FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
Jason Heimans hit up the Law Officer Facebook page and asked my opinion on off-duty concealed carry and the ethics, guidelines and responsibility you have when you carry a gun off duty.
First off, I pretty much carry all the time when I'm off duty. I don't think I'm a paranoid freak, but I have an ID and a badge in my wallet, and those don't belong in the mix without something to back them up in case of emergencies. In the summer months, this means I need to find a way to carry without anyone else knowing and still be comfortable.
Like the rest of you, I'm on the higher end of the intelligence spectrum. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to have the same issues as anyone else under massive stress. Because of that, Ol' Bullethead likes his systems to look like his police cars—black and white. If you carry your primary weapon and a backup gun on duty, you should carry one of those two guns off duty—or at least a gun that behaves the same.
I carry the same backup gun I use when I'm on duty because it's small, light and reliable. More importantly, I train with it often enough to know how it behaves and how I behave with it—on my strong and weak sides. The last thing you want is to be strolling through the grocery store when something bad happens. I'm talking about something requiring you to take action. You pull out your new, cool super-subcompact that you have not trained with, and have a malfunction that reduces you to a target holding a paperweight. Bottom line: If you carry, carry something you know.
When to Use Your Gun Off Duty
The next question is, "What is something that requires action?" I'm currently getting sued in federal court for having to step in and bail out some idiot from a neighboring agency. This clown got chest deep in something that—at the most—needed a phone call but more likely needed a slight shake of his head as he drove past. This moron had his kids in the car, no one was in immediate danger and now the only thing happening is we're killing a bunch of time and a roomful of lawyers are getting rich.
On another occasion, I responded to a deal where an off-duty supervisor helped out a cop who was getting stabbed by some crazy super scumbag. That guy was a hero; he got in the middle of it and saved that cop's life. There are two ends of the spectrum, and they are separated, by the possibility of someone losing their life.
The decision-making ethics behind using your gun off duty are simple for me. First off, am I or my family in immediate danger? Simple decision there. Second, is someone else in danger? This is where it might get sticky. If helping them will put my wife or kids in danger, then they're out of luck. Sorry, but that's why it's called being a victim. Don't get me wrong—If I can stop someone from great bodily harm or death, I will. But I won't put my family in danger to do it.
The next delineation is property vs. health. If it's just property that's in danger, I'll just be a good witness and call in the cavalry. Just like at work, I like to cut through the junk and get to the heart of the matter. Maybe that sounds simple, but if you're carrying a gun and a badge already, you should have the judgment to know if you're dealing with a life-and-death issue or just a pain in the hind-quarters.
The other thing to consider is off-duty behavior. Guns and alcohol don't mix. If you're hitting your carpool partner's garage for one before heading home and you have your off-duty gun in your pocket, you're wrong, but you aren't unreasonably outside the lines. If you're planning a night out with a long-lost friend and you know it's going to get crazy, leave your gun at home. Nothing makes for an easier loss in IA than an off-duty incident involving guns and alcohol.
I would have a hard time living with myself if I got lazy and didn't bring my gun, only to watch someone get injured or killed. I would have an even harder time if that someone were a family member. Ether way, you need to have a basic plan in place in case you need to respond: Let your spouse know how you're going to act and what you need them to do—run, hide and call the police.
If you decide to carry, hope you're never called upon to act.
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