How To Remain Armed In A “Gun-Free” Zone

In this article, we will explore how to be constantly armed in a “gun-free” zone. This may mean an aircraft, airport terminal, museum, concert, sporting event, government building, etc. Anywhere and everywhere that has put measures in place to completely disarm us.

I: Armed

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of “armed” is:

a: furnished with weapons; using or involving a weapon
b: furnished with something that provides security, strength, or efficacy. (armed with knowledge)

Definitions aside, what does it really mean to be “armed?” This is a great question. For instance, we were told by the news media that Mike Brown was “unarmed” when he was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson.

At the time of his death, Mike Brown was 6’ 4” and weighed 292 pounds. Given his size, Mr. Brown was “armed” with his hands, feet and strength when he used them to assault a clerk and then forcibly remove items from the Ferguson Market. It was the same felonious use of his hands, size, weight and relative strength that Mr. Brown used to savagely attack Officer Wilson. Officer Wilson fatally shot Mr. Brown during the assault. After numerous riots and an exhaustive investigation by the Department of Justice, Officer Wilson was acquitted of any wrongdoing.

The DOJ’s report found that Officer Wilson’s use of deadly force against (what the media referred to as) an “unarmed” Mike Brown, lacked “prosecutive merit” and therefore should be closed. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals position that “unarmed” does not mean “harmless” was the basis for this conclusion (Smith v. Freland, 954 F.2d 343, 347). Bottom-line, Mr. Brown was armed and so (potentially) are you.

You don’t need a weapon to be armed, if you are the weapon. However, let me make this very clear, going armed for protection from or in defense of a violent assault, is only a small part of your over all safety and security posture. I want you to analyze your entry, occupation and exit of a gun-free zone with both safety and security in mind. An example of being safety-minded might be carrying a cell phone, medical equipment such as a tourniquet and a high lumens flashlight. Additionally, knowing where the fire alarms and emergency exits are and making sure that they are really a clear exit.

That being said, this article is about going armed, so I will set safety aside. Let’s focus on security.

II: Mindset

Going armed in a gun-free zone starts with mindset. For example, even if you are armed with a loaded handgun, if you lack the will to use it to defend yourself, it is totally useless. You must have the will to fight with any tool you have. You must have the mindset – the will, to smash your opponent’s teeth down their throat and hope they choke to death on the pieces. If you don’t, stop reading now.

III. Law

When it comes to the law, you must know where you can legally carry and what you can legally carry. Do your research before you go armed. There are many excellent websites devoted to the legalities of carrying defensive tools. Moreover, know what levels of force are reasonable in the jurisdictions you are in. A great resource is The Law of Self Defense by Attorney Andrew Branca.

I live in Tennessee and have had a concealed carry permit since 1996. Thus, I legally carry a firearm virtually everywhere I go. If I see a business that has posted a gun-free zone sign, I don’t patronize the establishment. Another unique thing about our gun-friendly state is that we passed a law that makes business owners who post “no guns allowed” signs responsible and legally liable for their patrons’ safety. However, gun-free zones are a fact of life and sometimes we can’t avoid them. Continue reading to see what I carry in these locations.

III. Weapons

The gun-free zone I frequent the most occurs during air travel. When I fly, I can’t carry a firearm with me on the plane, but I can carry a tactical pen and a high lumens flashlight. I will freely admit that I don’t advertise the fact that I fly with a tactical pen, as the TSA isn’t very fond of them. I don’t deliberately hide it, I simply place it in my carry-on bag with my other pens. The flashlight has never been an issue. The flashlight is bright enough to temporarily blind an attacker and the tactical pen has a blunt metal point that is capable of tremendous damage to soft tissue. Once I have made it passed the TSA screeners, I simply put the flashlight back in my left pocket and the tactical pen in my right pocket where my folding knife would normally go.

When I board the aircraft, I also give myself the tactical advantage by ensuring I have an aisle seat near the front. This affords me the opportunity to move up and down the aisle as needed and places me nearer the forward exit. The flashlight can also provide illumination in low light environments, or act as an impact weapon as the bezel is crenulated for striking. The tactical pen, when used in the icepick grip, works extremely well, not only as a striking implement but also like a kubotan to gain compliance via the attacker’s pressure points. I often carry additional items but for my own personal security, I will not address them here.

