I try to avoid being preachy on my blog, because who wants to be preached to by a random chick on the Internet? So this is my disclaimer: This isn’t about me trying to convince you to feel the way I do about guns or gun law. Instead, this is about how I stepped out of my comfort zone regarding a sometimes controversial topic, and how I felt when I was done. Sometimes it’s good to challenge ourselves to be in an environment that makes us uncomfortable, and I wanted to see if the experience would leaving me feeling differently.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a total of 12 hours in a room with an instructor and eighteen other people taking an Ohio Concealed Carry course. How is this out of character?
- I don’t like guns. No, I’m not trying to step on anyone’s “second amendment right” here, a phrase I heard about twice an hour during my class. I’m telling you that I personally find guns scary. I think that a lot of humans are scary. The two combined frequently leaves me concerned. Outside of my in-laws, I don’t know many people who own guns, and I rarely see people carry. This was an environment where I was clearly in the minority and I was worried about saying something stupid.
- The class was at a gun shop, so I was surrounded by items and by mottos that added to that discomfort. Some of the merchandise was the sort that I tend to find overly preachy myself. These included “The Second Protects the First” and “I don’t dial 911.”
Oh no. I feel myself getting preachy. You know why? Because if you don’t dial 911, you’re an idiot. If you’re in a situation that mandates hitting those three numbers, I don’t care if you get your gun, but you’d better dial if you have the chance. The government doesn’t really like it when people bypass them. So I’m not intimidated by you because you say you’ll take things into your own hands, I now am more worried about you overreacting.
Oops. Okay. Let’s try this again…
Then why was I there?
Because as my husband likes to remind me, I did another out of character thing and married a gun owner. That means that I live with them in my home, something I never anticipated. Since they make me so uncomfortable, I wanted to take a class to feel more at ease with the weapons. I never would have thought to take the concealed carry class if he hadn’t told me that it covers a lot of the basics of gun safety that I wanted.
Overall, I was surprised by how good of a class it was. Our instructor was a former police officer with seventeen years of experience, and the combination of that with his salesmanship made for an interesting mixture of information. He would both assume that we were going to buy a weapon (many of my classmates already had firearms), as well as encourage us to make choices based on needs and not wants. He stressed, for example, that a concealed carry weapon should be small and easily – you guessed it – concealed, a mistake that a lot of people make, he said, rather than a big, flashy, expensive one.
What I really appreciated, however, was that he made it clear that carrying a weapon is not a godly form of protection. He stressed that there are situations where a gun can’t be pulled in time and that if someone wants your gun more than you do, they’re going to get it from you. He suggested taking personal safety courses and educating ourselves on defense outside of gun ownership. Definite points for the instructor.
A few of the students stood out. The first was a former competitive shooter and retired soldier. He said that because of his military experience he probably could have bypassed the class and been awarded his license, but that he wanted to learn more about Ohio law and see how the class was conducted, which I respected. What I appreciated even more was his kindness on the range.
The concealed carry class has a shooting component, the part I felt like I needed most to experience, and the part that had me most nervous as well. While I’d shot with my husband once before, I still found it intimidating. That’s probably why no one seemed to believe me when I told them I’d shot before. Instead, they all repeatedly assured me that I’d love it and become a regular. This gentleman that I mentioned ended up letting me use his gun because we were short one during my round. When I was done, he said I looked like I’d done well and asked how I felt.
“I’m still shaking,” I had to admit.
Not everyone may agree with what he told me, but it was the perfect response for me at the time:
“I still get a little nervous sometimes. The day you meet someone who is never nervous around guns is the day you back away from them. You have to respect them to use them.”
Then there was the guy who recorded me while I was shooting. Imagine my surprise when he pulled out his phone and said “Do you want to see how you did?”
Spoiler: It’s a video of mostly my back with my shoulders moving a bit. Actually, I think it was four videos, but I’m trying not to think about it…
He told me that if it were his wife, he would have loved to see a video of her shooting. He’d gone home the night before (the class was split over two days, 6 hours each) and told her about me, and, he was happy to report, she seemed to be considering giving in and giving it a try. Again, it was like people didn’t believe me when I said I have shot with my husband before. He didn’t need a video. He had a real memory, and one of more than my back. I know this gentleman was trying to be nice and didn’t appreciate the weirdness of the situation. It was nice of him to doing something he considered meaningful, so I chatted with him about his wife some more before we retreated to the classroom.
Finally, there was the guy who made me uneasy. This guy was offended that the state of Ohio doesn’t consider someone punching you in the face as a justifiable reason to shoot them.
Really? One punch and you’re going to potentially take their life? Don’t get me wrong, I know fists can be deadly, but not every punch is made equally. The first time he brought this up, I tried to brush it off. But when he brought it up again and again, I decided to make sure to keep some distance between us.
Then we took the test. It was pretty simple, and our instructor made sure to touch on all of it just before distributing them, so there was no reason not to get an excellent score. Sure, a missed question or two I can understand. Maybe you were still a little confused when we reviewed this thirty seconds ago. Maybe you got a couple of things jumbled because we reviewed so much in a short period of time. But this guy missed 5 questions, and I’m pretty sure that meant he barely passed.
The concealed carry class is an excellent class if you’re looking to learn about guns. They still make me uneasy, but I feel more much comfortable around them.
I do not, however, feel great that some of my classmates can now carry a concealed weapon. While everyone there seemed to think I’d be a huge fan by the time I left, I’m not sure how much my opinion changed. It was good to meet and engage with so many people who feel so differently than I, and I’m glad I had the experience.