Last weekend, I attended two eight-hour National Rifle Association endorsed workshops: the “Basic Pistol Course” and “Personal Protection in the Home.” The instructor’s name was Randy Stennett. He is a retired firefighter/paramedic who is also a certified NRA instructor for Law Enforcement, Handgun, Shotgun, and Illinois Firearms Concealed Carry.
We learned about the fundamentals of firearm shooting and ammunition safety; firearm mechanisms and operation; proper mental preparations and behaviors for ownership of a firearm; strategies for home and personal safety and for concealed carry; the handling, maintenance and storage of firearms; drawing from a holster and firing; common firearm stoppages such as misfires, hang fires, squib loads, and stovepipes; criminal codes/laws and concepts such as “the three-prong-test” for exerting deadly force, “tunnel vision,” “manifested intent,” “mantle of innocence,” “castle doctrine,” “stand your ground,” and “affirmative defense,” to name just a few.
Stennett was an excellent instructor who blended a combination of seriousness, humor and personal experiences when teaching about firearm and self-defense responsibilities. If you’re interested in taking these classes, information is available on his website: JRS Firearms Training, LLC.
I attended these workshops because I thought it was important to review the requisite standards of proficiency for handling firearms once again. (Many years ago, I went through a more extensive firearms training in order to “perform the duties of a reserve police officer.”)
In addition to providing a comprehensive review for me, these workshops also made me think about Illinois House Bill 0183 (Public Act 98-0063).
In January 2014, House Bill 0183 will “allow residents and non-residents who meet specified qualifications to apply for a license to carry a concealed firearm in this State… [Qualifications] require… a 16-hour training course for new license applicants…” (Incidentally, Illinois is the last state to allow “concealed carry.”)
There are certain prohibitions stated unequivocally regarding the new law. A particular exclusion specifies where “a licensee [can] carry a concealed handgun.” Areas that are prohibited include schools, colleges, universities, libraries, courts, health care facilities, public transportation, airports, alcohol establishments, museums, zoos, amusement parks, stadiums, gaming facilities, park district properties, playgrounds, athletic areas, forest preserves, municipal-controlled areas, government-sponsored gatherings, government buildings, prisons, nuclear energy sites… (Public Act 098-0063, Section 65). Given the State’s many concealed carry “no-arms” restrictions, I think I will conceal and carry a poetry book, paper and pen instead while traveling outside of my unassuming “castle.”
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it is believed Americans own approximately 300 million firearms today. Some Illinois newspapers have speculated there will be “four hundred thousand” people applying for concealed carry licenses.
Though 16 hours of firearms training is the state’s requisite requirement for concealed carry, it takes many hours of shooting practice to enhance proficiency, and it takes multiple visualizations of self-defense scenarios and real experiences to comprehend the physical and emotional ramifications of the use of deadly force in self-defense. I am concerned about people who have only two days of training and who also lack real experiences with firearms but decide to carry anyway. Carrying a firearm entails profound responsibility and the ability to act instantly under stress with self-restraint.
The first time I carried a weapon gave me a shallow feeling of power and confidence, but it did not take long before I understood that this sense of assurance also brings a deeper awareness for comprehending the risks and liabilities, especially outside of the home.
My first test (though not as intense as a few other subsequent encounters while on duty) occurred when another officer and I responded to a possible late night break-in at an elementary school. While checking the school’s doors and windows, we observed a partially opened window on the lower level of the building. We entered the school and discovered that the window was in the boiler room. We had only a few seconds to assess a potentially dangerous confrontation when we heard a noise coming from behind the boiler. We pulled out our weapons, identified ourselves as police officers, and gave an order to come out slowly with both hands raised. Two twelve-year-old boys stepped out from behind the boiler and found themselves staring at the barrels of two .357 magnums.
If you are interested in what I believe about gun control rights, pull the trigger here for a related post.
This weekend I will be raking leaves and reading poetry.