|Opinions on the Internet, oil, 1775|
On our Facebook discussion group, one particularly inarticulate fellow opined that the standard, eight hour concealed firearm permit course is “bullshit.” He criticized “cheap” courses, being a student of one himself, and spurned the idea that the courses were not to his idea of practicality. He also doesn’t like “stupid people” (who does?) and poor people that don’t yet own their own gun. The poster displayed a total lack of understanding what the class is intended to be.
First, the content of the training is mandated by the state, specifically delegated to a consensus of the certifying authorities, the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association, a private organization of all the sheriffs and police chiefs in Nevada. The syllabus is not bad. It is an excellent introductory class on owning, shooting, and carrying pistols and a good refresher to those who know guns, but not much about carrying them.
Concealed weapon permit classes are aimed at the lowest common denominator. The class itself is nothing more than an act of responsibility by the government to make sure that those “stupid people” have had a brush with knowledge. It’s a giant disclaimer so the powers that be can say: “We gave you an opportunity to know better than to shoot someone armed only with a bad attitude.” It is a final check upon unbridled ignorance and stupidity for some, for others a certification of redundant knowledge, and for most the first taste and start of a hunger for more training.
Concealed weapon laws were originally intended to prevent the carrying of guns at all, ostensibly to reduce the amount of violence. Early permits were merely free passes for politically connected. The system was abused in both directions; so loose that the law might as well not exist, or so tight that no one, no matter how qualified, could legally carry. The right to armed self-defense was often ignored. Open carry was legal, yet carrying a gun had been so badly stigmatized that few took the trouble to carry openly.
When “shall issue” came into effect, states couldn’t imagine just letting people carry guns without some sort of training. In the popular imagination, safely carrying a gun was something that people had forgotten, and the “aftermarket” training community that exists today didn’t exist then. While many might seek out training on their own, many people wouldn’t and given the supposed unfamiliarity with handguns, having no training requirement seemed risky.
Nevada’s legislature in 1995 probably meant well; many truly derived benefit from the required training. However, without it being mandatory, far too many for Carson City’s taste would never have gotten any training. With handgun ownership and carry much less popular than it was today, the idea of relying on the people’s better judgment seemed anathema, so a very basic failsafe was added in the form of the training we all know today.
Many compare the CCW class to Drivers’ Ed, which is practically of the same basic, introductory quality. Like Drivers’ Ed the CCW course predicates itself on expecting that the shooter either has had firearms training/practice before or will continue to train or shoot more. Remember all those hours with Mom or Dad beside you stomping on an invisible brake pedal? It is practice, not theory, that makes a driver and shooter.
I argue that we take driving far less seriously than carrying a gun. Guns, for the vast majority of the population, including most criminals, are weapons of last resort. Perhaps that is why only a miniscule fraction of defensive gun uses result in a shot fired; most are a simply display of the gun. In that sense, training to “draw from a concealment garment and shoot” is overrated. Though the conservative estimate is 100,000 such defensive uses each year, we rarely hear about them.
Despite the idiocy of what we see on the roads during even a fifteen minute trip, we don’t hear about the massive numbers of traffic citations and accidents that happen every day. By comparison, gun accidents are so few that they are notable and are reported on, often leading to the impression that they are more common than they really are. Behind the wheel, we casually talk, text, and generally allow ourselves to be reckless and distracted. No sensible gun owner looks at their phone while sending lead downrange.
Even with the dangers of texting while driving or buzzed driving well understood, we still do it. Some are far worse violators than others, but we don’t require every sixteen year old to take a police academy driving course.
There is no amount of training that can teach someone not to be stupid. In light of three prominent cases of licensed concealed carriers making major mistakes this past year (a homicide, an assault, and an assault/suicide), the training didn’t matter a tinker’s damn. Both of those are extremes, but nothing is foolproof. No class can teach self-control and discipline.
Training like an operator is not required for the vast majority of citizens who don’t want to become a felon for putting a pistol in their pocket or purse. Many armed citizens who use their guns do just fine without super fancy training and it does not put them in the “I know it when I see it” subjective-objective category of “stupid” people. If we made it mandatory to get top tier training, the “stupid” people would simply carry like they did before shall-issue: illegally and dangerously.
Our crass critic opined that it should be “100 hours or more of life situations and drawing and firing from concealment and common sense classes.” He was “pissed off” that some people borrowed guns to go to the class. Wow! Guess the DMV should ban teenagers from showing up in Mom’s Volvo. Such an elitist and disdainful attitude is disgusting and is a major problem in the firearms community and many other hobbies. And you couldn’t forcibly shove common sense into some people if you had the latest alien implant technologies.
