“What do I do with my firearm when I go to a public bathroom and I’m concealed carrying?” It’s a question I hear frequently from those who like to imagine every scenario before applying for a concealed pistol license and, appropriately enough, a common topic of discussion between myself and my equally safety-conscious brother. Of course, there are as many answers to this question as there are CPL holders, but that doesn’t prevent a huge number of suggestions from being woefully misguided or downright dangerous. It’s best to clear some common and very bad ideas out of the way first.
A primary and frequently violated rule for a handgun in a bathroom stall, apart from the basic NRA safety guidelines for handling a firearm, is to never give up possession or control of your firearm (unless you have somehow dropped it, in which case let it fall and retrieve it once it has come to rest). For that matter, there is generally no reason to unholster your firearm in the first place. Despite some posturing by those who claim to unholster and set down their pistols on various items in bathroom stalls “all the time” without any problems, history has shown that it’s simply too easy to become distracted and forget your handgun for it to be a good idea. There’s also a glaring safety issue involved with doing so, as user “Joe” mentioned on a related post on TheTruthAboutGuns.com, “Unless you are expecting someone to kick in the stall door, there is no reason to unholster the gun… The odds of a negligent discharge, while still low, go way up once you unholster the gun.”
And, as ridiculous as it sounds to forget you have a gun, there have been a frighteningly large number of cases in which pistols have been left behind in bathroom stalls, often on top of the toilet, and found by others. In fact, several notable cases have even involved police officers, including a case near Grand Rapids, Michigan in which an off-duty officer left his weapon on a trashcan in a bar’s bathroom – where it was found by a 22-year-old woman who drunkenly discharged it (thankfully, no one was injured).
Just a small selection of “forgotten gun” cases in bathrooms:
It’s also important to remember that there is no panacea that will fit for every article of clothing, size, weight, and make of firearm, or carry-style and holster when going to the bathroom. Resting a Ruger LCP (in a pocket holster) in your underwear while sitting on the commode might work well under some conditions, but plunking a 1911 in there is probably going to be an unpleasant experience. And then, for some, this won’t be an issue in the first place. Have a shoulder or ankle holster? You’re more or less in the clear. IWB or OWB? You’re going to run into some problems. Apart from a holster flopping from side to side and resting on what is likely an unsanitary floor, it could theoretically become visible to occupants in the stall beside you or to “overly curious” bathroom-goers outside. While this accidental viewing is highly unlikely to hold up as some sort of brandishing charge, it could theoretically end with a call to the police and a hassle for everyone involved.
What, in that case, are your options? Truthfully, I’ve begun relying almost solely on the video embedded below as a training guide for the curious, as I’ve found it to be one of the most comprehensive, safe, and logical discussions of the issues that I have ever seen. While much of the video may be common sense, the overview is helpful for beginners and the visual approach to explaining firearm storage methods in the bathroom is much more effective than trying to express such tactics in writing. Even better, her ideas work, and I personally use her recommended fold-under method for my Glock 19 in my IWB holster. What’ll work best for your situation? Watch and try some of her suggestions out for yourself!