If my gun-free zone defensive carry items seem inadequate to you, you are not alone. The FAA used to permit us to fly with knives having blade lengths of less than four inches. I did it all the time. Seems strange when you think of it now. You see, the FAA couldn’t foresee the damage that a four-inch blade could cause in the hands of a determined attacker. Then on the morning of September 11, 2001 we awoke to the horror that nineteen hijackers had killed thousands of people and brought down the Twin Towers armed only with measly little four-inch blades. The terrorist had shown the world the violent and coercive power of four-inch blades in the hands of men intent on doing harm. Once again, they had the mindset and with the right mindset, you are never disarmed. Never, ever underestimate the power of the determined mind.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite gun-free zone defensive solution – OC Spray. I have successfully used OC (Pepper) Spray dozens of times during my career as a bouncer, Corrections Officer and Police Officer. It has worked for me 100% of the time. The times I have heard officers say it didn’t work, I’d walk down to the holding cell and look at the inmate they had sprayed. The inmate would often have a large red streak down their cheek. Meaning the OC Spray had not come in contact with the suspects eyes, mouth or nasal passageways. So, of course it hadn’t worked. The officer had totally missed the suspect’s vital areas. When used properly, OC Spray is an amazing tool and you should be caring it with you.

Notice I have not mentioned an edged weapon. Since the use of a knife on another person is always considered deadly force, I put this defensive tool on par with a firearm. However, if I am not allowed to carry a firearm, but I can carry a knife, then I am far from being disarmed. In close confines, my edged weapons skillset is comparable to my skills with a firearm. Happy, happy.

Lastly, you are a weapon. Millions of years of evolution have made human beings the ultimate apex predator. Your head, teeth, hands, knees, elbows and feet are deadly implements of your will. This means that you must not only have the knowledge and will to use these defensive skills but also a high level of fitness. I’ve said it before, the best gadget you can buy for your gun is a gym membership for you.

IV: Training

If you lack the strength or training to utilize the tactical pen, OC spray, edged weapon, and high lumens flashlight to defend yourself, then you are behind the power curve. The American Warrior Society can help by offering on-demand video training on a variety of self-defense topics.

The fight’s coming. Be ready.

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Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

9 thoughts on “How To Remain Armed In A “Gun-Free” Zone”

  1. Great article, thanks!

    One weapon you didn’t mention is the cane. For those of us (like me) who are old and decrepit enough to plausibly carry one, it’s something you can take with you on a plane, in a courthouse, school, etc. — pretty much anywhere.

    They make ‘fighting canes’. I’m not sure whether airport security would have a problem with one; I suspect it would depend on the airport, and who’s manning the security station.

    OTOH, I have a vintage Irish blackthorn cane I got off eBay. It’s stylish-looking and handsome, not at all threatening-looking; but formidable as a weapon if wielded effectively.

    It’s useful as a cane: topped with a round knob which fills the hand quite nicely when hobbling around with it; but which would deliver a nice blow if used as a weapon.

    It possesses all the desirable characteristics of a blackthorn: it’s lightweight, hard, and shatter-resistant. I’ve repeatedly slammed the ground hard with mine to test it, with no ill effects.

    Like all blackthorns, it’s got little protruding ‘knobs’ (what’s left when the thorns are trimmed off) up and down the shaft; which I imagine would add to it’s effect if you were whacking someone with it. (The blackthorn is what a lot of the traditional Irish shillelahs were made of.)

    For ordinary use I put a rubber ‘crutch tip’ on the end; but I can quickly remove it (by stepping on it with the edge of my shoe and pulling up on the cane) to expose a 1/2” diameter brass tip— capable of doing a lot of damage if thrust in the right place.

    Of all the really unobtrusive weapons you can carry anywhere, a cane seems among the most effective.

  2. Good stuff, thank you. I just want to point out you may not carry pepper spray onto airliners because the pressurized container may fail in the cabin at altitude. Or so I’m told.

    1. They may have some sort of rule against it, but that wouldn’t be a realistic concern. Those cans are surely engineered with enough of a factor of safety to keep that from happening. I would imagine that they would be far more likely to explode in the hot trailer of a semi getting shipped from supplier to store than in the cool, slightly lower pressure of an airplane cabin.

      Just my 2 cents, and it’s worth what you paid for it.

      1. Sir,

        You are being logical…I suspect you do not make airline or TSA policy!?

  3. The stainless steel Parker T-ball is a superb covert weapon that goes on its way without being noticed. So to is an old credit card ‘worn down’ on one edge (blink, blink), and a 6 pin key blank, also worn down on the thin edge.

    Many moons back, just after the earth cooled, I responded to a call where a gal was the recipient of unwanted and unwarranted attention. She had a key ring with about 8 or so keys on it, attached to a long biker wallet type chain. Apparently during this “altercation”, she had started swinging those keys around like a flail. The recipients face looked like cats had tried to use him for a scratching post.

  4. Another flail option: belt with large buckle. Never tried it myself, but I know a guy…

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