Tom Givens: “Where is the gun in your car?”

I don’t know why I haven’t written more about my experience attending the Rangemaster Tactical Conference back in 2014 because it was quite an experience, indeed. I learned alot, especially from Tom Givens’ presentation on “Defining the Threat, Designing Training Programs for Reality.”

Photo of Tom Givens from
Photo of Tom Givens from

Although it was not one of his major points, I remember Givens talking about when he was a police officer in the 1970s. He said it was so common for people to carry guns in their cars, that when he pulled someone over he did not ask, “Do you have a gun in your car?” He asked, “Where is the gun in your car?”

Now, even prior to the shall issue concealed carry revolution, some states allowed people to carry concealed handguns in their cars without a permit (e.g., Louisiana). But one of the interesting things about the rise of shall issue concealed carry to me is that it allows some people to do legally something that they would otherwise do illegally.

In the book Under the Gun, James Wright and his colleagues report on a survey conducted by Cambridge Reports, Inc. in 1978 (pp. 142-43). The survey found that 29% of respondents who owned handguns responded “yes” to the question: “Do you ever carry that handgun or pistol outside of the house with you for protection or not?” If you add the respondents who said “not sure” (perhaps due to their not wanting to incriminate themselves), the total jumps to 42%. In other words, nearly half of handgun owners in 1978 may have carried their gun outside the house for protection.

Now, I don’t want to over interpret these findings, because some of those people were probably law enforcement officers or security guards, or carried the gun outside their house but on their property, or legally carried a gun in their car, or legally open carried (as they could in North Carolina, for example).

But certainly some of those 42% carried their guns illegally in public because they determined that not doing so was a greater threat to them than the potential criminal punishment for getting caught. Hence, “Where is the gun in your car?” And shall issue concealed carry gave some of these people a legal avenue for doing what they deemed necessary.

I was thinking about this during class recently, but in the opposite direction: taking something that people have been doing legally for some time and making it illegal. California’s impending (2017) total ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will put thousands of law abiding gun owners there in a position of either surrendering/destroying their previously legally owned magazines, or becoming criminals.

It’s interesting to me to think about how laws can either de-criminalize or criminalize things people have been doing often for long periods of time. It is nice to be on “the right side of the law” with respect to concealed carry, but I would hate to wake up one day and find myself on “the wrong side of the law” when nothing about me or my behavior has changed.



  1. New Mexico legally considers one’s conveyance equal to one’s home so having a concealed gun in one’s car or on one’s motorcycle, bicycle (yippie!) or horse has always been legal. But once one is off of one’s horse or bicycle the law on concealed carry applies. But since we have open carry, it merely means that someone without a CCW must have the gun a) in full view or b) unloaded.

    Have to confess that back in my younger days I sometimes had a hand cannon in the car when driving through NYC in the dead of night, between eastern Long Island and Upstate. My understanding was that as long as one was simply driving through NYC and not stopping on city streets (I was on the expressways) that my “other than NYC” pistol permit was valid.

    Your point is well taken. Some of the stuff being pushed by Bloomberg et al will make criminals out of law abiding citizens (read the ballot initiatives in Maine and Nevada) if one is not careful. Sometimes I think that is their intent.


  2. Thank you for the post to both of you . Very informative. I’m glad I don’t live in either the Republic of Kalifornia or the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. Of course if the move to Virginia goes through as the recent election showed the liberal minority that infest the I-95 corridor and the counties adjacent to DC dominate state voting who knows what will happen.


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