What concealed carriers need to know about Brandishing, Printing and Improper Exhibition of a firearm
What's the definition between brandishing a firearm and simply being spotted? What about showing an outline of a concealed carry pistol beneath a layer of clothing? These questions and more we'll address in this article.
The informal term “printing” refers to showing an outline of a concealed carry gun on either a shirt or garment that the person is wearing. It's a big taboo in the concealed carry community. For those states and cities where open carry isn't allowed – it can potentially get a concealed carrier in hot water.
Printing, though, is not as big an issue as improper exhibition and the worst being brandishing. It really only comes up during warmer weather seasons where people tend to wear lighter clothing. Here's an article that discusses how to avoid it.
Brandishing and improper exhibition, though, can sink a concealed carrier in deep water quickly.
Brandishing – Why It's Never a Good Thing
There is no big difference between improper exhibition and brandishing for many states. In both cases, it's the demonstration of intent to intimidate. It is seen as a reckless step towards the de-escalation of a conflict via showing a firearm. There are case precedents that have shown it can be the opposite. But the middle ground between improper exhibition (or brandishing) and simply being spotted is a fuzzy gray area.
Examples of brandishing, printing and improper firearm exhibition.
Case 1 – Late night restaurant
Joe has a concealed carry permit and has his favorite compact pistol in an inside the waistband holster. On the surface, he's dressed appropriately – t-shirt and jeans. He just wants to run in and pick up his order to go and return home. While inside, he sees the restaurant is crowded. A lot of people are hooting and hollering about the game. A guy bumps into him while he's waiting for the waitress to bring out his to-go order. In the process, Joe's shirt is brushed away revealing his firearm. Joe quickly adjusts his shirt to cover it back over. Guy wanders off.
Joe thinks nothing of the matter. He gets his order, pays, and leaves. Worse case scenario? When he gets home, he gets a friendly visit from a police officer asking his whereabouts. He explains his situation. In most cases, depending on locality, municipality, and state gun laws – Joe would hopefully not be charged with improper exhibition of a weapon or trespassing if the business explicitly had signage not allowing weapons inside the premises. In any case example similar to this, it's important to contact an attorney.
In most cases, this would be seen as being “spotted” and not brandishing a weapon because there was never any clear intent to intimidate, the weapon was never removed from the inside the waistband holster, and no verbal altercation or otherwise preceded the incident.
Case 2 – Late night restaurant by the bar
At that same restaurant, over in the bar section, Darrell is rooting for the Red Sox and Anthony is rooting for the Yankees. Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox lose and Anthony is overly eager to rub it in Darrell's face. Darrell hasn't been drinking but he does have a concealed firearm on his person. One insult too much concerning Stephen Strasburg's horrible pitching and that's it – tensions flare. In Anthony's excitement and tribulation, he spills his Bud Light all over the bar. It pours off in rivulets down onto Darrell, who's wearing his favorite Red Sox jersey in support of the team. Darrell gets real quiet and looks at Anthony, who despite the spill is still blathering on about how the Yankees are the best team in MLB.
Darrell does the dumb thing and takes out his favorite Glock 19. He doesn't point it at Anthony but his action clearly says that he's had enough. Anthony, wisely, decides to call it an evening. For the head bartender, however, it's a call to the cops. And when Darrell is booked – which he will be for brandishing a firearm – they have all the clear intent they need to charge him and revoke his concealed carry permit.
That one was pretty cut and dry. If the pistol leaves a concealed carry holster, it needs to be legitimately in self-defense or in private. Anyone who sees your gun leave its holster has the beginning of a case of improper exhibition – especially if there was an argument or altercation previous to the event.
Case 3 – Late night restaurant in the parking lot
Everyone is closing up for the night. Kevin, the head chef, is walking out to his car with Shannon the bartender. They both remark about the craziness of the night and how business was great. As they approach their cars, they see a group of three men gathered. They're talking amongst each other but one of them is sitting on Shannon's trunk.
She asks the gentleman to please get off her trunk. He looks over and he's obviously had a few. Another guy explains they're waiting for a ride. Kevin, tired from the long evening, is a bit dubious of their intentions. The gentleman still hasn't left Shannon's trunk. Kevin asks this time – a bit more authoritative and sharp. Tipsy McDrunkerson on the trunk, however, doesn't budge. In his bleariness, he believes there's some sort of alpha male challenge taking place. He makes the goofy move of taking off his Red Sox jersey (it's always the Red Sox fans, isn't it?) and slapping his hands on his bare chest like some sort of ape.
Well, that's it. Kevin removes his pistol from his concealed carry holster and tells the whole group to move away from Shannon's car. Drunk or not, they do. Shannon gets into her car and leaves.
Chivalrous if a bit misguided? Sure. But congratulations, the least drunk of the group files charges with the local police that he was threatened by the head chef of the restaurant with a pistol. Backing him up are two of his newly sober friends and the security tapes subpoenaed from the restaurant itself. Kevin just landed in a big ole heap of mess.
Being spotted or even revealing that a firearm is on your person is not at all a big deal. Use a good inside the waistband concealed carry holster, use the right style and size of firearm, and check out some advice about concealing a firearm during warmer weather. Worse case scenario, it's a discussion with a police officer.
Brandishing, though, is something that immediately takes a situation to life or death. Just brushing aside your shirt to reveal your pistol can be considered intent enough to intimidate and be prosecuted as such. And nearly every single state that allows CCW also has gun laws specifically stipulating the conditions of brandishing or improper exhibition.
The best course of action is to never remove a concealed weapon from its holster, in public, unless you have every intention of using it. More importantly, if there are hooligans in the car lot, use your weapon for self-defense only and let the police handle the rest.
About The Author
James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.