June 13, 2010

Concealed Carry: Rights and Responsibilities

I mentioned several weeks ago in passing that I spent a weekend at the local shooting range taking the NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home course. Some of the students in the class had questions for the senior-most instructor on whether or thought we needed more rigid training and competency standards to acquire a concealed handgun permit in North Carolina.

How do we balance our right to arms with the responsibility of employing them?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 13, 2010 08:34 AM

Interesting question. In Texas, for example, everyone must take the state mandated and approved course (about eight hours), which must be taught by instructors certified by the state. Even those instructors must take an approved and mandated course offered only in Austin (state capitol). The course consists of a review of related state laws and a basic, minimal qualification shoot. The entire process, including fees, costs around $200.00. All of this for the exercise of a constitutional right in a "shall issue" state.

What is also interesting is that individual training and experience counts for nothing. I, for example, hold multiple NRA and other training certifications and have achieved expert status with small arms and have the appropriate documentation, but this counts for nothing. In short, I've spent many thousands of dollars and many thousands of hours attaining and maintaining a far greater degree of knowledge and proficiency than that attained by the state mandated course, but state law ignores this in favor of uniformity. And while one can always learn something from nearly any situation, it is hardly a good use of time and manpower to reteach 9th grade science--for example--to people who hold a PhD in physics. The greatest weakness in this process is that the use of deadly force and tactics receives very little time indeed.

There are several states which allow concealed carry and have no licensing/qualification requirements (apart from the usual prohibitions regarding the mentally ill, convicted felons, etc.). I am unaware of a greater degree of citizen errors in those few states than in states such as Texas. This would seem to suggest that the balance in most states is too heavily on the side of state regulation.

The solution? Establish multiple paths to certification, including a state sponsored method, and certification through alternative methods. Anyone holding NRA instructor certification, or certification through any of the several internationally known shooting academies such as Gunsite or Thunder Ranch should obviously be certified as their knowledge and proficiency would clearly outstrip that offered by and required by the standards of virtually every state. Charge no more than is actually required for the legitimate processing of data and establish an easy, fast method of doing this by internet. The bottom line is to eliminate, to the maximum degree possible, governmental intrusion into private enterprise and maximize the opportunity for the appropriate exercise of the free market where citizens will not only gain greater knowledge, but greater proficiency.

Posted by: mikemcdaniel at June 13, 2010 09:30 AM

Interesting question and very applicable here in Arizona, as we're about to switch over to Alaska-style concealed carry at the end of July.

The soon-to-expire CCW process in Arizona is a licensing and not a training program. There were people in my CCW class who couldn't hit paper at 5 yards, so my instructor worked with them until they were at least able to hit the target and pass the test. These same people could open-carry a pistol without a license, so the CCW process was, to them, a quick intro to the basics of firearms law and a few hours of range time. When it comes to knowing how to safely carrying a firearm and use it to save lives, they'd be better off taking an NRA Personal Protection class than getting the government's seal of approval to carry a pistol.

Posted by: ExurbanKevin at June 13, 2010 10:52 AM

My state of Washington is one of those that has no requirement for training to carry a concealed weapon. Interestingly enough, passing the NRA Hunter Safety Course is required generally (if you are older than dirt like me, no requirement) in order to purchase a hunting license.

Anecdotally, we have had incidents with both types of firearms--hunting and self-defense. Recently a man shot himself in the testicles while at a store. . I did not read a follow-up on this regarding arrest, so I will assume that this fellow was a legal CCP holder. This is what I would call a good teaching moment.

Much more sadly, two years ago a young boy hunting with his slightly older brother shot and killed a woman while bear hunting. There was considerable talk about underage hunters at the time, though I don't know how it turned out. I am certain both boys had taken and passed the Hunter Safety Course. The same year, a hunter was killed by another in his party who was unloading his rifle.

