By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Incidents that make national headlines can occasionally provide some sort of practical wisdom to the Average Joe or Jane who lawfully conceals and carries, or keeps a gun for home defense. Sometimes, these things seem painfully obvious and sometimes there’s something approaching a deeper lesson for all to learn.
This week, a fantastic example of what not to do comes to us in the guise of one Judge Joseph Claps, a Cook County judge in the city of Chicago, an area known for harsh gun control laws (though CCW in Illinois is now possible), a serious gang violence problem, the ever-controversial deep dish pizza and pitiful ne’er-do-well football teams.
Claps, according to the Chicago Tribune, was heading for the courthouse door, with his jacket carried in the crook of his arm and a pistol tucked into a jacket pocket. The gun fell out, which Claps quickly retrieved and stashed in a pants pocket. Unfortunately for Claps, it was caught on tape AND was witnessed by two Cook County deputy sheriffs.
He has been charged with carrying a firearm in a prohibited location, as concealed carry is prohibited in courthouses in that jurisdiction by anyone other than law enforcement. He was taken off judicial duties and is facing a hearing over what to do with him. It may be the end of his career on the bench.
This provides us with a few lessons, ideas, and/or talking points for the average concealed carrier.
First of all, it’s generally a good idea to carry on the body, ideally in a concealed carry holster. This isn’t to say that pocket carry is bad (though it’s not the best practice) but the greater the weapon retention, the better. A pocket just doesn’t provide much retention.
If you must carry in a pocket, do so with a pocket holster and in a pants pocket.
Second of all, know the laws of your city and state when it comes to carrying and do your level best to comply with them. Had he left the gun in his car or checked the gun (some courthouses have facilities for doing so) he wouldn’t be facing misdemeanor charges. Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse, and while one can argue the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of anything, court cases usually hinge on what the law actually states.
Lastly, beware the perils of hubris and complacency.
Hubris, or excessive self-confidence, can manifest itself in the belief that “it won’t happen to me” or something along those lines. When “it” does, the results can be disastrous. It’s like wearing a seat belt; that one time you don’t may be the day you’re in a horrific accident and get turned into a ground beef creature. The punishment of hubris, after all, was one of the most common themes of Greek myths and for good reason.
No one knows exactly what Judge Claps was thinking, but it’s possible that he felt the gun wouldn’t fall out of a pocket, which everyone knows is less secure than carrying with a holster. It’s possible he wasn’t aware of the law prohibiting carrying firearms in courthouses, though it’s also possible he did so knowingly.
In the case of the latter, a person carries in prohibited areas with the belief they won’t be discovered. It’s sort of like how some people will carry at work despite knowing guns are prohibited by their employer. A cautious person will take steps to avoid being discovered – dressing around the gun, low-profile belt clips, carrying a very small pistol, etc – but over time one can become complacent, which can be dangerous.
So, what can we learn from this incident? It’s better to carry on the body and to know the laws. Lastly, don’t be overly confident that you’ll be able to beat the odds of something going wrong. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a ton of cure.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.
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