Handbag Carry: Just Stop Doing It. Now.

As fans of the female shape (on females, of course; don’t look for us to go the way of Bruce Jenner anytime before the Sun goes nova) we’re sympathetic with women’s complaints about fit and comfort problems with conventional designed-for-dudes holsters.

But we’re not so sympathetic that we’re about to sanction handbag carry. It’s a great way for a carrier to get separated from her firearm, which is bad enough. But even worse, this can happen:

Elizabeth Green’s 3-year-old son, Marques, died at a hospital June 11 shortly after the shooting woman in Hamilton, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. The mother told an emergency dispatcher amid screams that he apparently took her handgun out of her purse.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said a grand jury heard evidence in the case before deciding not to charge Green.

“The sheer enormity and permanency of this loss to the mother far exceeds the power of the state to punish the mother for her inattention under circumstances that should have been obvious to her,” Gmoser said in a statement.

At least Mr Gmoser managed to bring the investigation and grand jury to a close pretty quickly — it’s not unusual to see a case like this drag on for years, hanging like the Sword of Damocles over a person who’s already shocked, bereaved, and feeling incredible guilt.

On a word-nerd aside, it’s nice to see someone using the word enormity in its traditional sense; not just “really big” but “really horrible.” But it’s beyond awful that something like this ever had to happen.

In most cases where a kid whacks himself, or a playmate, with mommy or daddy’s gun, the state piling on doesn’t really serve an articulable public purpose, unless you’re the sort of state’s attorney who believes that your self-aggrandizement is the highest of public purposes.

The investigation was necessary to determine the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death and any criminal conduct that may have been involved, Gmoser’s statement said. He said the investigation confirmed the boy died accidentally from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest and the mother failed to secure the firearm from her purse, where it was kept for her self-protection and found by the child.

via No charges for mother whose 3-year-old killed self – CBS News.

We’re not lawyers, but we’d guess that there’s a lot of jurisdictional variance here, and a lot of shaded area between the white of simple negligence and the black of criminal culpability. Reasonable people can disagree about whether to prosecute the gun owners in cases like this.

It’s unlikely anyone will disagree that this was a terrible tragedy, of the sort that should be avoided.

Yes, it’s hard to make a service pistol, a female form, and womens’ fashions fit together. And handbag carry is a temptation that just sits there smiling at you. When it reaches out to you, remember that the same convenience seduced Elizabeth Green. It’s impossible to imagine what effect this one single error — that she may not have known was an error, even though she’d had training — and the resulting tragedy has had on her now, and will have on her for life.

Don’t make it possible for a story like this to be about you. 

28 thoughts on “Handbag Carry: Just Stop Doing It. Now.

  1. Tom Stone

    Does anyone know whether it was a standard purse or one designed as a holster?
    It might or might not have made a difference and I am not familiar enough with holster purse construction to make a guess.

  2. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

    Purse design probably wouldn’t have mattered much, my kids would just see it as a challenge to figure it out. My mom used the purpose built purses for years and before that a cheap IWB style holster with a snap inside a bigger purse. I guess tragedy was a moment away, but back in the seventies not all cars had seatbelts and there were no car seats fir the kiddies.

    Off body is pretty tempting even for guys in the south in the summer, maybe even for Hognose on that one day of summer they get up there. If I’m going IN the pool as opposed to TO the pool a modded level two holster goes in the cooler or pool bag and one of us keeps it over the sholder. I don’t fuck with the ocean so an IWB does fine for the beach-nobody that ever knew I had one on me was likely to say WTF you doing with a gun on the beach after that guy capped the shark that bit his nephew a few years ago, much less after Tunisia.

    The priest was making a point about bodies and containers being vessals a while ago and said “what if a lunatic came charging through the doirs and down the isle swinging a sledgehammer?…” My wife snorted loud enough to wake some folks. Nobody’s gonna save your ass but you, figure out a way to protect your people, safely, and remember the first rule of gunfighting.

    1. Tom Stone

      Have a gun.
      I am Californicated, but have hopes peruta will change that..
      I’ll still have to take a class at one of two schools run by the sherriffs’ buddies ( No other schools are adequate… and oddly enough these classes are both expensive compared to most and run by ex deputies) and pay an exorbitant processing fee.
      Why stay?
      Ex wife, minor child, deep roots.

    2. Hognose Post author

      When I was lean enough for swimsuit concealment to be a problem, swim carry was a Bauer .25. Stainless Baby Browning copy.

  3. Unistat76

    Well, purses that are made for CC generally have a specific pocket for the gun, with a holster secured inside. There is also a locking zipper on the pocket, although I have seen a few without the lock. Worse than useless.

