Mario Marchman and Il Ling New are two of the nation’s most respected firearms instructors, and over the course of their teaching careers at Arizona’s famed Gunsite Academy they’ve fielded a wide range of questions. But when I asked them a very important—and very personal—question about concealed carry as it related to functions of the human body I was certain that they would be taken aback. I was wrong.
“That’s a great question and I get that a lot,” New says. “Most people never talk about what to do with a firearms when nature calls in their concealed carry class.”
The laws of probability and human physiology being what they are, if you carry a gun often enough you’ll eventually be faced with the question of how to safely handle that gun in the restroom. Improper handling a firearm while navigating the narrow confines of a bathroom stall can be hazardous. According to Il Ling New, a large number of firearms accidents happen when we are manipulating the firearm and not, as many people believe, during the act of shooting. The probability of having a negligent discharge is higher when you are distracted, and there’s a good chance that when you’re in the restroom, firearms safety won’t be the first thing on your mind. But if you’re carrying, it should be. For that reason it’s critical to know how to safely handle a firearm when nature calls, and here’s some advice from the experts.
The safest way to secure a firearm in the bathroom is with the use of a barrel post. Some shooting ranges—including Gunsite—have these caliber-specific posts mounted on the restroom walls and they allow you to slide the gun into a safe position so you can perform your other routine without having to worry about your firearm. Barrel posts are simple and safe and more and more shooting ranges are installing them for the convenience of shooters, but it’s almost certain that you won’t find barrel posts in the restroom in your local grocery or clothing store. In that case, you’ll have to come up with an alternative.
As previously stated, your first priority should be securely removing the firearm and placing it somewhere where it will be secure as you use the facilities. New and Marchman both suggest the bathroom floor as one possibility. This allows you to safely place the gun out of the way (with the barrel always pointed in a safe direction), so you can take care of pressing matters without having to worry about where your firearm is located. It will always be in eyesight and readily accessible.
As simple as it is to place the gun on the floor of the stall, there are also several compelling reasons not to do so. If the bathroom is clean, the gun is pointed in what you know to be a safe direction, and no one else is going to come in and see a gun on the floor of the stall, then this is a fine option. But if you’re like most, the thought of putting the gun on the floor of a public restroom and then handling it and putting back into your holster is enough to make you cringe.
There is a better option for securing the firearm in the bathroom, and that is to place the gun in your dropped pants. That’s a secure position and you’re almost certain not to forget it is there after you have completed your duty. In addition, the pants work well to hide the firearm from others who happen to glance under the stall to see if it is occupied. Again, be sure to place the firearm so that the barrel is pointed in a safe position.
It might seem that I have missed a very simple solution to the gun-in-the-bathroom dilemma. Odds are that the toilet in that bathroom has a tank, and that the tank is flat on top. The top of that tank has served as a bookshelf for generations, so why not just place your gun on there? The answer is quite simple—sooner or later, as you become distracted by your other duties and your mind starts to drift, you’ll likely leave the gun on the back of the toilet tank. Don’t think it happens? Think again. Many veteran police officers will tell you that, over the course of their career, they have seen a sidearm or two left behind in the station restroom. And although it has never happened to me, I can’t imagine a much worse feeling than suddenly realizing that you have left your loaded personal firearm in a public restroom.
If you really, really don’t want to deal with bathroom stuff while carrying concealed, there are always other options. Off-body carry doesn’t secure your gun as well as on-body carry, but it does make life simpler when nature calls. As does an ankle holster. But switching carry methods to ease bathroom operations is a bit outlandish. Instead, be sure to keep your firearm secured and facing in a safe direction. Remember that, as a gun owner, the weight of responsibility follows you everywhere. Even into the can.