27 February 2010


Actually I'm not one of those knee-jerk NRA types who twist the Second Amendment beyond all recognition. Nor am I a hunter. Yet (if labels must be used -- they can be simplistic and misleading) I am a proud progressive liberal who happens to understand, respect and own guns. I have no problem whatsoever with gun control, i.e., registering firearms and requiring that their owners be trained and certified. We do the same thing with motor vehicles. I also have no problem with restricting the sale and ownership of obviously military weapons like assault rifles.

I grew up in northern Montana, where guns are treated with respect and it is a rite of passage to take a hunter safety course. I was trained further in the Army, qualifying with both the M14 and the M-16. Over the years I've owned (and been proficient in the safe use of) a Ruger .22 magnum revolver, a Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-auto pistol, a Remington .22 semi-auto rifle, and most recently a Glock .45 semi-auto pistol.

Today I took a required safety class in order to obtain a concealed carry permit for the .45. I owned such a permit once before, in an urban setting, after my life had been threatened at work. My intent currently is similarly self-defense, in compliance with the law -- be it defense against a person who intends to do me harm, or defense against an aggressive animal predator in the back country. The latter need is far less likely, since most predators will give you a wide berth if you don't surprise them, or make them feel cornered, or present a perceived threat against their young. It is we who are guests in their home, not the other way around.

The class instructor's credentials were impeccable. He'd served for several decades as a law enforcement officer -- beat cop, detective, fugitive pursuit, crime scene investigation, internal affairs, and firearms training for police cadets, most recently in Atlanta, GA. He also has a private investigator's license. During the classroom portion, the information he presented was clear, logical and thorough -- including firearms history, demonstrations of the safe operation of many types of handguns from the instructor's collection, as well as several anecdotes about cops he's known who should never be allowed within ten yards of a gun, due to their own incompetence, negligence or plain stupidity [which reinforces my personal bias that I trust NO ONE with a firearm except myself].

To qualify in performance, the class moved to a shooting range, where each student demonstrated an understanding of his/her personal weapon, firearms safety on the range, stance, sight picture, and controlled fire in two exercises -- five untimed shots at a small circular target, and five timed shots (ten seconds) at a human silouette target. Safety and accuracy were key -- accuracy being measured by a tight shot group, placed as closely as possible to the center of the target.

I'm proud to say that of the eight students, my shooting was the most accurate and controlled, even though my .45 was the largest caliber being fired, hence the weapon with the heaviest recoil -- the others were .40 caliber, 9mm and even a tiny .223.

Being licensed for concealed carry won't make me more aggressive, nor more likely to look for opportunities to use a weapon. I doubt that I'll even carry it that often. Frankly, I've seen too much of the damage that guns can inflict, both while serving in Vietnam, and subsequently as an ambulance driver. But it's good to know that when I see the potential need, I'm legal to carry a weapon whose concealment will prevent others from freaking out needlessly, but which will still be available for self-defense if needed.

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