Recently there was a newspaper article posted to an Internet firearms discussion board.
The article was a typical slanted piece, where the reporter’s bias against regular people carrying guns was obvious. The article hinged on how easy it was to get a concealed carry permit. Someone in the forum pointed out that the Florida shooting test was easier than what a police officer had to pass. This inevitably kicked off an argument between the posters about mandatory testing. Keep in mind, these are gun people.
At least my state doesn’t require students to pass a test. I think that’s a good thing…
There is a divide in the concealed carry community. Many believe that a permit should be received only after completing an in-depth training class and passing a mandatory shooting test. The other side believes that carrying a gun is a right, and that we shouldn’t have to take a government sponsored test in order to exercise that right.
As for myself, I have a very strong opinion on this subject, and once you know who I am, you may be surprised what my position is. My background? I’m a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor. I make a good bit of money teaching the mandatory class necessary to be certified for concealed carry. I’m also one of the busiest instructors in the state. Last year alone I taught over 1,000 people the basic Utah class, and I’ve been doing this for five years now. So I know a bit about mandatory training.
I also know people. I know the kind of people that seek out concealed carry permits.
That said, I’m against any mandatory training for a permit. I’m a huge fan of training, but only if it’s voluntary. I’m in favor of Alaska style CCW, where you don’t even need a permit. In Alaska, you feel like carrying a gun, you just carry a gun. No class, no test, no problem.
At least my state doesn’t require students to pass a test. I think that’s a good thing, and here’s why.
When I first started out, I did a full on basic handgun class in addition to the lecture portion that was required by the state, then I had them shoot a basic qualifier. What I quickly discovered was the people who were going to be smart, were smart. People who were going to be stupid, were on their best behavior while I watched them, then immediately went back to being stupid when they were on their own.
When something is mandated by the government, people tend to do what they need to do to get signed off, and that’s it. They don’t care about actually learning. Remember taking Driver’s Education in high school?
I’ve since changed my methods. Now I teach a separate voluntary shooting class. The students are people that want to be there. They want to become more effective with their weapons. These students soak up knowledge like sponges. When you want to learn, you will learn.
As an instructor, I can either read off a list of government mandated factoids, or I can try to get the students to open their minds and think.
A more distressing problem about mandatory shooting tests is that shooting accurately means very little in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong! Being able to hit your target is important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of making good decisions. I can teach a monkey to shoot a piece of paper. Teaching you to react intelligently under stress is a whole lot harder.
The big problem? What I saw was serious lack of knowledge on the law or how violence actually works. I saw this over and over again among people that already had their permits too, because all they had learned was the government mandated minimum.
The minimum Utah course requires a bunch of extraneous Handgun 101 stuff that is best learned at your own pace, or from your owner’s manual, but there is almost nothing in there about the use of force, when you can shoot, why you should shoot, and absolutely nothing at all about tactics. There’s no info about what to do after the shooting, nada.
I also discovered that a bunch of so-called experts knew how to punch paper on the range, but knew jack squat about how violent encounters actually unfolded. Instructors like that love big qualifiers, because they can check off of a list, and feel like they’re accomplishing something. Two shots, five yards. Check.
Plus, if anything, a basic qualifier gives you a false sense of security. I get this all the time when working with law enforcement. “I passed my shooting qual in POST! I already know how to shoot good!” They don’t realize that the qualifier they shot was an easy test, usually designed for the lowest common denominator to pass. Passing a qualifier doesn’t make you prepared to defend yourself with a gun. It just means somebody else was able to check off some boxes on a report.
So I changed my class. If a student wants to learn to shoot better, they can come take a shooting class and learn to shoot. But I now spend the majority of my class time going over use of force, decision making, and the stuff that keeps you A. Alive and B. Out of jail.
