"I'm not going anywhere I can't take my gun!" That is a common sentiment I see both online and in person when speaking about traveling, both domestically and abroad. This is a position held by both lowest common denominator owners, and some serious instructors and personalities in the gun sphere. While I don't think it's the norm, it certainly isn't an unusual stance either. Despite the reasonable popularity it enjoys, I think this mindset is flawed. Let me tell you why that is.
Overreliance on Firearms
I've been a conceal carrier for about a decade at this point. I wholeheartedly agree with the old saying of "God made Men, Samuel Colt made them equal." That said, firearms are not the be-all-end-all of self defense. Sometimes they may not be the most appropriate choice for the situation at hand. Tools such as pepper spray, impact weapons, empty-handed skills, and more can often be more useful than a gun. If I have a gun on, I also have pepper spray, at a minimum, for differing threat levels.
Often times I see people with the "no gun no traveling" mindset relying solely upon a firearm for personal protection. Whether this comes from a lack of familiarity or confidence with other options, laziness in changing their routine, or something else, any number of reasons can cause this. Sign up for boxing, muay thai, or Brazilian jiu jitsu to build up your physical skills. Take a class or read articles from Greg Ellifritz or Chuck Haggard to learn the advantages of less lethal tools. We have plenty of resources available across the board, it's up to us to take advantage of these opportunities.
I've seen people skip vacations with significant others, miss funerals for grandparents, and avoid graduations for their children. All of this simply because they couldn't bring a firearm with them to their potential destination. This can have irreversible consequences for your personal relationships, missing massive milestones or your last chance to say goodbye. These situations allow us to grow as people, and invest in our loved ones. Some of my happiest memories come from times when I couldn't be armed, even if the possibility of violence still existed.
Don't take my word for it. Instead, take a look at the real Most Interesting Man in the World, Greg Ellifritz. With an extensive law enforcement career, and a widely respected reputation as a subject matter expert in several forms of personal protection, Greg is no stranger to traveling without firearms. From South America, to Africa, and even Antartica, Greg has probably been there and done that. Between his book "Choose Adventure", to his site Active Response Training, you can see what is possible when you aren't anchored by your conceal carry piece. I highly recommend anyone read his travel stories, along with everything else he has to offer.
How to Shift Your Mindset
I've been in the position I've been describing above before. Luckily, that is no longer the case, and the solutions are fairly straightforward. First, become more familiar with other options, such as pepper spray, combatives, and more. Confidence in both your equipment and skills will help you load responsibility onto other aspects of personal defense, rather than just your firearm. This will also be helpful in situations where you do have a gun on you; allowing you to more easily move between different levels of force for the task at hand. The force continuum is a sliding scale, and can be moved up and down in an instant. Much like a carpenter, we must use the right tool for the job.
Next, you must begin to insert yourself into places and situations where you absolutely cannot have your gun. Later, you can also do this for situations where conventional tools mentioned above may not be available either. For me, it was massive amounts of travel with the military, forcing me into locations where I couldn't be armed. Sometimes pepper spray or a knife would accompany me, but other times those were not available either. Repeat exposure will improve your comfort with these places, much like learning to drive or even when you began going to the range.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Traveling without Guns
Be armed to the maximum extent possible, within the realm of reason--you're probably not toting a belt-fed in the airport. However, do not let the gun rule your life. Our firearms are life saving devices, not ones that inhibit our ability to truly live life. Take a step back and assess why your mindset is the way that it is. Then you can begin to find ways to start growing, one baby step at a time. Before long you'll find yourself enjoying experiences you never before thought possible, traveling both domestically and abroad.
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