Friday, October 28, 2016

Concealed Carry

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Lawful concealed carry and religion intersected in the news recently as Mississippi considered a law to “allow” churches to form church security committees for the protection of the congregation and, with training, for security committee members to carry concealed guns. Previous Mississippi law prohibited concealed carry in a church. The reaction was swift and shrill, with predictions of blood in the aisles. The experience of other states speaks otherwise. Congratulations to Mississippi for expanding liberty.

Laws banning guns from houses of worship violate the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution. The First Amendment prohibits Congress (and through incorporation via the 14th Amendment, state legislatures) from making any law regarding the establishment or free exercise of religion. The “Establishment Clause,” as it has come to be known, has been liberally interpreted to forbid any sort of favoritism for one religious doctrine over another. Prohibiting the bearing of arms in houses of worship supports a doctrine of pacifism over doctrines of preparedness and righteous defense of innocent life.

Constitutional issues aside, carrying a gun at church raises important questions, both doctrinal and practical. At the highest level, it’s worth pointing out that very few religions preach total pacifism or passivity in the face of a threat. No matter what denomination or creed, doctrinal questions should be worked out between individuals, church leadership and God. Having the doctrine settled at the outset will help establish boundaries and can help dictate actions in the event of an incident. Having those questions settled beforehand will make for a more effective response.

The practical matters of guns in churches are significant. Many people have a strong visceral reaction to the idea of someone carrying a gun in a house of worship. Carrying a gun also brings with it a responsibility to maintain a heightened level of awareness and preparedness. That level of awareness can easily conflict with the desire to be totally immersed in spiritual communion. This is a personal matter, but it needs consideration. In contrast, a person who is routinely armed may find that being disarmed can also interfere with one’s worship. Someone who is more comfortable being armed may be uncomfortable and somewhat distracted if forced to go without it, especially in a place with little security and large crowds.

There is also the issue of interfering with the worship of others. Right or wrong, justified or not, many people are simply uncomfortable around guns. If they become aware that someone in the worship service is armed, it could distract them from their worship. Not being sensitive to these folks’ feelings would be inconsiderate and could be a violation of scriptural guidance. The apostle Paul exhorts Christians to avoid things which might cause a brother to stumble, but of course, that can be a difficult proposition when dealing with people with irrational fears.

In this age of the “War on Terror” and a rash of deranged and suicidal individuals taking out their rage on “soft targets” like churches, schools and shopping malls, the idea of going armed has been steadily gaining ground. It once seemed strange for a church, mosque, or synagogue to even have a security plan, much less armed security guards. It is now unusual for houses of worship not to have a plan, and armed, though usually discreet, security is common.

Anyone attending a worship service in states with a strong “gun culture” can pretty safely assume that there are people in the service who are armed. Some are armed at the behest, or at least with the knowledge and agreement of their elders, pastors, or rabbis. Others keep their arms totally discreet, not divulging their presence to anyone. In states like Arizona, which has a long tradition of open carry of firearms, it is not unheard of for someone to show up for church with a gun visible on his hip. Since Arizona lifted requirements for a license or permit to carry a firearms concealed, the typical response to someone carrying openly would be to ask if he would mind pulling his shirt over the gun so as not to disturb any of the other worshipers, but it would be very unlikely for the person to be turned away.

To some people, especially people in highly restrictive states in the Northeast, this might sound shocking, but to gun-folks in the South, West and Midwest, it’s just everyday life. We are generally comfortable with firearms and the people who carry them. More importantly, we understand that laws, signs, or polite requests not to bring a gun somewhere, whether it be a house of worship or a convenience store, will deter only people who represent no threat. Without secured entrances, metal detectors and bag-checks, anyone choosing to ignore the law or the sign on the door will simply do so. If they have evil intentions, they know that the law or the sign simply reduces the likelihood that they might meet any armed resistance to their plans.

