An excellent question came to my email box a few days ago. It was based on the following blog post by Dr. LateBloomer: [LINK]. You’ll want to read the whole thing, but here’s the upshot:
I confess that I have had the permit for five years, yet can count on one hand the occasions where I have actually carried a concealed pistol.
She went on to explain several reasons she hasn’t carried in the past, and why she wants to change that. In her email to me, she also said that she really wants to pry herself out of her rut of indecision, and asked if I could say anything that might help — or if I could suggest some type of class or firearms training that might help. With her permission, I’m sharing here a few of the things I told her, in hopes that this will also help others who find themselves in a similar place.
Here’s what I wrote back to her:
Wow! What a terrific question. Wish I’d seen your blog post earlier (I’ve put you into my bookmarks so I can find your blog again), because you bring up a bunch of spectacular & inter-related questions. Thanks so much for pointing me to your blog post, which was very well written and clear.
Since you reached out to me personally, I will try not to feel too self-serving when I point out that my own Cornered Cat defensive handgun classes are probably the best next step for you. Honestly, the questions you brought up in your blog post are almost entirely the questions we deal with in class — everything from “How, exactly, can I keep a gun on my body during the day in a way that will let me still do all the millions of errands and chores I need to do?” to “What do I do in the ladies’ room?” and “Will carrying a gun make me paranoid?” to “How do I draw from a concealed carry position, especially if I go with an alternate carry method that’s not a strong side belt holster?” Lots of other stuff too, including the question about how to make the transition from a cold range/square range mentality where the gun is a piece of sporting equipment, into the mindset of living with a loaded weapon that might someday be used as such.
If you are a reader, you might also find some of what you need inside the Cornered Cat book, especially the first few chapters that deal with a lot of the social, emotional, ethical, and legal questions people have about carrying guns and being prepared to use deadly force. Of course you can find some of the same material on my website, but I feel it’s much better organized inside the book, and a little less overwhelming in some ways. Since your immediate problem is a mindset concern, you might be best off starting with the written word while you’re waiting for your class time to roll around.
As a fellow control freak, I can tell you that a lot of self defense skills really boil down to becoming comfortable with controlled chaos. For example, you won’t be the one who gets to choose whether, when, or where you might face a violent crime. The criminal gets to make those decisions — and all of those most-critical decisions are completely outside your control. The event itself may feel chaotic, and will probably be both sudden and unexpected — more chaos and non-control. But you do have some control within that situation. You can control whether you have had training appropriate to dealing with crime (and not just the mechanics of running the gun). You can control what tools you will have with you, if any. And you can control what your ingrained, pre-decided responses might be. So chaos and non-control will happen, but the more things you can prep ahead of time, the more control you will be able to hold onto inside the chaotic event. (Hope that makes sense. Does it?)
On a similar level, people sometimes express concern about controlling the legal system after a self-defense event. Same thing. You can’t control whether your local legal system will decide to prosecute you after a self-defense event. (That’s a terrifying truth; sorry!) There are some variables you can use to reduce your odds, but ultimately, many of those things will be outside your immediate control. But what you can control is how well you’re prepared to make good decisions under stress, how well you’re prepared to use your gun in a skillful way that reduces the risks to others, and how well you have prepared yourself to deal with the aftermath. You can control whether you understand the deadly-force laws in your jurisdiction, whether you know what to do and say right after a shooting, whether you have quick access to legal help because you’ve done your research ahead of time.
Please forgive me if I’m reading too much into what you said, but if I understand you right, you need to get away from over-analyzing now and take the next step. For me, one thing that helped me over that hump was realizing exactly what I don’t control and what I do control. What I don’t control and can’t control is whether I’ll need a gun to defend my life or the life of an innocent other. What I do control, at least to some extent, is whether I’ll have that gun when I need it and whether I’ll know how to use it when the time comes. So (again, fellow control freak here!) instead of obsessing about all the things outside your control, take a closer and stronger look at the things you do control, and do something about those.
In a separate email, I added the following:
One more thought. When you said you didn’t just want the decision to carry to be about fear, it kind of gave me a shiver down my spine — because it’s so true. Try this, see if it works for you:
Here’s the bottom line, for me: I absolutely love it!!! when people start asking these kinds of questions. Ultimately, each of us must find answers that work for our ownselves and our own lives. It’s okay if you look at all your choices and decide this lifestyle path isn’t for you. What hurts is staying perched on the edges, never quite deciding and never quite not deciding. That’s such an uncomfortable place to be! That’s why I love to see questions like this, because it means people are finding ways to get out of that uncomfortable spot.
Excellent job. 🙂 Is this dipping a toe into “I can’t?”
I’ve been teaching for thirty years. In addition I’ve spent many years working with survivors of rape and other violence. I’ve heard LOTS of self-defense stories from both sides. Almost all of them start, “It was a routine day in a routine location during a routine situation. Then…”
I have come to the conclusion there are no “bad places where you need to carry.” Trouble keeps no schedule, respects no boundaries, does not RSVP. So I carry the same way I wear seatbelts in my car. Always. (Except for the very few situations where either it’s prohibited and I have to go, or I’m going to be incapacitated, for instance for a medical procedure.)
But I had to learn how. At first my gun hung up on every chair I got out of, or went KLUNK when I sat down. Practice took care of that. And more training. So my suggestion is:
1. Put your gun on. (Yeah. Right now. I’ll wait. You’re at home? Where better to start?)
2. Review the safety rules: Point the gun in a safe direction, Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, Know your target and what’s beyond. (Or http://www.corneredcat.com/article/firearms-safety/the-other-three-rules/)
3. Read Kathy’s “Would you carry a gun…” at http://www.corneredcat.com/article/social-considerations/would-you-carry-a-gun/
4. If you have time read the other articles in “Out and About”
5. Go and do whatever else you need to do.
6. When you go to bed, take your gun off and secure it.
7. When you get dressed put it back on. As part of putting it back on review the safety rules.
8. Sooner or later you’ll goof. You may drop your gun, flash, snag on something, whatever. Go read Kathy’s “Dying of Embarrassment” and keep carrying. Fix or train yourself out of what went wrong. Kathy has a lot of suggestions. So will ladies you meet at the range. (Add grain of salt.)
9. Repeat from #5.
To start a journey, take the first step.