The Sad State of Gun Training in America.

I am the proud holder of a Texas Conceal Handgun Permit. I’m also proud to say that I went through a lot of training to qualify for it. I am now capable of defending myself, my loved ones, and my property against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I am also quite convinced that your results will vary. In other words, the quality, amount, and efficacy of the training you receive in order to qualify for a conceal carry permit in your particular little pied-à-terre may be sensationally wonderful or woefully inadequate. And that’s not a happy thing.

Every state that offers a conceal carry permit sets out minimum requirements within the legislation before it is passed into law. These requirements vary from state to state.

I’m okay with that. I’m a big believer in what we used to call “States Rights” in my 8th grade Civics class. No reason that Texas should be able to dictate policy to Louisiana, for instance.

That’s speaking from an abstract, “it would be nice if it really worked the way it is in the textbooks” point of view. In actuality, a little thing called reciprocity rears it’s head.

If you want your CHL to be worth more than the plastic it’s printed on, your state pretty much has to go with the flow, requirements-wise. Elsewise, other states will refuse to honor your ticket in their state. As a result, there’s not a huge difference in the requirements to qualify for a CHL from state to state.

Because of the need to balance the desires of the pro-gun guys (Requirements? ReQUIREments? We don’t need no steenkin’ REQUIREMENTS!) and the anti-gun guys (we want the bar set so high NObody will qualify), state legislatures must tread a fine line between lax and overreaching requirements.

As a practical matter, most state regs end up being something more than nothing at all, and something less than what you’d expect to be required to learn if you really wanna know something.

And therein lies the heart and soul of the problem.

I’ve always been an “anything worth doing is worth overdoing” kinda guy. I come by this attitude honestly. My dad was into power boating. Whatever the U.S. Coast Guard determined were the minimum requirements, he’d double them. Need one anchor to be in compliance? We’d carry two. One fire extinguisher required? We’d have two or more on hand. Don’e even get me started on the life preserver thing.

So when it came time to get trained for my concealed carry (CHL) permit, I wanted to be trained within an inch of my life. I looked around, and discovered a number of people offering CHL training/certification. Whose course was the best?

I did some research and asked around. I learned that the Sheriff in Vega, TX had the best course. (Thanks, Dave!) The course consisted of an all-day classroom session, followed by a written test, followed by a shooting test on a range. The Sheriff advised me to hie thee to a range and get some practice in before the appointed day, so I’d be ready to shoot ‘em up and not flunk out.

I went to a local range a couple of days every week for a month or so before the CHL training. I started with a .22LR pistol, moving up to a 9mm and finally to a .45 ACP. By the time the training day came around, I’d probably thrown a thousand rounds down range. As a result, I’d gone from “theoretical”/book learnin’ to “here’s what it actually feels like to shoot a gun” in a month’s time.

Turns out, that was a pretty smart thing to do. Not everybody was as prepared as this former Boy Scout. As a result, scores were all over the map. Lots of people were suffering stovepipes, jammed magazines, and some shockingly low scores. (I came in two points behind the best shooter, so I felt pretty good about the day.)

I left the training realizing I was prepared to use my training (and my gun) as a responsible citizen—not some trigger-happy clown waiting for a chance to prove my manliness by blowing some poor schmuck’s head off at the drop of a hat.

But what about everybody else? Ay, matey, there be the rub, as they say. (“They,” evidently being the Van Patten family on the International Talk Like a Pirate Day.)

Not everybody has as much of a gung-ho, gotta-have-it-perfect, go-the-second-mile-and-then-some attitude at your humble correspondent.

If my read on my fellow CHL classmates was accurate, attitudes ran the gamut from “I already know everything, so I won’t pay attention in class, lest my fragile ego gets a tiny bit bruised if I don’t actually know all the answers,” to “I’m a complete newbie and have no prior exposures to guns – I thought this training would be all I’d need” and every point in-between.

Some people were attentive. Others were cocksure. Others were obviously experienced, calm, cool, and collected. And they left pretty much the way they came in, but with a CHL packet that would grant them a key to the conceal carry kingdom in due time (about 90 days time, to be specific. That waiting period is a bee-yatch.)

Statistically, CHL holders have a ridiculously small number of offenses on the books. If you hold a CHL, you’re far less likely to be found guilty of a crime involving a handgun. Fair enough. But the flip side of this is that, the minute somebody with a CHL commits a violent crime, the Brady Bunch, Mayors Bloomberg and Daley, and the rest of the anti-gun lobby is gonna point to the incident as proof positive that CHL holders are a bunch of time bombs just a-waitin’ to go off.

