This is a true story, submitted by one of my subscribers who prefers to remain nameless:

SearchIt was already a long week.  I had the sad experience of attending the funeral of a 2 year old on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 who went missing and was eventually found dead in the trunk of a car.

Just 1 week before, I was one of thousands searching within a 2 mile radius of the little boys house – hoping & praying for an outcome that never came. Sheriff’s deputies found the body of Isaiah Theis at 10:15pm on Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

Our family had planned a nearly departure for a camping/vacation from Wednesday to Friday at a popular campground/water-park in Wisconsin, but we decided to post-pone the trip by 1/2 a day to attend the funeral of the two year old that we searched for the previous week. We hoped it would bring closure to the search.

Since this is a blog about carrying a firearm, I will confirm that I was carrying a firearm during the entire search/recovery effort and had multiple interactions with dozens of civilians and law enforcement, who were unaware of my properly concealed firearm – which is how a properly concealed fire arm should be, un-noticed…but that is not what this post is really about.

Almost immediately after the funeral was completed, we left the church and picked up our kids to start on our ‘shortened vacation’.  We enjoyed ourselves and were able to step away from the tragic week, at least for a few days.

Oddly enough, I didn’t realize the campground/water park was posted until the final day when we re-entered from a secondary entrance off of a hiking trail that had a sign that stated, “No Weapons Allowed on The Premises.” I’ve since reviewed their website and was unable to find anything on it about banning weapons.

On Friday, we packed up camp and headed home to rest up for Saturday’s excursion to the the County Fair. This is another venue that chooses to ban guns on the premise, however there were plenty of guns at the fair, since both the sportsman’s club and VFW were holding Gun raffles. It was downright cold and wet, so I wore a coat, but did choose to leave my firearm in the car – though my philosophy of carrying so no one knows you’re carrying would certainly be well practiced here.

Here is where the story begins…

I have a reliable carry system.  In the summer, I carry my firearm one of 2 ways – everyday – either in a outside-the-waistband retention holster or a pocket holster. I’ve trained with my system for safe and fast drawing and am comfortable with the system I have in place, but if you change your system, it is easy to get into trouble.

Pocket CarryBecause I was forced to disarm myself at the County Fair, I choose to ‘case’ my summer gun in a pocket holster, which I then put into small GPS soft-sided sleeve (great for ‘plain sight’ concealment under some circumstances).  The sleeve was then locked in the center console of my car.  In hindsight, I would probably have skipped the fair all together, but my wife and kids would have revolted.

Don’t Change your System!

Normally, I would take my holstered firearm off and put it in a drawer-safe for security and easy access.  But because I changed my system, when I got home – I took my firearm (still encased in the GPS sleeve) and put it in my gun safe.  I also put my empty holster in my drawer-safe, intending to re-holster my weapon once kids were settled.

Once the kids were settled, I ended up going to bed without hitting ‘reset’ on my carry system.  Big Mistake!

Sunday Morning…

As is typical on a Sunday morning, we were late for church.  Yes, I carry a firearm at church too. Crazy people don’t read signs and they don’t consider churches sanctuary from evil. They may even consider them targets.

Still not working within my ‘carry system’, I took my empty holster out of my drawer-safe and put it on my belt – intending to go to my gun safe and retrieve my gun from the GPS sleeve before leaving the house.  Rushing around…finally everyone was dressed, shoes were on, breakfast was finished, and out door we went.  It was still colder than normal, so I wore a light coat which would helped conceal my gun even more.

Note: I’ve carried for several years now, so I’m out of the habit of constantly checking my gun to make sure it is still there and I besides, I could feel my gun on my side when I brushed my arm across it, so I had no concerns at all, because I was using my everyday ‘carry system’.  After church was over, we went home to eat lunch.  It has warmed up by now, so as I put my youngest son down for a nap, I told everyone else to change out of their ‘church clothes’ and into play clothes.

Where's My Gun?As I took off my coat and reached for my gun to secure it, while I changed from pants into shorts, and my heart stopped!  I literally started breathing heavy as my mind raced, “Where’s my Gun?”  ~My Holster was empty!

I didn’t want to alarm my kids, but it was obvious that I was worried.  My mind rushed with images of someone finding a loaded gun in the church parking lot, the sanctuary, the bathroom…where else had I gone?  Worse yet, my mind imagined a KID finding a loaded gun.  This had never happened to me before! I’m super careful and my holster has great retention, it didn’t make sense!  Still, my holster was empty and I was scared to death.

I quickly retraced my steps to the car.  I jumped over a couple kids to get there quick, but my gun was nowhere to be found.  I search in and around the car, still nothing.  I was about to load everyone back into the car to race back to church to look, but by now the doors would be locked.  How was I going to explain this to the Pastor? What if it had already been found and I roll into a parking lot full of police cars?

Suddenly, I had a thought… “Did I ever retrieve my gun from the gun safe this morning?”  I quickly unlocked my gun safe and opened the heavy door.  I grabbed my GPS sleeve on the shelf and…there it was, exactly where I left it the night before.  I was carrying an empty holster all day.  Every time I brushed against my holster, I got a false sense of security that I was armed. Every time I thought I was armed, I was really vulnerable.

This brings up a whole other conversation that I’ll have to consider having next, but for now I’m happy that I didn’t lose my gun. It didn’t fall out of my expensive retention holster, but I didn’t know where it was at all time, nor have ‘hypothetical’ control over it at all times. Fortunately it was secured in my gun safe at home.  Because of this, I’m re-evaluating my carry system and any variables that require me to ‘change my system’ up to make sure this never happens again.

Lessons Learned

  1. You can be too comfortable with your gun.  I carry so often that I really don’t even feel it anymore, it is just like another piece of clothing.
  2. Light guns are easy to forget about.  My summer gun is small and compact – easy to conceal, but easy to ignore.  Don’t ignore your gun!
  3. Don’t change your system up if at all possible, but if necessary – hit reset as soon as possible and elevate your awareness level to compensate for the change.  Changes occur when you’re forced to disarm – posted buildings, businesses, or the POST OFFICE!
  4. Don’t get lazy! Know your gun, how it carries, and check your gun (inconspicuously) to make sure it is secure.
  5. Re-holster your gun with extreme safety after being disarmed by ignorant businesses that don’t realize it more dangerous for us to remove our gun for them than just leave it alone in the holster.
  6. Always know where your gun is and what condition it is in…ALWAYS!  Regardless of what you think, treat it as though it is loaded.

A special thank for the individual willing to share this story with all of us at Concealed Wisconsin.  Gun safety is everyone’s responsibility, but it starts with YOU!  I hope we can learn from each others experiences and make changes to our system to be safer and better prepared.  Yes, this is an embarrassing story, but one that we can all learn from.  My condolences go out the family of the 2 year old who died and as always, carry often, carry deep, and carry on!

Food for thought:

  • When, if ever, would it be ok to carry despite a location being posted?
  • Do you avoid posted business?
  • Do you have a carry system that works for you?