Concealed Carry: Train Safe; Train Often

With all the things we’ve seen in the news in recent years, and even the last month, more people are thinking about getting their Concealed Carry License. I don’t disagree with this idea. But as a firearms instructor, I do have some ideas about how people should go about it. 

Before we talk about training, let me state that I definitely believe in our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and not just muskets, either. The original idea was that people should be able to protect themselves from brigands, and a tyrannical government. You may recall they were a bit sensitive to tyranny back then. 

This idea wasn’t just for them. It’s for us too. You can’t pick and choose what part of the Constitution you leave behind. The Constitution still protects us, and so does the Second Amendment. Since brigands are better armed these days, we need to be also. Certainly, criminals don’t care if they’re breaking the law; just read the court report every week. 

I had a conversation awhile ago with someone in law enforcement. We were talking about the drug problem, and this person noted the close relationship between burglary, theft, and a drug habit. A prosecutor told me once that they were worried about what might happen if someone ran across such intruders in their home some evening. You’d better be prepared to protect yourself. 

Another time, I was speaking with a recovering meth addict, who told me that when people are tweaking, they felt “invisible” and “invincible.” He meant that under the influence, you think you can go anywhere, and do anything, without repercussions. Obviously, this is fraught with peril.  

So I’m a strong Second Amendment guy, but not quite as stringent as some of my friends, who feel this is a right that shouldn’t be regulated at all. Some states are “shall issue” states with minimal requirements. Illinois happens to have been the last to allow concealed carry, and was forced to do so by the courts. But as a result, we have a pretty strong list of requirements, including a rigorous training standard (relative to the other states).

I really don’t disagree with a government wanting to regulate this issue somewhat, particularly regarding the notion of concealed carry. There is a public safety interest there. Some people compare it to a driving privilege, which has a minimal standard that everyone meets, to drive a vehicle on public roadways. 

It’s not so much that I worry about people shooting someone by accident (although it does happen once in awhile). It’s not so much that I worry about them being too aggressive and brandishing their firearms inappropriately (although that happens occasionally too). 

These are legitimate public concerns, but there are already solid laws against this type of thing on the books, and most citizens and responsible gun owners will respect such laws. What worries me more, is the threat of active shooters, with no one around who is capable of responding to and stopping the threat. 

The other issue that really concerns me is accidental discharges. Firearms don’t go off by themselves. It still takes someone to pull the trigger, even if they didn’t mean to. But this problem can be overcome by having methods in place that cause you to do things a certain way, every time, without exception. This takes training. Lots of it. 

The first step is to know and follow the 4 rules of firearm safety. Basically, they are:

1. ALWAYS assume a gun is loaded! Never accept someone’s word that it isn’t. Always check yourself. This requires that you know HOW to clear and make safe a firearm. 

2. NEVER point a firearm at something you’re not willing to kill or destroy. You simply don’t aim in the direction of other people (unless you have to shoot them to protect yourself or someone else). This includes parts of your own body. I see people “sweep” their legs and other hand all the time. 

3. NEVER put your finger on the trigger unless you have your sights in alignment, on your target, and you have made the decision to fire. I see this one violated all the time too. 

4. ALWAYS be sure of your target, and what lies beyond it. This one is a problem for anyone forced to fire their weapon in self defense, especially in a crowded situation. Sometimes you have to make the decision not to fire, simply because of this. 

All of these things should really be addressed in a basic handgun training course, BEFORE you go to a concealed carry class. Even if you have lots of firearms experience with rifles and shotguns, you’d be wise to familiarize yourself with your handgun first. The rules of safety are the same, but the application is a little different because of the much smaller length of the firearm. There’s no margin for error. Training matters. 

So get your Illinois Concealed Carry License. I’ll gladly teach the class, or refer you to one of my friends and other CCW instructors. I’ve even got one coming up this weekend. But for heaven’s sake, treat it seriously, and get well trained. Keep training. Train safe, and train often!

(Note: Tom is the owner of Tom’s Fitness and Martial Arts, with over 30 years of training, specializing in close quarters armed and unarmed defensive tactics. He is an Illinois State Police Certified Concealed Carry Firearms Instructor (ILCCF), and is also trained as an Illinois State certified Firearms Instructor for Law Enforcement Personnel.)

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