Guns In Public Places: Danger or Asset?

There has been a long debate on the benefits or dangers of having guns in public places. The idea of self-defense in populated areas is questioned by many because of the risk of hitting an unintended target. In other words, they see you as a danger and not an asset because of injuries you could inflict on the innocent by trying to help. But what is the alternative? Hunker down and hope the mad gunman doesn’t shoot you before the police can arrive?

For this discussion, I’m not going to look at laws meant to prohibit criminals from carrying weapons in public, or weapons that are carried in the open. Instead, I will focus on law-abiding citizens who choose to carry a concealed gun in a populated place. Each argument should be given careful consideration. But in the end, everyone has to make a decision on where to carry a firearm. What will yours be?

What makes people want to carry in public?

With the long history of mass shootings, tensions rise when the topic of guns in public comes up. The fear of a crazed madman with a gun is one reason people choose to carry a gun for self-defense in the first place.

On October 16, 1991, George Hennard drove his truck through the front doors of Luby’s Café in Killeen, Texas. He got out of his truck with two handguns and started shooting anyone he could see. Suzanna Gratia Hupp was one of the people in the restaurant that day. She had her concealed carry permit and carried a weapon anywhere the law allowed. But Texas didn’t allow people to carry a gun in a restaurant, so she had left her gun in the car. She watched Hennard as he walked through the building shooting one person after another. Suzanna’s parents were with her that day and both were shot and killed. Law enforcement arrived quickly and exchanged shots with Hennard before he killed himself.

For this horrific event, what else could have been done? The police were called. They arrived and confronted the shooter. But in the short time before police could arrive, Hennard murdered 23 people and injured another 27. This shooting would remain the deadliest shooting in US history for 16 years until the Virginia Tech shooting took place.

Incidents like this bring the subject of guns under a microscope. But criminals having guns and law-abiding citizens having guns are two different things.

Fullsize gun for self defense?
People carry all sizes of weapons concealed, from compact to full-size, for self-defense.

Do laws protect us from public shootings?

We have laws that prohibit criminals from carrying weapons. We also have laws that make it illegal to shoot people. But if a person has decided they don’t care about the consequences of laws or even if they live, how can they be stopped? Making more laws and restrictions is not the answer. Being able to stop the shooter as quickly as possible yields the best results. Waiting for the police is not always the quickest way to stop a shooter. Police respond as fast as possible when they get the call, but they don’t know what they don’t know. When a shooting takes place, they can’t respond until it’s already happening and someone has called them.

Deputy trains at the range
Members of law enforcement train daily to respond to any type of call. But even in the fastest response times, a lot can happen if there is no one to confront a shooter.

When teaching CCW classes I remind the students that we (law enforcement) do not have a crystal ball that tells us where to be and when. Like it or not, the police are mostly a reactive agency. Something happens and we respond. But a lot can happen in a short period of time, and by then it could be too late. The “no guns allowed” sign and all the laws in the world cannot stop someone from physically carrying out a violent act if they no longer care about laws and consequences. Laws have the most effect when the consequences of breaking those laws are carried out. Our society has failed miserably at that, and criminals are constantly being released from prisons and jails only to commit more crimes. But that discussion is for another day.

Guns in Public Places — Good or Bad?

The most obvious and most argued reason why guns are dangerous in public places is that if an armed citizen is trying to help and starts shooting toward the bad guy, they could hit someone else in the process. Another argument is that police will have a harder time stopping the shooter if there are multiple people shooting guns when the police arrive. Could any of these things happen? The answer is yes, but is this a common issue every time there is a mass shooting? That answer, my friend, is no.

On July 17, 2022, Elisjsha Dicken shot and killed a person who opened fire in the food court of an Indiana mall. Three people were killed before Dicken fired 10 rounds, stopping the shooter without injuring anyone else. If he had not acted, this would have no doubt been another large-scale mass shooting in the history books. There were no armed citizens at Luby’s Café, and 23 people died. The Virginia Tech shooting ended with 33 people murdered. That list could go on and on.

CCW firearms - A great choice for self-defense
A good argument can be made that public places are safer when law-abiding citizens who train with their CCW weapons are ready to act when danger arises.


While the arguments against guns in public places should be taken into consideration when training, it doesn’t address the problem. It only addresses a ‘what if’ scenario and not the real issue. Arguments against guns in public places also open the door for gun restrictions and therefore restrict the rights of the American people. This goes much deeper than just the argument about carrying a weapon in public. It gives more control and power to the government, and they are not supposed to have all the power. The people are.

Every law-abiding citizen should have the right to carry a weapon for self-defense. The most populated areas are the most vulnerable places to be. If someone starts shooting, someone with a gun needs to stop them. This could be the police or a law-abiding citizen who decides to act because the police are not there yet. For those who choose to carry in public areas, train with your weapon and be familiar with the holster and weapon you have chosen to carry.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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