Dealing with a concealed carry firearm in a public restroom may seem like a laughing matter—at least at first. In fact, I’m exercising every single iota of willpower I have and can borrow not to stuff this article chock full of puns and juvenile wisecracks. I’ll apologize in advance for any jokes that slip through my admittedly slack screening process. However, before blowing off the topic as comical and irrelevant, consider these true stories and the gravity and potential consequences of leaving you gun behind in a public place: A Florida man…yes, I know. A Florida man. Sigh. Anyway, this guy left his Glock in a public restroom at the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier. Apparently, he put it on the rail on the interior wall of his stall where he left it. A drunk homeless guy came in, found the gun, and said to himself (we’re making some assumptions here), “Hey, I’ll bet it’s a good idea to pull the trigger!” The drunk fired the gun in the bathroom and fortunately did not hit anybody or innocent toilets. While there are no confirmed reports, his actions may have helped others along with their, umm, business.

bathroom toilet dispenser and guard rail
The Florida man left his gun stuck in the hand rail, where it stayed until a drunk guy found it and pulled the trigger. You can guess the result. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Tom McHale

A school teacher in Taylorsville, Utah was in the bathroom early one school morning before classes started. While details are scarce, she shot herself in the leg while in the restroom. We can only guess as to the specifics of how she was carrying and what lead to the discharge.

A nine-year-old boy in Ybor City, Florida, just outside of downtown Tampa, went into a movie theater restroom. There to see the movie, Man of Steel, the boy found something more. Sitting on the toilet paper dispenser was a loaded Glock 26. Exercising his gun safety training, the boy didn’t touch it and called out to his father who got security involved. No word on who left the gun there.

toilet in a bathroom
There are two tempting locations to “temporarily” set your gun in this stall. Don’t use either of them! Tom McHale

At the University of Austin, leaving guns in bathrooms is a problem.

Within two days in February 2018, two different guns were left in women’s bathrooms at two different campuses. Both guns were recovered and claimed by the owners, one a student and the other a campus visitor.

Apparently one of the guns was found on top of the toilet paper dispenser in a holster, just not one connected to a person.

gun sitting on toilet paper dispenser
Here’s the most common (by my unscientific counting of news stories) disaster waiting to happen. It seems unlikely that one would leave without noticing their gun sitting on the toilet paper dispenser, but it happens too often. Tom McHale

Are you getting the idea that unattended guns in bathrooms is a thing that happens entirely too frequently? There are also too many cases of accidents, or “negligents” if you prefer to call them that, in public restrooms. That’s not surprising as most gun accidents and negligent discharges happen during administrative handling, not while at the range using a firearm.

The reality is, the public restroom is the place where, as a concealed carrier, your firearm is in the most danger of not being in your complete control. And it’s where too many people, through bad safety practices, leave their guns behind—which is the exact opposite of safe and responsible.

Without the right setup and habits, you might find yourself in the position of having to handle your firearm in the bathroom. It’s far better to plan ahead so you don’t have to do things like remove and reholster loaded firearms in public spaces.

Here are some ideas that can make relieving yourself more of a relief—for all of us.

Tips and Tricks

Never, Ever, Ever Do This

Never leave your gun on anything in a public restroom.

Don’t leave it on the back of the toilet.

Don’t leave it on any shelf that may be provided for your convenience.

Don’t leave it on the toilet paper dispenser because for sure you’ll remember to retrieve it from there. That’s the last thing you use before exiting, right? Wrong.

Most people reapply clothing just before leaving a stall or bathroom. Nearly every story of a gun gone astray in the can involves someone finding a gun left behind in a place where it “wouldn’t be forgotten.”

gun sitting on top of toilet tank
Not only is this a place where it’s far too easy to forget your gun, its also slippery and your gun may find the floor on its own. Tom McHale

Don’t Get Hooked

This one gets its own category even though it’s a subset of the previous tip. Don’t hang your handgun on the coat hook. Ever.

We call this one out separately because this process involves sticking something through the trigger guard. That hook is now like a finger inside the trigger guard itself and nothing is preventing that hook from moving the trigger and firing the gun. Just a little inadvertent pressure, or even gravity alone, might do the trick.

gun hanging on hook
This is the worst temporary storage location of all. Not only is it too easy to forget, that hook is inside the trigger guard. This is a negligent discharge just waiting to happen. Tom McHale

The Right Holster

Use a holster that secures your gun. Yeah, I know, those suede and sticky things are comfortable and convenient, but guess what? When not pressed against your body, few will hold the gun securely.

When you are lowering clothing in the bathroom, there’s no more pressure on the holster and gun and you’re relying completely on the structure and fit of the holster to keep the gun inside.

clinger holster no print wonder
A good holster, like this Clinger Holsters No Print Wonder, will hold your gun in place upside down and even through a few shakes. There’s no “active” retention device on this holster. It’s just well made and fit perfectly to the handgun. Tom McHale

To find out if your holster is up to snuff, there’s a simple trick you can do right at home.

Unload your gun and put it in your normal holster. Now, try turning the holster upside down over the bed or couch to see if your handgun falls out. Maybe even give it a little shake.

If it does, consider getting a boned leather or well-fitted Kydex holster that is designed to provide passive retention through fit and friction.

A good holster will keep the gun inside even if you turn it upside down. A great holster will keep your gun secure if you hold it upside down and give it a shake.

urinal flushing mechanism
If you carry your gun in such a way that you have to remove it to use a urinal, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your holster strategy. Tom McHale

Keep Things Attached

Now that you have a proper holster, keep it attached to whatever it was hooked onto in the first place. If it’s on your belt, keep it there. By applying some tension to your belt as you drop trou, you should be able to maintain the gun in an upright position, in its holster, while you lower your pants or skirt.

