Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guns and bikes

OK, this is not a rant about guns, either way. I noticed a post on ADVrider's Face Plant forum from a few months ago that has since rolled off. What happened was, a rider (who seemed to be a law enforcement employee) was wearing a gun on his belt, came off and broke his hip because of the gun.

Gear manufacturers usually warn not to carry heavy objects like tools in the pockets, and guns definitely qualify as 'heavy objects'. Even the diminutive Derringer, as favored by Special ED, is a heavy object in your pocket.

My personal take on carrying a gun is, if it's legal and you feel like you need one, go ahead. I have a Tennessee concealed carry permit and I often avail of it when riding. I know a lot of bikers who either carry or pack a weapon in their luggage, legally or not. As I said, I live in Tennessee, where the movie 'Deliverance' was filmed, and every time I see a gay redneck in a pickup truck on a country road, I hear those duelling banjos and my hair stands on end. Never know when you'll be glad of having a weapon handy.

The question is, what's the safest way to carry a weapon, if you choose to do so? When I first got my carry permit, I wore my gun in a shoulder rig, but it soon occurred to me that the chances of going down and breaking some ribs were probably a lot higher than the likelihood of a need to use the weapon in self-defense. The shoulder carry option came to look self-destructive. For a while I switched to carrying in the side pocket of my Aerostich, but the ADVrider story of the hip injury came along and that seemed a bad idea too.

All the carry options also include issues during stops. If you plan to eat in a place that has alcohol, for example, most state law bans even legally-carried guns, so you have to do an awkward transfer of the gun to your saddlebag. Same would be true of many parks and most schools.

The security advantage of having a gun actually on your person is pretty small. Chances are, you have to unzip your jacket or pocket and maybe remove a glove before you can use it. If you get into a situation, and you are actually on your functioning bike, chances are you can outrun most threats, ninjas on Hayabusas notwithstanding. It seems to me that the most real security threat occurs when you are stationery, especially if your bike is disabled. There would most likely be a transition between being mobile on your bike and being stopped, with a corresponding chance to move your gun. I don't see any situations where you would want to be using your gun while actually moving. If stopped on your bike, chances are you'd want to dismount before actually firing a gun, due to the vulnerability of a bike-straddled firing position, and the likelihood of taking a bullet in your gas tank while your nads are in close proximity to it.

Long and short: if mobile, you run. If immobile, you are off the bike asap, and maybe using it for cover. Your gun just needs to be readily available on the bike.

What I've ended up with depends on my bike. On the ST1300, I keep it in one of the cowl pockets, with the lid unlocked. On my 919, I use a small tank bag. In both cases, the gun is fairly readily available, at least as handy as it would be under my jacket. When needing to leave the bike and gun, I either lock the cowl pocket or unmount the tank bag and lock it in the saddlebag.

A lot of trouble, you might say, and you'd be right. But gun ownership carries responsibilities, including the need to lock your gun away when unattended, and honoring those pesky rules that say you can't carry in certain places.

Too much trouble? Well, that's a call. I have to admit that when I visited Canada recently, and left my ironically Canadian Para Ordnance pistol at home, I felt naked the whole trip, despite a can of Mace clipped to the handlebar and a taser in the side pocket. So I still carry the gun whenever I get on the highway, despite all the inconveniences. But I do my best to try to keep the safety ledger in the plus column.

And that's always the trick with bike safety. Anything you do to enhance safety has the potential to bring its own set of risks, so that the thinking biker is constantly balancing the pros and cons of safety. Guns on bikes are no different.