I feel like a fashion model.
I'm wearing a charcoal-gray western cut blazer, black slacks and my standard pair of cowboy boots. Whenever I pull this outfit from the closet, my wife asks me if I'm trying to sell Cadillacs on a used car lot in West Texas.
Hey, I never said I looked like a fashion model.
But the thought comes to my head because I'm twirling around in front of my bedroom mirror like one.
What a man will do for a gun.
That's right, I've got a .22-caliber pistol strapped to my left hip. For the past year, I've periodically been writing about what it is like to obtain a concealed carry permit in Kansas. I've done so not to try to convince you to obtain one yourself, nor to dissuade you from applying. Instead, it has been a journalistic exercise designed to enlighten people about a twist in society that has now come to Kansas.
The state began issuing concealed carry permits in January 2007, and since then 13,175 of your fellow residents have obtained a license to hide a gun on their person or in their vehicle.
After training, a test, paperwork, a background check and $150 in fees, at least one reporter from the Journal-World is among them.
Now, I just have to figure out where I'm going to put the thing.
I'm spinning around in front of the mirror because I want to see how visible a pistol is from underneath my blazer. The pistol isn't much bigger than my cell phone, but no one freaks out when they see your cell phone hanging from your belt.
The left hip position is convenient, and the pistol is tough to spot. But there is one problem. If I have to get anything out of my left pocket - like my cell phone - the pistol becomes visible. Actually, there are two problems. The blazer won't button.
I'm going to attribute that to the gun.
So, I change blazers and gun positions. This time I strap it on my belt in the square of my back. It is not nearly as accessible, and my blazer has a vent in the back. It would be easy for the gun to show through.
Next, I try my pants' pocket. At first, I carried the pistol - unloaded at the moment - without the holster. I didn't like that. The first thing my hand touched when I went to reach for it was the trigger. I put the pistol back in the holster and then put the holster in my pocket. You'd never know it was there, but it isn't very accessible.
Finally, I go back to the hip. This time I place the gun in a spot between my hip bone and the square of my back. Even when I open my blazer fully, the gun isn't seen. And it is accessible.
I drew and cocked it in about three seconds. Come on, I knew you were curious.
I grab my keys and my clip. With a quick slide and a click, I'm loaded and ready to start the day.
Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.
At least, that's what I thought would be the case when I undertook this experiment. You know the signs. The ones on the front doors of businesses stating no guns allowed.
But I found there aren't as many signs out there as I thought. In reality, a concealed carry permit holder can take a loaded gun lots and lots of places in Lawrence. On one day I decided to eat out for lunch. I thought my downtown restaurant choices would be limited. Not the case. I walked up and down Massachusetts Street from Seventh to 11th streets and casually looked for the no gun signs. I did not find any restaurant that prohibited me from entering. My gun and I had a $7 Cuban sandwich.
The service was no better or worse than normal.
I also shopped on South Iowa Street. I picked up a pack of diapers at a major, major retailer. My choices of places to shop on South Iowa were nearly unlimited.
Here's what really surprised me, though: There's a multitude of bars that I can enter with my loaded weapon. I thought that was a strict no-no under the law. But come to find out the law changed in mid-2007, Chuck Sexson, director of the concealed carry program for the Kansas Attorney General's office, told me. It used to be that any business that was considered a bar or tavern under the law was an automatically prohibited place, whether they had a sign on the door or not.
It is still illegal to carry under the influence, but now the law says you can go into any liquor-serving establishment as long as a sign isn't posted. The same is true for schools, churches and libraries, which all used to be automatically prohibited locations.
So for most of the week, I spent my time looking for another type of sign - I looked for the unwritten yet not so subtle signs of how agitated my wife was with all this. As I've mentioned in previous reports, this is the one story my wife and I have agreed not to talk about. But I alerted her anyway.
I could say we've reached detente. But for one, that is a mighty fancy word. And two, it would be a lie.
It pays to read the fine print if you're a concealed carry holder.
Most of the time keeping to a simple strategy of avoiding those places with the no-gun signs will keep you out of trouble. But there are exceptions.
One is the post office, or any other federal building. Most don't have the no-gun signs but prohibit concealed carry anyway, Sexson said.
The bigger stumbling block, however, could be your employer. Here at the Journal-World, we do not have one of those no-gun signs on our doors. But that doesn't mean I can carry a gun to work. Our employee handbook states I can't. If I carried my pistol to work, I wouldn't be subject to a ticket and the misdemeanor offense. But I would be subject to discipline by my employer.
So for the largest part of everyday that I conducted this experiment, my gun sat locked in my truck in a parking lot. I didn't like the idea of leaving the gun loaded.
To ease my mind, I pulled the clip of ammunition from the gun and placed it in my pocket. It produced an extra jingle in my step as it mingled with my keys, and gave me one more thing to remember before I went to bed. Each night I removed it from my pocket. I don't know what would happen if my wife placed a clip of ammunition in the dryer. Probably nothing.
But I'm certain it wouldn't help achieve detente.
I'm ending this project with the same number of holes that I started with. That was my ultimate goal when I decided to write these articles. I didn't want to blow my foot - or anything else - off in the process.
I had succeeded in that, and I was following through on what I had always envisioned would be the last step in these reports: Selling the gun.
Parting was not such sweet sorrow. That's not a commentary on concealed carry as much as it is on this particular pistol. I just never trusted it as much as I would have liked. A nice little revolver would have been more my style.
Selling the gun was even simpler than buying it, but that doesn't mean it was foolproof. I don't know all the legal ins-and-outs of selling a handgun to someone you happen to know or someone who happens to respond to an ad. But I know it happens.
I didn't go that route, though. When I bought the weapon, it became registered to me in a database. My biggest goal in selling the gun was to get it out of my name. I'm not sure how that happens if I sell it to some Joe Blow.
Instead, I went back to Jayhawk Pawn and Jewelry where I bought it. John Geery, the manager of the shop, assured me that since the pawn shop is a federally licensed gun dealer that the gun wouldn't be registered to me anymore. At his suggestion, I drew up a bill of sale and had him sign it to keep for my records.
He offered me $70 for the gun that I paid $140 for. I took it, and walked out of there with some peace of mind.
Of course, I also walked out of there with a concealed carry permit in my back pocket. Yes, it does bring up the question. Will I go buy that little revolver? Will I continue to carry a gun?
The answer: You'll just have to guess.
After all, that's the world we live in.