Whenever news reports of a violent crime in my local area surface, I frequently hear the response from family and friends, “That’s why I have a gun.” Often the gun they so proudly advertise is at home, unloaded, and locked in a safe with the ammunition stored separately. With guns in this condition, it would be difficult to access them during an emergency in and around the home, and might as well be on the moon when they leave their house.
Owning a gun makes one a gun owner, and that’s a great thing. However, many gun owners see themselves as armed citizens when they don’t do the very thing that makes an armed citizen. They keep arms, but they don’t bear them. Armed citizens carry guns. How do we become mentally and physically comfortable arming ourselves as part of our daily routine, thus ensuring we are have the tools to defend others and ourselves within the law? The process requires adjustment to our conscious minds, our subconscious habits and our self-image.
Make the Choice To Carry Concealed
Regarding our conscious mindset, we must ask ourselves why we want to become armed citizens in the first place. What things in your life are you trying to protect, and against what? I would challenge you to think in detail about the possible consequences of being a gun owner rather than a habitually armed citizen. When I was growing up in Texas in the 1990s, there was a mass shooting heavily covered in the local news. I distinctly remember one of the victims, a nine or 10-year-old girl, who was shot and killed. Her father was an off-duty police officer who was with her, but had left his gun at home that night. My heart broke for that man, and I am certain he is and will continue to be haunted for the rest of his life. As a teenager, I put myself in his shoes and tried to imagine how he felt, and imagining that level of pain and regret became part of my motivation to become a habitually armed citizen.
A ubiquitous internet maxim is, “The first rule of winning a gun fight is to have a gun.” Legendary firearms trainer Tom Given’s relates how people often tell him they only carry a gun when they “think they will need it.” His response is, “If I think I’m going to need a gun where I’m going, I’m not going to go there. I carry a gun for when I don’t know I’m going to need it.” We would all be wise to heed Mr. Given’s wisdom. For finding my own motivation, I consider what it would be like for my wife to have to raise our four kids alone because I left the house without a gun and was unable to survive a violent encounter. I think about my kids experiencing life milestones and wishing their dad was there to see it. I think about the horror of seeing my wife, kids or other people I love crippled or killed in front of me because I was unable to respond to an attack because my gun was just too uncomfortable to bother carrying that day. The likelihood might be low, but the consequences are unacceptable. To be clear, I don’t dwell on or obsess about these scenarios routinely in my day-to-day life, but it was important to go through this mental and emotional process to find a deep and abiding motivation to be an armed citizen. I would suggest anyone who wants to become a responsibly armed citizen contemplate their own sources of motivation as well.
Build the Habits
Next we must change our habits, and practice these new habits until they become the “new normal.” Where do we start with our habit building and getting mentally and physically comfortable carrying everyday? One common tip for habit building is to “start small” and in this case it applies figuratively and literally. Most gun owners shoot larger handguns better, but when they try to carry those full-sized handguns, they have issues with either comfort or concealment. Remember the first rule of a gun fight is, have a gun. A smaller, more comfortable and concealable handgun that’s hard to shoot but is actually on your person well is far better than your favorite full-sized handgun sitting at home in your safe. So consider opting for a smaller gun you’ll actually carry over the bigger gun you’ll find excuses to leave at home for a quick trip to the store.
Start small by carrying your handgun more often, even if it isn’t all the time. Some is better than none. For starters, try designating specific places where you will always carry. For example, convenience store, gas station, and large retail parking lots are statistically areas of elevated criminal activity, so commit to the idea that every time you plan on getting gas or going grocery shopping you will carry. The more you do it, the more mentally and physically comfortable you will become, and you’re building the habit.
Another aspect is building physical comfort with carrying the gun. A big part of that is choosing an optimal holster for your body type and lifestyle. You can find more information about that here. Then, ensure that you are choosing a proper gun belt that works well with your holster and clothes that give you confidence in your concealment without being overly baggy or signaling that you probably have a gun. Studying the principles of concealment from quality sources and practicing these habits will help you carry with physical comfort, and give you confidence in your concealment as you go about your daily routine.
There is one important caveat to physical comfort when carrying a gun. You can get the perfect holster and belt and pair it with the perfect wardrobe, but you’re still strapping a hunk of metal to your body that isn’t normally there. Doing everything right, there will still be a small percentage of awareness that the gun is on you that some people might characterize as discomfort. No matter how perfect your holster, belt, and wardrobe combination, it will take time to get used to the feeling of wearing a gun to the point it becomes unnoticeably comfortable. Stick with it.
(Self) Image is Everything
The last change we must make is to our self-image. We must view ourselves as armed citizens, who responsibly and consistently exercise our right to bear arms for the benefit of our loved ones and ourselves. How we view ourselves affects our performance. If you imagine the possible negative outcomes of not being an armed citizen, and decide to see yourself as someone who can and will prevent those negative outcomes and safeguard yourself and your loved ones, then it becomes a lot easier to practice those armed citizen habits daily until they become routine. To be clear, merely seeing yourself as an armed citizen without making the conscious choice to actually be one and ingraining the required habits in the subconscious is insufficient. However, seeing yourself as the ultimate protector of the life of your loved ones and yourself is an essential part of practicing the armed citizen lifestyle.
Living An Armed (And Safe) Lifestyle
Being a gun owner is a great thing, and it is important to understand that exercising our precious liberty to be armed citizens also imposes serious responsibility. However, those choosing to assume that responsibility, and exercise their Second Amendment rights to the fullest, need to undergo a metamorphosis. If you decide to transform yourself into an armed citizen, first find your motivation and make the conscious choice to do so, then begin building good habits, and choose to view yourself as someone who takes sole responsibility for the protection of their loved ones and themselves.