For those of us who carry concealed firearms on a regular basis, being armed becomes second nature. Leaving home without a gun feels much like leaving without a wallet, and for good reason: While you may not plan to use either, it doesn’t feel right to be unequipped in the event that an unexpected situation arises. But for many dedicated concealed carriers, the ability to navigate the day with a firearm is hampered by workplace restrictions, laws governing travel or—most insidiously—social barriers.
Colion Noir dealt with social pressures in a column from earlier this year: What to do when a group of friends want to patronize a business that doesn’t allow guns? Do you try to talk them out of it? Find a reason to excuse yourself? Or, if you know in advance, just admit defeat and leave your gun at home?
There’s another option, of course, but we’re not going to recommend it. The United States is regulated by a patchwork of (sometimes contradictory) gun laws, and not all “no guns” signs are legally binding. But SHARP’s home is in Texas, and in this state, two varieties of posting have the full force of law behind them: the 51 percent sign, prohibiting even licensed carry in an establishment that makes the bulk of its revenue from alcohol sales, and the dreaded 30.06 sign. (Not the caliber, unfortunately; the reference is to a section of the penal code.) Responsible gun owners are, above all, law-abiding.The greater the number of “gun-free” businesses and zones out there, the more likely most gun owners are to decide that it’s just not worth the trouble to carry.
Something as simple as a night out with friends or a quiet walk alone can be a major logistical ordeal for a concealed-carry holder. Depending on where you live, your pathway may be strewn with gun-free zones. You’re not welcome with a gun in that bistro your friends have been raving about. You can’t cut through that government building as a shortcut when it’s raining. You must plan your route in advance, and even then, an unexpected obstacle may require that you change course. Gun owners learn to accept taking the scenic route.
We asked the stars of NOIR what their strategies were for navigating downtown Dallas. Colion Noir takes a pragmatic approach when out with a group of friends: “A lot of my friends don’t carry. So I typically always drive, because I never know where I may end up. Driving gives me the option to leave it in the car.” Darren LaSorte noted that he doesn’t see many 30.06 signs in Dallas anymore, but he sticks to principles when he does: “I make a mental note, turn around and accept that the business is dead to me. If possible, this comes after a conversation with an employee or manager.”
The greater the number of “gun-free” businesses and zones out there, the more likely most gun owners are to decide that it’s just not worth the trouble to carry. Living in a dense urban area where you need to get around part of the time on foot becomes immensely complicated when you introduce a concealed firearm into the equation. That’s why the group that is perhaps least empowered in terms of concealed carry—even when they have rights on paper—is that of students living on college campuses.
Campus carry passed in Texas recently, but in a compromised form: Public universities will no longer be allowed to institute sweeping campus-wide bans on firearms, but they will still be able to prohibit them in specific buildings and zones by means of 30.06 signs. For many students, the walk from dorm to class may become a labyrinth full of dead ends. Most states still do not guarantee student gun owners the right to carry on campus—but even when that right is formally recognized, as in Texas, how hard will it be to restrict it to the point that students stop bothering?
Gun owners in many jurisdictions already experience life as a maze, with waiting periods, “good reason” applications and countless other forms of red tape designed specifically to be onerous. For pedestrians navigating a city’s downtown or a college campus, the maze is no metaphor—but we try to be positive by calling it the “scenic route.”