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Security and Legal Considerations
The Law and the Survivor
If you have read much into this site, you have probably discovered that not everything discussed is always going to be legal for all people in all circumstances. In most of the English speaking world, we have seen a progression toward more restriction on weapons - especially firearms. In conjunction with restrictions on weapons, there has been a shift by the courts to narrower interpretations of the basic right of self defense. The use of deadly force in self defense is almost never accepted by courts in the UK and Canada is a short step behind. In the western United States, laws plainly spell out conditions and case law where it is perfectly legal to kill someone with a gun under certain circumstances, but zealous prosecutors with a social agenda will attack a self defender anyway.
In world courts, laws and reality of self defense change from day to day. Armed groups or vigilantes can be heroes under one regime and fugitives under another. Interestingly, the UN courts seem to only recognize the rights of governments to dispense justice and provide for protection of their citizens although there has been a growing tolerance for openly militaristic corporate security forces. Several human rights organizations have noted that wealth is the major determiner in the tolerance of paramilitary security forces.
In the emerging political climate of borderless wars and far reaching security concerns, legality and practical reality may simply be incompatible.
The truth is, even if you are innocent and peaceful, you have plenty to fear from the law.
In nature, the right to self defense is self evident. It is outlined to some extent in most major religious and philosophical works and mentioned in the Mosaic laws. Unfortunately, many governments and non-governmental organizations, in their own interests, will consider the armed survivalist an unacceptable risk. They are unwilling to share power with the armed individual who bears arms at their own discretion.
To make matters worse, even if you win in court, there are many ways a vengeful prosecutor or law enforcement agency can damage you. One of the most common is to retain records of your indictment that will show up on background checks for business and professional licenses and certain security checks for employment. In extreme cases, new charges can be filed against you as laws and the political climate change.
Another fairly common tactic of vindictive government types is to push for heavy handed enforcement actions against a business entity with the aim of punishing the operators, owners and investors in the business. Motivations for this can be almost anything from a self appointed moral crusade to manipulation by competing businesses. Anti-trust suits against Microsoft are an example of how success and wealth are no guarantee against this type of hostile action by government. The danger for arms dealers is even more pronounced. Even those which are scrupulous in their adherence to law are targeted by government authorities. More common harassment comes in the form of tax and permit audits, but in some cases this can snowball into a full fledged paramilitary raid / attack. One Canadian surplus and militaria dealer was the object of one such raid in 1995.
A cut from a UK militaria magazine demonstrates the official British position on the private ownership of even antique guns. The caption on the picture to the left sums it up with an admonishment to the "assumed" military reader: "Don't be fooled by age, even an old bolt action rifle is lethal in the hands of a competent shot." The particular article dealt with the exploits of an intelligence unit experienced with the collection of intelligence data obtained by examining confiscated weapons. At the time the article was written, the unit was operating in Kosovo under KFOR. Such intelligence data assists investigations into where weapons have transitioned from the "legitimate" government controlled markets to "black" markets. In reality, many of the "illegitimate black markets" are controlled by clandestine operations of various governments. It is likely that one such investigation of weapons discovered in the Balkans led to the raid at Marstar and a related raid on a Colorado gun dealer who was accused of illegally importing M1 Garands from Canada. This is an example of the fuzzy line between gun collectors, international arms merchants, guerilla groups and rogue states.
I stress that the ideal of this site is one of defense and survival, not revolution or the projection of power. The aim of the survivor is peaceful tolerance from a position of strength. The true warrior mindset is a different thing and involves different priorities. Like in the first chapter, this site is put together from the standpoint of peaceful preparedness in a relatively safe environment. A survivor will probably not spend much time in a crisis scenario, but rather in simple everyday life of working, relaxing and raising a family. Many people will not understand or sympathize with you maintaining an arsenal. On the other hand, coordinated government enforcement is usually only justified when other factors come into play, like an international angle involving human rights abuses and large numbers of more modern weapons.
