The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes exchanging gifts. The more fortunate among us might receive a new defensive handgun, holster or some other item that we can use for concealed carry of a defensive handgun. More and more Americans are deciding to lawfully carry a handgun for the purpose of defense of their loved ones and themselves, which is a great trend. For those who carry a defensive handgun around their family, it’s worth considering what adjustments might need to be made to optimize concealed carry among those whom we love most. When we carry around our family members, we’ve got to consider safety, discretion, and contingencies.
The Fifth Safety Rule
The firearms training company I work for has added a fifth rule to the traditional four rules of firearms safety. The fifth rule is, “Always prevent unauthorized access to your firearms.” This rule applies to everyone, because when unauthorized persons gain access to firearms, tragedy can result. There is a myriad of methods to achieve this, and different methods work best for different lifestyles. As a father of four children, I’ve adapted strategies over the years based on the number of kids, their ages, etc. Generally speaking, every firearm in our home is either physically under our control (typically meaning on my person in a holster) or locked into one of our quick-access safes.
This also applies to carry outside the home. My wife and I keep our firearms on our person in quality holsters and avoid off-body carry such as bags or purses or storing our handgun in a glove box or console because it is virtually impossible for our kids to gain access when our guns are on our person. Off-body carry, if one chooses to practice it, requires a very high level of diligence to ensure we prevent unauthorized access to our firearms. Whatever methods you choose, when you carry around family members ensure you are taking great care to prevent anyone from accessing your gun that isn’t explicitly authorized to do so. This both prevents tragedy and ensures your defensive firearms are available to your when you need them.
Discretion is something that often isn’t addressed until something occurs to cause us to consider it. How discreet should we be, and how should we educate family members who are “in the know” about how discreet they should be? A question we ought to ask ourselves when we begin carrying concealed around our family is, “Who among the family needs to know, and how should they be educated about discretion?”
First off, why is discretion important? Discretion is prudent for several possible reasons. It is true that you are legally exercising your rights, but exercising those rights does create the possibility of adverse effects ranging from mild inconvenience to possibly serious legal trouble. For example, not everyone shares our views on the positive benefits of exercising our Second Amendment rights, and if your coworkers, your wife’s friends or your kids’ friends’ parents find out you carry you may encounter some social stigma. It may seem like a small matter to you, but if your kids’ friends aren’t allowed to come over to your house because their parents have either safety concerns about guns or oppose concealed carry generally, your kids will likely not find it so minor. Therefore, it’s best if we keep the circle of people who know we carry small, and restricted to people we fully trust.
It seems a given that your spouse will know you’re carrying concealed, and if you feel compelled to keep your carrying a secret from your spouse, then you have matters to work out beyond the scope of this article. Beyond your spouse, should you allow your kids to know that you carry? There are certainly a broad range of answers to this. Some will keep it simple and say, “Don’t let the kids know.” However, in my experience young kids are going to climb on you and find your gun, and I’d prefer them to be completely accustomed to and incurious about the hard object on my waistline so they don’t bump into it and say, “What’s that?” and then try to lift up my shirt to see while we’re in public.
My youngest son, who at five-years-old has never known a time in his life when I didn’t carry, is used to seeing or feeling my holstered carry gun and is well educated on how to behave around it. Even still, he recently ran up to me in public and tried to jump on me, and he bounced his face off the stocks of my holstered snub-nosed revolver. He wasn’t hurt, but grabbed his face and laughed and said loudly, “I hit my face on your gun!” I quieted him and we had a talk about why he shouldn’t mention my gun in public. As kids get older the conversations will change, and I would not offer any of my dear readers a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Examine your family and ask yourself who needs to know and how to educate them on proper discretion about that knowledge.
This is perhaps the broadest and most varied subset of considerations when we carry guns around our family. There are many variables to include the size of our family, their ages, etc. However, most training available in the firearms training industry, and most practice time seems to be spent on solving gun problems alone. If we have families, and carry in part to protect them, then we need to think through how solving defensive shooting problems with our families physically present may change our approach. If we identify a lethal threat, how to we notify our spouse and older kids that there is an emergency shooting problem emerging in a way that gets them to take proper action rather than stand there and say, “Huh?” or worse act in ways that make solving the problem harder? With smaller kids, what do we plan on doing with them if they are in our arms or holding our hands?
For our spouse and older kids, we need to think through what we want them to do if they see us drawing our gun in public, and discuss that with them and perhaps even practice. We might even want to develop brief, concise commands that let them know to initiate whatever the desired actions are. With smaller kids, we need to consider the contingencies and develop plans. For example, most people instinctively shove their kids behind them, but if I am the target of incoming fire from an attacker, do I really want my five-year-old behind me, or as far from me as possible? Ultimately, each person has to examine their family life and habits and develop their own solutions (though quality training classes on this specific topic can help), but the first step is considering the realistic contingencies you could face with your family present and addressing them.
In words we often discuss keeping our loved ones safe as well as ourselves, but in reality, we seem to practice as if we were loners. When we are armed members of our family units, we need to consider how we carry and the adjustments we might need to make for the purposes of safety, discretion, and contingency preparation so that we can maximize our family’s safety and security. Best wishes this holiday season, and I hope you all receive the gift of guns, gear, or ammunition that can help you with the sober responsibility of being an armed guardian for your loved ones in the coming year.