In basic training, you were taught to keep your rifle with you every moment of every day. You ate with your rifle at hand. You slept with your rifle on your rack. You carried that bad boy with you wherever you went.
But now your rifle is in the armory. Or maybe you haven’t had one issued to you for years. Perhaps you have left military service. Either way, you don’t have to go unarmed. If you own a gun, you may still be able to carry it with you wherever you go. But of course, you want to know your rights and your local laws. A gun owner or enthusiast owes it to themselves to stay up to date on laws, training, and legal protection. We’ve got you covered here. Read on!
1. Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry: Some states allow open carry of a firearm in certain public spaces. Concealed carry will require a permit from your state, which you can only obtain after completing a CCW (Carrying Concealed Weapon) course. There are limitations to any concealed carry permit, and areas that will be off-limits. For example, you cannot conceal carry a weapon in public places that serve alcohol (bars, amusement parks, etc.) Most states do not allow you to bring a weapon into hospitals, airports, schools, or government buildings. A gun-free zone sign on a business or place of worship negates your permit to conceal carry. To get details about your state’s concealed carry laws, start here.
2. Reciprocity laws: These laws allow you to conceal carry weapons in states besides the one where you have a permit. It’s important when you get PCS orders to a new state or go TDY and want to bring your personal weapon with you. Reciprocity laws can be confusing, and they differ depending on the state where you have your permit and the state you are visiting. To find out where your permit allows you to conceal carry, and if there are any restrictions in nearby states, check out this interactive map of reciprocity laws.
3. Don’t neglect your training: Sure, you qualified on the Pistol Range a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean the gun you now carry on your hip is going to have the same feel. Every gun owner should train with their own weapon. Train often, firing from different positions and in different scenarios. Practice drawing your weapon and reloading it. You don’t always have to go to a range to practice! After cleaning and unloading your gun, aim it at a mirror while you slowly pull the trigger and watch the muzzle for movement. Continue to train often so your motions remain sure and steady. You can find training ideas and videos here.
4. Train your partners: Your spouse, partner, and family members should be familiar with your gun and trained to use it, so they will be comfortable doing so in an emergency situation if you were hurt. Bring your team with you to the range. Help them practice their grip, stance, and aim. They should know how to load, unload, and clean the weapon. Training doesn’t happen in one day, so bring them back often until they are comfortable with the feel of your gun.
5. What to carry: Every Day Carry (EDC) means you carry your gun every day, whenever and wherever it is legal to do so. Your EDC kit will include your weapon and holster, obviously, plus several rounds of ammunition. Many gun-owners include other useful items in their EDC Kit, such as a powerful flashlight, or a can of mace spray. To get tips and inspiration for your EDC kit, see the USCCA website, which has numerous tips and up-to-date legal information for gun owners.
6. Why EDC matters: Not only is EDC smart and safe protection, but it can actually help you in a court case. If you happen to be in a situation where you use your gun, but it is something that you carry with you every day, then the prosecution can’t draw any negative conclusions about why you had a weapon with you that day. You can’t be accused of a pre-meditated crime or bias against the defendant.
7. Legally protected, but not exempt: Every state has laws permitting gun owners to use their weapon for their own self-defense. However, that doesn’t make you exempt from prosecution. Even if you use your gun legally, there can still be a frustrating aftermath of court dates, legal fees, and possible civil suits. You may also be faced with missing time from work while dealing with the legal system. Gun owners can get legal protection from the USCCA. Their affordable membership includes not only a 24-hour hotline to call whenever you have discharged your weapon, but also up to $2,250,000 in protection per member to cover legal fees.