The Cornered Cat
Training requirement

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.

[Read the whole thing]

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.

h/t SayUncle

[edited to fix a typo]


  1. 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.
  2. Some do and good for them! Yay for personal motivation wherever it strikes.
  3. With an occasional, refreshing gem of an eager student who makes the grind worthwhile. Again, hooray for that person!

9 Responses to Training requirement

  1. orygunmike says:

    Kathy’s hypothesis pretty much matches my situation. Years ago I signed up for my first class at Firearms Academy of Seattle – FAS2. I found that having an Oregon CHL was a requirement for registration and was connected with a local NRA instructor. My 30 minute class covered the three rules and firing 30-40 rounds. I felt completely unprepared for carrying a firearm. It was a full two years later, after having taking additional training including Ayoob’s LFI-1, before I carried a firearm in public.

    Today as a certified instructor, I have provided quality training to several hundred students utilizing both NRA materials as well as my own curriculum that goes far, far beyond the state-required training. I also continue to broaden my own knowledge by investing in training and self-study so that I continue to evolve as an instructor and be a good resource for those motivated to seek a higher level of learning. While I have seen students who seek to do the minimum (e.g. an online course), I generally find that when presented with robust training, people realize the immense responsibility and complexity that comes with concealed carry and use of deadly force and are very happy to invest the resources to go beyond the minimum.

    • awalker1829 says:

      My situation was a bit different. My conceal weapons class (mandatory for initial applicants in Arizona) was taught by a husband and wife team of NRA certified instructors. The course was a ten hour class and we spent most of the time in the classroom. Classroom instruction consisted of instruction on the applicable Arizona Revised Statutes, federal statutes, tribal law and civil liability. We used training guns and police grade targets to practice shoot/don’t shoot scenarios and the importance of knowing what is beyond the intended target. We were also instructed on what to do and expect after a shooting.

      Once we finally got on the range, we did modified Tueller drills to illustrate just how far an attacker can advance in the time it takes to identify and react to a threat. The volunteer shooters had targets set downrange and the instructor had two cones. Once the threat was announced, the shooter pulled their pistol and fired while the instructor ran from a starting mark in the parking lot. As each shot was fired, he dropped a marker. After each exercise, the distances were measured. Just as expected, the results were very close to Tueller’s. We also watched police training videos and were given basic training which included the need to retreat at an angle when confronted with an attacker with a knife.

      Basically our instructors gave us the NRA approved course and supplemented it with as much law enforcement grade training as could be fit into a day. The course also covered use of appropriate holsters and prepared us to select the type of holster that fits our individual needs. The course gave the participants a good baseline to bolster their defense if any student should end up in court.

  2. Boyd says:

    I’d never thought of it, but your post speaks to the truth of my own experience. While in Virginia, I became active in the gun rights movement. This started with 1) getting a Concealed Handgun Permit (easy, since I’m a veteran (actually retired from the Navy)), then I bought a handgun, then I attended a class.

    Since I didn’t *have* to attend a training class to get my permit, I didn’t. But once I was faced with the practicalities of carrying a handgun with me, attending a class was one of my first priorities. I then continued down that path and became an NRA instructor. It can be surprising where your path ends up taking you.

  3. HankMerritt says:

    My background is similar to Boyd’s – except my service was the Marine Corps. As a Pennsylvania resident, I have always thought that concealed carry permits should require some type of training – which is not the case in PA.

    While government requirements can always be misused to grab away our freedoms, I would propose a compromise. Each state should require classes and exams on relative federal and state laws. The class should also include information about what to expect after a self defense shooting, similar to what is taught in Ayoob’s classes.

    When the legal definitions and consequences of defensive handgun use are clearly taught, most sane people would seek some level of skill training if they intended to actually carry in public.

    I believe that most law-abiding gun owners have at least that amount of common sense.

  4. Billca says:

    Kathy raises an excellent point about the inherent “laziness” of human beings. Required training often does lead to the “I did what was required so now I’m legal and good to go” mentality.

    One thing that might push applicants into obtaining quality training is the use of a basic written test. Think of your state’s DMV test, only oriented to firearms. Basic questions of safety, prohibited places and proper/improper conduct. A few of the questions should present the applicant with situation where most answers seem “reasonable” but really aren’t.
    (E.g. The angry guy on his porch holding a Bowie knife claiming he’s going to cut your throat for taking his wife’s parking space on the street. Can you shoot him…
    1. If he leaves his porch and approaches?
    2. Only if he steps off his property?
    3. Once he’s brought the knife within 30 feet of you?
    4. Only if he has the means and opportunity to harm you and you have no avenue of escape?)

    Several questions that raise doubt about knowing what is right or wrong should get many people to seek better training. It works for me every time I get a wrong answer on my driving test.

  5. larryarnold says:

    Kathy makes an excellent point.

    OTOH the other reason for not having state-mandated training is that it can be abused. Think back to the Jim Crow literacy tests that used to be required for voting. Somehow when a black person wanted to take one, they were always out of the forms, or that was done in another office, or the applicant got the answers wrong, or…

  6. non cornered Dog owner says:

    I agree with larryarnold, when the government sets the standards at that point they can abuse or take away that which they have granted. I am part Native American and I have a Tee Shirt that says “Sure you can trust the Government, just ask any Native American”

    I agree everyone should be trained, my father and grandfathers and several uncles started training me with cap guns, then BB guns and finely a 22 single shot “boys rifle” when I was growing up in the 1960s. I know many can’t get this training today. Anyone can read and practice from books from good writers or take a good course on their own. My best friend doesn’t often carry, but he has a CWP to cut out the Brady Check, he is retired Law Enforcement, he let his certification lapse and it was easier to get the CWP. The needs vary but the Government would do a one size fits all. I go out and do drills on my range, I set up some targets to shoot others don’t shoot and some complicated ones like shoot the one behind the don’t shoot target.

    The SC course to me is more geared to the Brady Check, with the advice get more training. In the class I was in most barely knew which end to point. I hope they did more study or training, the only part I needed was on state law.

  7. prcek.veliky says:

    I agree with your post Kathy, any government’s requirement will be earlier or later exploited or extended.
    But to some extent it can help filter out problematic people.
    In CZ we have to pass short written exam of theory (mostly law-related stuff and first aid) and practical exam (safe handling and shooting). All questions are known before (it is set valid about one year) and exam consists from ~40 of ~450 those questions. Shooting is not problem at all (hit 15 inch in diameter circle target from 16 yards 4 times out of 5 attempts).
    Regardless this there were some people who weren’t pass not by a hair’s breadth but by miles. I was really surprised when I attended this exam.
    There are also other requirements – really criminal past will disable you for ccw almost for lifetime.
    But I don’t know anybody who doesn’t understand it isn’t enough to carry every day.

  8. larryarnold says:

    I know many can’t get this training today.

    True, training for young people isn’t as handy as it once was. So every chance we get we need to support what is available. NRA, 4-H Shooting Sports, state Hunter Education classes, and Appleseed. Those programs deserve donations and volunteer help. And you can offer to take your young relatives to Hunter Education and Appleseed.

    Every grampaw we’ve had in our classes came away learning something himself.

    A lot of states also have special youth hunt programs, which only require a little money and a weekend of our time.

Post a Comment