It is important for the survivor to have a keen sense of perspective if or when obtaining and maintaining a survival arsenal. No significant international arms smuggler or dealer has been involved directly or indirectly in any of the notorious mass workplace or schoolyard shootings, and no small time survivalist or gun collector has been the leader of a guerilla army indicted by the UN for war crimes. Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to see a significant difference and as rumors spread and grow, you may find yourself facing a legend in the mirror of public opinion that is very distorted from reality.
Employers may feel threatened by workplace rebellion or lawsuits stemming from workplace violence whether it is justified or not. Landlords, building managers and even homeowners associations can feel threatened by armed folks in their midst. Again, the underlying problem is their perception of the threat to their authority.
In many cases, employees who are known to bring personal weapons to work can be terminated as a risk to coworkers. In union related labor disputes, the possession of any kinds of weapons at the workplace can be construed as a threat to management. The excuse may be that they do not want liability for allowing arms in the premises. In these cases, the notion should be one of "what they don't know can't hurt anybody" unless a specific situation warrants it. Once people get to know and trust you, they will probably tolerate your weapons in the workplace.
A word of warning if you are the business owner or manager. You must be careful about how you conduct yourself with weapons on the premises even if you have all of the authority to possess of carry them there. Things are different from the old days when a business owner could rule his roost with an iron fist. "Chewing out" an employee or subordinate while issuing some implied threat by reaching toward your weapon, fidgeting with a holster or even talking about violence toward a subordinate while armed can cause major problems for you in civil court. There is considerable case law concerning threatening, intimidating or harassing work environments. This intimidation does not need to be of a sexual nature to get you in trouble.
So this gets us to a pivotal question. Do you have a secret arsenal, or will you be more or less public about what you have? Will you take pains to make sure there is no paper trail leading to your stash? Or will you do everything above the board and according to the law in order to assure yourself of every legal protection?
The ideals of secrecy (privacy) and legality would, in a perfect republic, be perfectly compatible. In the emerging order, however, they are not. Gun control in North America produces lawful disarmament and illegal armament for most ordinary citizens. The progression of gun control from regulation (a legitimate government function) to prohibition presents the survivor with this major dilemma.
There is no doubt that it is almost always better to have the law on your side than not, but, the legal system is not a reliable or effective ally. It is becoming more common for those who seek aid and protection from the law to be trapped by it.
Under scenario one, two and three situations many of your activities as a survivor may be illegal. Even if your activities are condoned by the authorities at present, that may change in the future. This is especially true with vigilante groups and militias. Their status can change with the winds of politics, and acts of heroism may later be treated as criminal acts decades later. The same government that supported the action could easily turn hostile in the future.
One of the strongest examples of this is phenomenon of "right wing" (meaning not Marxist) para-military organizations formed in Columbia to aid the government against Marxist guerillas and drug traffickers in the early 1990's. They quickly became the most feared and loathed opponents of guerillas and drug cartels, thus provoking legal attacks by Marxist sympathizers in the Columbian government and international community. These resulted in Columbian Supreme Court orders for partial disarmament and increased monitoring (spying) by internationals sympathetic to their enemies. Other examples can be found in states like Alabama and Georgia where the actions of Klansmen were hailed at the time as heroic defiance against racial impurity and in defense of "honorable" southern values. Decades later, many were sent to prison by the very communities they represented.
On the other side of the law are hoodlums, thieves and robbers you are arming to defend yourself against. In most cases, the deterrent value of your arsenal is derived from them knowing that you have weapons that you can use against them. Being rational people, they decide to trouble someone else. Being unwilling to respect your peace, they challenge you and your freedom to conduct your life in peace. The "we won't mess with you of you don't mess with us" variation of a peace agreement is a reasonable outcome of this. Otherwise, more violent action may be necessary to establish peace.
Winning the gunfight is only the first part of a violent confrontation in lower threat level scenarios, the next big challenge is in dealing with the law. You may or may not need to conceal your victory from the law. There have been volumes written on the subject, a lot of it available on the internet. Consider that even though many individual police officers may be entirely sympathetic to your position, their superiors may dictate action against you anyway.
