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Let’s say you’re a pro-mass transit environmentalist; you considered automobiles the devil in-car-nate. Chances are you’d have both a theoretic and emperical understanding of how cars work; what they can and can not do. The drawbacks and the advantages. I bet you have a handle on tailpipe pollution regs and which cars are better for long distance trips or commuting. I’ve talked to a lot of people on both sides of the gun control debate. The majority of those who favor restricting Americans’ Second Amendment rights have never touched a gun in their lives. They want NOTHING to do with guns. And so they don’t. Wrong answer. If gun control advocates received the training necessary to receive a concealed handgun license in their home state, they would be better informed. I’m not saying they’d change their position. I AM saying they’d be able to hold a more intelligent, rational and effective conversation.

Back in my salad days, I thought that owning a gun would only get me into trouble. Like many, I reckoned if I kept a handgun I’d shoot myself, have a family member shoot themselves, find an argument descending into firearm-related violence or have the gun used against me. When I got married and brought a daughter into the world, my feelings about gun ownership changed. I began to see the value in knowing how to defend myself and my family.

Knowledge was the key. Only after I started going to the range regularly and received some serious handgun safety training did I even THINK about purchasing a handgun. THEN I started reading up about self-defense and handguns. THEN I made inquiries around town, trying to find the best CHL classes.

When I started my Concealed Handgun License (CHL) training, I thought I knew a good bit about guns. How and when to use them. How to store them safely. Just about everything you’d need to know to effectively use a gun. I thought the training would simply hone my (admittedly rusty) shooting skills. The rest would be a mere formality.

Again, wrong answer. Here’s a sampling of some of what I learned in CHL class:

  • Using your gun is ALWAYS a last resort.
  • Using your gun comes with some really heavy consequences, both legally and morally…you don’t wanna do it thoughtlessly.
  • Concealed carry is a HUGE responsibility, and frankly kind of a pain in the ass. Or hip. Depends on how you carry.
  • Concealed carry takes a whole lot of planning and forethought, for even the simplest of daily routines.
  • Most people that have a CHL don’t carry on a daily basis – they just want the ability to do so when they feel the need.
  • Most of what you think you “know” from reports you’ve heard from the mainstream media is flat-out wrong, and betrays a decidedly heavy bias towards the side of the anti-gun advocates position.
  • When you carry, you will almost automatically become “situationally aware” (which should NEVER be confused with “looking for an excuse to shoot someone.”)
  • After an initial “getting it out of your system” period, you’ll likely find that you don’t want to conceal carry daily, but will limit carrying to situations where you anticipate dangerous situations.
  • Forget what you’ve seen in the movies. Handguns are effective self-defense tools between 7 and 25 feet. Closer, and you’re in danger of getting the gun taken away, or having the attacker reach you with a knife or other weapon…farther away, and your accuracy is dicey.
  • You’ll discover that simply revealing that you are armed to a perceived threat is often more than enough to get them to back down.
  • You’ll learn that because CHL holders are better-trained and better informed than non-CHL holders, stats show that CHL holders are involved in very few gun-related crimes – and statistically this number is significantly lower than that of non-CHL holders.

Taking a CHL class prompted me to rethink much of what I thought I knew about guns. I’ve become a much more informed and responsible gun owner. I’m not suggesting that CHL training will convert the Brady bunch into to a card-carrying NRA lifetime members. Nor am I hoping for such an outcome. But I am suggesting that everyone that takes the class will find at least one or two of their deeply-held beliefs about guns invalidated.

I, for one, would much rather have an intelligent discussion with someone with different ideas than my own if they are able to defend their positions based on facts, logic and reasoning. As bizarre as it seems, there is common ground here: guns.

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