Anecdotes, yes. But state certification of the sort you describe in Texas and sounds like the case in SC can never prevent poor decisions with deadly weapons. And the more extensive Hunter Safety Course didn't protect the hiker and hunter. People are always looking for a perfect fix and, of course, are always disappointed.

For myself, I still haven't taken any extensive self-defense class to accompany my CCP. I can only plead that 50 years of handling firearms safely, years of shooting competitively (rifle and shotgun), 4 years military schooling, months of time spent hunting (amazing how nearly every day is wet and cold) and tens of thousands of rounds punched into paper or clay pigeons provides a rationale for not going through the effort. A bogus rationale, but a rationale nonetheless. Am I more likely to shoot my testicles off than someone with basic training? Someone else's?

I cannot help but speculate that the loss of the general draft has created a large class of people in this country who have not had firearm safety drilled into their very genes by a friendly DI. Several hundred pushups, latrine duty, and verbal tongue-lashing at weapon-grade level tends to stick in one's mind. As bad as the draft was for the professional military (they hated draftees), it might have been better overall for society, at least in this regard.

Posted by: iconoclast at June 13, 2010 11:02 AM

Very interesting article, and a problem without an easy answer.

One of the problems with more regulation is regulation of the regulators. Who rides herd on a bureaucracy that exists primarily to stay in power? And that bureaucracy, in this case, drafts rules on subjects the primary policy-makers may know little if anything about first-hand, as they depend on "experts" to advise them. And how do they choose which "experts" to believe? What gives folks who are primarily sales agents -- selling themselves to the public -- any qualification to dictate to the rest of us how we may do what we do?

I'm not against regulation, as we regularly seem to demonstrate that we need it in so many areas, but how do we get some plain old common sense back into the mix? Especially in this area, where a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't seem to serve us well?

One thing that stands out to me in all of this, and something that our current political situation should make evident to anyone who's paying attention, is that we are once more shown our need to take care of ourselves. Government can't do it for us, just as it can't really effectively defend the individual. Anyone who feels the need to carry a firearm needs to take the time to attain more than a passing familiarity with it, and to maintain some skill in its use. No amount of regulation will do that for him/her.

Posted by: Goatroper at June 13, 2010 11:41 AM

Cars kill more people in the US than guns. Should we then require an additional qualifying courses for each driver? Granted driving is a privilege, firearms are a Constitutional guaranteed right - at least in some states until McDonald is decided - but the underlining concept is the same. Regardless, this is the price paid by a free people... stupid people get the same rights. It's the moment when we start interfering at the individual level that we are no longer free, regardless of the justifications or inherent intentions used to justify the actions. To me the danger of stupid individuals driving or owning fire-arms is more acceptable than the dangers of someone else determining what I can or cannot do.

Posted by: PMain at June 13, 2010 12:30 PM

It's one thing to acknowledge it is wise to obtain training in firearms. It is quite another to suggest that the state should determine what that training should be. This is simply another slippery-slope area that gun-banners can use to discourage citizens from bearing arms. If a state requires many hours of training and many hundreds of dollars in expense, fewer people will have (or carry) guns.

Legally, I view these requirements as analogous to the literacy tests that were used to keep black people off the voting rolls. Until the 1960's, these laws were widespread in the South. Ultimately, federal law, and the Supreme Court, established that voting is a "fundamental right" and that no qualifications could be imposed to prevent a citizen from exercising it. I would argue that our right to bear arms, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and many state constitutions, is also a "fundamental right."

Posted by: Michael Kubacki at June 13, 2010 03:22 PM

Here in Va. we have to undergo a two-day (16-hour) course taught by the state police. We learn the law, safety measures, and also how to shoot. On the first day you get to practice; on the second day you shoot for a score. If your scores on the written exam and the shooting test don't meet the minimum, you don't get the concealed-carry permit. I didn't mind it; it seemed fair to me. It's not as if the standard was so stringent no one could pass, but on the other hand, like with a driving test, if you can't demonstrate reasonable knowledge and skill, you have no business having a license. Obviously the state imposes an "arbitrary" standard for driving, and we don't object to that; why object to this, so long as the tests aren't weighted to ensure that no one passes. And that's the slippery slope some are referring to.