Law enforcement and the survivor <section expanded - Click here for detail>
Ramifications of illegal acquisition: <section expanded - Click here for detail>
Ramifications of Registered - up front legal buying: <section expanded Click Here for detail>
Retaining weapons at the ready vs secure storage <New section Click Here for detail>
Simple wise guy advice <see below>
Self Defense and the law<New section Click Here for detail>
So here is my basic advice, behave yourself, don't give people an excuse to hate you. Don't go about drunk or stoned in public. Associate with decent people. Be active with charity and a credit to your community. Pay your taxes or at least don't cheat quite as much as everybody else. Vote in elections and go to religious services at least once in a while. It also helps to serve in some community organization that has more friends than enemies like a volunteer fire department, National Guard or reserves, or school volunteer program.
Involvement in civil politics is also a good thing. I am not suggesting that you become a serious lobbyist. Just join a political party and attend enough functions to be seen around election time. This will not make you visible enough to make you a target but will offer some protection in the future. Even if your candidate is the loser, you can charge political oppression and retaliation if someone sends hostile investigators after you. If your candidate is the winner, then you know who to call if you need a favor. Word gets out whether an elected official takes care of those who got him there, but don't expect to totally have him or her in your pocket. After all, your were not the one who got elected.
Keep your weapons out of public view unless you have a specific purpose for showing them. Use cases that will not immediately identify your weapons to a stranger. Make some attempt at keeping your arsenal legal as long as it is practical and make sense to do so. If you end up getting several guns, don't have them all registered or all unregistered if you can help it.
Basic security of weapons should involve two elements first is concealment, second is physical security. Thieves cannot take what they cannot find. They cannot take what they do not know about. If you have to chose between well hidden guns and well locked up guns, go with well hidden guns unless you have people around who will be constantly looking for them. An example of this is children - especially those between ten and fifteen. They will eventually find anything that can be found.
Well locked but not well hidden weapons remain as a fixed target for thieves and enemies. This can be a problem in itself because any safe can be opened with enough time and tools - or with a knife to a hostage's throat.
Always opt to keep your weapons out of sight in public places in low threat situations, even in high threat situations, it can be a good idea to keep a low profile with the weapons. Granted in some situations a show of force is necessary. Military organizations have varying rules for treatment of armed civilians in operational areas. I suggest that you always maintain a non-hostile demeanor and keep the weapons out of sight unless needed. I plan on writing specific articles on this at another time.
I have found that simple paper bags work great for handguns in urban areas. Lets say that you think someone might be breaking in to your car on a public street in front of the apartment. It is either a thief under there or a kid retrieving a baseball. You want to carry your pistol and have it ready but you also do not want to alarm any neighbors and wrongfully terrorize their kids. Simply hold the gun in the shooting hand, put a small paper bag over the whole thing like a big mitten. (I personally like the thinner brown paper bags from convenience stores and liquor stores.) hold the gun hand close to your body as you go investigate. You can either tear the bag away in a second or simply fire through it if you have to. If nothing happens, all they remember is your hand in a paper bag and can only speculate on what kind of weapon you had if you had a weapon at all.
Locks and safes are the best deterrent to the honest person and the casual thief, but they are no deterrent to confiscation by government or the determined robber. More care should be taken in the security of handguns than long guns since they are easier for a thief to remove from the area without detection. Kids in the house (even the innocent 13 year old daughter) have ample time to search if they live there or are visiting. I advise some level of lockable security if you anticipate kids being around.
Again, to touch on the subject of hiding - I read several books on security and some on spy craft and have concluded that the best approach is a modification of that used by Israeli Mossad operatives. These people commonly operate in countries that are at "peace" but are hostile to the agents and commonly restrict gun ownership in general. Agents will move in to a place like an apartment, house or hotel room and construct something they call a "slick". A slick is a specially constructed hiding place for weapons, money and important documents. This can be a secret compartment in a piece of furniture (favored), a compartment behind a secret door, or buried in a shallow hole in a garden.
