Carrying a gun comes with grave responsibility and grave consequences. Proper use of a firearm results in serious injury or death. Unless you are prepared to take a life, do not carry a gun.
What carrying a gun is not about:
- It’s not about fun.
- It’s not about politics.
- It’s not about appearance.
It is all about safety and self-defense. Every right has responsibilities.
The Legal Aspects
Even in the most 2nd Amendment and self-defense friendly jurisdictions, there will be a thorough investigation of the shooting. The police and district attorney will have to determine if the shooting was justified; that you were in fear for your life and lethal force was justified in those circumstances. You will be interviewed by the police, sometimes interrogated. Your experience will be dictated by the attitudes in the law enforcement/judicial community in your area as well as your own attitude and character.
After a shooting, you may be detained or arrested, subjected to a lengthy interview at the police station (remember your rights to silence and counsel), grand jury hearings, a possible criminal charges, a trial, or even a lawsuit from the attacker or their family.
Knowledge of the law is vital. Carrying a weapon in certain places is a crime and you must know when you are legally justified in taking a life. This is why training that includes marksmanship, weapon handling, firearm/justifiable homicide laws, and safety is vital.
You must accept that misuse of a firearm could result in a trial, right or wrong, and large legal costs. Attorneys don’t come cheap, so you may want to look into buying self-defense legal insurance. Your name may be sullied and your life scrutinized in the press (George Zimmerman, for example). You could face a long, expensive and stressful process defending yourself or clearing your name.
If you cannot accept that you might have to fight harder after the shooting than during the attack, carrying probably isn’t for you.
Why do you carry?
Carrying a gun, particularly open carry, is not for political or attention getting purposes. The fact that unlicensed carry exists is not permission for anyone to strap on a gun for any reason. The right to bear arms exists for self-defense and not self-aggrandizement.
Carrying a gun is not cool. It doesn’t make you look tough. It certainly doesn’t abrogate your responsibility to stay aware of your surroundings and scrupulously avoid danger.
Open carry does have some instances where it is politically advantageous (i.e. carrying a long-gun at a 2nd Amendment rally). In Texas, open carriers shouldered and slung their rifles, to make the point that open carry of handguns (banned for over 150 years) be decriminalized. This is known as hyperbole, where taking things to the extreme to illustrate a point is used. Unfortunately, with some choosing inopportune times and places to carry (recall the Chipotle ninjas) combined with controversial and idiotic members of the Open Carry Texas movement, this unleashed a furious backlash against open carry. This put the future of open carry in Texas, in doubt, and ultimately relegating it to licensed open carry only (beginning Jan. 1, 2016).
Nevada Carry does not support open carry of long-guns because they can and do intimidate the non-shooting public and are generally unsuitable for everyday self-defense. Short of widespread rioting, carrying an AR-15 to the grocery store is wholly unnecessary.
When you carry a gun, good gun etiquette and firearm safety has to be observed at all times. As mentioned above, it’s not a game or to look cool. If you want to show off, buy some new sneakers, a watch, or a car.
Far too many people have been killed when someone shows off a new gun. Gunplay causes death. Guns are not toys and are not intended to be shown off and manipulated like a neat little gadget. Guns are intended to kill and wound humans and animals. If you are the type to goof around with a gun or show it off, especially when drinking, you have no business carrying a gun or probably even owning one.
Restraint and discretion
“Discretion is the better part of valor,” we’re told. Sometimes, running away is the best option, even though in Nevada, you have no duty to retreat (stand your ground, or, at home, the Castle Doctrine). Your first instinct should be to avoid dangerous situations and if you find yourself in one, your second instinct should be to get safety away. If you can’t safely get away, you have to know when to fight and how to do it effectively.
Author Robert Heinlein once wrote that: “An armed society is a polite society.” Not really, but the idea is that if everyone is armed, people are less likely to be insulting, rude, or pick fights because the consequences are greater. If you carry a gun, you can’t start fights, mouth off, or be rude. It’s like saying: “If you’re rude to me, I’ll shoot you.” Illegal and stupid.
The Truth About Guns has this great article debunking the statement.
If anything, the saying is backwards. Being 'polite'—having a shared set of values that includes placing a high value on peaceful civic discourse—is a necessary pre-condition for the arming of a society. Arms in a 'polite' society remain the tools of good citizens to defend themselves against bad ones. But arming a society without those shared values is a recipe for chaos, for violence for, well, Somalia, Beirut, Pakistan et al.
