Year end statistics are out on gun thefts from vehicles and guns found in carry on bags by TSA at airports.
From TSA: A new record for firearms discovered at TSA checkpoints was set in 2023. This means more people are carrying guns, at least off body, and the 93% loaded means that most of them are actually properly ready for defensive use. (If I recall correctly, TSA’s designation of “loaded” does not differentiate between a chamber that is loaded or empty, so it’s possible that some or many of the “loaded” guns did not have a round chambered.)
The bad news is that three Texas airports are once again in the top 10 worst offenders in the country.
Similarly, gun thefts from unattended vehicles in major Texas cities are once again a major problem.
In Texas’ largest metropolitan areas — San Antonio, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston — more than 25,000 guns were stolen over the last three years.
Last year, one of our vehicles, parked in our driveway, was broken into by someone looking for guns. In a rare case of cops being at the right place at the right time, multiple Bryan Police Department officers were already on our block, responding to 911 calls from neighbors about car burglaries. BPD actually rolled up on the guy as he was digging around in the truck looking for things to steal. One officer took off pursuing him, another rang our doorbell to let us know what had happened. His first question was “were there any guns in the vehicle?” Our daily carry guns stay with us, on body, and are never left in a vehicle unless we are out somewhere and have to enter a facility where the penalties for illegal carry are a class A misdemeanor or higher. So no, there were no guns in the vehicle.
The officer explained that car break-ins, specifically looking for guns left in vehicles, had increased. This didn’t surprise me as I’ve been following those stats for several years. Houston and San Antonio have been particularly good about putting the data out with public press releases.
I’ve written extensively about the gap between the 99% of gun owners whose commitment to self defense consists and ends with taking the state mandatory permit course. The people that are having guns stolen from vehicles and are forgetting them in carry on bags at airports are in that 99%. It happens because their mindset is that carrying on body, even in a pocket, is “too hard” or isn’t necessary because they have a gun in their bag or in the car. It’s the half measure that allows them to think they are well prepared and equipped for a potential deadly force situation, exempting them from the need to actually carry the gun with them. There’s a whole industry dedicated to feeding this delusion, particularly the “car holster” companies that advertise heavily on Facebook.
The false appeal of the car holster
From reading comments online and interacting with 99%ers on this issue, I put together a summary of the common reasons why they think they need a car holster, or why having a gun in the console, glove box, map pocket or under the seat is “just as good” as carrying on body.
- I am concerned about carjacking and road rage attacks. (This concern is justified, particularly in urban areas.)
- The best response to both is to use my gun. (All the instructors teaching the multiple vehicle defense courses I’ve taken recommend driving away as the best response. I worked a case in a rural Texas county as an expert witness where a permit holder ended up taking a felony plea deal for a road rage shooting incident that could have been avoided by driving away.)
- Carrying in a belt holster is uncomfortable when I’m driving. (Most of those having this opinion are carrying using a holster they bought at a gun store or from Facebook – usually low quality, often worn in an awkward position. These folks typically have never taken a formal course in holster use, and never practice drawing from concealment from standing or sitting positions.)
- Wearing a holster is just not something I’m going to do. (Sometimes this attitude comes from restrictive dress codes at their workplace, or prohibitions against carrying at work, but it also comes from refusal to modify any aspect of their normal wardrobe to accommodate carrying. It also comes from those that haven’t considered alternatives to belt holster carry – the PHLster Enigma, a belly band, a fanny pack or even a Sneaky Pete — all of which would be preferable to leaving the gun in the vehicle.)
- I pocket carry a small gun and faster access to it when I’m driving. (The real solution here is to switch from pocket carry to a method that allows faster access not only when driving, but any time. Unless the person is wearing cargo shorts or tactical pants, the pocket openings are often too narrow to facilitate a very fast pocket draw. Pocket draw from a jacket, vest or coat pocket is going to be faster than pants pocket carry.)
- I understand that I need to get the gun in my hand quickly to be effective, and drawing from concealment wearing a seat belt is slower than the open carry car holster. (That statement is true, but it often turns into an excuse for not wearing a concealment holster, or not bothering to transfer the gun from the car holster to the concealment holster each time the user exits the vehicle. The temptation to just leave the gun in the car holster because “I’m just going in the Stop and Rob for a few minutes” is high, and the risk of negligent discharge or unwanted attention resulting from frequently moving the gun from belt holster to car holster is higher than other measures, such as routing the seat belt behind the gun (for appendix carry), or folding the concealment garment out of the way, essentially open carrying when driving.)
- If something happens to me as I’m getting into or out of the car, or within a few steps of the car, getting the gun out of the car holster will be faster than drawing from concealment. (We run hundreds of force on force scenarios every year in classes. Those that are wearing their gun have much better outcomes than those that have to dash back to a vehicle, or turn their back on an attacker to lean over into a vehicle to retrieve a firearm. Those that believe drawing from concealment is slower are very likely those with no practice and/or no training in drawing from concealment, using substandard carry gear and/or carrying in awkward ways and positions.)
- I don’t believe that the gun will go flying out of the holster in a car accident. (None of the companies marketing car holsters have done impact testing with their products. This is purely wishful thinking on the part of the car holster user. Any holster (particularly a magnet) holding the gun loosely enough that it can be drawn quickly is unlikely to resist the significant forces that occur in a high speed collision.)
Car Carrying and Gun Theft
If leaving a loaded gun in a glove box, in the console, under the seat or the driver’s side map pocket is bad, leaving it in full view of anyone walking by the car, mounted in a car holster, is worse. The opportunistic criminal may not bother to break a car window to see if there’s a gun in the glove box, unless the vehicle is covered with pro-gun stickers, but expecting a thief to walk by an unattended vehicle with a gun conveniently placed for rapid access is unrealistic.
Trainer Tom Givens has had 68 students prevail in justifiable shootings. The most common location of these incidents to occur has been in transitional spaces — between the vehicle and a building. Having a gun stored inside the vehicle, no matter how rapid the potential access is to the driver, is still the wrong solution. The gun has to be on body, even if that means some form of off-body carry.
The right way to carry in the car
The only time a gun should be left in the vehicle is when the user is going someplace it is illegal (or against employer policy) to carry it. In those situations, what is needed is a locking box large enough to contain the pistol stored in its holster.
The picture above shows a VLine locking box. The picture below shows an inexpensive box from Harbor Freight Tools.
The most common car carry method, among the untrained and undertrained, is to carry the gun without a holster, with the trigger guard exposed, typically with a magazine inserted but no round chambered. Those that carry like this don’t go to the range and practice every drill starting with a slide closed on an empty chamber. They just chamber a round and shoot. That means under stress, they have no repetitions of quickly racking the slide as they bring the gun to the target.
Car-carrying the gun in a holster allows for safe carrying with a round chambered, and allows the user to wear the gun safely when it’s legal to do so. The half measure of just sticking the empty-chamber-carry gun down the pants, with no holster, is a two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right situation. Now the gun is at risk of moving around, falling out of the pants, leading to a slow draw that still requires a slide rack to get the gun into the fight. Even a low quality holster would be better than no holster in this situation.
We need to do better
More than likely anyone reading this article, particularly those that have read this far, isn’t the problem. But most serious gun carriers have untrained/undertrained friends and family that need to be reminded that sloppy carrying can lead to terrible outcomes: from stolen guns to Federal charges to failing in self defense incidents.