The current hodge-podge of regs is a situation tailor-made for misunderstandings, mistakes and problems a-plenty. Luckily, I have a suggest that might help.

The Supremes have spoken. private citizens get to own guns. Instead of the anti-gun guys fighting any and all attempts to allow private gun ownership, how’s about everybody puts down their clubs and works together to make education and training both effective and universal for CHL holders?

Think of it! The NRA, Brady Campaign, et all, beating their swords into plowshares, and working toward a common goal: that every gun owner would be a well-trained, well-educated,and well-prepared gun owner.

Agree to work toward that goal, and we could then put the focus of gun violence where it belongs – on criminals that purchase guns illegally (or steal them) and commit crimes. That’s something NO amount of statutes on the books is gonna stop.

I realize the likelihood of this happening are roughly the same as the odds that Jennifer Aniston stepping into my life and having my baby. (Note to Jen: the contact button’s on the right.) But if everybody would stop insisting on absolutes, all the groups could do some genuine good, instead of painting each other as clueless morons and getting nowhere.

Just sayin’.

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About Brad Kozak

Brad Kozak is an iconoclastic, curmudgeonly graphic designer/marketer/writer/musician/advertiser/conservative creative guy. In 2007, he completed a gradual transition from a conservative semi-pacifist to a proactive, armed citizen, willing to exercise his Second Amendment rights to protect his family and property. His idea of “gun control” is hitting where he aims.

10 Responses to The Sad State of Gun Training in America.

  1. avatarsevesteen says:

    You kind of sound like the Bradys and the NRA are equally to blame here. The NRA is dedicated to training. The Brady campaign, not so much–they want everyone to have lots of training before they are allowed a gun, as long as it is expensive, difficult and most importantly not run by the NRA–because NRA training is nothing more than recruitment and brainwashing for the gun lobby.

    • avatarBrad Kozak says:

      I think you may have missed my main point. The NRA is really TWO organizations – the NRA and the NRA-ILR. The NRA does indeed promote training. The NRA-ILR is a lobbying group, pushing (or blocking) legislation regarding firearms. The problem, as I see it, is we have two groups that are completely polarized – much like the Dems and the GOP, that being the NRA and the Brady Bunch, et all. If the anti-gun people would start working towards the goal of gun education and mandated training instead of banning guns, I think the NRA would gladly work with them towards a middle ground of more education (which would help swell the NRA ranks, after all).

      I’m a Life Member of the NRA, but I am willing to see (and point out) the organizations strengths AND weaknesses. I have no use for the Brady people, largely because they are ideologues and are completely unwilling to listen to any views but their own. I hold that, as responsible gun owners, we should be willing to back legislation that would require more stringent standards for training, because it would benefit us all. I just wish the anti-gun crowd would wake up to this better solution to the issue of how to make it safer to own and use a gun.

      • avatarSevesteen says:

        There is much potential for abuse in mandatory training, whether it is for ownership or carry. I have not seen any evidence that mandatory training gives better results. We should have plenty of data, since individual states have such widely varying requirements–Do the states with mandatory training have better CCW records than the states that do not?

        Do you really think that Chicago's training requirement is for safety? It makes it much more difficult to get a license, helping to keep it out of the reach of riffraff. Ohio's requirements add about $100 to the cost of a license, plus whatever 12 hours of your time is worth. I've sat through 2 classes0–my own, and a class with a relative. The material could have been covered in a fraction of the time.

        There is also the danger of overly-strict requirements It would be relatively easy to make the requirements strict enough that few could pass. Do other rights require skill as a prerequisite?

        If we are talking about true compromise where we get something besides meaningless promises from the anti-gun side I might be willing to listen–but to unilaterally accept yet another restriction without something concrete isn't a good idea.

        • avatarBrad Kozak says:

          Your comments (while entirely welcome!) lend credence to my position that this is a polarizing issue. My whole point was that, while the NRA is involved in training, they are not spearheading any efforts (to my knowledge, anyway) to encourage states to create a "minimum standard" on training. For my part, I believe that the education portion of the training – especially the part where you learn how to deal with real-world situations – is sadly lacking. I'm not talking so much about accuracy (although that is important – more on that in a sec.), but nobody talks about scenarios. How do you stay situationally aware at a gas station, filling up at 2AM? What should you do if you're in a Starbucks and it gets held up? At what point should you go from observer to drawing and trying to do something to make the situation better? Or should you draw at all? These are the kinds of things they don't cover in most CHL classes – and should. It's not the testing I worry about. It's that this kind of info is never passed along. The brilliant thing about the guy that trained me, was, as a active-duty sheriff, he would tell us "here's what the law reads…and here's what you're really gonna see in real life." That was invaluable. But I wanted a lot more of that kind of thing.

