The Hank Earl Carr argument is an argument used to dispute the lawful possession of handcuff keys. It’s a hasty generalization (a logical fallacy) made in reaction to a terrible event that took place on May 19, 1998.
A hasty generalization uses an unrepresentative sample to conclude a general rule. In this case, the sample is Hank Earl Carr, a murderer who possessed a handcuff key. He is unrepresentative of the population at large of individuals who possess handcuff keys. But because his actions were so reprehensible, the knee-jerk reaction to his case is to argue that since he committed terrible crimes and also used a handcuff key, the possession of handcuff keys will therefore lead to terrible crimes.
Hank Earl Carr was a violent murderer. By the time he shot himself in the head while barricaded inside a convenience store on May 19, 1998, he had murdered four people including his girlfriend’s four-year-old son. He is often brought up as an argument against making handcuff keys legal to the public, because while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car after bringing the mortally wounded four-year-old to a fire station (claiming the gunshot had been an accident), he used a concealed handcuff key to unlock his cuffs, after which time he shot and killed both of the officers in the front of the vehicle.
There were several unfortunate factors that led to the disaster that was May 19, 1998. Hank Earl Carr's girlfriend corroborated his story that he was actually a man by another name, and the 4-year-old child's biological father, who had no criminal record. Believing him to be a bereaved father rather than a violent criminal with an already-extensive rap sheet, the officers placed Carr in a squad car that had no protective cage between the back seat and the front seat.
No one is arguing that Carr’s crimes were reprehensible, or even that his handcuff key was used in ill fashion for horrifying intent. The problem with the common argument is that it makes assumptions about a large population of dissimilar individuals based on an isolated incident. The majority of individuals who possess handcuff keys are either law enforcement or law abiding citizens who want to be prepared for rare but possible eventualities. We can no more prohibit the possession of a handcuff key because of one person’s terrible choices than we can prohibit the possession of multi-tools, or bolt cutters, or lengths of rope.
Are you just dipping your toes into the world of lock sport? We've compiled a list of helpful videos, powerful downloads, and useful articles for lockpicking beginners. (First things first, of course- get a hold of a lock pick set.)
https://art-of-lockpicking.com/how-to-pick-a-lock-guide/ (click download this entire guide as a PDF)
http://www.withoutakey.com/pdf/MITLockGuide.pdf (MIT Guide to Lockpicking)
http://www.withoutakey.com/pdf/bump.pdf- Bumping Locks (from The Open Organization Of Lockpickers)
http://pdf.textfiles.com/security/lsiguide.pdf Introduction to Lockpicking (Locksport International)
http://www.withoutakey.com/pdf/impropick.pdf Improvised lock picks
http://www.withoutakey.com/pdf/secretsoflp.pdf Secrets of lock picking
A complaint we receive a lot is that we must be marketing a product directly to criminals. After all, police are the ones who use handcuffs. Bad guys are desperate, and they work on the fly and use duct tape, zip ties, rope, or cable when they want to restrain someone. We’ll get to that argument in a minute. First, let’s talk about the debate over mere possession of a cuff key.
The intended purpose of an item that can be used to cause harm has been strong on the public’s mind since the tragic shooting in Las Vegas. Many gun-control advocates insist that you can defend yourself in other ways if you are being attacked, and you don’t need a gun. The purpose of a gun is to cause serious bodily harm. The argument is that no one really needs access to such a thing.
This article is not about gun control, but we encounter a similar argument against the possession of handcuff keys by law-abiding citizens. Those who don’t understand why anyone who isn’t a criminal would want to possess a handcuff key argue that it’s pointless, because bad guys don’t use handcuffs. Therefore anyone who wants to own a cuff key must be either a criminal or paranoid.
Interestingly, many of the people making this argument will fight tooth and nail for our second-amendment right to bear arms. The gist of the matter to them is that possessing a firearm is your right as an American citizen, and you do not have to explain your motives. Those motives, of course, are usually sound and legal. Hunting, home defense, sheer enthusiasm. Why not extend the same courtesy to those who want to own a cuff key, an item which is arguably less dangerous than a firearm? Unless you try to swallow the thing and choke to death, a handcuff key can’t hurt you. Even in the hands of the baddest bad guy. It can, however, save your life.
What’s that, you say? Bad guys don’t use handcuffs? We’ll just leave these here…
It is insanely easy to buy handcuffs. There are no restrictions on the sale of the very same handcuffs used by our law enforcement officers. You can have a pair shipped to you in just a few clicks. And sure… most of the people buying them are probably law enforcement, security, and perhaps a small subset of lock picking enthusiasts. But there’s another group of people buying handcuffs, and the stories above prove that it’s not just an isolated incident every few years. Bad guys use handcuffs. It’s not just reasonable to carry a handcuff key just in case… it’s the smart choice.
