Make Gun Training a Priority

The following article originally was publshed on November 24, 2008, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

If you buy a gun, make training a priority

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The media have reported a spike in the sale of firearms. The number of people signing up for classes to qualify for concealed carry also has increased. Firearms instructors have seen more interest since 9/11. Local instructors also have seen the fraction of women in class rise from a quarter to half.

Your elder author Linn serves as an instructor for the National Rifle Association’s Basis Pistol and Personal Protection classes. In a recent class, a student asked what the difference is between NRA classes and ones lasting only three or four hours. Linn offered to take up the question at the end of class. We’ll start to answer it here.

Before carrying a gun for defensive purposes, one must answer a crucial question: Am I prepared the take the life of another human being to save my own life or the life of a family member? Do my religious and philosophical beliefs allow me to potentially take a life in self defense? Am I prepared to accept or tolerate the judgment of my family, friends, and neighbors if I must defend myself with lethal force?

Barring cases of immediate threats, one should view the carrying of a concealed weapon as a full-time commitment. Chances are that if you carry a gun, you’ll never need to pull it from the holster in an emergency. Still, we don’t put on the seatbelt every time we get in the car because we expect to get in a crash. There’s no need to put on your seatbelt after the crash, and there’s no opportunity to go home and retrieve your firearm once you find yourself in a life-or-death situation.

Before Colorado liberalized the concealed carry laws in 2003, some got a permit as the local authorities allowed. Others carried illegally under the notion that it’s better to be tried by twelve than buried by six.

The need for a statewide concealed carry law arose from the language of Colorado’s constitution, Article II, Section 13, regarding the right to bear arms. The text states, “The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.”

The common perception at the time, we are told, was that only prostitutes and gamblers carried guns concealed, while real men carried guns openly on their hips. Yet there is an important tactical advantage to carrying a gun concealed. If you are the only one in a group carrying a visible firearm, any criminal intent on committing mayhem will make you his first target.

The Colorado Constitution contains some of the strongest language in the nation for self-defense with a gun, though the last phrase puts concealed carry in the hands of the legislature.

The law offers a remedy for treating somebody as a criminal for putting on a jacket that happens to hide a gun on the hip. True, some counties unnecessarily place CCW holders on the same list as rapists and murderers. An advantage of the Colorado law is that 29 states have adopted similar laws granting reciprocity.

What is training for concealed carry and where does one receive it? The NRA describes training as an activity that produces a change in knowledge, skill, and attitude. Linn encourages instructors to view this concept as a circle: more knowledge encourages one to seek out more skills, which in turn encourage an attitude of seeking out more knowledge.

Grand Valley Training Club has faithfully adhered to the NRA training program for students and instructors. All of the instructors volunteer their time. The fee for the 18-hour-plus course is $75.00. Most equivalent courses in Denver run from $250 to $350 per person.

The fee includes three hours of legal review, usually taught by Palisade Police Chief Carroll Quarles or Sheriff’s Investigator Beverly Jarrell. District Attorney Pete Hautzinger and Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein also have conducted this portion of the class. As one student said, “The law portion of the class is well worth the price of the ticket.”

One of the volunteer instructors, a retired law enforcement officer and explosives expert, worries that, without adequate training, some with concealed-carry permits may lapse in safe, effective practices.

After the recent class that Linn helped conduct, the student answered his own question: “There is no way a three or four hour class can give what is required.”

Alon Stivi, who has conducted advanced training classes in the area for police and civilians (see states, “Training is not a game! A serious gap exists between the training available on the market and what actually works in the real world. In a world of rising terrorism and violence, there is only one way of being prepared: Being informed.”

Linn is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son Ari edits from the Denver area.