    When the purse is on your person, unlock the zipper. Set the purse down, zipper gets locked. Annoying? Yes. Doable? Also yes. Advisable? Depends.

    Fashion aside, there are legitimate times when off-body carry is the only realistic choice for ladies. When my wife was pregnant none of her holsters, belts, or clothes fit. A locking CC purse was her only choice.

  4. Dan F

    The lady could have kept a round out of the chamber if the gun was not going to be on her person.

  5. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    What of the belt carry pouch that conceals the small handgun in a rectangular bag on your person ? Appears to be a large cell phone / small tablet case, but conceals the pistol and often a spare magazine for it. The link below is an example of one of these for the North American Arms product.

    http://northamericanarms.com/accessories/accessories-all/rug-g-lh.html

    In that way, the person maintains control of it at all times.

  6. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

    “Garters?”

    Always a turn on but we are talking about guns of holsters here!

    Really another thing here is teaching the kids to keep their booger extractors off stuff that belongs to other people. I know it’s not easy but it really is simple. It’s another layer of safety that applies to your tools, mom’s curling iron and the neighbor’s dog. My six year old thinks I’m an asshole, for that matter her mom does too, but we are learning to respect other people’s property and turn off appliances, lights and such, hell we may even learn to close doors and gates.

    1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

      Oh and before anyone says three is too young for that consider the smartest dog you ever had was about as smart and mature as a three year old kid and was, impulse control issues aside able to determine, if not right from wrong, at least what was going to get him in deep shit and what was not.

  7. staghounds

    “The sheer enormity and permanency of this loss to the mother far exceeds the power of the state to punish the mother for her inattention under circumstances that should have been obvious to her,” Gmoser said in a statement.

    Nonsense. In what other crime are the defendant’s tears relevant?

    Some “accidents” you should not be allowed to have.

  8. Tom Kratman

    Well, Stag, what’s the actual specific crime here? What section of the state criminal code was violated? And then, even if there is one, there’s the question of, “Will a jury convict?” Probably not. (Note also that prosecutorial discretion is a necessity in a universe where prosecutors are not given infinite resources.)

    1. Hognose Post author

      Tom, I think it also depends on jurisdiction. Some places a prosecutor would pile on with a negligent homicide charge, depraved heart homicide, whatever the state calls it. That would be where the jury would likely have limited sympathy with the defendant. Some places, a prosecutor knows that’s not going to fly. In MA or NY this would be a criminal case. We’ve had some MA and NY transplant DA’s try it here in NH. They prosecuted one guy for firing a warning shot into the ground to help detain a burglar (and let the burglar walk so he could testify against the victim). The jury laughed it out of court in under an hour IIRC.

      1. Tom Kratman

        Addendum: Yeah, were I to move back to yankeeland, I have considered NH, near the Mass border so I could see my aunts and cousins in and around Boston regularly. However, sympathetic tax regime in NH or no, the cost of living is appalling.

        1. Hognose Post author

          We’ve had quite a few years of D governors and occasional year or two year spurts of D legislators, and they crank up the taxes every time. The business tax (which anyone paid on a 1099 or 1K pays just like a corporation does) is one of the highest in the country, the highest in the region, and is crippling job formation. We’re saved only by the fact that the rest of the Northeast is worse.

          If you are a W-2 employee you don’t see that tax, but it’s there.

          A big factor in cost of living here is property taxes, which vary radically by town. I looked at a home in Exeter, $357k home, tax $14,400 a year (rates have gone up since). Opted not to live in Exeter. I pay less than half of that on a house nearly double the appraised value. (Fresh on my mind as today’s the deadline for payment and the check is in my pocket… will cycle to town hall and pay it momentarily).

  9. Tom Kratman

    It does, but the key point for this one is probably “mother’s tears.” I’m from Mass, though I never practiced there. Still, most places, and I would expect there, too, “Mother’s tears defense” is better even than “cute little blonde defense,” and – I’m tellin’ ya – the latter is incredibly effective.

    In any case, building a criminal case on this kind of thing isn’t as easy or as obvious as it might seem, unless there’s a specific statute covering it. Illegal for mom to have a gun? No. Illegal to carry in her purse? Probably not, and not relevant to the incident in any case. Illegal to keep in her purse at home? No. Illegal not to beat little johnny into never touching anything that isn’t expressly and specifically his? No, quite the opposite, these days. Illegal not to have a lock on the purse? No. On the gun? No. Negligent? “Maybe, but if so why are all these others things legal?”