          As far as the practical part of things, you never get any IDPA-style shooting at moving targets. Wouldn't you agree that at least having tried shooting at a moving target would be something worth experiencing within the context of CHL training? I do. Because asking the bad guys to stand still while you get a site picture is just a wee bit unrealistic.

          You're right in that we don't want the training issue to become a way to prevent people from being able to exercise their right to self-defense. Period. But…the better gun owners are trained, the more likely it is that they were be safe and responsible as gun owners. If we could find a way to move the "Overton Window" where the discussion becomes all about training, instead of banning, the NRA would serve as watchdogs to prevent the issue from becoming a de facto ban.

        • avatarsevesteen says:

          Although there will always be some room for improvement, there is not much–License holders have a very, very good record, even with today's "inadequate" training standards.

          Mandatory training adds a burden–relatively small, but enough small burdens add up and can prevent decent people from carrying. I don't want self defense to be only for middle class white men. If the goal is to improve our responses, I would first like to see a comparison of license holders with different mandatory standards–does mandatory training do any good at all? Is 12 hours significantly better than 4? Does a marksmanship standard reduce friendly fire?

    • avatarRoy Hill says:

      I'd have to disagree with NRA training being nothing more than "recruitment and brainwashing for the gun lobby."

      I was an NRA-certified instructor for about four years before I was a member of the NRA.

      You do not even have to be a member of the NRA to be an NRA-certified instructor.

      The idea that NRA training is just "recruitment and brainwashing" is far from reality.

      Did you know that one of the biggest trainers of law enforcement personnel in the US is the NRA training division?

      Did you know that the NRA didn't even get into political activism until 1970, but has been around since 1871. That means the NRA did nothing but firearms training for 99 years before getting into political activism, and much of the membership was reluctant to go political, but felt force to by the Gun Control Act of 1968.

  2. avatarDonal Fagan says:

    Reminds me of the argument for increasing sex education to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It sounds unassailable, but the people that simply don't want anyone to enjoy sex are against it.

    And I hear Jen was miffed that you spelled her name wrong.

  3. avatarno4gman says:

    "I would first like to see a comparison of license holders with different mandatory standards–does mandatory training do any good at all? "

    Agree 100%. I have yet to see a summary comparison of States with and without training requirements, or a comparison of States with and without a shooting test requirement, to see if training and/or shooting tests make any difference on:

    1. Accidental Shootings.

    2. Unintentional Improper/Illegal use of firearms by the permit holder.

    Sure, everyone should take the personal responsibility to make sure you are trained and competent in the use of a firearm.

    I'm not inclined to trust Government to be competent enough to evaluate who is or is not properly trained in the use of firearms.

    I wonder how what the hunting accident rate was before and after hunter safety was required? For hundreds of years, somehow people knew how to handle guns without the Government's 'help' and blessing.

  4. avatarSutton says:

    What about starting with a voluntary training program? What if a national standard were promulgated by some respected, non-partisan experts, including an emphasis on decision-making and shoot/don't shoot scenarios and conflict avoidance, as well as force on force. If you completed this, you could get a certification from, ideally, some neutral national standards body, like the way UL certifies fire extinguishers.

    For the public, this would result in safer CCW-ers (yes, by all means, do a comparison, but it's really hard to believe that someone who has been through some realistic scenarios won't tend to behave more safely than someone who had never handled a gun until the day he gets his permit and starts carrying, and there are plenty of states where this is possible).

    For the CCW-er, a national certification would result in some documentation of an interest in safety and restraint that could be of interest to the court after an event. I know this approach wouldn't be the same as mandatory, but I think mandatory would be a tough row to hoe. But the characteristics of national, neutral, emphasis on safety, etc., might attract some states to offer a "first-tier" voluntary permit, if you did this on top of everything else they require for their mandatory permits. I understand the reluctance to go to mandatory, but I think this whole nascent movement is at severe risk of a backlash if we go too far toward there being no requirements at all, if there are some serious bad actions by too many carriers.

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