Buying a handcuff key is not a difficult process. You do not need to be a law enforcement officer or show proof of any kind of certification in order to purchase one. You don’t need any proof of your occupation to buy a pair of handcuffs either… that’s why it’s so important that as a prepared citizen you have access to a handcuff key.
You can obtain a handcuff key in two ways:
All handcuffs naturally come with a set of keys. These will typically be metal keys with a double-lock pin (if applicable) on a small keyring. These are great to have on hand and don’t require a separate purchase since they come with the handcuffs. However, they can be cumbersome and hard to conceal.
Most urban survival stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, will have at least one kind of handcuff key in stock. It’s as easy as making any other purchase.
Fortunately, for the value they add to your everyday carry handcuff keys do not require too significant an investment. If you’re buying the key separate from handcuffs as an extra preparedness item, you can expect to pay between under $10 for a single key. Many handcuff keys come in packs of 2 or more since they tend to be small and it’s nice to have an extra few to stash around in critical locations. You can find a pack of 2 handcuff keys for as little as $12.
Even in the survival and prepping world, there is a common notion that lock pick sets are illegal to own. It’s ultimately up to the individual state, but in general this is actually a misconception. Lock pick sets are not illegal to own in every state and there is no federal law that prohibits ownership of lock picks across the board.
Lock picks are illegal to possess/transfer in the following countries:
Also be aware that different laws may apply to different types of lock pick sets. This includes auto jigglers/try out keys, bump keys, bypass tools, handcuff keys, etcetera. As a consumer you are responsible for checking and complying with your local laws.
It’s time to let go of the antiquated idea that only criminals and locksmiths know how to pick locks.
If you’ve ever locked yourself out of your house or your car, if you’ve ever found yourself in a potentially dangerous situation or seen someone else struggling to enter their own locked house or vehicle and wished you could help, it should make sense to you why some knowledge of lock picking is so much more than a pastime for criminals. Here are ten reasons why you need to learn how to pick locks:
If you’re ready to take the plunge into lock picking but are unsure of how to start, rest assured that you don’t need a huge arsenal of weirdly shaped picks to get started. For picking a simple pin tumbler lock, you only need the following items:
A tension wrench is a necessary component because it maintains tension on the lock, which is what enables you to set the pins and turn the lock once you’ve picked it successfully. Without a tension wrench, picking a lock is impossible.
While you can pick a lock pin-by-pin (called single pin picking or SPP) with just a hook or other pick, a rake is especially useful for beginners. It is also possible to pick a lock entire with just a rake and a tension wrench, but this often requires luck more than anything else. It’s not wise to rely on luck, so pack a rake in your kit but also be sure to include the final item...
A hook pick is a very simple lock pick in (surprise!) the shape of a small hook. It can be used for careful single-pin picking or as a sort of simple rake.
Armed with some knowledge of the anatomy of a pin tumbler lock and how they function as well as these three tools and a lot of patience, you can successfully pick your first lock. The tension wrench maintains tension on the lock for the entire time you are picking, the rake can be used to try your luck at scrubbing the lock (setting as many pins as you can by chance), then the hook pick can be used to complete the picking process on any pins that didn’t set with scrubbing. There are many other shapes and kinds of lock picks available that are useful for different styles and methods of lock picking, but these initial three tools will carry you far until you’re ready to advance your lock picking skills.
Lock picking is a practice that requires patience. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, more advanced lock picking will naturally come more easily. The challenge lies in the initial mastery. In order to develop proficiency with lock picking you’ll need to spend a lot of time practicing. Lock picking is all about paying very careful attention to minute tactile feedback, and you’ll need to develop new muscle memory in your hands to get really good at it.
That being said, lock picking is not always inherently difficult. The basics of lock picking are fairly simple, and a thorough understanding of the inner mechanism of a traditional pin tumbler lock will be of tremendous help to you.
Don’t let the idea of lock-picking intimidate you! Like any other skill, it takes practice and patience. But unlike many other skills, not only could it get you back into your locked house or car… it could possibly save your life.
Why would anybody bother owning lock picks? If you’re not a locksmith, doesn’t carrying lock picks around imply that you intend to commit burglary? Isn’t it a little paranoid to assume you’re going to need lock picks in day-to-day life? Why not just call a locksmith if you get locked out of your house?
