At the risk of offending a lot of Second Amendment supporters, I think Arizona’s new law allowing any U.S. citizen age 21 or older, who is not a convicted felon or otherwise prohibited from owning a gun, to carry a concealed handgun is a mistake. For years Arizona has had a concealed carry law that allows citizens to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon after passing an approved class on firearms law, gun safety, and after qualifying with their weapon on a firing range.
Now, before you start calling the National Rifle Association on me, or branding me a bleeding heart liberal, let me say that I am a lifelong gun owner, at one time I was a federally licensed gun dealer, I was a firearms instructor, I have concealed carry permits from both Arizona and South Dakota, and I seldom am without a “personal protection device.” I’m a gun guy, okay?
I have always said, both in person and in the newspapers I have owned, that every law abiding American should have the right to own and carry a firearm. But, I also have always said that there are a lot of Americans who have absolutely no business owning a gun!
Owning a firearm comes with a very high responsibility to society. If somebody makes the choice to have a gun, I believe that they absolutely must be properly trained in firearms safety, and how to use that gun responsibly. Anybody who is going to keep a gun for self-defense should also be trained in tactical shooting, knowing not only how to shoot in a defense situation, but also when not to shoot.
After our encounter with the armed burglar in our motorhome last December, I got several comments from people who said that if they had been in my situation, they would have shot the criminal once I got the gun away from him. That’s exactly the thing that makes me believe that there a lot of folks running around with guns who really shouldn’t be. Once I had taken the gun from the burglar and he was running away, I would have been the criminal if I had shot him.
Any police officer or self-defense firearms instructor will tell you that shooting an attacker is a last resort, and that if you do make that decision, you do not shoot to kill that person. You shoot to stop the threat. Heaven forbid, if you ever find yourself in that situation, those are very important words to remember. They can mean the difference between walking away a free person or going to jail yourself, once the smoke has cleared. You shoot to stop the threat, and once the threat is over, you stop shooting.
Every responsible gun owner I have talked to about the new Arizona law, including one long time gun dealer whom I have known forever, all agree that while an armed populace is the best crime deterrent there is, an untrained armed populace is a recipe for disaster.
Even trained police officers, who carry guns every working day of their life, frequently miss their targets in real life shooting situations. There is a big difference between punching holes in paper targets on a range and shooting at a living target, who is shooting back at you!
Many years ago, a police officer friend of mine in Arizona encountered a man, armed with two handguns, who was walking down the street randomly shooting at people. My friend drew down on him, but there was a school behind the suspect, in his line of fire. Though this officer was a very experienced shooter, and was confident that he wouldn’t miss his target, he was also aware that bullets do not always stop when they hit a body. Sometimes they go through, and hit other things, or other people. He kept his cool, kept moving, and kept trying to get the perpetrator to drop his weapons. Only when he had steered the madman away from the school, and when he was left with no other course of action, did he use lethal force to end the threat. Would you have been that analytical and level headed in a confrontation like that? How many people would be?
Soon after I got out of the army, I was working in my back yard one hot summer afternoon, and my first wife came home from work and jumped in the shower to get refreshed. Suddenly I heard her screaming, and a man yelling from inside the house.
I ran inside, grabbing my .45 on the way, to find her cringing inside the shower, while a hulking young man stood over her, waving his arms and shouting. I yelled for him to put his hands up and drop down to his knees. Instead he turned toward me and continued acting like a wild man, flapping his arms and jumping around. I had the pistol’s hammer back, and my finger on the trigger, when I saw tears running down his cheeks and realized he was completely panicked, but not a physical threat. Just as I slipped the gun’s safety on, a lady ran into the house screaming “Don’t shoot him, he’s a baby!”
As it turned out, he was the adult son of a neighbor, who had the mental capacity of about a three year old. He had wandered away from home and gotten thirsty, so he came into our house to get a drink. My wife had just turned off the shower and heard him, and thinking it as me, called out. He walked into the bathroom, and all hell broke loose. She screamed, he screamed, and they both were in a panic by the time I arrived on the scene. I am so glad that I didn’t shoot this unfortunate young man. But I came very close.
Things like this happen every day. If you had a gun, and were faced with such a situation, what would you do? Think long and hard about that before you stick a gun in your belt and go out to face the world.
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