GHayesby Gila Hayes

I’ve been thinking about the Florida concealed handgun licensee who got a lot of undesired attention from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police last month. Without any chance of MD to FL license reciprocity, the motorist had left his gun at home, but that did not prevent the transit officer from rummaging through their belongings, probing the car’s engine compartment and door panels and even patting down the motorist’s teenaged daughters, looking for that pesky gun.

I won’t detail what happened; that sordid story with its many implications about vanishing liberties is fully explored at a link I will give you at the end of this column. First, though, let’s consider how the unfortunate incident might have been avoided or at least mitigated.

The story goes that the armed citizen was driving through MD, apparently keeping pace with other fast-moving traffic, because we’re told that he was warned for driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone. After the initial contact (you know, the part where you surrender your registration, license, and proof of insurance), the MTAP officer asks the motorist to get out of the car where he says, “You own a gun. Where is it?” and the motorist answers, “At home in my safe.”

Ordered to stay put, the motorist waits while the officer goes to the passenger’s window and asks, “Your husband owns a gun. Where is it?” The wife responds that she does not know, adding gratuitously that perhaps it can be found in the center console or the glove box. She further explains that she’s scared of that gun, fears shooting herself with it, and wants nothing to do with it.

Returning to the waiting motorist, the officer accuses, “You’re a liar. You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it.

“Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now.” The motorist can only repeat that there is no gun in the car, a fact that the officer feels compelled to prove so the search ensues.

We can never know if the search would have been so extensive without the wife’s comments. We do know that police question family members and others who are present at investigations so armed citizens need to teach family members about police interactions. This may prevent a situation similar to the motorist’s, but more importantly, your larger effort can turn your family into a unified team for the defense of the whole family.

Failing to unify the family on vital issues can result in a hostile family member, like the motorist’s wife, who obviously was not comfortable with her husband’s gun, and chose a bad time to vent her emotions. A family dis-unified over so elemental a concern as defense has serious problems. Here we have room only to troubleshoot a few; the concerned reader will undoubtedly think of more.

First, the armed citizen’s family desperately needs proof that their armed family member will behave safely and judiciously with deadly weapons. Likewise, they need assurances that their armed family member fully understands and has a legal and morally justifiable strategy for using deadly force in self defense. Consider a shared viewing of the Network’s #1 DVD, Use of Deadly Force in Self Defense, or offer a short verbal synopsis and let family members ask questions and explore their fears.

How effectively can a team work if only one member knows the strategy? Family members must know the lengths you will go to avoid a confrontation, what to do if you are involved in a brewing incident or a full-blown attack, and understand that you will only use your gun if no other alternatives exist to prevent death or serious injury. Explain that they must never reveal you are armed or even own a gun, to friends, authorities or strangers.