In today’s information age, we are inundated with opinions, general misinformation, outright untruths and sometimes even some facts. We usually take the broadcast media, internet, print media and what we hear others say at face value to form our opinions and make our decisions. It’s an accepted way of life for many because it’s easy to do.
Without our realizing it, outside forces sway and nudge our beliefs, and those outside forces might not have our best interests in mind.
A glaring example is the political rhetoric with which we are constantly bombarded by those who demand that everybody agree with and obey them. They are the learned ones — the elite all-knowing who’ll decide what’s best for us without understanding (or caring about) even the basics of our everyday lives. It’s all about them!
How does this give them the right and ability to dictate what is best for us, and who allows them to do so?
We do. Whether we say we don’t have time to put in the work to stop them, whether we’re too lazy or whether we just aren’t particularly interested because it doesn’t seem to impact us directly, the result is the same. There are a million other reasons we allow it to happen — right, wrong or indifferent.
We can combat some of the nonsense that bombards us every day by digging a little deeper to see if it really even makes sense. In other cases, where the information is unclear, incomplete or suspect, we can withhold our opinion and judgment until the relevant evidence is a little more apparent and complete.
By asking pointed questions and directly involving yourself in what interests you, it’s possible to stabilize your “platform of reality” rather than blindly following someone else’s viewpoint without even caring to know the full story.
Want To Win? Don’t Play
It’s no surprise that the law — the legal system that governs the way we concealed carriers live our everyday lives — is a subject of interest to most of us. How could it not be?
The laws of the land are laid out in a fairly specific fashion, and you might think they’re pretty black and white … that is, until you’re affected by those laws in one way or another. Once affected, especially if you are summoned to the courts, you find the law to be not so “black and white” but often simply a guideline; an outline from which decisions are made in courts where cases are argued and won by the legal team with the best orators and educators of the jury. In short, it’s why we have innocent people in jail and guilty people walking the streets.
Were every case cut and dried — black and white — there would be little need for the legal system to hold trials in the first place.
Here again we must take the time to educate ourselves on the law as it applies to us and our loved ones. The time spent will aid us in avoiding getting caught up in the tangled web of our legal system.
Bad In, Bad Out
There’s considerable bravado in some segments of our population, particularly among those too lazy to ferret out the realities of what the law actually says and how it’s actually applied. An oft-heard phrase in some circles is, “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6,” which elicits my response, “Why bother with either if you can avoid the situation in the first place?” The unfortunate fact is that emotion, in many cases, overrides intellect in making a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life.
Another suggestion that was common when I was growing up and that you still sometimes hear from folks who don’t care to know any better is, “If you shoot somebody on your property, make sure the police find them in your house when they get there.” This is criminal, as the shooter would be altering the crime scene. That’s a pretty quick way to put him or her in the role of defendant rather than plaintiff.
As in the area of politics, it is much better in the long term to be educated and informed rather than rely on hearsay or the unsubstantiated opinions of others. Find someone in the legal business and ask questions specific to your situation and concerns. It might cost a little money, but not nearly as much as it would if you found yourself in a legal battle because of your misguided and uneducated actions. Ignorance of the law is no excuse!
Do Your Homework
An excellent place to broaden an individual’s knowledge and understanding of concealed carry and its potential legal ramifications is The Law of Self Defense by attorney Andrew Branca. It is an indispensable guide for the armed citizen and lists state-specific points and other valuable information to minimize stress when carrying concealed, particularly in the event of becoming involved in a lethal-force confrontation.
As members of USCCA, individuals have several levels of legal assistance available to them 24/7 should they need it. Like your sidearm, this and some educational awareness falls under the category of, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Make it a point to be informed and stay up-to-date regarding the laws and regulations under which you live, for better or worse.
Another subject that bears mention in the discussion of “you don’t know what you don’t know” is firearms training in general and training germane to carrying a concealed firearm in particular.
“Owning an automobile doesn’t make you a race car driver,” is a comment I often make when responding to an individual who wants to buy a gun and do the minimum necessary to legally carry it in public. When questioned as to why he or she thinks the minimum prepares him or her to safely and responsibly navigate the world out and about with a gun, comments like, “I was in the military,” “My father was a police officer,” “I’ve been hunting since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” or “I’ve shot a gun before,” are some of the lame responses I get. None of these mean that individual is ready to protect himself or herself (or a loved one) with a handgun. None of those mean this individual possesses the marksmanship abilities to successfully stop an attacker in a matter of moments, in close proximity, potentially in low light.
Moreover, how do those mean they’re able to make split-second determinations regarding whether his or her actions are justified or not? If the conversation gets this far, it becomes apparent to a person with an open mind that there might be more to carrying a concealed firearm for protection than he or she realized.
One Block at a Time
In keeping with the theme of not knowing what you don’t know, I find that firearms training for personal defense is one area where this lack of perspective and skill exists.
Among several other roles we fulfill in the firearms industry, my wife and I are both trainers and educators. We like to focus our efforts on recruiting new members to the gun-owning fraternity by giving them a solid, safe and successful foundation from which to build. One of the services my wife provides is conducting the appropriate classes needed to apply to carry concealed in multiple states. She also discusses the responsibility of carrying concealed and being prepared to act appropriately when facing an imminent threat that might require the use of a firearm. She suggests that there needs to be more than classroom time to prepare for making a life-altering decision in a split second.
For instance, in-service training and periodic qualification to a preset standard is a requirement for those who are paid to carry a gun as part of their jobs. For many in the professional world, such as attorneys, teachers and physicians, continuing education is mandatory to stay current on changes related to their professions. Wouldn’t it make sense for a responsible citizen carrying a gun every day for personal defense to periodically train so as to stay proficient and prepared to respond to imminent threats? Ongoing education, such as attending classes to maintain self-defense knowledge and physical skills, should be a personal imperative for any individual serious about carrying a gun for personal protection.
There’s a lot more to personal defense than owning a gun and carrying it without breaking the law. Knowing how to use it, when to use it and what to expect after it’s been used require more than a four-hour or one-day class. Carrying concealed is a way of life; it changes the way individuals live after they start to discover what they need to know to be safe, successful and legal in carrying a firearm in the public domain. As with anything in life that isn’t innate, you don’t know what you don’t know.