Tuesday, September 2, 2014
That's the day the clouds broke open, the sun shone down in streaks of Golden Grandeur and I submitted my application for a State of Illinois Concealed Carry License (CCL). It had been a long year of practice, education, more practice and money - $250 for my 16 hours of training (most hours of any State in the Union), $150 for the application (One of the highest fees of any State in the Union), $60 for my fingerprints, $575 for my ATI FX 45 1911, $500 in ammo and $250 for countless hours at the range, but now, with the application on file with the Illinois State Police, the possibility of Concealed Carry had become very real.
As the days rolled along and the anticipation became unbearable, I began checking the Illinois State Police website incessantly, over and over and over, several times a day, hoping to see my application change from "Applied" to "Under Review" - meaning the application would then be vetted by not only the State Police (thru an FBI background check) but also under a finer microscope by local Constabularies. Then finally, about three weeks in, right around the first week of February - Bang! "Under Review."
Early March came round and as the CCL's started going out, the "Pucker Factor" became an uncomfortable way of life! The suspense grew and I was now checking the ISP website every 30 minutes, waiting... waiting... waiting... until with a rather hushed and unceremonious page refresh, the header on my ISP account changed from "Under Review" to "APPROVED," and just like that I was legally allowed to exercise my Second Amendment Rights - those taken from all of us in Illinois so many years ago - and carry a concealed gun on my person for the purpose of self-defense of me and my family, right here in bass ackwards Illinois.
Six days later, following a new and very well worn path to my mailbox, my brand new shiny CCL arrived, crisp and unused, and after looking at it's every detail, I gently slid it into my wallet, headed to my bedroom, strapped into my Crossbreed Super Tuck IWB holster, carefully took my ATI 1911 FX GI Commander length sidearm out of the safe and slid it into its new home on my hip.
It was damn near as satisfying as losing my virginity!
I put on a loose fitting shirt, stood in front of the mirror and checked to make sure I wasn't printing, gathered up my nonplussed Wife and went on a Wally Walk - a walk through Wal Mart that many who are carrying for the first time do as a sort of ritual, a Right of Passage, one that when completed, stamps the walker as a newly minted and confirmed CCL holder.
The rules for the Wally Walk are as follows...
1) You must park 50 yards away from the store.
2) Do a threat scan upon exiting the vehicle.
3) Move towards the store, continuing threat scan.
4) Spend at least 45 minutes in the store.
5) Use the restroom.
6) Pickup a product from the lowest shelf and the highest. Test to make sure you are not printing, or accidentally uncovering. If Police show up, you have failed.
7) Make at least one full circuit of the store.
8) Buy something to eat or drink.
9) Pick the busiest checkout line.
10) Exit the store, continue threat scan in the parking lot.
The Right of Passage was completed, but not without the paranoia of thinking others were certainly going to see my pistol under my shirt. I was sure customers were going to notice a bulge on my hip then gasp, squeal and point, like Donald Sutherland in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers!"
But none of that happened.
I've carried everyday since, except for the day my Son was married (though he wanted me to be "Master at Arms" and collect his groomsmen's sidearms at the wedding... I nixed that idea). I carry from morning till night, at home or out, and the one aspect of Concealed Carry that I just can't get past is this...
No one cares. No one.
It's obvious that even with all the anti-gun rhetoric, no one looks, no one notices, no one gives me a second glance. People bury their noses in their IPhone, their tablets, a book or just gaze up at the sky like a child watching an airplane.
I quickly went from nonchalantly touching my gun through my shirt, gently hitching up my jeans, making sure to grab both sides of my belt so as not to bring unwanted attention to the fact only one side had slid down lower than the other to just getting dressed and going out. Paranoia quickly became comfort, fear of printing became just another rumple line in my clothing. I stopped grabbing my shirt to make sure it was down in place when walking or sitting down. I stopped looking around to see if anyone was "making" me. Again, no one cared.
I am now fully convinced that I could walk out the door wearing a pair of black jeans with a tucked in black shirt, a black belt, a black leather IWB holster and a black gun... and I'm quite positive no one would notice.
No wonder people find themselves in such dire situations, none of them pay any attention to what goes on around them!
Now, six months later, I feel naked when I am forced to disarm in the car due to a posted business or when entering an anti's home. I feel vulnerable and exposed while missing the weight of the 2.75 lb gun. So odd. I would never have thought I would become so accustomed and at ease while armed. It's not a feeling of nonchalance or complacency, but one of assurance and comfort.
A long strange trip indeed...
Stay Safe and Carry Responsibly
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