The Cornered Cat
Living with the gun

Both online and in classes, a lot of what I teach is simply how to live with the gun. Keeping yourself and your family safe isn’t just about shooting bad guys, after all. Of course, it is about knowing how to handle the gun efficiently and shoot it well. But it’s also about addressing your choice to own a gun in ways that won’t cause social or practical problems for you. It’s about storing the gun so that the three C’s (children, criminals, clueless people) can’t get to it, but you can. It’s about being as psychologically prepared as you can be — not only to face violence, but also to face the aftermath of a violent encounter and the reasonable choices you might make in some very unreasonable circumstances. Keeping yourself and your family safe requires all these things and more.

Toward that end, I probably talk more about mistakes people make when living with the gun than many other firearms trainers really do. It’s a tough and touchy subject. None of us want to discourage our students or potential students. All of us know people who are alive only because they had a gun with them when they needed it, and people who are alive only because they knew how to use it. That’s why many excellent trainers strongly encourage their people to keep the gun with them all the time, wherever they do — because we all know that guns save lives.

So it’s a tough and touchy subject, when we talk about mistakes people make carrying the gun. Still, every honest trainer knows it’s a subject we have to address.

Here’s one from the news this weekend: Toddler Wounds Both Parents with One Shot from Handgun. You can watch an interview with the father [here].

According to the news reports, this happened at a motel in New Mexico. A family staying at the motel was in their room when their three-year-old boy reached into his mom’s purse looking for an iPod. Instead of an iPod, he found his mom’s new handgun. The reports do not say which brand of handgun, just that it was new to her and that it was a 9mm. He pulled the gun out of her purse, pulled the trigger, and


The shot went through his dad’s buttocks and lodged in his pregnant mom’s shoulder. It also narrowly missed the boy’s 2-year-old sister as she was sitting right next to the mom when it happened.

Both injuries were relatively minor. The dad was treated and released, while the mom’s shoulder injury required her to stay in the hospital overnight. 1

It could have been so, so much worse. As it is, the kids are in custody with the child welfare authorities and the parents may face felony charges. Yikes.

As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than a horrible event is a horrible event nobody learns something from. So … let’s learn.

The obvious

Purse guns don’t mix with kids. Period, full stop. If you have small children or regularly spend time around small children, think twice and then think again before you ever put a gun in your purse.

Also? If you’re the kind of mom who sometimes lets your kids dig through your purse (for a stick of gum, a piece of candy, your cell phone, the keys that they like to jangle…) — Well, we can all see where that’s going so I won’t belabor the obvious.

If you do decide to carry a gun in your purse, follow these guidelines:

  • Never leave the purse unattended. Not across the room from you, not in the car while you run into the house for something you forgot, not sitting in the shopping cart while you turn to grab something off the shelf. That purse needs to stay attached to your body and under your conscious control at all times.
  • Always use a separate compartment to hold the gun and nothing else. Not so much as a kleenex should be in the same compartment as the gun. Nothing!
  • Always use a holster that covers the trigger and holds the gun securely. Yes, there should be a holster inside your carry purse. This device doesn’t have to look like a traditional holster, but it must cover the trigger in a way that prevents anything else from touching that trigger or moving it, and it must stay in place so well that the gun can’t worm its way out of the device no matter how much you move your purse around. Never just throw the gun into its empty compartment without that trigger-covering device.

You can find more information about purse carry [here], [here], [here], [here] and [here].

The not-so-obvious (travel tips)

Suitcase locks aren't only for suitcases! Try one on your makeup and pill case, gun rug or range bag.

Suitcase locks aren’t only for suitcases! Try one on your makeup and pill case, gun rug or range bag.

When you own and carry a gun, you have complete responsibility for where the gun is at all times. That’s a lot easier at home than it is on the road. At home, you have a dedicated safe or locking storage device (you do, don’t you?) and you have a gun handling routine that you probably follow at the beginning and end of the day. But travel has a way of erasing all our usual routines.

Travel with kids can be tough. Really tough. When you’re sharing a hotel room with an inquisitive toddler, everything is up for grabs. And just like everywhere else including at home, you’ll need to find for yourself that perfect balance between how fast you can get the gun compared to how secure it is from your child.

So here are a few ideas.

Suitcase lock. I love suitcase locks. They’re annoying sometimes, sure. But they’re also handy for keeping kids out of your makeup case, your vitamin and other pill bottles, and yes, your purse. Plunk all that stuff into the suitcase, lock the suitcase. Problem solved. Incidentally, suitcase locks aren’t only for suitcases. They work well on other types of zippers, too. That would include the aforementioned makeup case as well as your range bag or gun rug.

Hotel safe. Many hotel rooms feature small safes for your valuables. Never trust them to actually store your valuables when you’re not in the room. 2 But they work well for keeping your handgun out of reach, out of sight, and out of access of the kids sharing the room with you.

Lock box. This one’s my fave for airline travel, but it’s also become my go-to overnight solution any time I’m on the road. You can find lock boxes similar to mine on Amazon for less than $40. Most of them come with security cables, but you can also purchase a security cable separately. I’m a big fan of GunVault’s products, especially the NanoVault series.

The pictures below show one way to secure the cable inside your suitcase. The same trick works if you want to attach your lockbox securely to the bed leg or any other heavy, permanent fixture inside a hotel room.

Unzip the lining to expose the suitcase rib.

Unzip the lining to expose the suitcase rib.

Wrap cable around the suitcase rib and pass the small end through the larger one.

Wrap cable around the suitcase rib and pass the small end through the larger one.

Zip up the lining.

Zip up the lining.

Place the end of the cable inside the lockbox, with the loop right up against the hole where it's designed to ride.

Place the end of the cable inside the lockbox, with the loop right up against the hole where it’s designed to ride.

Close and lock the lockbox.

Close and lock the lockbox.



  1. As always, like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers. More information may come out as the investigation goes forward. My blog post is based on the news articles linked above which reflects information available to me on 2/2/2015, not on anything that may come to light in the future.
  2. … because of course someone on the hotel staff can easily get into that safe, and sometimes “someone” means “everyone.”

One Response to Living with the gun

  1. awalker1829 says:

    Very good tips and pointers. Whenever I travel, I take a lockbox and cable with me. I have a inside waistband holster for each of my semiautomatic pistols and they are designed to tuck in under a shirt. The pistol stays on me all day and goes in the lockbox if necessary in the hotel room (necessary being if left unattended or I’m sharing a room with someone).

    As for suitcase locks, if one is not traveling by air, it might be better to avoid the TSA Approved suitcase locks. Those are designed so that TSA can open them without destroying the lock if necessary to open a piece of luggage to facilitate security screening. The TSA keys are like handcuff keys-anyone who’s really determined will find a way to get one.

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