That is not to discount the utility of a good safe, lock boxes or trigger locks to supplement a good hiding spot. I personally like trigger locks since they are cheap and difficult for thieves to deal with. My other favorite is plastic laminated cable with a conventional padlock. It is just that no lock will keep out a determined thief. Most thefts are done by fairly lazy people (after all thieves tend to be too lazy to work) so that makes locks worth the money you spend on them. The problem is that anybody can hold a weapon to you or a hostage and have you open the safe.
Another kind of security item I like is the easy access safe. Several companies make small lockboxes for handguns that can be stored just out of sight and locked in a way that the owner can unlock it and get to the gun very quickly. They usually have some fast access combination keypad or button sequence to unlock the box so a spring pops it open. This is a good unit to have in a vehicle or home for the defensive handgun.
Concealment and hiding
Remember that camo paint jobs need not be in the standard colors of a military uniform. A mélange of grays, black and brick red can be very effective and render a firearm almost unrecognizable. The real trick is to render the gun unrecognizable to the casual eye.
A few lies to strangers about what is just a few "replicas" inherited from weird uncle Ralph might not hurt. Or maybe a real AR-15 left in a trunk with some toy guns and kids toys from goodwill for the "grandkids" or "nephews" who occasionally visit (remove it before they actually come over) might be overlooked as a toy.
I once met an old WWII vet while camping who had rebuilt a Thompson submachine gun from scrap parts. He was fairly open about showing it around and let a few of my friends fire it. Those of us who knew guns knew it was the real deal re-welded original, not a converted semi-auto. On the other hand he also kept a lot of war souvenirs around his house, including a few non-working replica submachine guns and grenades above his fireplace. He told of how his illegal Thompson had been reported to police several times but when the police came to search, he let them in with a smile, directed them to the high quality replicas hanging in the living room and then explained how their snitch mistook the replicas for the real thing. He would "admit" that he sometimes lied to people about the replicas being functional, but "knew" that a real gun expert who handled them would realize that they were not functional. The cops looked the replicas over very thoroughly, then left amused and satisfied that they had done their duty while the real illegal guns rested peacefully in a hiding place.
The more imagination put in to a hiding place, the better, but I add some kind of lock if I can. Hasty hides are difficult to lock and you may not want to modify a rented space in a building. That is why furniture with secret compartments is a good idea. I don't know why, but people I know whose homes have been searched by the police or thieves get two places searched - always. The first is the couch the second is the bed. They will pull mattresses off of frames and slash couch cushions. Coffee tables are close, same goes for desks. Of course, it all depends on the time and determination of the searchers.
Secret compartments cut out of big books are good. One decent hasty hide is to arrange books on a bookshelf so that there is space between the back of the books and the back of the bookshelf. You then have space to hide things behind the books. Since it is common for people to line up books of different sizes on a shelf so they are even on the front, the space behind them is frequently overlooked and large enough for a handgun or compact long gun.
Large stereo speakers have ample space inside for hiding things.
Living room fireplaces can have extra space behind panels, but look out for heat that can damage plastic stocks and gun parts. You can hang a shotgun hung by its sling from a coat hook behind the front door and put a coat over it for fast access to home security.
An upright vacuum cleaner bag compartment can hold a large handgun or spare rifle magazines.
You can hang a rifle by its sling from a heavy duty hanger then put a big coat or snowsuit on the hanger, then put it in the closet. Modified golf bags are good hiding spots, same with instrument cases. You can even go to an instrument store and get stickers for various brands or instruments and put them on your gun cases. Guitar cases can be easily modified for assault rifles and offer good protection. Many even have built in locks.
Dressers are usually searched but there is always space behind the drawers. The bottom of a drawer may seem like a good idea, but searchers typically just pull out the drawers and dump them anyway. Items folded in a large towel in about the middle of the drawer might be overlooked.
