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’.