Well, it’s official – today, I finally joined the ranks of lawfully armed citizens. Which is to say, today I pulled off what is a minor miracle in my area (coastal California). I’ve been carrying firearms in places where carry without a permit was permitted, of course – at home, when camping, at friends’ houses, and so forth. But today, I went over to my local sheriff’s department and picked up a small white piece of paper, across the top of which is printed these words: License to Carry Concealed Pistol, Revolver or Other Firearm Within the State of California.
Today’s almost anti-climactic moment came at the end of a long and difficult journey, and it’s a journey I’d like to talk about briefly to harvest a few lessons from. Some are lessons we all, as lawfully armed citizens, should know. Some are observations on the maze of California gun laws which, if given their way, the anti-gun folks would love to export to your state. Here’s what I learned along my journey.
The courts may make gun-hostile politicians honor the Second Amendment, but those politicians will burden it as much as they can get away with. Start to finish, my permit took a little under four months to obtain. By the time I paid the application fees, fingerprint fees, tuition and ammo for the required training class, and the like, I estimate it cost somewhere in the vicinity of $500, and the application and supporting documentation ran to about 40 pages. California is a “may issue” state, where we have to prove we have a “good enough” reason to exercise our Second Amendment rights, and only one of the four statements of Good Cause I made on my application was accepted. A number of lawsuits are currently pending which challenge California’s “may issue” regime, but the courts are not seeming to be in any hurry to resolve those. And, since my permit is only valid for 2 years, I get to do it (almost) all over again in 20 months or so. The politicians haven’t completely denied me my right to bear arms for lawful self-defense, but that doesn’t mean they’re under any obligation to make it easy for me to exercise.
Concealed weapons permit holders need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct. There are plenty of politicians out there who would love another chance to portray gun owners as reckless, dangerous, a menace to society. Just look at what happened to George Zimmerman, or what’s happening to Curtis Reeves and Michael Dunn. Right or wrong, win or lose, their lives as they knew them are over. (So too, of course, are those they shot, but this isn’t a debate about the merits of any of those cases.) It is simply not good enough to say “if it’s a righteous shoot, that’s all that matters”, and that means we have a duty – to ourselves, to our families, to society – to do everything reasonably possible to avoid having to pull that trigger. It means we shouldn’t go out to bars and get drunk, even if we have the right. It means we should retreat from trouble when we can, even though in many states we have the right to “stand our ground”. It means running away or de-escalating if we can. The fact that “we have the right” to use deadly force to defend ourselves doesn’t mean the exercise of that right is free of consequences – and those consequences tar the whole community of armed citizens.
Your gun isn’t the only piece of gear that matters. This was a point driven home during my CCW class, which I talked a bit about previously. Several of the people in my class struggled with equipment malfunctions: poorly fitted holsters, insufficient (or no) belts to support those holsters, no good way to carry extra magazines or a knife or flashlight. When it comes to your concealed carry gear, your gun may the star of the show, but if you can’t deploy it effectively because you cheaped out and bought a $10 Wal-mart nylon holster, are you really prepared to use your gun? Your self-defensive gear system is just that, a system, and you need to give thought to all its pieces. Yes, you need a decent and reliable gun, but you also need a holster that carries it securely comfortably and accessibly. You need extra magazines and a place to carry them. A flashlight and a knife are good too. But so is the software that lets you employ all those tools, the practice and training that makes them habit. Think about all the pieces of your system, but also think about how they work together.
Don’t ever take your gun rights for granted. Every year, I watch California’s anti-gun politicians propose more and more ridiculous laws to abridge our freedoms. (The star of that show used to be Sen. Dianne “turm ‘em all in” Feinstein, but recent up-and-comers include Leland “ban the bullet button” Yee and Kevin “30 magazine clips” DeLeon). But here’s the thing: if you live in a freer state with better gun laws, you might be tempted to look at us here in California with scorn and schadenfreude. Do not make that mistake. What you’re seeing unfold here in California is the first step of the vision the anti-gun crowd has for ALL of America. And the chorus of law abiding gun owners speaking out and educating people is all that stands between them and that vision. (Here in California, our millions of gun owners do speak out, but we’re drowned out by the agitprop spewing forth from Sacramento and Los Angeles and San Jose.) Speak out and fight back, not just in your own communities, but in states like California and New York, before it’s too late. Our rights only exist so long as we keep defending them, and the anti-gun crowd will take them a state at a time if that’s the only option they have.
I may have more to say on this subject later, but I definitely wanted to share the news while it was fresh. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you? What one lesson would you share about your experience as a law-abiding armed citizen? What do you wish someone had told you early in your journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.