By Sam Hoober
There are two versions of any axiom. There’s the one that gets told to newbies and casuals and then a version that fills in the nuance for those with experience and a bit of learning under their belt.
Here’s one for concealed carry.
“You should carry whenever you can. If you’re selective about when you put on your gun, you might not have it when you need it.”
There’s a boatload of truth to that. Not only that, but in Tom Givens’ statistics about Rangemaster students who have been in shooting incidents, there are no losses but there were several forfeits, meaning they left their gun behind. Unfortunately, at the cost of their lives.
And in general, yes, it’s absolutely true that if you’re going to bother with having a gun, getting some training, getting the permit and a holster and so on that you should carry it as much as possible.
Here’s the more nuanced version.
You should carry as often as possible, especially if your risk of needing one is unknown or is higher than in your own home. However, if you know for a fact that your risk is zero, or near as, makes no difference zero it’s completely fine to not carry a gun.
Yes, let’s go ahead and acknowledge it: you don’t actually need to carry a gun everywhere all the time. It may in fact be absolutely pointless.
Not only that, but you may not be able to: some areas are illegal to possess firearms in and then you have non-permissive environments (such as the office) where you really, really don’t want to get caught having a gun in.
On a statistical basis (i.e. the overall odds that you’ll be in a life or death struggle) the odds you’ll ever need a carry gun are low anyway, but the reality is you don’t really have anything to worry about at Starbucks in the suburbs.
But this comes with a boatload of caveats, and this is where the nuance comes into play.
There are known risks and unknown risks. You want to have a gun in case of the second kind.
Here’s what I mean.
I live in a small farming/college town outside a major metro area (Spokane, Wash.) where life is pretty boring and quiet. The number of robberies that have happened in the last decade there can be counted on one hand, and most crime there is when the college students get drunk and get in fights. That’s definitely not the best thing in the world, but is fairly generic in terms of things that happen.
Hey, stuff happens when you’re having a few – the drinking team I was on kept getting into rugby games with other people.
Not that there haven’t been some terrible crimes that happened there. There was an abduction and murder outside a local shop in 2017, and there was that serial killer who lived there for a few years. And there was the guy who poisoned his wife’s ice cream.
Point being, there’s almost no violent crime. What violent crime does happen tends to be at the bars or wherever the students are tippling, where I generally don’t go.
In other words, the odds that a robbery will happen at the local grocery stores, gas stations or banks are almost infinitesimal. I have almost nothing to worry about; there’s almost no point in stopping to put on my carry gun if I’m just running to Safeway or whatever.
But the Walmart in nearby Airway Heights? If I have to actually go into Spokane? That is a whole other story, because those are higher-crime areas, both relative to where I live and in fact relative to the national average.
So here’s the nuance involved in the idea of “you don’t actually need to carry a gun everywhere.”
Some areas are very low to no crime, and others are some to high-crime; in other words, some risks are known.
If you know for a fact that the risk of violent crime is basically nonexistent where you’re going to be, carrying a gun is fairly pointless and it’s no big deal if you don’t. However, if you don’t know where you’re going to be (out and about for the day) or if you’re passing through some higher-risk areas…then you’re dealing with known unknowns, and concealing the gun becomes an insurance policy against those known unknowns.
In other words, there are times when you really don’t need to carry but you need to know when/where they are.
And what’s the point here?
The point isn’t to convince you to carry or not to carry. The point is to think critically about what you do. The reality (at least for me) is I can tool around in town unarmed without worrying (and often do) but leaving town is a different story. Your life doesn’t have to revolve around the gun.
So what do you think? Do you put your gun and holster on regardless? Or do you know there are times when you really don’t have to? Sound off in the comments.
Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.