Making the decision to carry concealed around family can be difficult. Carrying a handgun has become more culturally acceptable in America, especially in recent years. Carry permit issuances are up across the country, and handgun sales are through the roof. New demographics – women, younger adults, family members – are buying guns. But we won’t mince words here: Carrying a handgun can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Simple as that.
What’s even worse is the notion that an untrained or uninformed family member can end up injured or dead because they lack the knowledge they need to be safe with guns nearby, potentially accessible. Without getting political, general statistics show that hundreds of folks die every year from accidental or negligent discharges of firearms. Many of them are younger children.
In 2016, a mother had to tell her 4-year-old boy, as his brain swelled through the self-inflicted bullet hole in his head, that it was okay to die. She told her son that he, “may see mommy cry a lot, but it’s not because she’s mad, it’s because she misses you. “If that doesn’t drive home the need to be a responsible gun owner around your family, you should stop reading now. You should instead find your concealed carry license if you have it, tear it up, and sell your handgun if you’ve already bought one. We’re not trying to be rude, but responsibility matters here, folks.
If you’re ready to carry responsibly, if you’re ready to protect yourself, your family and your friends from the threats we all could face on a daily basis – and you want to do so in a way that protects your family from the very tool you’re using to prevent harm – then keeping reading. There’s a lot to cover before you put on that holster:
1. Practice gun safety at home and on the move
This should be self-explanatory, but we will never skip out on explaining common sense and safety. Before you even purchase your handgun, have a plan to keep it locked and secure, away from family members you should never have access to it.
Basic tips for gun safety:
- Always treat your handgun as though it is loaded
- If your weapon is loaded, it should be on your person
- Store ammunition in a separate and secure location
- Keep gun safe keys away from other house or car keys
- Children should never know where your guns are stored
2. Talk to your family about your gun and decision to carry
Being informed is the first step to being safe when it comes to guns and family. Ignorance invites curiosity, especially in younger children. Before you take your gun home you should talk to your family and most importantly, your children, about your decision to carry a handgun. They should be made aware – for their safety and yours -that you may be armed at any time. Tell adult family members where on your person you’ll be carrying your handgun. If you’re carrying off-body, they should be aware of where your weapon is located, and both you and they should keep accountability of it at all times.
Guns and children:
Now we’re not advocating that you stick your handgun in your 3-year-old’s hand, but it’s important that they’re made aware of the dangers of guns and how to be safe around them. Explain the dangers to them. Set clear boundaries and instructions. Explaining death to a child is a difficult thing, and it may not always be interpreted correctly, or at all, but there are ways to get the point across. We don’t recommend simply saying, “don’t touch this or else!” , because uninformed fear still invites curiosity.
Help your children to understand, as best they can, that this item of yours is a tool that can have dangerous consequences. Improper use or touching by them can, “make very bad or hurtful things happen to the people you love that can’t be undone.” This is just one example of how you might be able to explain this concept to a younger child. Show your children how your handgun comes apart, how you clean it, assemble it, and how you safely operate it.
Showing them how it works, what it does, and why you have it gets rid of that mystery that a firearm comes with. It eliminates that “taboo” and vagueness that invites curiosity and dangerous handling. This message should not be isolated. Reinforce these ideas with your children until they recite it in their sleep. And then keep doing it.
Teach your kids what to safely do with a gun if they ever get their hands on one. As unlikely as the situation may be, your children should know how to avoid injury and death if they ever find the opportunity to interact with a handgun, and curiosity gets the better of them. Never assume they’ll listen to your requests that they avoid touching a gun.
Basic tips for children and guns:
- Always assume a gun is loaded
- If you find a gun, do not touch it
- Pointing a gun at something means you want to kill it
- Make children apply real gun safety to their toy guns
3. Invite family to train with you
If you decide to carry, it’s important that family members are able to interact with your handgun safely. There may be a reason that they will have to touch with your handgun, whether it’s something as simple as moving it from a glove box, putting it in a bag, taking it out of a container, or, under dire circumstances, using it for their own defense.
At the range:
You should always train to be proficient with the handgun you purchase in general use and as a concealed weapon. The family members you carry around don’t have to be expert shooters like you might become, but they should be proficient in basic operation and safe handling. Invite them to the range with you. Explain the need for good trigger discipline and pointing your weapon in a safe direction at all times. Explain to them that you should only ever raise that barrel, take that safety off, or put your finger on that trigger if you have the intent to kill.
Train as you fight:
Don’t treat the range as a separate environment from daily carrying. You’re not shooting at paper or steel. You’re taking out a real, living threat. Get your family members in that same mindset: Any time they’re touching that handgun, they should be anticipating danger – be it from the gun itself or from a threat in your environment. Get them to treat your handgun as though it’s always loaded, if even it’s been checked three times. Teach them how to react to a threat with a handgun even if you’re the one carrying. The situation could very well turn to them having to draw or shoot.
4. Teach family how to react to a threat
Training at the range will get your family comfortable with your weapon and they’ll at least know the basic principles of gun safety. Like we just briefly mentioned, your family must know what to do in a shooter situation or when a threat is present. Ask yourself the following questions:
Can my spouse defend themselves in my absence?
The answer should be, “yes” . If it isn’t, get them to the range and practicing basic shooting and handling your firearm. Get them familiar with your holster or concealment method. Let them try it out and practice drawing with it just like you do. If you’re incapacitated, they’ll need to know how to interact with it.
Does my family know what to do if I have to use deadly force?
Drawing your weapon to eliminate a threat means confusion, loud noises, panic, and a lot of life-or-death decision-making in a matter of seconds. You should practice with family on how they should react to you using deadly force.
- Keep commands simple:Practice simple commands that will help your family react quickly to a threat. Commands like “Follow me!” , “That way!” , and “Call 911!” are self-explanatory and understood easily in a panicked situation.
- Your family’s goal should be escape:It’s against human nature to leave behind a loved one, but your family must be trained to react to a threat with the goal of escape. You might be the only armed responder, and they cannot help eliminate the threat. Family remaining present increases their risk and may distract you from the threat. You should designate a “point person” who will act as the authority during escape. They must ensure all other family members are moving together toward safety so you can focus on the threat.
- Make the call quickly:Never assume someone else will dial 911 and reach dispatch. As soon as it is safe to do so, ensure your family makes the call. The quicker first responders arrive, the lesser the potential loss of life will be – and if needed, the quicker the police can respond to a threat so you don’t have to.
- When the threat clears, regroup:Getting out of a threat is priority #1, but once the threat is eliminated or removed, you must know where your family is so you can link up. Have a pre-planned evacuation point, depending on the environment. Reuniting quickly will allow you to further remove yourselves from the environment as a unit, ensuring continued safety. Any residual or secondary threats will then no longer be a concern.
5. Practice, practice, and more practice
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to carrying concealed with family, in the home and abroad. The only way to ensure family – young and old – are safe around you and your handgun is to practice, practice, then practice some more. Schedule monthly range days together. Rehearse for the environments you’ll be in before you arrive. Drill home the concepts of gun safety repeatedly. Involve your family and children in practicing those things with you. With these in mind, know that you can protect yourself and your family from the threats you may face. Practice these five considerations and you won’t be at the mercy of how quickly others can respond.
Howard Murphy is a 20 year member of the concealed carry community and the editor for Holsterhero.com. His passion for all things “guns” was born from growing up hunting and sport shooting in his home state of Wyoming.