From Georgia comes a political news story that many in the gun world find ironic: a state representative who voted against a widened concealed carry bill last year, but then applied for a carry permit this year. When his permit came in the mail, he suddenly realized that he hadn’t had any training. That’s a common process (more about that in a minute), but because this man is a political creature, it didn’t occur to him to just go learn more for himself. Instead…
ATLANTA – Rep. Dexter Sharper didn’t vote to allow guns to be carried in more places in Georgia last year. But when the so-called “guns everywhere” law took effect last summer and permitted firearms in bars, schools, churches and government offices, the legislator from Valdosta found himself applying for a license.
… he said he now realizes that his pistol is of little use without guidance as to what to do with it. He suspects other inexperienced, gun-toting Georgians know too little about the state’s gun laws, or how to safely use and store firearms, as well.
Sharper is proposing that those who get a license to carry firearms be required to take a gun safety class.
That’s the way it often works in states without a training requirement: people apply for the license, receive it, and then get to thinking… “Oh my gosh, they gave this thing to me and I haven’t learned a thing about carrying a gun! I’d better go get some training.” And many of them do. 1 This self-driven training process produces eager, motivated learners who often continue training to the advanced levels (where every person who carries a gun should eventually end up). Whether or not they end up at the advanced level, each student in such states does end up with a level of training that meets their own needs within their unique set of personal circumstances.
In states where training is required by law, it works differently. The person applies for a license and learns they have to take a class in order to get that license. So being human, they go looking for the cheapest, fastest way to get the paperwork completed. Online? Sure! Shortcut class that barely meets state law? Good! Whatever, just get me that paper. All too many of the applicants don’t much care what will be taught in the class; 2 they’re just looking for a signature on a certificate. They get it and they’re done. Good instructors soon become frustrated and burned out by running diploma mills for unmotivated students, 3 and as for the students? Well, the state said they have learned enough as soon as that piece of paper is in hand, so why would they ever look for more? They’re done.
I’m always impressed with instructors in training-required states who can take a constant stream of reluctant students who are just looking for a rubber stamp and turn any of them into serious learners. That’s not an easy job.
And that brings us to my bottom line here.
This sometimes surprises people who know what a big fan I am of training, but I am very much against any law that requires people to take a class before they’re allowed to carry a firearm for self defense. There are three reasons for this.
- Self defense is the most basic of all human rights. As a matter of principle, I oppose any government action that impinges on that right.
- Laws that make it harder for ordinary people to carry necessary tools for self defense have a disproportionate impact on the poor. As a matter of ethics, I oppose any government act that makes staying alive harder for people who already face an uphill struggle doing that.
- Laws that require training often function paradoxically: they force people to take minimal training while making it less likely that they will pursue good training. As a practical matter, I oppose training-required laws because I’m a fan of ongoing, personally-motivated training that encourages each individual to reach the highest level they are able to achieve given their own unique set of needs and circumstances.
[edited to fix a typo]
- Not all, of course. But many. The most common category of non-trained people with carry permits in these states seems to be, people who don’t carry and never intended to. That’s because in many states, there are advantages to having the permit that have nothing at all to do with carrying the gun, such as a shortened or non-existent wait time for gun purchases or an easier set of rules for transporting your guns to the range. ↩
- Some do and good for them! Yay for personal motivation wherever it strikes. ↩
- With an occasional, refreshing gem of an eager student who makes the grind worthwhile. Again, hooray for that person! ↩