All over the country, firearm safety classes – especially those that are required to get a concealed carry permit – are backlogged.In some cases, you may have to wait months to take a class – and that’s if you put your reservation in now.
If, like so many Americans, you’re considering taking a firearm safety class, let us give you a quick preview of what to look for. Part of our mandate is to help you get the most for your hard-earned money, especially when you’re taking steps to prepare to protect your family and yourself during difficult times.
This is no different. The last thing we would want is for you to spend money on a class that doesn’t really teach you what you need to know.
Finding the Right Instructor
Your experience is going to hinge on your instructor. If you find someone knowledgeable and humble who takes your right to own and carry a gun seriously, you’ll have a much better experience than if you end up in a class taught by somebody impressed with his own experience who is mainly looking for a way to show off. You know the kind – it’s all bravado and anecdotes meant to underscore the instructor’s prowess rather than give you the information that you need.
Depending on where you live, we recommend classes taught by people with law enforcement experience. They know the laws, they understand guns, and they can prepare you for all the aspects of carrying a weapon. There are exceptions – in some states the law enforcement culture is very negative about citizens taking an interest in guns. But in most states, law enforcement has no problem with responsible citizens being armed.
In fact, thirty-eight states have adopted a shall-issue policy when it comes to concealed carry permits, meaning that unless there is a legal reason – you have a felony conviction or a dishonorable discharge, for example – you’ll receive a permit if you request one. And that doesn’t even include Vermont where concealed carry is unrestricted and does not require a permit.
Recommendations are always a good place to start. If you know someone who already has a concealed carry permit, ask them if they can recommend a good safety class. Another strategy is to call your local sheriff’s office or police department and ask them to recommend two or three instructors. Then call each instructor to ask about the structure of his class. You’ll get a feel for each instructor when you talk to them and that can help you choose the class that will work best for you.
How to Know If You’ve Taken a Good Class
A good firearm safety class will cover some basic elements. If any of these are missing, you’d be wise to seek out a different class to round out what you need to know.
Four Rules of Gun Safety: Actually, you can make a much longer list of gun safety rules, but if you follow these four, your chances of injuring yourself or someone else because you accidently fired your gun drop to zero.
First, treat every gun like it is loaded.
Second, do not aim any firearm at a target you aren’t okay with destroying.
Third, do not put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot.
Fourth, always know your target and what is behind it.
You may find variations of these rules, but your class should cover them. If it doesn’t, plan to take another class, because who knows what else you may have missed.
Assessing Danger: If you’re taking a firearm safety class with the intent of becoming a concealed carrier, then you must understand when it is acceptable for you to draw and use your weapon. This may vary state to state. Typically, you’ll hear two points underscored.
First, you should only fire at someone if there is an immediate and grave threat to your safety. You may also be able to act in defense of someone else who is in immediate and grave danger, depending on your state’s laws.
Second, if you do use your firearm, your intent is to stop the threat. Once the danger has ceased, you should stop shooting. If your class does not clearly teach you when you can legally use your firearm, take another class. Or follow up with the instructor and ask questions until you understand.
The Aftermath: A good firearm safety course will also teach you what to expect in the aftermath of a shooting. For example, if you are ever involved in a shooting, you should call 9-1-1, even if you already know that six people on scene have called in. Your instructor should give you a clear idea of how to talk to law enforcement and what to expect.
Ultimately, if you act to protect your life, the life of a loved one, or the life of an innocent stranger, you’ll likely be ready to weather the consequences of that choice no matter how unfair they might seem. But knowing how to work with law enforcement after the fact can make the whole situation easier to cope with.
Live Fire: Some courses offer a live fire segment. If you’ve never fired a revolver or pistol before, it’s worth seeking out a course with live fire instruction.
After You’ve Taken the Course
Learning to handle a firearm is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. If you make the decision to carry a firearm, you should also make the commitment to practice with it regularly. If you find yourself in the stressful situation of needing to draw your firearm, your training is the only thing you’ll have to fall back on. A single safety class won’t be enough.If you get a concealed carry permit, take the time to learn which states have reciprocity with your state, so that when you travel you don’t break any laws.
Finally, there is a caveat to all of this – if you decide to legally carry a concealed weapon in any state other than Vermont, it will put you in the system. Your local government will have your fingerprints on file and know that you may possibly be armed. Even worse, anti-gun zealots have taken the extreme course of seeking the names and addresses of concealed carry permit holders under right-to-know laws and publishing them in the newspaper and online.
You’re the only one who can decide if you’re comfortable with this privacy-compromising situation. Carrying a firearm – or at the very least knowing how to handle one – is a valuable skill when it comes to providing security for your family. But it’s also a weighty and very personal decision. Whatever you decide, if you take a firearm safety class, make sure it meets the criteria here.