Grab a pencil and some paper. Now quickly list your personal top 5 expectations (your bucket list of priorities) for your life in 30 seconds. Well most of us can come up with 2 or 3 things right away, but may fall short for the others in the half minute. Some can easily do this, while others have never thought about these important things for their lives.
What about our important priorities and expectations for the concealed carry of our gun we carry to save our life or lives of others? Can you quickly list your top 5 concealed carry priorities and expectations?
Just as businesses and organizations have Codes of Conduct for their employees or members, which help protect the business and clarify for members the organization’s expectations, priorities, and acceptable behaviors, we as concealed carriers need to have our own personal Concealed Carry Code of Conduct that guides us and protects us in our behaviors and activities in various daily situations. A Concealed Carry Code of Conduct can help surface, remind, and strengthen our moral behaviors, act as a guideline for ethical decision making, help prevent negative legal effects in various situations, encourage positive interactions, serve as a reference for solving our ethical dilemmas, and help prioritize our concealed carry responses and actions, etc.
This is not a nice-to-have frill or theoretical, utopian fantasy exercise in futility, but a necessary practical mandate for each of us, that affects real consequences, behaviors, encounters, and protections. Most of us have principles, standards, rules, and expectations that outline, influence, and direct us in the way we individually assume our daily responsibilities and exhibit our behaviors in relation to others and our many activities. But, we may not recognize them.
These may even be largely subliminal to some of us, in that we do not instantly recognize that our certain behaviors are directly related to our standards and the rules we have informally or even subconsciously set for ourselves over time. Some of us may recognize this and others may not. Behaviors and motivation are complex and crucial to success, especially if related to preservation of life and avoiding death. Some of us may have a very good handle on what we believe in, what standards and priorities guide our behaviors, and what we expect for ourselves in life’s interactions, while others do not.
Not only for our personal relationships and interactions, but for our concealed carry situations and encounters, I believe that we need to take the time and specifically recognize for ourselves what we believe in, what rules we want to live by, when we interact and respond to others, be they in friendly or hostile situations. We must each have a concealed carry mindset to live by. To understand unequivocally what we believe in and our personal expectations for interpersonal interactions that will directly guide our behaviors and responses, especially in deadly-force encounters.
We all have probably very generally thought of this, but never really listed them or put them on paper to solidify them. We should do this to confirm and highlight for ourselves what we really believe in and what are our priorities for our actions. We should certainly be guided by the laws of the state and jurisdiction where we live or where the event occurs, but also by our own moral and ethical compass, values, and expectations.
So, what is your personal Concealed Carry Code of Conduct?
What do you believe in and prioritize highly for your concealed carry responses and behaviors in conflicts or interactions with others? Remember, what are acceptable standards, rules, values, behaviors, and responses for one person may not be for another. Like the great psychologist Abraham Maslow said:
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
What follows is not a prescription for everyone, but just one example which you may or may not use to formulate your own Code and Mindset. These are my 10 Conduct Rules when carrying.
Here is an example Concealed Carry Code of Conduct with my 10 elements to help you identify, specify, and solidify your own unique personal Code. It applies to a Florida resident with a concealed carry license, but some elements could be generally applicable to most, but not all other states. This is not meant to be legal advice nor legal opinions for your actions in individual situations. Seek clarification and professional legal guidance about the elements from an attorney in your state and jurisdiction.
1. I accept that using my handgun as deadly force is NOT an appropriate response to the large majority of situations I will probably encounter with non-deadly threats, insults, abuse, and offensive behaviors. Most of the time I will NOT need to use my gun. However, I am prepared to use my handgun in self defense as appropriate just in case a deadly-force situation occurs.
