Should You Carry?
Let me preface this article with a statement. I am a big concealed carry proponent. I think that everyone physically, mentally, and emotionally capable should be allowed to carry (within the limits of the law) if they choose to do so. There are bad people in this world that mean to do harm; and thankfully the ability to defend and repel that kind of evil is guaranteed to us by the Constitution, and should be exercised. That being said, there are some things people should think about before carrying a gun (either open of concealed).
I was in a local gun store the other day to buy a holster, and I saw a lady I know. While waiting in line I saw that she was picking out a .22 LR pocket pistol. She told me she had just gotten her concealed carry permit, and needed something small to keep in her purse. Being concerned that a small .22 pistol might be a little anemic, I asked her if she'd considered something a little larger; maybe a .380, small 9mm, or .38 snubbie [Ed. "Snub Nosed Revolver"]. Her reply surprised me. She said "I'm not going to use it anyway. I just want it to scare the bad guys away. I don't think I could ever shoot anyone." Not knowing what to say, and being at the register already I simply said "Well, good luck", paid for my holster, and went on my way. I've often thought about that encounter, and wished I'd said something more. Although nothing bad has happened, ever since then I've had this nagging feeling that she might be putting herself in greater danger by having the gun than not having it. Maybe certain people shouldn't carry a gun.
Simply having a gun is not going to inherently make you safer. Regardless of how fast you can draw, how accurate you are, or what caliber of gun you have, if you are unprepared to actually use it, or for some reason are unwilling to use it, a gun can become a liability instead of an asset. Truth be told, lots of concealed carry permit holders are not as safe as they feel. In most life threatening situations, a bad guy isn't going to stand quietly at 7 to 10 yards away and wait for you to unholster, rack the slide, take aim and shoot; nor is it certain that the act of pulling you weapon will scare him off. You need to be well practiced in handling and using your weapon. You also need to know your personal limits, and the limits of your weapon.
Remember, the purpose of defensive carry is not to scare off bad guys (although that can and does happen). It is a final option to avoid being killed, or to protect others in your care from the same fate. If you are truly concerned for your safety, and carrying a gun seems like an option, you must ask yourself "Am I prepared to kill another person in order to protect myself?" If the answer is "No" then you should not carry a gun. Sometimes the mere display of a weapon will deter a less than committed attacker; but if the attacker is truly determined, on drugs, enraged, or doesn't think you are serious, there is a good chance you will have to use deadly force, or face injury or death. If the answer is "I don't know" or "I think so", then you probably need to put some real thought into matter. If you hesitate, or have to stop and think about it when the time comes, it may be too late. If you have a weapon and don't use it, there's a very real chance that it will become a weapon used against you or your loved ones instead of for you.
If you are a person who wants or needs to protect yourself in public, the best option is definitely a handgun. If you feel that you are not emotionally at the point where you can pull the trigger in a self-defense situation though, you may want to consider other options. Pepper spray, batons, stun guns/tasers, martial arts training, tactical flashlights, knives, and other items can sometimes successfully be used for self defense. These options are not nearly as effective at stopping a threat at a distance as a gun though. They do, however, provide some level of protection if used properly. Probably the best weapon you can use is awareness of your surroundings and common sense. This holds true when you're carrying as well as when you're not carrying a weapon. If you're alert, and don't put yourself in a position to be a victim, you more than likely won't have to fight your way out of it. There are times, though, when events cause planning to go out the window, and you need to protect yourself in a hurry. At those times, the lethal force of a gun is the quickest and best option to stop the threat. If you don't feel you can do that, attack with any and all resources you are comfortable using. The bad guy isn't likely to share your respect for human life.
A gun is not like a magic wand; you don't simply wave it, and all the bad things in life go away. You have to know yourself, know the law and possible liabilities, know your weapon, and know your surroundings. Carrying a concealed loaded weapon can be a huge asset in maintaining your personal safety, but it is also a huge responsibility; not to be taken lightly.