Off-body carry is the carry of a concealed weapon, generally a handgun, not in a holster on the waist or other body part, but usually carried in a bag or purse. Most commonly, this is done when the carrier does not want or cannot have the gun on their body. Women in clothing, such as a tight dress, who can’t conceal, might want to tuck their handgun into their purse.
One could easily imagine purse carry coming natural to women who carry that thing, filled with all sorts of necessities and odds and ends everywhere. A purse is like a natural EDC (Every Day Carry) kit for women. Examples from TV and movies show us women in the scary big city, portrayals of 1970s New York City come to mind, dropping a revolver in her purse before going out. It was the idea of purse carry, that is a woman being able to stow a gun in her purse, that changed my mind on Constitutional Carry. What is the difference between a woman carrying a gun on her hip or storing in on her purse? Why does one require a license while the other does not?
But I digress.
Several methods of off-body carry exist. Purse carry, of course, being the most notable. Men can carry in their ‘go bags’ or man pursues, and everyone can put something in a gym back or laptop bag. Several companies even offer specially designed bags and purses for secure off-body carry, including some, disguised as a tennis bag or a guitar case, to store AR-15 style rifles.
At issue here is the reasoning and desirability behind off-body carry, coupled with the inherent safety issues it presents. Off-body carry is a more risky mode of carry than any other, for the following reasons:
Lack of access.
Let’s say that Joe carries everywhere he can legally do so, even to work. However, Joe’s workplace prohibits guns because his employer is ignorant about firearms and foolishly places his own potential liability at a higher premium than human life. So Joe decides to take put his pistol and a few spare magazines in his laptop case. His laptop case sits next to him on the floor of his cubicle, where he sits for most of the day. One day, a disgruntled customer comes to the office and begins shooting. Unfortunately, this is at lunch time and Joe is down in the cafeteria when the incident begins. Joe does not have his pistol with him. Does he risk meeting the gunman to retrieve his pistol? Does Joe flee, hoping that he doesn't encounter the gunman and is able to safely get away before the police arrive? Or does Joe try and fight back with ineffective improvised weapons such as fire extinguishers and stapler tucked in a sock?
Unfortunately, in our litigious and paranoid society, ruled by corporations instead of people, hiding your gun (as if you were doing something wrong by wanting to protect yourself!) in a bag is (for some) the only way to get a gun into work. We can’t all hide our super-small single stack pistols in inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters under our clothes without printing.
A story of an Idaho mother accidentally killed with her own gun by her toddler shows just how careful one must be while utilizing off-body carry. The mother was shopping at Walmart when her two-year old son in the cart, playing with her purse, found the gun and managed to fire it. Her husband had purchased a purse specifically designed for concealed carry. The gun was held in a separate, zipped compartment. The mother was trained and licensed to carry a handgun.
The mother left the purse (and gun) unattended for a moment, within the reach of her son. Being naturally curious, the boy unzipped the purse, found the gun, and managed to fire the gun, striking his mother in the head. It was nothing more than a horrific, tragic accident brought on by the result of a moment's distraction and childhood curiosity.
The Firearm Blog does a pretty good job at dissecting the particulars of the incident. Ultimately, a gun cannot be left within reach of a child, ever.
There are many, many liabilities with off-body carry. Colin Noir of the NRA provides some excellent insight and tips for off-body carry. Ultimately, you have to carry in a responsible manner that fits the situation you’re in. Take every reasonable safety precaution you can when carrying-off body. I will leave you with my absolute must-dos for off-body carry:
Keep your weapon (i.e. your bag) under your control at all times. Never let it out of your sight and preferably, within arms’ reach.
Do not allow children or anyone you don’t explicitly trust with your weapons to access your bag.
Always use a holster that covers the trigger to prevent fingers or object slipping inside the trigger guard.