'An armed society is a polite society' sounds cute. It sounds witty and cool. It impresses all the gun enthusiasts on the bulletin boards. It makes for a great t-shirt to wear at the gun show. But it’s just not true and if it was, it would be a bigger argument against arming ordinary citizens than anything the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could possibly devise."
If you carry a gun, you can’t start fights, mouth off, or be rude. Why? Because if your poor behavior starts a physical confrontation that leads to you shooting someone, you will likely be considered the aggressor and faced with a murder charge.
Fighting isn’t such a good idea when armed. So in one respect, the responsibility of a gun might make someone who would ordinarily return a harsh word or accept a challenge to fight walk away instead. The NRS also requires that in cases of justifiable homicide, the slayer must not be the original aggressor, and even if they did 'start the fight', the slayer had really, and in good faith, endeavored to decline any further struggle before the mortal blow was given (NRS 200.120 and NRS 200.200). So basically, you can’t start a fight and then claim to kill someone in self-defense. So much for enforcing politeness at the point of a gun.
Can’t I just show them my gun and ‘scare’ them away? Let’s hope it goes that way. Most defensive gun uses don’t involve shootings, but rather the attacker flees when faced with armed opposition. But that won’t always work. A gun might not scare some criminals and they might be armed themselves. Think of all the criminals who attack or shoot at police officers; are they deterred by the officer’ gun?
Showing someone a gun to ‘scare’ them is brandishing. Brandishing is defined as drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner, not in lawful self-defense. NRS 202.320 It's also a crime to aim a firearm at someone outside of lawful self-defense. NRS 202.294
A gun should only be drawn when in fear for life and only aimed at a person if there is already legal justification for using lethal force. Furthermore, pointing a gun at a bad guy may cause them to react violently, either out of anger at you or to save their life. Only carry and pull a gun if you are willing to use it. Do you always have to shoot someone? No, but if the gun leaves its holster, you need to be justified in doing so and that means a threat to life.
What if deadly force is not required? Will you shoot someone because they try to pick a fight or they insult you? Waiving a gun around during a road-rage incident or to intimidate someone is wrong on so many different levels. If you can’t control your temper or your mouth, you probably can’t control your gun. Do you regularly get into fights? Don’t carry.
Carrying a gun is for self-defense. Self-defense with a gun means killing. While one should always shoot to stop the threat, gunshot wounds frequently cause death. There is no “shooting to wound” and shooting guns out of hands or hitting only arms and legs are Hollywood myths or solely the domain of unbelievably good sharpshooters—which you probably aren’t.
Do you understand that using a gun properly will likely kill someone? Can you accept that fact and carry responsibly? Let’s say you shot and wounded your attacker. He is bleeding to death, screaming horribly, shouting lies about how you attacked him with no provocation (when the opposite is true), and you are surrounded by a large, angry mob. Can you handle that situation?
Can you fight and are you willing to fight? That is, once the attack has begun and your gun is up, can you pull the trigger, or will you freeze? If you freeze, you’re dead. You may even be disarmed and killed with your own gun. A gun is no use to you if you do not have the will to use it.
It may take several shots or more to stop the threat. Some attackers have been known to fight on, despite being shot a dozen times or more. It’s not like Hollywood’s magic bullets that kill with one shot; James Bond’s Golden Gun is not real. What if you miss? Can you re-assess and re-engage? What if the situation de-escalates from lethal force? Can you fight hand to hand or use less-lethal defensive weapons like pepper spray?
Many police officers, soldiers, and citizens who have killed righteously face incredible emotional problems. Human life is sacred—God designed us that way. Killing is not to be taken lightly and even the most justified shooting will result in emotional complications for all but the most hardened or sociopaths. You will face the stress of the immediate aftermath, any legal implications, your friends’ or family’s reaction, and your own mind. PTSD is a serious concern. Can you handle the emotional/mental effects of a shooting?
Do you have a hero complex? George Zimmerman is the perfect example; as the leader of the neighborhood watch and once expressing an interest in law enforcement, it’s very plausible that he was self-policing his neighborhood. An attitude that he had to challenge suspicious persons may have been what precipitated his altercation with Trayvon Martin and led to the tragic outcome. You are not a cop so don’t act like one.
You carry to save yourself, your loved ones, and those immediately around you. Trying to stop the casino or restaurant from being robbed is none of your business. Recall the man who fired a warning shot into the ceiling of Red Lobster in Las Vegas; he’s lucky no one was hurt and that the robber fled. What if that shot him someone or the robber decided that the ‘good Samaritan’ was a threat?
Carrying comes down to these factors: intent, attitude, responsibility, and safety. If you feel iffy about any of these things, keep your cell phone handy and your gun at home.