A closet can be made in to a cheap safe by simply installing a re-enforcement plate and heavy deadbolt lock. A step up from that would be to install a solid core entry door on a closet. A conventional safe can then be placed in the closet out of sight of most guests and family members. This double measure of security can also protect you from most liability concerning unauthorized access to the weapons. Laws in some places make the gun owner liable of a minor gets a hold of the weapon and does something illegal with it.
A trash can buried to just below the lid can be a large and usable hiding spot. Attach a rope to the lid and leave it coiled just above the ground. Paint the lid camouflage and put some dirt over it. Grow ivy or some other shallow root plant over it. A hard tug on the rope will give quick access to the contents. Planter boxes with false bottoms are good too, but be careful to make the compartment waterproof. Planter boxes are common in Europe and infrequently searched.
The kitchen offers plenty of good hides also. Large cereal boxes are good for pistols. Behind the fridge is good for a rifle or shotgun and there is usually some unused space around a stove or dishwasher for pipe and electrical access. A false compartment in the top of a kitchen table can be good. Avid using the refrigerator, it will rust guns and ruin ammo in the long run but can work short term. Liquor cabinets frequently have secret compartments anyway so they can be useful.
The bathroom usually has the obvious toilet tank and medicine cabinet. But you may have access to the space behind a shower or under a tub. Bathrooms usually have lockable doors so it makes a good place to retreat to if your home is invaded. Install a phone in the bathroom and consider some custom stash place behind a fake vent. Many security consultants recommend modifying a bathroom to act as the "hard room" of a house. You can even run the shower to steam up the bathroom with enough overpressure to keep tear gas out for a while. The bathroom of a trailer home should be modified with trap door access to the crawlspace under the home for utility access anyway.
Utility rooms can contain a second hot water heater that has been hollowed out and used as a safe, complete with fake pipe running to the wall. Fake HVAC ducts are good for bigger items. Washers and dryers rarely get searched, but you will probably need them for laundry. Housings for garage door openers are commonly bigger than they need to be, a safety cover for the chain mechanism can be made big enough to hide a rifle in the rafters of the garage.
In cars, the spare tire compartment is a decent spot, especially under a spare tire, but is also very difficult to get to. Larger cars and trucks have surplus space in the engine compartment. Expect a trunk to get searched, but some older cars have access to the space between the fender and the interior through the trunk. Attach paracord to the gun case or (if hasty) the trigger guard. Shove the gun in the space and check to make sure it does not fall out under the car. You can fish the cord out and retrieve the gun at your destination. There is almost always some space like this in the trunk of a car.
Under the seat is a bad place, it always gets searched, same goes for behind the seat of a pickup truck. Glove boxes and center consoles are so commonly searched that sometimes they get overlooked. In fact, they get overlooked more often than the space under the seat. Specially constructed compartments are best. There is usually enough space under the dashboard to put a pistol and some ammo. Make sure it stays put and does not interfere with the function of anything like pedals or heating controls. If the gun is mostly metal, make sure it won't short out any electrical circuits. The boot, or well that a convertible top stores in can be a good place too, but see how the hidden items may effect the operation of the top. This space can easily fit a rifle or shotgun.
Space under interior panels can work once or twice, but the plastic parts that hold them together will eventually break or wear out from disassembly. That is how border officers commonly catch smugglers, they check for looseness of interior panels in a car. If they have been taken off and put back on a lot, there is a reason for it.
Concealment of a handgun is a major issue when you are or might be in public view. Although it is commonly illegal, it is usually necessary. The unconcealed gun usually represents an implied threat to strangers who see it. Even if it is legal in many places, it is offensive to most people who are not armed and they are the people most likely to call the police. It may not be the law, but it is the real world. Another great danger is that someone can simply lie and say that you pulled your gun on them or threatened to pull it on them. If the gun in concealed and they cannot even accurately describe what you are carrying, nobody will believe their story that you pulled it on them. You are usually better off taking the risk of being caught carrying concealed than carrying openly and having to deal with the negative attention. You should always have some measures available for the concealment of your guns if you are to take them into any public place. Even a simple brown grocery bag can do the trick. You can have the gun in your hand, put the bag over it, and it may look odd, but it does not look like a gun - especially if you hold it close to your body. If you do not even have the bag, consider keeping it under a coat. If you have a long gun, casually take your jacket off and use it to cover the gun. Concealment holsters and bags are a no-brainer - you need them.
