It Hasn’t Happened Anywhere Else, But…

Owen at Boots and Sabers links to a quite good piece in the Wisconsin State Journal on concealed-carry. Wisconsin is currently debating legislation that would overturn its 133 year-old prohibition against concealed-carry, with the standard opposition meme of “more guns = more death.” However, this piece is, in my opinion, quite fair, and pretty thorough. Entitled, Guns can save your life or get you sent to prison, it explains the realities of concealed-carry well. Read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

I had spent most of the previous day with certified firearms instructor Gene German, seeking to learn what sort of training might be required here if the Legislature overturns Wisconsin’s 133-year ban on carrying concealed weapons.

German, an affable and enthusiastic backer of the measure, was invited to offer the training (for a $150 fee) to lawmakers, their staffs and media people by the bill’s chief sponsor in the state Senate, Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire.

About a dozen of us attended the day of classroom instruction at the state Capitol, while I and Nathan Berken, an aide to Rep. Gabe Loeffelholz, R- Platteville, completed the required coursework at a shooting range in Deerfield.

Interesting idea, inviting legislators and their staffs to actually sit through a class. Disappointing that so few actually did.

(W)hether you’re pro or con, it’s reassuring to know that the only path to a permit (with some exceptions) is through a class like German’s.

The first thing you learn: Marksmanship isn’t the half of it.

Outside of the sterile environment of the shooting range, in the messy, real world, here’s how my confrontation with the green guy would have gone: Stabbing fear would close around me, leaving me with tunnel vision. My strength would increase exponentially, but my dexterity – my ability to deftly aim the weapon, pull the trigger and hit the target instead of a bystander – would drop. Time would slow down.

My ability to endure pain would increase dramatically, but so would my attacker’s. And, unlike in the movies, he likely wouldn’t fall over with the first shot, or even the first several. Even after a shot to the heart, a person can have full “voluntary function” of his or her faculties for 10 to 15 seconds, enough to do me serious harm.

“Pain is irrelevant to survival,” German said.

But the story of that confrontation starts even before that point, with the decision to strap on a gun at all.

Something you hardly ever hear in the media.

If conflict finds you, four things must be true before you can legally even pull out a gun:

You must be a reluctant participant. Walking into a bar fight to break it up or chasing after a mugger doesn’t count.

You must reasonably believe you’re in immediate danger of death or great bodily harm. If a mean-looking dude simply demands your wallet, you’re better off handing it over; if he’s got a weapon, it’s a different story.

No lesser force will do. Can you resolve the situation by calling 911, fending off blows with your arms or fighting back? You must eliminate those options before reaching for your gun.

Retreat is not practical.

Weighing those questions in the safety of a jury room is difficult enough; staying lucid enough to do so in the heat of a violent attack is perilous.

“You do it wrong, you go to prison,” German said. “These are high stakes.”

The circumstances get even muddier when you decide to intervene on someone else’s behalf.

Thus the anti-gun force’s conniption-fit over Florida’s recent “no duty to retreat” law. Retreat in Florida need not be practical.

Even a justified shooting will have lifelong consequences, German said. First, you’ll almost certainly spend some time in jail until the police can sort out what happened. You may have to defend the shooting in a criminal or civil trial.

Simply unholstering your gun in a confrontation could cost you $10,000 in lawyer fees, German said – and that’s in a state where carrying concealed handguns is allowed.

This is something I think far too few people actually grasp – choosing to be armed can be quite expensive.

But here are the excerpts from the piece that got my attention:

Doubt doesn’t begin to describe the ambivalence I feel about taking on this awful responsibility. I consider myself normally level-headed, but I don’t trust myself to make the right decision when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

“I don’t trust myself….” That’s fine with me, you can choose to be a victim, but my problem is when people extend their personal distrust of themselves to others, and use that personal distrust to prevent others from protecting themselves. Phil Brinkman, the writer, thankfully addresses this:

But that’s me. To German and thousands of others like him – people who are far more familiar with guns, train regularly and consider violent crime a very real possibility – those doubts are surmountable, and carrying a gun in public is an undisputed right, recognized in 46 states.

“I have the right to be my own first responder,” German likes to say.

They call themselves the “good guys,” responsible gun owners, the ones most likely to apply for permits. The certifiable bad guys – the felons, the drug addicts, the ones with a history of mental illness – aren’t eligible for a permit under Minnesota’s law, or the proposed Wisconsin law.

Good on ya, Phil.

But here’s the kicker – not for what’s said, but for what’s not said:

Others say that whatever the merits of the training it will never make up for the increased risk they see of more people being hurt or killed by guns, including their own.

“I understand there are people who are really trying to get the message out that there needs to be restraint and you must be responsible. That’s a good thing,” said Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, which opposes concealed carry. “And yet, I’m just so alarmed about the bill as a whole.”

Bonavia agreed that “a lot of the people who get permits are good guys.” But the often middle-aged, middle-class permit holders are usually also at low risk of being victims of crime, she said. She said she feared that giving them licenses might embolden some to walk into dangerous situations.

What wasn’t said? Well, it’s time for that map again:

There are now 35 “shall issue” states, nine “may issue” states, and two with unrestricted concealed-carry and there has been not one state that has passed concealed-carry legislation in which gun violence went up. But that’s the fear that is pushed each and every time another state considers the legislation – “blood in the streets.”

Not one. But Wisconsin will be the first?

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