There are only two places a loaded gun should ever be: pointed down range and firing purposefully, or in a holster. If you’re forced to remove your gun from your clothing, keep it in the holster and make sure to store it safely. We’ll get to that tip in a minute.

How’s the View?

While retention and safety are paramount concerns here, you also don’t want other people in the restroom seeing your concealed handgun while you’re doing your business. In many states where there are no open carry laws, this could potentially even be illegal (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

Most public bathroom stalls don’t cover the first foot or so from the floor. That makes for easy cleaning I suppose, but it also means you have to be more careful about what’s visible.

Think about what someone far away, viewing from a flat angle, can see in your stall. If they see your new Camo Crocs, no big deal. If they see a gun attached to the pile of pants or skirt, that might create a public panic.

If the stall walls are high enough off the floor, that someone might see your gun, try applying outward pressure with your leg so your clothes are compressed and held closer to your knees than gravity would normally dictate.

two handguns on a black and white checkered tile floor
If your carry method doesn’t include a holster where you gun can stay while using the bathroom, you’re far more likely to cause a ruckus when your gun lands on the floor. Tom McHale

It Pays to Be Last

If you gotta use the bank of stalls, use one at the end that’s adjacent to a wall. That minimizes your exposure to two sides: the front and one side. When lowering clothes with a gun attached, it minimizes the number of potential views so you can keep your carry gun concealed.

Beware the Belt Flop

When you release your belt buckle, the weight of your gun will unwind your belt. Quickly. Under those conditions, even the best gun belt in the world will flop and your holster will probably flip upside down.

If you carry a semi-auto, most of the weight is in the grip area because of all those cartridges in the magazine. When the belt goes slack, gravity does the rest. As long as you’re prepared, that’s no big deal. Just get in the habit of either keeping pressure on the belt or supporting the holster when you loosen the belt.

Choose Wisely

If you have a choice of lavatory venue, choose one that has individual rooms. Fortunately for gun owners there seems to be a growing trend to create individual unisex bathrooms in many restaurants and public places, so that makes it easy.

While usually gross, many gas stations and convenience stores offer one-holers as well, so you have the room to yourself. You’ll still need to be safe and keep the gun attached to your body, but you won’t have to worry about someone seeing it.

Go Family Style

Another new technology advancement in bathroom convenience is the family washroom. Usually intended for diaper changing and other child-related activities, it can be a good option for you too as long as you still don’t violate the first tip: never, ever, leave your gun sitting around and not attached to your person.

Your Carry Method Matters

carry methods
Not all carry methods are equal when it comes to certain regular activities. Tom McHale

While we would not advocate choosing a carry method solely based on its bathroom benefits, the type of carry can make a big difference in your restroom experience.

  • Ankle holsters are as easy as it gets. By definition, you’re wearing long pants that will bunch up and hide your gun with no effort required.
  • Off body carry methods like packs, purses, and briefcases have the same risks in the bathroom as everywhere else. Your gun isn’t attached to your body, so it’s up to you not to leave that bag unattended anywhere—ever.
  • Shoulder and undershirt holsters rarely require any movement or relocation, thouch some shoulder holsters may require you to detach them from a belt. Depending on your personal movement style, you might need to be cautious about leaning forward. Enough on that.
  • Fanny packs and similar carry methods will usually have to come off. Just as with a loose handgun, never leave it on a shelf or hang it on a hook. Better to pile it up between your feet on top of your pants or skirt so there is no possibility of forgetting it.

If you absolutely, positively have to remove your gun…

I get it. There are some clothing and holster combinations that may require you to remove your gun from your body. Not doing so might even be unsafe. If you have to do this, you can use the pocket created by your lowered pants or skirt (between your feet) as a temporary storage location. Your holstered gun is still “connected” to your clothes, so it will be very difficult to forget it. It’s still somewhat in your direct possession. You’ll still need to be very careful to remember to remove it before raising your clothes else your handgun is likely to go skittering across the bathroom floor.

If you do have to resort to this method, be sure to exercise careful muzzle discipline. You’ll have to decide which direction is safe based on your position and location. You might consider pointing the muzzle towards the floor rather than out to one side. A hard floor is more likely to stop an errant shot that bathroom drywall.

A lot of this is common sense, but since the consequences of a single mistake are not in any way trivial, it pays to plan a little in advance. The most important takeaway is to never, ever leave your firearm, even for a second, on a shelf, hook, or toilet paper dispenser. Did you notice that most of the cases at the beginning of this article had something in common?

One Last Thing – The Body Check

When you get ready in the morning, just before you leave home, you give yourself a pat down to make sure you have all your essentials on you.

Wallet, watch, keys, knife, flashlight, handgun, magazine. Check, check, check…

When you put yourself together after answering the majestic call of nature, you should do the same. Give the outside of your pockets a quick perusal and then go to your belt or whatever your carry location may be. Make sure you feel the butt of your handgun’s grip and the top of your spare magazine if you carry one.

While you certainly shouldn’t get in the habit of touching your gun all the time in public to make sure its there, a quick pat after using the restroom and before you head back into public view is always a good failsafe final check, regardless of how you choose to handle your gun while doing your business.

And, if you carry spare ammo, make sure thats secure during and after the…process…as well. These days, even leaving a loaded magazine in a public bathroom will make the news, and you don’t want to be that person.