I’m a big fan of using role-playing during training. I do it to challenge the student’s preconceived notions of how “their gunfight” is going to unfold (usually it is some variant of them being John McClane). At the end of class, one student enters the room wearing a rubber gun, acting as if it is real life, and a situation unfolds. They have to deal with it like they would for real. This requires a few more brain cells than punching paper. We then discuss their actions to see if they were legally and tactically sound.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had somebody who’s already been through CCW classes come up to me afterward and comment about how eye opening the role-playing was. As an instructor, I can either read off a list of government mandated factoids, or I can try to get the students to open their minds and think. Mandated training curriculum tends to make for lazy instructors. I know that there are many other CCW instructors reading this magazine, and you can all think of somebody exactly like who I’m describing.
We’ve got some people on our side that are no different than the anti-gunners who want to ban everything because it makes them feel unsafe.
Super in-depth qualifiers assuage the conscience of bureaucrats, and that’s about it. The newspaper article that started this thought process pointed out that their local police have lousy hit ratios. Well, that’s because gunfights are hard, Mr. Reporter Dude, and also, most of the cops with the lousy hit rate received training which is basically the same type qualifier that the bureaucrats want to force on CCW holders.
The vast majority of the time, just producing the gun solves the problem for the permit holder, or the violent encounter is so close that you can just jam the muzzle into the bad guy’s chest. So why exactly should we put some extra hoops for the permit holder to jump through, that don’t really matter, don’t really help, and just cause one more expense to getting the permit to begin with?
If you’ve already got the law written so that it requires a shooting portion, what is to keep some future anti-gun bureaucrat from tweaking it so that the test is so difficult that nobody can pass it? And even if it is only as difficult as the qual for say, the Air Marshals, and you personally are one bad dude gunslinger killer of cardboard, do you want to force that requirement on your mom or your grandma? Sorry, Mom, you don’t get to carry a gun to use at conversational distance against a rapist, because I don’t feel safe knowing you can’t shoot the Seal Team Six pistol qual.
That’s basically what this fixation on mandatory training comes down to. Feelings. We’ve got some people on our side that are no different than the anti-gunners who want to ban everything because it makes them feel unsafe. Well, our side is just as bad, only they want to bar Constitutional rights to anybody who isn’t quite as good as they are, because they feel that’s unsafe.
Okay, regardless of your feelings, show me the numbers. Permit holders in states with no or little mandatory training should be getting into trouble a lot more than in tougher states. If mandatory training makes a huge difference in safety, how come Alaska and Vermont, with no training, are about the same as Utah with four hours, or states like Arizona with a whole lot more?
Also note, that the people who are in favor of more training and tougher tests don’t want to set the bar so high that they can’t personally reach it. They would much rather set the bar just below what they can do, because obviously, that’s how proficient you should be. Anybody who can’t shoot as good as they can is obviously a menace to society.
Self defense is a human right. We don’t have to pay for a license to vote, or take a test to see if we’re smart enough to go to church. Classes, testing, licenses, these things are all just barricades to keeping people from being able to defend themselves.
The next time somebody tells me some nonsense like that, I’ll tell them, sure, only I think you should shoot at least as good as me, and odds are that since I’m a fanatic, and I can easily outshoot you, no permit for you. On the new mandatory Correia Test, the permit holder has to be able to shoot at least Expert on an IDPA classifier, while wearing a backpack loaded with eighty pounds of cinderblocks, while teenagers pelt you with rotting fruit, and listening to Barry Manilow records…backwards! I figure that will take it down from 115,000 permit holders to where there are only about fifty or so people carrying guns in my state. Your grandma won’t be one of them. That should keep the riff-raff out. Because you know, then I would feel safe.
Nope, no mandatory training at all. Zip, nada. Self defense is a human right. We don’t have to pay for a license to vote, or take a test to see if we’re smart enough to go to church. Classes, testing, licenses, these things are all just barricades to keeping people from being able to defend themselves. In fact, I would love to see my state do away with licensing entirely and go the way of Alaska. I’ll take the pay cut in exchange for freedom.
[ Larry Correia is a Utah Concealed Firearms instructor, and one of the owners of Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns in Draper, Utah. www.fbmginc.com. FBMG teaches a variety of defensive firearms classes and is a full line gun shop and NFA dealer. Larry’s novel, Monster Hunter International, will be available in 2009 from Baen Books. ]