2016 was a tumultuous year politically, with a great many protest and demonstrations around the country over various issues. As 2017 seems to be following suite, I thought it might be time for us to talk about how to handle large, emotionally charged crowds when you’re carrying your CCW.
First and foremost, let’s get one thing out of the way.
I’m not going to tell you that you should never take part in a demonstration or march while carrying, but I would ask that you think long and hard before doing so. The potential for disaster is there—crowds have a way of overreacting to little things. At worst you could be mistaken for a bad guy and have to spend a few hours talking to law enforcement. At most . . . well, it doesn’t take much to start a riot or stampede. You’re all adults and I trust you to run your own lives, but please think this over.
So then, what happens if you find yourself caught up in a crowd that’s marching, picketing, protesting, or otherwise exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly? Well, a good part of the preparation should have happened in advance, in that you should have a carry system that you trust to keep your weapon both secure and concealed. Out of sight is out of mind, and if they can’t see your piece they’re not likely to react to it.
Secondly, stay calm. Most of these things turn out just fine—three quarters of a million people took part in the Los Angeles edition of the Women’s March this month, without a single arrest or violent incident. So blend in as best you can. Stay calm, try not to look agitated, and keep your weapon concealed. Running, looking scared or nervous, or otherwise standing out can get you the opposite of the result you want.
Part of blending in is avoiding giving away your CCW. To that end, learn and avoid some of the tells that informed observers look for when they’re trying to spot concealed weapons. Again, you’d probably rather not spend time talking to the cops.
So now that you’re calm and in control, what to do?
Well, the obvious answer is to make your way out of the crowd. It might be easiest to backtrack and just fade over the edges. If, for whatever reason, you have to make your way through the crowd, do so gradually. Easing over rather than cutting straight across gets you much less attention and thus helps prevent confrontation. While you’re on the move, try to keep some reasonable distance between yourself and others. Someone bumping into you could expose your weapon.
So what happens if it all goes wrong?
Well, if you’re spotted, stay calm—tell the person who noticed that you have a license to carry, that you’re just passing through, and that you’re happy to talk to the cops if it comes to that. Again, don’t escalate the situation—you’re within your rights, but let’s play this smart.
If, God forbid, the situation turn violent, you’ll be in a really tough spot. Your weapons retention and H2H skills are likely to get a workout, and if there’s more than one assailant you may be in serious trouble. I can’t tell you how to play it, because there are too many possible variables. I would suggest that making an escape is tops on your list, and that if you successfully do so you’ll want to talk to the cops and your attorney as soon as possible.
This is serious stuff, but like so many serious situations we can stack the deck in our favor with a little bit of preparedness. Stay safe out there.