2,000 per month! The kicker is a report just came out in the Wall Street Journal in November 2013 showing that even in the city of New Town, within five months of the shootings, the number of permits issued jumped 110-percent from the previous year and the number of permits issued in the entire state of Connecticut jumped 78-percent.

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I think almost all of us permit holders would like to see the push for a national or federal permit to take hold, but let’s not hold our breath. For now, it is a challenge just knowing which states reciprocate your permit. This makes traveling across our country difficult when you want to stay protected. You hear horror stories of just people just passing through states such as New York with a locked up gun and still getting thrown in jail. Those states could use a swift kick in the gun-control-butt. Even so, the momentum of permit applications seems to be happening nationally.

Could the momentum be the idea that gun owners are afraid of their right to carry or ownership being revoked? Is it because of the recently over-publicized mass shootings, home invasion stories and increased crime rate that people feel the need to defend themselves? Of all of these new and existing permit holders, how many actually do conceal carry? How and what are people carrying? Do people realize the responsibilities they are taking on by carrying? I don’t think any of these questions can be answered with true statistics. We can get thousands of opinions and testimonials, but I think the subject is more emotional.

Even before the Aurora Theater or Sandy Hook tragedies, guns and the sport around them were becoming very popular. After those tragedies millions were driven by a media- and gun control-fed panic to purchase guns and ammunition. Self-defense classes sold out and permit applications went through the roof. These were different and unfortunate reasons for an industry boom, before those tragedies the trend I am referring to was a positive one.

Men and women both were seeking ways to defend themselves and purchase guns in general. This was evident at the 2011 and 2012 Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Shows. SHOT Show is the largest firearm-related trade show and convention in the world, and is held each year in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were so many new manufacturers of firearms and firearm related products these years it was overwhelming. There was also a huge focus on self-defense products, accessories and training.

Knowing how much the popularity of concealed carry permits has increased, the question then becomes the who, what, where and why of the people applying for them.

Who conceal carries?

Even though we have had a stampede of new concealed carry permit holders, it does not mean that all of them are actually walking the streets with a pistol tucked away on their body. Or does it?

Many permit holders are just those: permit holders. But then again, ask almost any legal gun owner with a permit and they will say that they carry. Here is where the difficulty of relying on statistics comes in; we can get numbers of applications for each city, county and state, but we have not been able to get the statistics on whether they are men or women or what their intentions are. It would be interesting if there could be an anonymous survey with each application.

We really do not know if each new and existing permit holder actually carries. Before I had taken any gun safety classes I applied for my permit in Seattle, Wash. because I thought that right might be taken away. I too joined the hysteria of the 2008 elections. I knew I wanted to carry but had not had the proper training or confidence yet. Only after a couple of years of training, an NRA Range Officer certification and working at an indoor gun range did I feel prepared to carry concealed. I now carry most of the time. But are there others like me?

I took a poll on my Facebook Page asking if those with permits actually carried. Out of the 50 responses only one said they applied for their permit just in case and did not actually carry, a couple of people mentioned the main purpose of their permit was to be able to buy firearms on the spot, and one person did not carry often because he did not want the legal hassles if he had to use his gun. What is that stupid phrase I hate? “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six?” All responses otherwise said that if they can legally carry in a place then they do, all of the time. Period.

Women I have asked that have a concealed carry permit often say they do not always carry. The main reason being that they are with a guy who might be and don’t feel the need. My personal reaction to that is what if “your guy” gets taken out in a gun fight. Where does that leave you? I’m all for chivalry but I am about protecting me. Don’t take it personally, men. For the police officers I know, all of them carry while off-duty. One in particular said he carried all of the time at first because it was new and he could. Once the novelty wore off he got lazy and hardly carried at all. He wanted be “off duty.” He said, “As time went by it seemed like there were more and more public shootings. Fast food restaurants, the store, theaters, all the places I might find myself on any given day.   I started thinking about how I would feel if I found myself in a position in which I could have prevented an incident but wasn’t armed.”

I Feel Different

So you have your concealed carry permit! Can we assume you have taken classes on handgun safety and firearms handling? If you have taken a class, most likely it was very basic training and did not cover drawing from a concealed holster in a stressful situation. Do you understand the great responsibility and liability you “carry” with you? Have you gone through the effort and expense to set up a trust? A trust can protect you and pay legal fees if you do ever have to shoot someone in self-defense. I would say most people who are new to concealed carry have not thought of these things.