If you do get a concealed carry permit, get it for more than one handgun and make sure that they are two guns that look very different from each other. Like a stainless steel gun and a black gun or an automatic and a revolver. CCW information can be made available to people who can simply lie and say that you pulled the gun on them - thus being grounds for revoking the permit and maybe putting you in jail. Now try this scenario. Ms Rat has her friend at the courthouse check your CCW file and finds out you carry a stainless Beretta. She wants your job at the office and figures that if you are in jail, you get fired and she gets the promotion. She bumps your new car in the parking lot and yells at you then storms off. She calls the police and says that in the course of an argument, you pulled a big silver looking automatic and threatened to shoot her. The police show up to the office, search you and find a blue steel revolver in your handbag with the permit showing both guns. The stainless Beretta you carry on different days is sitting at home in the safe. You deny all wrongdoing and Ms Rat is proven to be a liar.
Observe some time at the shooting range or a gun shop how people carry guns. You will notice that they carry guns differently from other things. At a distance, see how they pick up a gun as compared to a power tool, binoculars or a cell phone. See how and where they carry it. Notice that a person carrying a weapon walks differently. See if you can recognize the walk. Go to a police station or courthouse and watch the cops and security people. Notice that they will have a similar walk. Even the plain clothes people will have the walk. Their hand will subconsciously go to the weapon from time to time and if trained - they will usually turn to keep the weapon away from someone they interact with.
Next, go to a shopping mall or big department store and see how people pick things up and carry them. Notice how the packages determine how something is held. Flea markets are another good place to observe since most things are not packaged. See how someone handles long slender objects that are about the same size and weight as a rifle. People will hold these things differently from the way they would hold a weapon. See what social context they are carrying them in. I am convinced that a 'street band' carrying instrument cases could just about go anywhere in a big city.
One thing I have noticed is that cell phones are commonly black and carried on the waist just like a gun, but they are almost never carried in the small of the back. They are also commonly carried bulging in a jacket pocket. This has become so common that I wonder how police deal with it. A person with a chunky black object in their hand holding it sideways to their ear and mouth would probably just be overlooked as someone with a cell phone.
Well trained observers can spot when someone is carrying a weapon by their mannerisms. Even a non-expert will notice something is up if you are walking around in the Weaver stance with a cereal box in your hand. The same goes for port arms or a combat crouch with your guitar case. The trick is to learn not exhibit 'weapon' mannerisms when you do not want to.
One way to practice is to carry the empty weapon container around and see how people observe you. If the treat you like a threat, then the gig is about up. You need to change your look or your method of carry. Another training tip is to use your chosen holster or hide method with a red plastic training gun or squirt gun of similar size (fill the squirt gun with sand to give it weight) and see if your friends spot it. Go to a public place and see if any security personnel or police seem to be following or paying undue attention to you. If they are, then they may have spotted something. Even then, take note of their actions, not just attitudes. There is no law against carrying a bright red training gun, so observe what behavior would possibly cause you to be stopped and searched. Better to find out when carrying a toy gun than the real thing. If you get searched, then you are not breaking the law with a plastic gun (in some places it is illegal to be carrying a realistic looking replica). This is good training to do before you start carrying a live gun. Get used to the placement of the holster, the weight, the shifting of your clothes and watch the reactions of those around you. It is a lot better to practice this with a non-gun than a real gun. It only takes getting caught once with a real gun to put you on record with the authorities, even if the punishment is relatively light.
Also understand that laws are constantly changing along with the standards of evidence with regard to what is illegal carrying or use f a firearm. Legal standards of "brandishing" have shifted over the years from overt threats made while pointing a gun at someone to the simple "display" of a firearm in a public place.
Savvysurvivor Legal Research and References (growing section with lots of links)