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CARRYING A GUN/TRAINING
Reprinted from the August 17, 2003 Commercial Appeal
Jeff is a friend of mine.
TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL IF YOU DECIDE TO CARRY
By Lance Murphey
Jeff Myers: "More than you can know, I hope I never have to draw, much less
fire, the handgun I carry with me. At the same time, my training has given
me the skills and confidence to use appropriate force effectively if it
Guest columnist Jeff Myers of Memphis is a self-employed insurance agent.
August 17, 2003
I'm a 43-year-old husband, a father and a self-employed insurance agent.
I carry a handgun every day.
I applied for my first handgun carry permit in 1995, when I often worked
late alone in my office and traveled around the city on evening appointments.
I had no trouble meeting the requirements to obtain a permit from the Shelby
County Sheriff's Department, which administered handgun licenses until the
legislature turned that responsibility over to the state Department of Safety
in 1996. But while I have hunted since the age of 12 and have enjoyed recreational
sport shooting for most of my adult life, I quickly discovered that I was not
adequately trained - mentally or physically - to carry safely and be prepared
to use a handgun for self-defense.
Just as owning a grand piano doesn't make you a musician, owning a handgun
doesn't guarantee proficiency in using it - particularly if your prospective
target is likely to be another human being.
I decided to seek additional training in using firearms for self-defense, and
that decision changed my life. The first course I enrolled in at Range Master
confirmed my belief that I was unprepared to carry a weapon, and it helped me
develop a mindset of being capable of defending myself and my loved ones against
sudden violent assault. I've taken a number of other courses since then, and I
plan to continue training to expand my firearms skills and keep them sharp.
I believe that my training has prevented me from becoming a victim of violent
crime without - so far - having to use force. More than you can know, I hope I
never have to draw, much less fire, the handgun I carry with me. At the same
time, my training has given me the skills and confidence to use appropriate
force effectively if it becomes necessary.
Criminals don't beam down to Earth from a mothership. They have to walk to you
(or wait for you to walk to them) to get close enough to be a threat. The lesson
is to pay attention to your environment and not let a strange person approach
within contact distance. Yet one of the most common comments from assault victims
is: "I never saw him."
A few years ago, a very aggressive panhandler approached me in a parking lot.
Before he closed the distance between us, I took an aggressive stance, raised
my hand, and told him to "stop" in a strong voice.
"I'm sorry, officer," he responded. "I didn't mean to bother you." No weapon
needed to be used or even displayed; all I had to do to avoid a potential problem
was to be aware of the situation and have a plan for action in case the panhandler
turned out to be a threat.
Last summer, I was alone at the front desk in my office when a man entered in a brisk
manner, talking rapidly and looking about the room. Expecting that something might
develop, I got up from the desk and took an aggressive stance. The man suddenly began
to back-pedal, just as a second man - who was wearing a long overcoat (in August) and
had his right hand stuffed in the coat pocket - started to come inside.
Together, the two men stumbled back through the front door and into a car that was
backed into a nearby parking space. They sped away, leaving me certain that if I hadn't
been trained to react quickly and be prepared to defend myself, I'd have become a
victim of robbery - or worse.
The decision to carry a gun is not one I take lightly. It carries questions and issues
that I still find myself working through - many of them the same questions you might ask.
Why try to fight criminals? You might get hurt or killed. Why not just give them what
they want so they'll go away?
What kind of social contract is "I won't kill you if you'll give me what I want"? It places
the outcome of a situation entirely in the criminal's hands, granting him (or them) ultimate
power over my life or those of my loved ones. If we accept it, we surrender initiative and
in essence vote to let ourselves become victims of violent crime.
Why carry a pistol to defend yourself? Why not let law enforcement do it for you?
Think of some notable violent crimes in recent Memphis history: A young woman is killed in
an East Memphis mall parking garage; a prominent lawyer is murdered in a downtown garage; a
fast-food restaurant employee is killed in her store in Germantown. They were all alone when
they were unexpectedly confronted by a violent attacker.
Criminals do their best to commit their crimes when police are not present. If you're assaulted,
you're likely to be alone, and you may face more than one attacker. The average duration of the
typical violent encounter is less than two minutes. Compare this to the average police response
time and you'll see that the chances of help arriving in time - even if you have a phone in your
hand - are slim. It will probably be up to you, at least in the first critical moments, to deal
with the situation by yourself.
Why not just carry a pistol when you're going somewhere you think you might need it?
If you're going somewhere you think you might need a gun, don't go.
Violent crime can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, anywhere and anytime. You might think the
chances of needing a pistol for self-defense are slim. But just like airbags, seatbelts, fire
extinguishers and antibiotics, when the need for a handgun arises, that need is great indeed.
Accepting responsibility for protecting yourself against crime makes as much sense as routinely
buckling your seatbelt to avoid serious injury in a traffic accident.
Aren't you uncomfortable having firearms around your children?
When I don't have my pistol on my person, it is unloaded and secured in an area that is not
accessible to my sons or their friends. If it is needed, I can load it in a second or two. My
other firearms are locked away. I've taught my sons the rules of firearms safety and they
understand those rules.
The decision to carry a handgun comes down to taking responsibility for my own safety. Whether
I like it or not, the potential for violent assault exists in our world, and I know that I'm
prepared to deal with it if necessary.
But the training that's required in Tennessee to obtain a handgun carry permit, in my opinion,
is minimal. I'd encourage anyone who is thinking about making the same decision I did to seek
training and instruction that go well beyond the Department of Safety's requirements. It's worth
the time, it's worth the effort, and it may help you save your life someday.