Posted by: Sterling at June 13, 2010 05:59 PM


The big difference is that there is no right to drive whereas there is a constitutional right to bear arms.

Posted by: Iconoclast at June 13, 2010 07:08 PM

I am moving to Texas next month from the UK, which has some of the most ridiculous firearms laws in the world, including a mandatory five-year sentence for even possessing a handgun in the home (no license allowed). So Texas will be a relief after that. However, I moved to the UK from Indiana, which has a no training requirement. That was fine for me, because I grew up with lots of guns, have understood firearm safety from a very early age, and I'm a decent shot. I really didn't have to consider whether other people were fit to carry a pistol.

I don't oppose the Texas law on principle. Government does have an interest in maintaining public safety. Since it cannot discriminate between urban dwellers and rural dwellers, it has to ensure the safety of everyone. It seems to me that the Texas law needs some adjustment to take into account the variety of training available. I also don't think establishing competency to exercise the full extent of a Constitutional right should be a money-making enterprise for the State, though it is reasonable to cover administrative costs.

Posted by: Sol at June 13, 2010 07:17 PM

Responding to Sterling: Iconoclast and Michael Kubacki both make good points, primarily that the right to keep and bear arms is recognized, along with other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, as being inherent, not granted by any government.

You also illustrate the problem with regulation I tried to bring up earlier, though not so well as these two. I also live in VA, and when I obtained my permit (which, per the Constitution, I should not have to do) I attended one class by an NRA-certified instructor, with optional range time and no score kept for the latter. Apparently your locality has imposed its own regulation on top of the state's, and that is the problem across the land, even with supposedly one-size-fits-all regulation.

Why should I need the state's permission to do for myself what the state will not be able to do?

Posted by: Goatroper at June 13, 2010 07:25 PM

I am going to say no to maditory training, yet will always encourage folks not familar with guns to get training of some kind.

The reason I say no is, it isn't provided for in the Second Amendment. Therefor I see it as a form of infringment.

Posted by: Michael at June 14, 2010 07:34 AM

As a former LEO, it's been my observation that much of the CCW training is focused on safety rather than situational awareness and appropriate response. At worst, CCW training is another government sponsored boondoggle.

The best training I received involved showing video clips projected on a paper screen in a shooting range and actually shooting my duty weapon at the projected image. This was an excellent method for learning when to shoot as well as learning when not to shoot and how to stop before firing.

Posted by: Jerry in Detroit at June 14, 2010 11:35 AM

We need less law. We need fewer rules and regulations. We have too much government. Our efforts should be directed at streamlining any process and getting bureaucrats out.

Mike, I live in the South. The reason for requiring people to read before voting was just that, having people know what they were doing. Now they are given a sample form with the checks already made and led to the voting booth. This is true of whites and blacks and illegals that shouldn't be voting to begin with. Our country was founded on restricted voting priveledges. You had to own a stake in the country before you voted. We need to return to that concept. It makes no sense whatever to have other people vote away your wealth and hard earned income.

Posted by: David at June 14, 2010 11:57 AM

I believe firearms training comes under the "...well regulated militia..." part of the 2nd Amendment with the Founders understanding that the citizenry are the militia constituted to protect themselves and neighbors from enemies both foreign and domestic. By this, one could argue that it is in fact the Constitutional responsibilty of the gov't to provide the firearms and the training. But, good luck with that.

Posted by: Indigo Red at June 14, 2010 12:10 PM

Last time I checked the constitution no one needed a licence to carry a gun,mortar,bazooka,cannon,or any other type of weapon. so all this nonsense about liscensing is....nonsense.

Posted by: ron at June 16, 2010 01:50 PM