    1. John Distai

      That was my dad’s form of gun safety. I remember his words to this day – “If you touch any of my guns, I’ll beat the shit out of you so badly that you’ll never think of them again.” And he meant it, and was probably itching to do it. Needless to say, I left them alone.

      But he hid the bolts for good measure.

  10. Gray

    “…beat little johnny into never touching anything that isn’t expressly and specifically his…” is the magic elixir that American culture has been deluded into thinking is and was not efficacious.

    So now they defer administering the elixir until .gov, a sane citizen, or reality provides a dosage, sometimes in greater than the LD50 range.

  11. Kirk

    At least a part of the problem here is the same unease I’ve always felt when watching kids play with realistic toy guns. I really, really don’t like that, because to my way of thinking, that’s just going to increase the odds that said kid will treat a real, live gun the way they’re used to playing with one. I don’t even like watching depictions of violence where the consequences aren’t readily apparent, to be honest.

    I’ve got nothing against kids and guns. Hell, I was shooting before I was ten, and running around like an idiot with toy guns, myself–But, since I connected the real world with the toys, I just can’t get into that. Training with simunitions or paintballs? No problem–So long as its training. The games I watch people playing with that stuff really leave me cold, because you don’t have the connection made between “Hit someone, hurt them…” that I think needs to be there. The more stylized the toy gun or airsoft weapon, the less trouble I have with it, but the realistic stuff just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth, because I feel like it’s mocking the seriousness of the whole thing. You take up the gun, you’re arrogating some of God’s power over life and death, and that’s something that needs to be treated very seriously. It’s not a fit subject for “play”, or “game”, in my mind.

    And I’m convinced, every time I hear of one of these cases where a kid has done something like this, that the parents and family have a lot of responsibility for setting the situation up, in the way the kid treats the gun as a toy. In order for them to do a lot of these things, the kid has to have had a good deal of exposure to the whole idea of “gun”, and pointing it at people. The real problem is that the kids aren’t old enough or mature enough to understand death, or that the result of pointing a gun at someone is likely to be death…

    Guns are not toys. They’re serious stuff, and if I could, I would take every realistic gun toy off the market, especially for kids. And, I’d make the damn media depict the results of using a gun realistically–Show a “good guy” shooting someone? Yeah, now you need to show the “bad guy” laying there bleeding out, and doing the funky chicken… Even in the damn cartoons. Even in the cartoons…

  12. Curtis in IL

    I don’t have a problem with an article reminding us of the dangers and limitations of off-body carry. I do have a problem with a headline that tells me what to do – “Just Stop Doing It. Now.”

    You sound just like the hoplophobes when you do that. We all need to assess the risks and benefits ourselves. The decisions involving carrying and storage are going to be different, depending on whether we have small children. And just as my 8-yr-old grandson has difficulty pulling the trigger on his Daisy BB gun, I know there are handguns with triggers that a 3-yr-old is not going to be able to pull.

    Keeping guns out of the hands of toddlers is extremely important. But it’s not as simple as whether or not to carry a gun in a purse.

  13. Jeff

    MS has a new law effective July 1, 2015, that makes “purse carry” legal without any CCW license, which is otherwise required for CCW. Further, it appears that the statutory list of places off limits to licensed CCW does not apply to this new purse carry, so that one might be able to legally carry in a bag in places where one could not otherwise CCW at all.

  14. staghounds

    Generally when one of our gangsters leaves a loaded gun in a child rich environment, we charge reckless endangerment with a weapon- it’s a felony, although it only carries one to six, but juries will convict.

    In the parent case with a dead child, I’d charge that, reckless homicide, and aggravated child abuse (neglect resulting in death).

    You’re right, juries might not convict. Our grand jury wouldn’t even indict on the father who boiled his four year old to death while, four times over a five hour period, hearing and turning off his car’s internal movement alarm. “He forgot, and he has suffered enough”. Yeah right, to both of those.

    Some of these cases are profound neglect, and other ones are straight up murder.

    A parent’s tears, even imaginary ones, are powerful stuff. Lots more than a dead child’s permanent silence.

    1. Tom Kratman

      Got curious and looked, Stag. Ohio doesn’t seem to have any particular requirements for gun storage. Connecticut, does, and I’m sure any number of more or less (usually more) liberal states do, but Ohio does not seem to. If you can find the law that requires any particular standard for safe gun storage in Ohio, I’d be interested in the cite.

      1. Tam

        The state where Staghounds works doesn’t have any storage laws, either. Just as a “FWIW”.

        1. Tom Kratman

          Hiya Tam, long time no see. Okay, never actually saw, but, you know…

          I’m out of practice, in every sense, but even given that, successful prosecution in a case like this strikes me as a lot harder than it may look from the outside.

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