We hear a story in the news about a victim who shoots a suspect in self-defense. We may see an edited version of how the victim is right in his or her actions and it all goes away, right? Not so fast. They say that for every bullet that leaves your gun you can assume a minimum cost of $50,000 in legal fees and months if not years of visits to the courts. You won the Stand Your Ground but the suspect’s family may come after you in a civil suit. If your name is George Zimmerman then the ACLU and every special interest group will come after you as well. Your life is now over. You have no idea if your case, out of the hundreds that happen in this country every day, will be the one the press drags out front and center. Regardless how you feel George handled that night, it happened. It can happen to you. Even if you were the hero that single handedly stopped the movie theatre shooter, you will still be visiting the court room and spending much of your hard earned dollars for years to come.

I am not sure about you, but my whole perspective changes when I am carrying. Perhaps the appropriate term is “awareness.” Besides the fact that I can feel the gun on my body, I am also hyper aware it is there. This makes me do things differently; I notice my surroundings more. If in a restaurant or a movie theatre I am aware of the entrance and other doors. I am aware of people walking toward me or up from behind me on the street. All of this stuff sounds paranoid but it just happens. Actually, I should be even more aware if I am not carrying a gun. I should have no reason to walk down a dark alley alone, gun or no gun. But with the thoughts of what could happen if I ever had to pull my gun and shoot it forces me to be aware.

What and Where?

Kydex, leather, kydex-leather combo, nylon, pocket, under-tech wear and even lace, oh my! Front, side, back, under arm, inside the waistband or outside the waistband? These choices can go on for days. I have not even brought up what brand of gun to use, and I am not going to. I will only bring up the option of size because we all know that size does matter, but so does how you use it. I am talking about standard, compact or sub-compact sized pistols!

Once your pistol of choice is made the long phase of trial and error of holsters and location of carry comes next. I have that bucket o’ holsters that I have not touched in ages; in the excitement of getting my first gun to carry I went out and bought a holster, then another, and another. I finally stopped listening to everyone’s input and started testing things on my own. It was several tries before I found exactly what I liked in a holster and its placement on me. As a woman, my choices of conceal carry vary drastically from men’s, but not all men carry the same either.

Being practical is important when one carries concealed, but many want to be somewhat fashionable at the same time. Yes, even some men care what they look like. I put together another poll asking people what and where they conceal. Not surprisingly, the answers were across the board with types of holsters used, and body placement was equal at front, side or back. Inside the waistband holsters are probably the most popular, and usually they are placed at the front for appendix carry or at the back for hip carry. Most of these holsters are made of Kydex or a Kydex-leather combination. Of the hundreds of holsters and manufacturers I have a few of my favorites for both men and women.

One holster company out there that pretty much covers all bases is a favorite local northwest company, Blade-Tech. I took a tour of their manufacturing facility last year and the thing that stayed in my mind the most was the wall of gun molds they have. The wall is 50-feet long and six-feet tall and contains hundreds of molds or what looks like every pistol or revolver ever made. And if they don’t have a mold of your gun they will find the gun or borrow yours, make the mold and make you a holster to fit.

As large a company as they are, they still have a one on one service reputation. Alongside the massive machines that melt and mold plastic and spit out hundreds of Kydex holsters, there is also a single toaster oven to make just one custom holster. They made my one Tanfoglio Witness holster for competition that way. That is how Blade-Tech started out, with toaster ovens. Now, thanks to their wide variety of holster models, they can provide products for concealed carry permit holders, competition shooters, law enforcement and military alike.

The selection of holsters for women has grown so much in the last several years. Some smart women have finally designed holsters to fit our body shapes. We have curves that men don’t and the normal holster would dig in or pinch or stick out too far. The belt holsters now have the appropriate shape and angles that don’t call attention. Women can now even conceal with tech under clothing, bra holsters and lace thigh, torso and ankle holsters. I think I own them all. The thigh holster comes in handy when out on the town in a fitted dress. I won’t carry in a purse so now I can carry on my person confidently. It may seems strange but I can’t say enough how much these new products have changed my conceal carry life. Once women feel confident enough to carry there are no shortages of holsters for women made by women.

For more information on the Second Amendment Foundation go to www.saf.org.

By Anette Wachter. Originally published in the January 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.