Every now and then on internet gun forums, you’ll see a thread titled “Concealed Carry At Home.” These discussions tend to quickly break down into two camps: those who do indeed keep their gun on their person when at home, and those who feel it’s paranoid. There seems to be an unwritten law of the internet that says, “Anyone who carries more (or more often) than the guy commenting is paranoid, and anyone who carries less is a ‘sheeple.’”
Well, for what it’s worth, count this writer among those who carry at home. I put my gun on when I get dressed in the morning, and take it off and set it within reach when I undress at night. It’s a simple practice that leaves that piece of emergency safety-rescue equipment always available. Let’s look at three examples of why that practice makes sense.
Case One took place in Illinois. An elderly widow had grown very frail after a life of hard work, and had a great deal of difficulty moving around. She realized that if she ever needed the revolver she had promised her late husband she’d keep for protection, she probably couldn’t get to it in time if it was in a fixed location such as a nightstand. She got into the habit of tucking the Colt .38 into the front pocket of the apron she always wore around the house. The time came when a vicious young criminal broke into her apartment and made it clear that he intended to rape and probably murder her.
She never could have made it to a drawer or safe to retrieve the gun in time, but she was able to whip the Colt out of her apron and take him at gunpoint. She begged him to leave so she wouldn’t have to shoot him. Instead, he lunged at her, clawing for the gun.
She shot the attacker dead and survived the incident unscathed.
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Case Two takes us to New York City. When you step outside to perform a routine chore like bringing the trash to the curb for pickup, or retrieving the mail, you’re unlikely to put a gun on unless you have one on your person already. That was the case with a famous NYPD officer several years ago, a man who had won the National Police Revolver Championship. Off-duty, carrying the garbage out, he saw some punks attacking an elderly woman. He dropped the garbage can and ran to the scene to intervene. The thugs turned on him, and the next thing he knew he was being hit with an iron pipe. He fought back with courage he had exhibited on-duty before, and beat the hell out of them and subdued them. But he suffered hand injuries from bludgeon blows that crippled him to the point where he had to retire from both an exemplary police career and a stellar shooting career. Had he been carrying his off-duty gun, the outcome would likely have been much better for him when the muggers turned on him.
Another incident in New York City provides our Case Three. Another officer of the same department was involved in a strikingly similar incident that had a much different ending because of one small factor. This cop was also off-duty and also taking a garbage can to the sidewalk when he observed a violent crime in progress. The one small difference was that this officer wore a gun 24/7. Suddenly facing an armed opponent, he instantly had his own gun in his hand, a Smith & Wesson Model 36 with 2-inch barrel and semi-square butt. This allowed him to “take out the garbage” in more ways than one. Keeping the little five-shot .38 Special on his person—even when he was at home—had proven to be a literally lifesaving practice.
Properly loaded, a snub-nose .38 Special can be an effective manstopper, and if a tired cop or a very senior citizen can wear one around the house all day, as in two of the cases presented above, so can any of us. I know a professional woman who works out of a home office on her remote farm, far from police assistance. Her workplace uniform is jeans and a polo shirt, and she’s never without a little .380 ACP in the right front pocket of her pants. Cargo shorts and Docker’s-type casual trousers make it easy and discreet to carry a subcompact-sized handgun in a pocket holster. Today’s super-flat, super-small 9mm autos that take the full-power 9mm cartridge—think Glock 43, Kahr PM9, Kimber Solo, Ruger LC9 or Springfield XD-S—deliver a particularly attractive package of adequate power in a small, light envelope.
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But why concealed carry at home? After all, can’t a person just keep a loaded gun in a drawer, or on a shelf, or in a quick-access gun safe? Sure we can, but if we’re in Room A and the gun is in Room B when we need it, we may not be able to reach it in time if a particularly stealthy or clever intruder surprises us face-to-face, as happened in Case One. In Case Two, there was no time to run back into the house for a gun, and there wouldn’t have been in Case Three, either.
Why concealed? Even in places where you can’t get a permit to carry in public, isn’t it legal in every jurisdiction to carry openly within the four walls of your home? Yep, that’s correct, too—even in Washington D.C., where the long-standing prohibition against that practice was crushed in 2008 by the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Heller v. District of Columbia. However, there is such a thing as discretion, and there are good reasons for it.
Those people who think it’s paranoid to carry a gun at home (and some who think it’s paranoid to do so anywhere) aren’t confined to the internet. They exist in all our lives. The neighbor who comes to the door unexpectedly to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. The postman or deliveryman. Your mother-in-law who hates guns. Or one of your kids’ friends.
I remember the time I’d just gotten home from speaking for a cop in an officer-involved shooting case (he was cleared), and I was still wearing a suit and tie. I had just taken off my suit coat when there came a knocking on the door. I opened it to find a young teenager who was asking after my 13-year-old daughter. He froze and began stammering, his eyes fixed on my right hip, where I kept a Smith & Wesson .45 ACP and a badge clipped to my belt. Somehow, I don’t think it was the badge that drew his attention. He babbled an excuse and left. Now, a dad has a right to be smug about one less teenager lusting after his little princess, but the fact is, I don’t think as a parent I have a right to unnecessarily interfere with my children’s socializing. Think about this scenario: A kid goes running home and shouts, “Mommy! Mommy! I went to David’s house to play, and his daddy had a real gun on!” Suddenly, one of our kid’s best friends is forbidden by his frightened parents to come over and play. That isn’t fair to the kid.
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There’s also the possibility of false accusations. One man in New Hampshire wound up in a legal nightmare when a woman came onto his rural property asking for directions. He habitually open-carried a Sig Sauer P220 .45 ACP. The woman went to the police and claimed he had pulled it on her. He denied it. “He said, she said” cases get ugly and expensive, and this one was both. Assuming he’s telling the truth, if his gun had simply been concealed, that costly and painful course of events would probably never have taken place.
On his excellent radio show Gun Talk, my old friend, Tom Gresham, hosted a guest who went through a similar nightmare. If you live long enough, you meet the guy who feels his mission in life is to make all of his neighbors as miserable as possible. One such guy spotted Tom’s guest leaving the house one day with a pistol openly holstered on his hip. He started a verbal argument with him. Tom’s guest simply drove away and was horrified to be arrested after the whacko neighbor falsely reported that he’d pulled the gun on him. The presence of the gun on his belt when the cops confronted him, of course, made the false complaint seem plausible. As some say on the internet, “Concealed carry could have prevented this.”
Personally, I open-carry full-sized handguns on my own rural property all the time, but I still keep an open-front shirt or a photographer’s vest near each door that I can quickly slip on to receive any visitor who might not know me and be comfortable with me being visibly armed.
Each of us makes our own choices. Good luck with yours. For some of us, simply keeping the gun on all the time makes it both instantly available and secure from unauthorized hands. For us, concealed carry at home is what works best.