Most of the criticism on “free” courses or those who just take basic training is that the person is dangerously underqualified to carry. In that case, it’s more likely the person and not the training that’s to blame. Until the latter half of the 20th Century, no training courses were required for pistol ownership or carry. Far too much negative judgment is made on those who cannot afford expensive, high-quality combat courses. Sorry, poor people have a right to protect themselves too.
There are those who have no choice but to seek out the cheapest or free class because they are poor. Hi-Points exist because even poor people have a right to armed self-defense. A woman who wants to defend herself safely and legally, but can barely afford the application fees right now, let alone a gun, might very well need to borrow/rent a gun, saving up during the 120 days until Metro approves her permit. Others might just be taking the class for the knowledge and don’t even own a gun. Rights should not be abrogated by arbitrary regulation or by excessive cost.
Many of us here would prefer it if every gun owner got adequate training, or even just the basics. In a perfect world, government could mandate such training without it becoming, either by accident or design, an obstacle to armed self-defense. Proponents of constitutional carry support no obstacles like permits and training, not because they don’t care about gun safety or education, but because they know governments will muck things up so badly many won’t even bother. California and New York are examples that requirements will be abused or so difficult to comply with that many give up without even trying.
Anything that limits the ability of an individual to protect themselves—to own and carry a gun—is dangerous. Waiting periods and concealed weapon permits are nothing more than obstacles to the law abiding. Concealed weapon permits do nothing to disarm the criminal, instead they provide a reason for arrest should a cop encounter an armed bad guy. For the rest of us, we will risk our safety to preserve our freedom; we will not carry where it is prohibited, even if that puts us at risk of becoming victims of criminal violence.
For the very reason of government abuse of authority, no training should be mandatory. That would also immediately eliminate one of the criticisms of the original poster who derided “cheap” and free courses. Without a mandatory requirement, many of the low-quality promotional classes would disappear when the cheap students stopped coming. No one would pay a crappy instructor for crappy training that they didn’t need. Capitalistic market forces would take over; quality trainers would attract quality students and training would rapidly shift away from a “check the box” mentality. Money wasted on perfunctory classes would be spent getting those advanced techniques.
Ideally, the basic gun safety courses would be a free service of the gun community or part of public education, obviating the need for a mandatory class. Now in our present reality, not everyone is like the “gun nut” who easts, sleeps, and breathes guns. Training is expensive; heck, I can’t afford to train as much as I’d like. But I am intelligent and can read/watch techniques to practice on my own and I get more training when I can. The value of training on the student’s end comes down to their own interest.
Many of the folks who just get the basic training do just fine; they have sense enough not to shoot stupidly or try to be a hero. Studies have shown that often gun owners really do search for training, if not required, or more training than is required. A lot of us find it interesting and fun. In the cases of poor folks, a sensible student overcomes their disability, that is a financial one, by looking for alternate sources of training. They go online and read websites like this or watch YouTube videos.
This is where a quality instructor comes in. An instructor who is good at his or her job and who is a good teacher will make those eight hours of basic drudgery into something fascinating and engaging. They will work in concepts, if not actual practice, of the reality of carrying daily. Good instructors don’t sell additional courses, they show and convince their classes the need for more and continuous training. Skeptics who may just be attending to get their permission slip have found themselves in the camp of wanting to know more. Good instructors are like that teacher in high school who made you care about X subject and made your life-long passion blossom.
Where the truth to the critic’s words lies are within the heart of the person that takes a cheap course just for the certification and takes nothing from it. A poor instructor who fails to engage that person then becomes complicit in teaching a bad class. We’ve heard the tales of this or that gun store’s class or saw the incompetent instructor on YouTube. Plenty of instructors will abbreviate classes, ignore dangerous shooters, or just forgo instruction altogether. Yet again, it takes a bad instructor and a bad student to make a bad class.
There are good cheap or free classes, but those are far and few in between. They are flukes. Many who take cheap or free classes are cheating themselves out of vital knowledge because in cutting financial corners, they don’t vet the instructor to see if the course itself is “cheap.” You can find great free courses (I did), but chances are, if you care more about saving a buck than what you will learn, even the best instruction would be wasted on you. So the critic should be complaining not about the courses per se, but the individual who doesn’t care what they learn.
Training has real value and quality training ever so much more. Forget about the cost; it’s the instructor’s reputation that matters. The student must also be willing to put in the intellectual effort to learn and learn effectively. Like insurance, get the best training you can find and get the most of it as you can afford. Continually seek self-improvement and the instructors that push knowledge, not a cheap, convenient, or gimmicky class.
And for heaven’s sake, stop judging the Great Unwashed who didn’t spend two full weeks with an ex-Navy SEAL learning how to stop the next mass shooting using only silver bullets from your Cabot custom 1911 made with real unicorn dust and grips made with wood from the True Cross. And if you are going to bitch about a cheap class, don’t admit to us that you took a cheap class yourself. Sheesh.