The Company You Keep. Common Sense Choices for Those Who Lawfully Carry a Gun.

Those of us who regularly carry firearms for self-defense are generally well aware of the need to avoid confrontations. Whether using inappropriately provocative speech, or being foolish enough to become involved in something as dangerous as a road rage incident, we know only too well that any misstep by us will more than likely be exploited by some future prosecutor.

But in the quest to stay out of trouble, there is more to consider than our own behavior. The kinds of places we choose to frequent, and more importantly, the kind of people we hang out with, can have a dramatic impact on our lives.

Every one of us could probably name some neighborhood, perhaps even some specific bar or “club” near where we live that has a reputation for trouble, including violence. Younger people in their twenties and thirties, both men and women, are especially prone to frequenting the kinds of places where altercations often occur. If you are in this group, you may want to rethink the potential risks, and ask yourself if you would feel safe leaving your gun at home.

It’s a good self-test. Because if you wouldn’t be comfortable going somewhere without a gun, then you probably shouldn’t be going there at all. As I tell my carry permit students, “Never go anywhere with your gun that you wouldn’t go without it.” Now, obviously I’m not talking about situations beyond our control, such as where we live – a common reason that many people get a permit to carry a firearm in the first place is that they live in high-risk areas.

The same goes for employment that require us to be in places we wouldn’t normally go on our own time. More than a few of my students are real estate agents, insurance adjusters, and others whose jobs involve visiting customers and businesses that are in “high-risk” neighborhoods. Should an incident occur in the course of doing our job, it is far more defensible in court. We had to go there.

But we should scrupulously avoid voluntarily choosing to go into any situation that those “reasonable” people on a jury might consider to be “dangerous.” Even worse, if it appears to them that we might have been “looking for trouble,” then we are seriously endangering any potential claim of being an “innocent victim” should we become involved in an armed self-defense confrontation.

Avoiding places where there is a potential for violence is a good rule. But those of us who carry firearms must also reevaluate our activities when it comes to our friends. Every one of us knows “that guy” in our circle of associates who is simply reckless, clumsy, or both. We may like him (or her). We may even enjoy their oddball antics. But we’d never let them drive our car, ride our motorcycle, or let them anywhere near our firearms. Heck, we probably wouldn’t trust them to handle anything more complicated than a hammer. Maybe not even that.

But the real problem is “that friend” who has a temper. He is a magnet for trouble. He is easily provoked, and often does his own share of provoking himself. He is the exact opposite of the phrase “easy going” and seems more than willing to engage others in confrontations. So, what to do?

First, it is a good idea never to be a passenger in someone else’s vehicle when we are armed, for the simple reason that once you are not the driver, you are “captive” in the car, and vulnerable to being dragged into something you yourself would never get involved in on your own. It also allows you to leave if things start getting uncomfortable at your destination.Take your own car.

As mentioned, most permit holders know to avoid “road rage” like it was radioactive.But what happens when you’re sitting in the passenger seat, and that “hot head” buddy discussed above leans on his horn (or even worse, gives “the finger”) to a car-load of gang-bangers? You could easily become involved in something not your fault. Or is it? If you knew this guy (or gal) was “like that” why would you choose to put yourself in such a situation? Once again, imagine a jury asking themselves the same question.

Sure, it’s unfair that we who carry have to be doubly careful about everything we do, but neither life, nor the American criminal legal system, is fair. And if we have the ability to make good decisions well in advance to avoid a potentially violent encounter, it is simply good sense to do so.

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