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The best practices for using the restroom with a concealed carry

Gun ownership responsibility doesn’t end just because you’re in a stall.


An inside the waistband concealment holster. (Photo/Wikipedia)

There are a lot of different concealable firearms out there and many different methods for carrying them. Whether you carry index, 4:30, strong side, cross-draw or pocket holster, one common thread unites you all—when you sit down to use the restroom you better have a plan.

It seems like not too many people carry via shoulder rig anymore, so dropping your pants is usually going to involve your gun. In this piece, I’ll share some practices and offer some suggestions on how best to make your experience a good one.

The problem is very real
I have studied the issue of guns in bathrooms with growing alarm. We can look to law enforcement for a lot of direction on what to do, and certainly what not to do. Consider the detective on a prisoner escort stopping at the airport restroom. After sitting down to conduct business his or her firearm quietly ended up on the floor. As they stood up, the gun was accidentally kicked under the stalls across the bathroom floor. Asking for your gun back is not a conversation you want to have.

Uniformed officers have provided us with the cautionary tale of the duty belt being hung on the hook of the stall door. As the story goes, the suspect reached over the top of the stall door, snatched the whole belt and fled on foot.

Unfortunately, these aren’t one-off situations, we have heard of several agencies where officers have simply left their firearms behind in the restrooms. It is easy to point the finger at the feds and say the U.S. Capitol Police were responsible for this, but a recent Google search for “cops leave guns in bathroom” came back with 785,000 results.

This is absolutely unacceptable as it creates a risk to so many people. What if a child discovered your gun? A criminal? How can we relax in our time of need without creating a terrible situation which involves a concealed firearm?

Separation anxiety
The simple act of lowering your pants moves your firearm further out of reach. Reach can equal control. Because of this philosophy, I am not a big proponent of carrying off-body. I know there are some great concealed carry products out there like folders, purses, and backpacks, but this is not my preference.

What are some strategies?
First and foremost, consider reactionary gap—that distance where you perceive a threat, decide on an appropriate response and enact it. The greater the gap, the longer you have to process and react. This lends itself accordingly to proxemics. With apologies to those with physical challenges, I always use the biggest stall if it is available.

It is easy to look under a stall and see the shoes of the person next to you. You can often see their pants around their ankles and if applicable, their gun. Don’t make it easy for someone to reach under and take your gun.

Consider moving your weapon to better secure it. I cannot advise a course of action which separates you and your firearm. Leaving the gun on the back of a toilet, on top of a toilet paper dispenser, or anywhere off your person increase two risks:

1. Someone else may get it
2. You may forget it

If your method of carry relies on an in the waistband (IWB) or pocket holster, you may want to place your firearm in your underwear between your feet. Specifically, I’m talking about having your pants all the way down to your ankles. This creates a platform which keeps your gun off the floor. This technique not only keeps your firearm close, it ensures you will not forget the gun when you try to pull your pants up. You can still access the weapon if the need arises, and no one will be able to get to it without first alerting you. Be careful when doing this, though. A negligent discharge is obviously a risk to health and safety. Depending upon circumstances, you may also be charged with a crime.

If your gun rests in a holster attached to your belt, you can twist your pants to have your firearm rest between your feet. Keep in mind, whenever you unbuckle a belt it is susceptible to the weight of the firearm in the holster. It isn’t inconceivable to have a belt pull through the holster depending upon your mode of carry. Here again, you may consider carefully placing the firearm in your underwear, then return it to the holster when you are finished.

Be proactive
Using these tips and tactics will you allow you to handle your business without losing your weapon. Don’t be one of those people who gets contacted by the police because you left a gun behind, and don’t be the victim of a crime because you did not take a bathroom break seriously.

Gun ownership is not an occasional responsibility which leaves us when we tuck in our beds or sit in a stall. Give yourself some distance and maintain control of your weapon. Keep these practices in mind and the worst thing that might happen to you could be some toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

Sean Curtis is a law enforcement professional with over two decades of experience, serving with SWAT, diving and swift water rescue teams in Colorado. He has also served in wildland fire, search and rescue, EMS and emergency management.