Jane and I have completed our training for licenses to carry concealed handguns. The class was conducted at a local shooting range by an experienced officer working in the sex offender division of the local sheriff’s department. To say that the instructor was stern, controlling, and no-nonsense would be complete understatements. Officer Sanchez carried a LARGE .45 caliber pistol on his hip with his name engraved on the grip! He was a man you do NOT mess with!! Since he had been shot TWICE in the line of duty, his manner was easy to understand.
Interestingly, the class was full….30 people! Furthermore, the classes are held each Saturday and are booked until December! The number of people applying for concealed licenses is increasing each year as the general public becomes more fearful for their safety. According to Office Sanchez, the levels of gang violence, muggings in shopping malls, car-jacking of autos, and forced home invasion are increasing rapidly throughout our area. Of particular concern is the increase in gang-related activity. Gang initiation rituals are a major threat to the general public. For example, gang members will put a baby car-seat on the side of the road with a doll covered by a blanket. When the “good Samaritan” stops to render aid, the gang attacks them. Sometimes, they are murdered on the spot and the car stolen; while other times, the gang drives the citizen to the citizen’s home and kills their families, too! Another trick of the gangs is to cause a minor accident and then when the citizen gets out of the car to investigate the accident, it is all over for him or her! Officer Sanchez scared the crap out of all of us. His message is clear: Everyone is at risk, at any time! Be alert to your surroundings; and don’t be naive….don’t trust any one that you do not know! Danger is out there waiting to take your property and your life. To back up his comments, he stated that there are 1,100 separate “gangs” operating in our county…and the number is growing every month!
I also found the breakdown of the participants interesting, too. The average age was probably 40-45, with a range from the early 20’s to the 70’s. The class was split 50/50 between men and women; and there was only one minority in the class. In addition to the 30 participants in our new applicant class, there were 14 in another class for current holders renewing their 5 year licenses.
On a lighter side, everyone passed the written and shooting test. Anyone who can fog a mirror can pass the written test; but showing shooting competence was another matter. Each person fired 50 rounds from the weapon of their choice. Most fired semi-automatic pistols because if you pass using the semi-automatic, you can also carry a revolver….however, you cannot carry a semi-automatic if you take the test with a revolver. Office Sanchez was like the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket” on the firing range. He barked orders and took total control…he was making damned sure that there were no accidents on his range! There were strict procedures in handling the gun (since 9 of us shot at the same time in confined quarters) and we had to be able to load the magazine with proficiency and score at least 175 points out of a possible 250. He meted out penalties for gun jamming and several other infractions. He freaked out when one of the participants ignored the sign on the door and brought a bottle of water into the range. It seems that the level of lead and contaminants in the air from firing hundreds of bullets can be absorbed into the water and then into your system….lead poisoning is not a good thing!
Another rule that was not on the sign-up sheet was that open-toed shoes and low-cut blouses (on the women) are strictly forbidden. Ejected shell casings are hot and can cause bad burns….particularily if they slip down a ladies blouse while the range is “hot”….bullets being fired. Jane had to borrow my shoes and a friend’s sweater to shoot. (She still looked great even flopping around in my shoes!)
Now we wait until the state approves our applications (2-3 months) and then we will be legal to carry! But, carrying a handgun is a big responsibility. Officer Sanchez spent lots of time discussing the emotional, physical, and liability issues affecting a person when they are defending themselves against an attack. You may be completely in the clear from any criminal charges while defending yourself, but the threat of civil lawsuits from innocent bystanders and, even, your attacker can wreck financial hell on you. So, be warned: Carrying a gun may be a prudent thing to do, but do so wisely! When that gun comes out, someone is going to get hurt or die!