Most religions recognize the sanctity of life and condone the use of deadly force in defense of the innocent. Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have been targeted throughout history by cowards seeking easy targets. Such attacks have occurred here in the United States from the days before the Revolution right up to the present, and some of those attacks have been stopped by armed worshipers. Whether it is a Jew with the words “Never Again!” engraved on the slide of a German Luger, a Sikh remembering the attack in Wisconsin, a Muslim worried about being blamed for terrorist acts committed in the name of his religion, or a Christian volunteering to guard the flock from whatever may come, we should all consider ourselves blessed to live in a country where the right to arms is recognized and protected, and where there are people willing and able to stand against evil, even in our sacred places.

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Concealed Carry

The weather is warming and it’s time to switch to summer methods of concealed carry.

For some, it’s not a big deal. You may carry the same way all year long. For others, the shorts and T-shirts are coming out, and concealment will become more of a challenge.

Here are some methods of warm weather concealed carry. These could be helpful if you dress to stay cool but still want to stay armed.

1. Wear lose clothing. It’s been years since my children informed me that “you don’t tuck your shirt in, Dad.” Far be it from me to question the wisdom of teenagers and current style. By wearing loose fitting, baggy clothes, concealed carry becomes both simple and stylish. Oversized T-shirts, Polo, and Oxford style shirts drape effortlessly over your firearm of choice.

2. Switch to inside the waistband (IWB). Inside the waistband is my preferred method of carry, so for me there is no change. However, many friends of mine carry outside the waistband (OWB). Simply switching from OWB to IWB is often all it takes, without even downsizing the gun.

3. Carry a smaller firearm. I can hear some people cringing as I write this. But it’s better to discreetly carry a smaller firearm than not to carry at all. If you can’t wear your standard concealed carry firearm because of summer dress, don’t resort to wearing a jacket in 90 degree heat. Just downsize.

With today’s .380 and 9mm calibers, light polymer or alloy frames, small pistols and revolvers made specifically for carry, more choices are available than ever before. In addition, today’s self defense ammo is of much higher quality than ever before.

Remember, practice, practice, practice, with an unloaded firearm first. No matter how good you are with your primary firearm, your warm weather secondary firearm requires a totally different presentation and aim.

4. Try pocket carry. A gun in the pocket can be every bit as lethal for self defense as your primary firearm. I constantly remind my students that there is “no such thing as a little .38.” As long as you pick a suitable firearm, with a functional pocket holster, you’re all set for whatever life throws at you.

Once again, practice, practice, practice. Pocket carry presents a greater challenge when it’s time to draw than holster carry.

One more thing. Reserve that pocket for your firearm only. There is nothing more embarrassing, or fatal, then drawing your cell phone in self defense.

5. Use a fanny pack. Yes, a fanny pack screams concealed carry geek. But sometimes, it’s your only option. Try it once and you might find it’s what you’ve been looking for. In tourist settings, you will blend right in. And in any setting, the only people likely to know you’re carrying are fellow concealed carry advocates.

6. Open carry. With the introduction of legal concealed carry in nearly every state, open carry is not my choice in most situations. However, some of my friends regularly chose to open carry. And for those times when concealed carry is not an option, open carry is a simple solution. Just be sure to use a holster with the appropriate level of retention for wherever you’ll be. Urban and suburban areas generally call for a higher level of retention than rural areas.

Of course, check the local laws first, because in some states open carry is forbidden. And even when open carry is legal, you should consider the reaction some people may have to seeing a gun and the possibility that you could have negative reactions from police.

7. Go for deep concealment. Your choices for deep concealment seem almost endless these days, including belly bands, appendix carry pouches, and bra holsters. Some of these methods require you to get past clothing used as cover, which makes drawing more difficult. But assuming you practice and feel comfortable that you can draw effectively in a high-stress situation, these are all additional options to consider.

Whether you change your method of carry for one day or the entire season, remember the importance of becoming familiar with your method of carry. Practice with an unloaded firearm and work out all the kinks in your draw stroke. It has to become second nature.

In a life-or-death situation, you won’t have time to think. You’ll have about 1.5 seconds and will have to depend on muscle memory to deploy your weapon properly.

A smaller firearm, for example, has a smaller grip and a shorter distance between the front and rear sight, making it more difficult to score accurate hits. Dry fire practice is essential. Remember, all it takes is a little time and effort to build muscle memory with your secondary firearm or alternate method of carry. You’re not starting from scratch. You’re simply building on your existing skills to create a new skill set with different equipment.



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