These are all great questions, but they assume that you will always have access to a locksmith in an emergency, not to mention that you’ll always have the funds to pay them. Carrying around a set of lock picks doesn’t make you a burglar any more than carrying a set of matches makes you an arsonist. Choosing to own lock picks (and learning how to use them) is about taking responsibility for your own life, your own possessions, and your own safety.
You don’t have to have a wild imagination to imagine a scenario or two in which you may be locked out of your home or car without a cell phone. If you can’t contact a locksmith for whatever reason, or you don’t have easy access to potentially several hundreds of dollars to pay them, what is your next plan of action? Carrying a set of lock picks gives you peace of mind that if you need it, you’ll have a backup plan in place. It also allows you to be available to help others in need at a moment’s notice.
Lock picks are a low-maintenance emergency item that are easy to carry on your person every day without a second thought. Many small lock pick sets can be slipped right into your wallet, or take up so little space that you can carry them in your pocket without the annoyance of extra bulk. Lock picks are light, thin, and convenient.
Carrying lock picks is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. There is such a wide variety of lock picking tools available that you can find one to suit your tastes, your needs, and your skill level. You may want a full 12- or 24- piece lock pick set, or you may prefer just to carry a simple shim or even a credit card tool. Even if you aren’t prepared to carry a full set of lock picking tools, knowing that you have at least something on your person will provide you with an advantageous edge and tremendous peace of mind.
Although some locks can be incredibly tricky to pick, the fundamentals of picking a basic pin-tumbler lock are fairly simple. The key to success, and eventually speed, is practice. With the exception of clear trainer locks (which are a great investment as you are building your lock picking skills), you’re not going to be able to see what you’re doing when you pick a lock. You’ll have to rely solely on tactile feedback, so the key to training your hands is repetition.
First, there are two basic rules to picking locks with integrity. The first is that you must not pick a lock that is in use. The second rule is that you may only pick locks that belong to you, or for which you have been given express permission to pick from the owner of the lock. Following these rules will ensure that you don’t venture into the realm of illegal activity, and should you choose to join a locksport organization it will keep you in good standing.
These instructions are for picking a basic pin tumbler lock. As mentioned above, a clear practice lock is an excellent choice to allow you to get a visual of the lock components and what is going on inside the lock as it’s picked. Once you’ve obtained your lock, ensure that it is clean and free of dirt or cracks. Older, worn, or dirty locks will be harder to pick and shouldn’t be attempted by beginners.
Begin by assembling your basic lock picking tools. There are a wide variety of different picks available, but for beginning with a basic pin tumbler lock you will need only a tension wrench, a rake (or several rakes), and a hook pick.
The application of tension to the lock plug mimics the tension of the key inside the lock. Tension is necessary to keep the driver pins in place once they’ve been moved above the shear line. Without the proper amount of tension, the pins will simply drop back down and prevent the plug from turning. To apply tension, insert the short end of the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyway with your non-dominant hand. Gently turn the tension wrench in the direction in which you would turn the key to open the lock. Turning the tension wrench in the wrong direction will prevent the lock from opening.
Begin with your rake tool. The rake is intended to quickly bump the pins up the shear line without the need for individual picking. To use the rake, insert it quickly into the keyway and scrub it back and forth with a motion not unlike toothbrushing. Continue to apply tension with the tension wrench the entire time. You will feel the plug give a bit as the pins align above the shear line, and if by chance you are able to move all the pins with only the rake, the lock will eventually turn completely.
There are many different shapes and styles of rakes available. If the first rake you try doesn’t catch all the pins, try a different one. Don’t forget to maintain tension in the keyway as you switch picks. If the tension is released before the lock is opened, you will have to start over.
There may sometimes be stubborn pins that do not respond to raking. These will have to be picked individually. A common pick for this purpose is a hook pick. While maintaining tension with the wrench, insert the hook into the keyway and feel for pins that have yet to be engaged at the shear line. If there are multiple pins remaining, one will be less “springy” than the others. This is called the binding pin, and it should be engaged first. Using the hook, push the pin upwards until it clicks into place and remains above the shear line. Then feel with your pick for the next binding pin. Continue in this fashion until the remainder of the pins have been set. This requires you to pay close attention to the tactile feedback you’re receiving through the pick, since you won’t be able to see what’s going on.
As you continue to apply tension in the direction that the key unlocks, the plug will give a little more and more with each pin set. Once all the pins have been set, maintain tension and continue to turn the wrench in the correct direction until the lock opens.
Need a simple lock pick set? Check out our urban survival gear for light, compact options.
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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