The Cornered Cat

An email exchange with a friend reminded me of something that happened a couple of years back, when I went to the doctor to get some better allergy drugs.

I think most of my readers may have figured out that I carry all the time. I don’t really think about it anymore, I just do it. Routine. So of course I carried my gun into the doctor’s office.

There are two practical problems with that, one minor and one … well, okay, the first problem is, they weigh you before you get ushered into the exam room, right? I tried to explain to the nurse that my shoes weigh five pounds apiece, but she wasn’t buying it. (I’ve never weighed my Glock, but I know I weigh more with it than without it!)

As soon as the nurse walked out of the exam room, I quickly removed my holstered gun and wrapped it neatly into the light jacket I’d worn to the office for that purpose, setting them both under my chair along with my car keys. No problem, I’ve done it many times. Very discreet, and that way if they poke and prod they can’t poke the gun.

In came the doctor, a nice guy whom I’ve known casually for several years. I explained that my allergies were acting up pretty bad again, and he asked if I knew what substances generally triggered my asthma attacks. I said, “Spring, of course — plus tobacco smoke, dust and molds, and, um, please don’t put this in your notes, but gun smoke seems to be making it worse too.” He nodded and finished the exam, then leaned back in his chair and said, “So tell me about your shooting — what kind of guns do you shoot?”

Well. In for a dime, in for a dollar, right? I said, “Handguns, mostly.”

He said, “Cowboy action? Self defense stuff? Just plinking?”

Ah, okay. This is gun nut language!  No worries, he must be one of us. So I told him that I do a lot of self-defense work, and he asked about learning to shoot handguns because he was wanting to get a concealed carry permit of his own.

This doctor has known my family for quite awhile, and his kids are much the same ages as mine, so he asked me what I do about gun safety with a gun intended for quick self defense. I said, I just keep it on my hip all the time and that way they simply can’t get to it.

He said, with some alarm, “ALL the time? Here??!?”

This was a visual, friends — I think we’ve all seen the male eye-wobble thing, you know, a guy’s eyes running up and down your body when he thinks you’re not looking, checking out the curves? That doctor did the most obvious eye wobble I have ever seen in my entire life, looking for that gun.

That was a personal experience of a time when I deliberately revealed my carry status and it turned out well. But it’s quite possible to carry on-body into the doctor’s office without a soul being the wiser. Here’s some advice about how to do that.

Bring a light jacket with you to the doctor’s office. You don’t have to wear the jacket if it’s warm. You can just drape it over your arm. If it’s downright hot, wear a loose button-down shirt over a tank top or tee shirt. The jacket or blouse will be useful once you enter the exam room.

Why Not Unload?

  • Unloading a semi-automatic makes an easily identified noise. If anyone hears it, they’re likely to come barging into the room in alarm.
  • There probably isn’t any safe direction in which to point the gun as you unload it.
  • Loading or unloading a firearm carries with it the chance of an unintentional discharge. As long as the gun remains with its trigger covered in a secure holster, and within your conscious control, it’s safe.

Most doctor’s visits start when you’re called into the office from the waiting room. The nurse weighs you in the hallway, then takes your blood pressure and maybe your temperature after ushering you into the exam room. You can safely wear your gun during this part of the visit, because it’s not her job to physically examine you no matter what your complaint is. Minor caveat: if your cover garment is heavy and long-sleeved, the nurse will probably ask you to remove it so she can get your blood pressure accurately. Be prepared for this by having a light or short-sleeved cover garment, or wear an extra cover layer underneath your heavy jacket.

There really isn’t a reliably discreet way to remove the gun before the nurse has weighed you and taken your blood pressure, so if you carry on your body, you’ll probably have to resign yourself to weighing a couple pounds more on the charts than you do in real life. I’ve never figured out a way around that, and if you know one, I’d appreciate it if you’d drop me an email and tell me how.

Then the nurse leaves the room, sometimes giving instructions to undress and sometimes not. In either case, the first thing to do is to remove the holstered gun. Don’t take it out of the holster, and don’t unload it because if you’ve got a semi-auto, that will make a very distinctive and identifiable noise. Just remove the entire holster and gun from your belt.

Now you have two choices:

  1. You can place the entire holstered gun into an empty compartment of your purse or bag. This option may be most secure, however, be especially aware of the temptation to leave it in the bag (inaccessible to you and prone to “I forgot it was in there!” type errors) after you have left the building.
  2. You can wrap the gun in the jacket or cover blouse, and put it carefully under the chair and out of the way.
Important: Drop your car keys on top of your pile of belongings so you don’t risk actually leaving the office without it. If you’ve got a purse, set it next to the pile too.

The doctor will come in and do his thing. No worries there, just don’t give the game away by continually glancing under the chair. Your stuff is safe where it is as long as you are in the room.

Caution 1

Metal of any type does not mix with an MRI scan. If you know you will be going in for such a scan, plan to leave your gun safely locked in your car or leave it at home. The medical lab will probably have a locker designed for your purse and other personal belongings, but such places are generally not secure enough to entrust firearms to them.

Depending on the reason for the visit, you may have to negotiate some tricky bits now. If the doctor says, “Come on down to the other room” for a shot or some other kind of test, you’re going to have to pick up that pile of belongings while making sure the gun remains completely hidden within it. Carry it in your arms as you move to the other room.

If doc says, “You can leave your things here,” you’ll have to pretend not to hear him (my usual ploy), or else launch into a tale about the last time you lost your car keys and how you’ve absolutely promised your husband, boyfriend, or insurance agent that you’ll never ever ever let the keys out of your sight ever again. The other room will probably have a safe place to plunk your belongings where you can keep an eye on them.

For X-rays, it won’t do any harm to have your pile of stuff in the same room with you.

Some doctor’s offices have lockers where you’re supposed to shove your stuff. Don’t be afraid to play-act at being a fussy, persnickety person, or an airhead who is just afraid of losing stuff, in order to keep the pile with you. This takes a certain amount of chutzpah! Remind yourself as often as necessary that you are a competent, adult woman who is not afraid to look a little foolish in order to do what you need to do.

At the end of the visit, the office staff will usually give you a few minutes alone to put yourself back together. If they do not, simply carry your pile of belongings directly into the closest bathroom and put yourself back together there.

A final word of advice: You must be aware of your own state laws. Carrying a gun into a doctor’s office isn’t legal in all states, and I would never advise anyone to break the law. You, and you alone, are responsible for your own choices about when and where to carry, and only you are responsible if you ignorantly or deliberately break the law. 2


  1. Thanks to alert reader “plblark” for reminding me of this! 
  2. Where I live, it is perfectly legal to carry into doctor’s offices and hospitals. Most medical people don’t like it, so getting caught would be an awkward situation. But that’s all it would be, a social faux pas. See the article titled, “Oops … and Other Sticky Situations” for suggestions how to handle such accidental revelations.