Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be interpreted as advocating against getting training. More, better training is always good and will improve your odds of successfully defending yourself with a gun while staying out of trouble with the law. If you can get training, you should.

I’m always amazed…and disappointed…at the number of “gun people” who advocate for some level of mandatory training before a citizen can be trusted to carry, or even own a firearm. People who will in the same breath tell you that they believe that the right to keep and bear arms is indeed a constitutionally protected civil right, will then go on to say that you can’t exercise that right until after you meet some mandatory (and arbitrary) training standard.

But quality training at any level is not free. No matter how much or how little training is (arbitrarily) deemed necessary, it will cost money, and it will cost time. If you don’t have the money, or you don’t have the time, you can’t have a gun. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that’s how rights are supposed to work.

Keep in mind that we now live in a country where courts are overturning laws requiring the presentation of a photo ID to vote, based on the premise that the requirement to have an ID card excessively burdens someone wishing to exercise that right to vote. But it’s OK to require an aspiring gun owner to attend training costing sometimes hundreds of dollars (or more), and spending hours (or days) in these classes before being permitted to exercise a constitutionally protected civil right? If a photo ID requirement disenfranchises someone from a right, expensive and time consuming training requirements surely do. After all, how many people do you know who have not gotten their concealed carry permit simply because they haven’t had the money or time to take the class? (And don’t even try to tell me that it’s an acceptable infringement because guns are so dangerous. What could be more dangerous than the power to elect the leader of the free world, who will have access to the national nuclear arsenal?)


What if a single mom can’t afford the tuition, ammo, and child care to go take a class? Are her rights forfeit? (Image courtesy of Oleg Volk)


But here’s a real humdinger for you to chew on: What if advanced (beyond concealed carry) training isn’t really all that important when it comes to being able to defend yourself with a gun?

Again, refer back to the disclaimer at the top before you get the vapors at that question. Quality training and regular practice is absolutely a good thing, and will absolutely increase your odds of success, both in winning your fight and staying out of legal trouble. I’m both a firearms trainer and student. I go to classes as often as possible, and so should you if you can.

But what if you can’t? A lot of lower income citizens might be lucky just to be able to scrape together the money for a gun in the first place, much less drop a couple hundred more on a class…and their economic situation might mean they are forced to live in the type of neighborhood where they really need a gun. But there’s no way they could defend themselves without some expensive advanced training, right? I mean, Everybody Knows that unless you go to Gunsite or Thunder Ranch for a week every year, you’ll get Killed On The Street, or thrown in jail the first time you need to defend yourself with your gun…right?


There are plenty of benefits to training, but it isn’t free.


Maybe. But probably not.

Estimates run towards a couple million successful defensive gun uses per year. Despite news accounts of the occasional bonehead…these stories are news specifically because they are out of the norm…it would seem that the vast, vast majority of folks get it right, almost all the time. We know statistically that only about .01% of concealed carriers get themselves in trouble with the law. Now…how many of those millions of successful defenders do you suppose had any advanced training beyond their concealed carry class? I don’t think there’s any data on it, but I’d suspect it is a very low percentage. This would indicate that most people do manage to get it right, most of the time.

Maybe they’re just lucky…although luck should never be the cornerstone of your defensive strategy. “I’d rather be lucky than good,” is a clever saying, but it ignores the fact that there’s more than one kind of luck. I’d rather be good, and training helps with that. It might also be that when you’re the one being attacked, it’s really not that hard to figure out what to do and who to do it to.

Still, training is a good thing…a very good thing. But I think there are better ways to encourage and develop better trained gun owners, and it isn’t through mandatory training laws. Want to encourage people to get training? How about a tax deduction for training expenses? This would create a positive incentive to getting training by helping make it more affordable. How about we stop vilifying “gun culture,” and embrace it? Instead of keeping our youth ignorant and afraid of guns, maybe we ought to teach them how to be safe and responsible with them. We teach kids sex education in school on the premise that prohibitions on sex don’t work…so we teach them safety. Similarly, we can’t guarantee kids won’t come into contact with firearms, whether at home or somewhere else. So why not educate them? Education always trumps ignorance when it comes to safety.

When I teach a firearms class, I close out each day with a slide I call “The Weight of the Gun.” It doesn’t refer to the physical weight, but the moral weight…the responsibility…that goes with exercising a right which gives us the power over life and death. The capability to take life means that decisions made with a gun in our hand will be life and death decisions. I believe that power carries an obligation to seek continuous improvement, so that if and when we have to make that decision, we can decide correctly and then carry out that decision properly.

Continuous improvement should be the goal of every armed citizen, but it should not be a barrier to the free exercise of our civil right to keep and bear arms.


~ David Cole






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