2. I know that my concealed carry handgun is a lethal tool and is just one tool of many to choose from as a response to threatening situations. I will consider using non-lethal force first, as appropriate, such as Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) pepper spray, baton, intense beams of light and flashing strobes to disorient, kubotan, conducted electrical weapons (tasers), bean bag bullets, empty-hand physical defense, etc. I know under some state laws (e.g. my state of Florida) that non-deadly force can include any act of violence such as hitting or striking, but can also include the use of a weapon in a manner not likely to cause death or great bodily harm. I understand that non-deadly (and deadly) force is NOT justified in most states (e.g. Florida) if I am the aggressor or committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony myself. I recognize that even a non-lethal weapon has the potential to be deadly. Even a strobe light can cause someone with epilepsy to have a seizure and then fall and hit their head and die. I must judiciously apply ALL force and know and apply the gun SAFETY rules.
3. I will AVOID conflict encounters if I can safely escape or leave the area. I will be hesitant to initiate encounters and to get involved in situations that could escalate into the use of deadly-force. There could be severe legal repercussions, penalties, and risks from involvement in an uncertain event, which may not actually be as it appears. I understand that I am not the policeman for society nor charged with the responsibility to right all wrongs in the world, but can serve as a great witness to assist law enforcement in performing their duties. I want to minimize my risk and avoid violence. This does not mean I am scared, weak, or do not have the skills.
4. I must be careful quickly intervening in an uncertain attack situation involving others, since I probably will have very limited information. If I get involved in a situation that did not initially involve me, I will be certain that I am joining the right team. If I end up helping the “wrong” person, I could find myself in serious legal and moral troubles. Just because I observe one person on top and straddling another and hitting him, does not mean the person on top is the bad guy/gal or even the good guy/gal. There is much information I do not have, so making an instant decision to engage one or the other could be a big mistake. I know in my state of Florida, I have no duty to retreat when someone unlawfully and by force enters my home or car, since they are presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. This is not true in other states. Tread carefully with caution! Know the deadly force laws in your area.
5. I understand that I have the right in Florida (not so in some other states) to stand my ground if I am attacked in any place where I have a right to be. I have no duty to retreat and I can meet force with force, including deadly force, if I reasonably (subjective & open to interpretation) believe that it is necessary to prevent DEATH or GREAT BODILY HARM to myself or another or to prevent a forcible felony (murder, manslaughter, robbery, burglary, rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, carjacking, kidnapping, arson, etc. in Florida.)
6. I recognize that I MUST justify my use of deadly force in Florida. I know the danger must have appeared to have been so real that a reasonable person under the same circumstances would have believed that it could only have been avoided through the use of that force. I am responsible for every bullet that leaves my gun’s barrel. I must justify my use of ALL force to myself morally and ethically, as well as legally.
7. I know that non-deadly force (rather than deadly force) may be justified under law (e.g. Florida) to defend PROPERTY when there is a trespass or other type of interference with the defendant’s personal property or land. While this varies significantly among states and jurisdictions, usually deadly force is justified ONLY to prevent death or great bodily harm.
8. I will be mentally alert of my surroundings and aware of situations where I might use my handgun, recognizing that my MIND is my best weapon and my gun is but a tool for implementation. I will not go to “rough neighborhoods,” known drug dens, or places that could involve a high probability of a deadly force encounter, if at all possible. This does not mean I am afraid, lack defensive skills, or cannot use my gun properly or effectively. I will maintain my self control and discipline and not be goaded into armed confrontations nor respond emotionally and aggressively to emphasize my masculinity. When I carry a CC handgun, I have a responsibility to be calm, cool, and in charge of my emotions and to respond objectively, rationally, and reasonably. Being aware of my surroundings is key wherever I am.
9. I will be positive, friendly, and respect and help others as much as possible. I will follow my religious convictions and moral values for seeking peace in the world, respect and decent treatment for other people, proper justice, accepting responsibility for the safety and security of myself and my family members, and opposing evil.
10. I want to maintain my right to freedom and my right to carry and use my handgun for self defense, to live without the threats of abuse, torture, murder, and inhumane treatments. So I will have the training and practice to make me prepared to use my gun and deadly force APPROPRIATELY to protect my rights and loved ones, just in case. I will build a solid foundation for my CC and everyday readiness and not be a victim.
Be Safe, Train, and Practice!
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.