With almost all the states recognizing carrying a firearm openly or concealed with a "shall issue" permit, and twelve states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) recognizing the Constitutional right to be armed without government sanction, more and more folks are going armed as a matter of course. Note that some Constitutional Carry states only recognize it for residents.
However, with rights come responsibilities. Herewith are my thoughts on the subject of going armed.
First, you have the responsibility to know and understand your state laws regarding the carrying of firearms. In addition, you must know and understand those statutes regarding self-defense and lethal force that apply to your state. These laws vary from state to state and can range from highly restrictive to very liberal. You must know these laws so that you are aware of the circumstances under which you can legally use lethal force. Your attorney is the best source of information on your state's laws.
Second, you must make a conscious decision that you are prepared to use lethal force when it is necessary and proper to do so. A firearm should never be used only as a threat. Firearms are weapons, and a weapon is a tool to project lethal force. When you "present" the weapon (draw it, grab it, etc.) you must be physically and mentally ready to use it instantly and without hesitation. If you do not believe you could ever shoot someone, then don't carry a firearm.
Third, you also must understand the concept that you do not "shoot to kill" or "shoot to wound." If you are justified in shooting an attacker, you shoot to STOP the attacker (that is, to make the attacker cease the harmful actions against you or others). Whether the attacker dies of the wounds received is a legal or moral matter for others to decide. It is of no consequence to you during your response to the attack. The important thing is that the attack be stopped! If you do not accept these things you shouldn't carry a firearm.
However, the best thing to do, whether armed or not, is to try your best to avoid situations or places where you might need to defend yourself. As the saying goes:
Don't go to stupid places
Don't hang out with stupid people
Don't do stupid things
Fourth, you have a responsibility to acquire the skill and knowledge to handle and use your firearm safely and effectively. Unlike what is portrayed on TV and in the movies (shudder!), the effective use of any firearm, and especially a handgun, requires substantial training and continual practice. As an example, an individual who decides to carry a handgun on their person, in order to attain a level of proficiency that will be adequate to ensure their survival in an unexpected lethal encounter requires the initial expenditure of about 500 rounds of ammunition and about thirty hours of training. To maintain that same level requires the expenditure of a minimum of about fifty rounds a month.
Without adequate training and practice you can put yourself in greater danger with a firearm than without it. The fact that you own a firearm does not make you automatically safe from harm. While proper training can be expensive, you should seek it out. It is well worth the cost if you are serious about firearms and the safety of yourself and those around you.
Fifth, whenever you are armed you MUST maintain a heightened state of awareness of your surroundings at all times. (Something you should be doing anyway in these troubled times.) See the "Color Code."
Open carry, or going visibly armed in public, while usually legal is not in my opinion the right thing nor the best thing to do.
First, even though it may be legal it makes you a person of interest to many police (some of whom do not like the idea of armed citizens). At least you may get hassled. At worst you my find yourself looking down a muzzle as they arrest you for whatever reason they think appropriate, and when they do they will most likely be terrified of you and yell and scream conflicting instructions.
Second, it scares many sheep. Even tough it may be legal you may get stared at, and have mothers hide their children from that awful gun. Even here in Arizona I see people react with alarm at a visibly armed person, generally giving them an "ohmygodthatmanhasaGUN" look.
Third, for some reason the vast majority of people I see openly carrying are obviously doing nothing but making a political statement and not caring what effect it has on others. They are not truly serious about being armed. Cheap holsters, no spare magazines or reloads, and frequently firearms of rather dubious character. In addition, an awful lot of them are dressed like slobs and/or are frequently sporting t-shirts with provocative or even disgusting slogans. They look like what the liberals think all gun owners are -- ignorant, racist, redneck slobs, who are looking for a fight. That does nothing for our cause. On a range, in the field, on your own property, or in a class no problem. Otherwise, no one needs to know you own firearms or are armed.
Fourth, many people feel that displaying a firearm may make you the first target of a goblin. It appears that folks are about 50/50 split on this with the remainder believing that a goblin will avoid an armed person. Given the macho nature of facing down an armed person many lowlifes and gang banger have, I tend to go with the first thought.
I really don't like the term "concealed carry" as it has the subtle implication that you are hiding something bad. A much more appropriate term in my opinion is "discreet carry" which has a much less aura of hiding something bad, and the connotation of being responsible. Discrete carry has several real advantages in my opinion.
First, it doesn't draw attention to you from anyone. You're not packing, you're just an average Joe going about your business and you become a "gray man" rather than a person of interest.
Second, it gives you an element of surprise should things "go south" unexpectedly.
Third, it allows you to be in public venues where the bearing of arms may be discouraged. Do you have a metal detector? No? Then I don't have a gun.
The choice is yours in the end. Just ensure that you make a responsible choice.
Getting Ready For The World
If you intend to go armed the following "4 Steps" should be observed before you ever leave your house.
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As far as I know all the information presented above is correct and I have attempted to insure that it is. However, I am not responsible for any errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of this information, nor for you doing something stupid with it. (Don't you hate these disclaimers? So do I, but there are people out there who refuse to be responsible for their own actions and who will sue anybody to make a buck.)