Friday, February 16, 2007
Among gun people, CCW stands for "Carrying a Concealed Weapon." It can be used as a verb, as in "How does one CCW a full-size handgun wearing just a t-shirt and shorts?" It can also be used as a noun, denoting the permit ("I just got my CCW. What kind of gun should I buy?") or the gun one carries ("My CCW is a Colt Defender.").
There are some variations of the acronym. There is CHP (Concealed Handgun Permit), CWP (Concealed Weapon Permit), CHL (Concealed Handgun License), and all the other combinations of (weapon, handgun) and (permit, license, endorsement). Every state has its own laws regarding concealed carry. Take a look at http://www.packing.org if you want to know the laws for a particular state.
Gun people classify state CCW laws as "shall issue" or "may issue." In a "shall issue" state, the law is written such that anyone who applies for a CCW permit/license/endorsement/whatever will receive one, unless disqualified by some well-defined set of circumstances (felony conviction, violent misdemeanor, domestic violence, mental illness, etc.).
In a "may issue" state, issuance of CCW permits/licenses/endorsements/whatever is at the discretion of some local official, typically the county sheriff. Obtaining permission to CCW in such jurisdictions is dependent upon the attitude of the official in question, as well as the local political climate. One may need to demonstrate threats against one's life, or transport of large amounts of cash or jewelry, or other special circumstances to justify a carry permit. In some "may issue" jurisdictions, it is pretty easy for an affluent white citizen to get a CCW permit; it is not as easy for people who are not so privileged.
Georgia (my home state) is a "shall issue" state. All that is required to get a Georgia Firearms License is to submit an application to the county probate court, provide fingerprints, and allow a criminal background check from the county police department. The fees add up to about $45. The probate court is required to issue the license within 60 days. I wonder what criminal background information they can find in 60 days that they can't find in 60 minutes.
My Georgia Firearms License is signed by a probate court judge named "Pinkie Toomer." I wonder whether it is really legit.
I received my Georgia Firearms License about 45 days from the time I applied. This gives me the right to carry a firearm concealed or open (in plain sight), except in places prohibited by law. Prohibited places include schools, nuclear power plants, and Georgia's ambiguous "public gatherings," which include, but are not limited to, athletic or sporting events, churches or church functions, political rallies and/or functions, publicly owned or operated buildings (Fed, state, or local government buildings), and establishments at which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises.
Having the Georgia Firearms License allows me to buy guns without need for the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS). So this saves me about ten minutes of waiting whenever I buy a gun in Georgia.
Georgia has "reciprocal agreements" with many other states, so my Georgia Firearms License gives me the right to carry a concealed weapon in those other states.
Carrying a concealed handgun is a pain in the ass. One needs a suitable holster that keeps the gun in reach, but which keeps it concealed. If you don't keep your concealed weapon concealed, then you may have to deal with "man with a gun" calls to the police, which could lead to a "disturbing the peace" kind of charge if somebody complains too much.
There are several kinds of CCW holsters available. The two most popular kinds are outside-the-waistband (OWB), where the gun rides outside one's belt, and inside-the-waistband (IWB), where the gun is clipped to a belt but rides inside one's pants. OWB and IWB usually require some sort of "cover garment," such as a jacket or untucked shirt to hang over the weapon to keep it concealed, but there are "tuckable" holsters which make it possible to tuck a shirt into the holster so that it looks like one is wearing normal clothing. Also popular are "pocket pistols" that fit in a small pocket, making it possible for someone to CCW while wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Some more exotic forms of carry include ankle holsters and shoulder holsters. Women can wear thigh holsters under their skirts—male gun owners are always eager to see pictures of these rigs. There are also purses, briefcases, backpacks, and waistpacks designed to carry guns. Among those in the know, seeing a man wearing a "fanny pack" implies that the man is armed.
There are also people who carry guns without holsters, simply putting them into a pocket or sticking it in the waistband. This is not a recommended way to carry a gun. A holster covers the trigger, guarding against an accidental discharge. Without a holster, there is a greater chance of something getting snagged on the trigger.
Every type of concealed holster is uncomfortable in some way. There is just no getting around the fact that hiding a few pounds of steel on one's body is going to involve some compromises between stealth, comfort, and the ability to present the weapon when needed. Due to the discomfort, many people who get CCW permits and try carrying give it up after the novelty wears off.