In Part Three I talked about observing the gun control debates and how the Colorado Democrats used their temporary majority status to force unpopular laws through against strenuous opposition. In this part I talk about receiving my concealed handgun permit (“CHP”) and additional reading that furthered my education.
The Permit Arrives
As the gun control debate raged in the Colorado Capital, my concealed carry permit was completed and available for me to pick up at the Sheriff’s Office. During the two months it took to get it, I read several more books and articles about concealed carry, the responsibilities involved, and why and how people do it. At this time I also completed the paperwork and sent off my application for the Utah non-resident CHP.
After putting about 250 rounds through it, the little .380 Bodyguard I had purchased a few
months before stopped working. It wouldn’t fire when I pulled the trigger. In any event I wanted something with a little more stopping power and a 15 round magazine. After trying it at the range and upon the recommendation of a sales person, I purchased a Glock 19 Gen 4 in 9mm for my concealed carry weapon. When I carry it, I use a Minotaur Comp-Tac IWB holster at 3:00 with a cover garment.
The first time I wore the Glock out in public it felt very weird. I went to the grocery store and then to dinner at a local restaurant. I was worried that I was “printing” and somebody would see that I was armed and confront me about it. It took me a few months of ever increasing wear to get comfortable with the idea of being armed in public. After attending a class on the psychology of carrying a gun, I learned that others experience the same initial discomfort, but that it does abate with time. Most people I’ve talked to that concealed carry do so all the time.
Interestingly, I now pay attention to what people are wearing and try to spot people who may be concealed carrying when I am out in public. On a few occasions at the grocery store where I shop, I have seen a pistol not quite concealed by a cover garment or by printing, and on one occasion a person openly carrying with an IWB holster and no cover garment. As I looked around, nobody seemed to notice or even care that the person was carrying a gun. This has also been true when I’ve seen people open carrying. It just does not prompt the hysteria that the anti-gun folks like to pretend it does.
Many concealed carry advocates and people who participate in various forums say that it is best to carry 24/7/365. I choose to keep the frequency or even if I carry a firearm…well…concealed. I am comforted by the fact I am legally qualified to carry a concealed handgun when I choose to do so. In the meantime I practice with the Glock and maintain “Condition Yellow” when I am out in the world. I have trained for and received certification as a NRA Range Safety Officer and am scheduled for more training next month to become a NRA certified instructor. As time and my budget allows I intend to take more training classes every couple of months to maintain and enhance my skills.
After weeks more of waiting, my Utah permit finally arrived, so I now can legally carry a firearm in 37 states in this country. The states I cannot legally carry I have no intention of visiting or living in. There is currently legislation pending in the United States Senate that would establish national reciprocity for concealed carry. I encourage all Second Amendment supporters to study and support this legislation.
As one of the over 8 million CHP holders in the United States, I am glad I have the option of carrying a concealed handgun, while at the same time mindful of the awesome responsibility it entails. It is my most fervent hope that I never have to draw it or fire it at someone. I have never fired a gun at anything that draws breath for life and I hope I never do. I want to be prepared if a self-defense situation ever presents itself. But this does not mean I go looking for trouble either. I don’t slap the Glock on my waist and go trolling for trouble in places I wouldn’t normally go. I don’t join neighborhood watches or fancy myself as an auxiliary police officer. I am just a person who lives carefully in a sometimes dangerous world.
Gun Fights and Floor Debates
The following week I watched the floor debates on the gun bills in the Colorado General Assembly both in person and on TV. I was struck by how eloquently and vociferously the Republican representatives and senators got up to speak against the bills. When called upon to defend them, their Democratic sponsors would get up and answer in very terse, perfunctory sentences, repeating the same talking points over and over and often not directly answering the question at hand. My sense that this proceeding was “just for show” was reinforced by their demeanor.
It was during the floor debate over the magazine ban bill that Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican Senator from Wray, Colorado (and now candidate for Governor) went to the podium and spoke passionately against the proposed bill, concluding by saying “I will not obey this law.” Making that statement took a lot of courage and I admired him for taking a stand like that. When I met Senator Brophy several months later I told him I thought that was the highlight of the whole debate.
At about this time, I also started reading a new book – Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America [Kindle Edition]. This book, which starts off by reviewing the drama surrounding the Supreme Court hearing arguments for what became the Heller decision, clearly establishes that the tension between gun rights and gun control is as old as America itself.
One thing about Winkler’s book is that he really does take a balanced approach to the issues and does not appear to support either side. He discusses how the NRA did not become a political powerhouse in opposition to gun control laws until the 1970s. He very eloquently describes how the gun rights groups oppose all new gun control laws because “Almost any gun control infringes the Constitution, in their view, and nearly every law puts us on the inevitable pathway to civilian disarmament.”
To be fair, he also points out that ‘The other side of the gun debate is prone to its own brand of extremism. “Gun grabbers”…will support seemingly any form of gun control, no matter how unlikely the law is to taper gun violence. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate all privately owned firearms – or, at least, make the United States more like England, where handguns are illegal and all other guns are rare.” [Emphasis mine]
Winkler further points out how the extremists on both sides of the debate tend to drown out the majority of people who inhabit the middle, and how this polarity mirrors society at large. On just about any issue, Americans are pretty much evenly divided between supporters and opponents of abortion, gay marriage, higher or lower taxes, health care, the size and scope of government in our lives, and other issues. Most people seek their news and their social media conversations with like-minded people, which just tends to reinforce views already strongly held. Each side accuses the other of destroying America and of “fascism” (left accusing right) or “socialism” (right accusing left).
The right to keep and bear arms has been part of American law and culture prior to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Several of the original founding states had express rights to keep and bear arms in their state constitutions, and the Founders included the Second Amendment at the behest of several of the Founders as I discussed in Part One. As of this writing, 44 states have some language in their constitutions regarding the right to keep and bear arms, with 22 states including Colorado having an expressly stated individual self-defense right. The states that don’t have an express right are also some of the highest for gun violence, including California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. (Minnesota and Iowa are the other two).
In Colorado, a bastion of the “Old West” and home to a vibrant rural lifestyle from the ranches and farms on the Eastern Plains to the mountain towns, the wealthy enclave of Aspen and the festival town of Telluride, most people value their gun rights. In many parts of the state law enforcement is many minutes away and people are required to provide for their own defense.
The perception of a culture of gun violence became unpleasantly prominent in 1999 when two seniors killed a dozen fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School. We’ve had incidents since then including the July 2012 shooting at the Century 21 theater in Aurora. While these tragedies garnered high visibility coverage in the press, the majority of the state’s voters – divided almost equally between Democrats, Republicans and Independents – were NOT clamoring for more gun control.
The animosity toward the gun control proposals that were introduced in the Colorado legislature in 2013 was largely driven by the perception that out of state interests including President Obama, Vice President Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were pushing this legislation. That the bills introduced by Fields, McCann, Morse, Hudak, Levy and Heath contained the same exact language as bills introduced in New York and elsewhere is one indication that outside parties were involved. Indeed their very talking points were exactly the same as other prominent Democrats were saying in other venues. At one point during the floor debate in February Vice President Biden called four Democratic lawmakers, presumably to encourage them to toe the line.
It was during this time that I went from lurker to participant in the Denver Post forums. I was surprised at the level of invective that people hurl at each other, especially on the gun control issue. While there are people on both sides who resort to personal attacks, it is my opinion that gun control proponents more often resort to name-calling, deflection, making assertions without support, and refusing to answer direct questions instead of engaging in fact-based arguments.
I’ve been called a “gun-nut”, a “NRA shill”, a “gun-fanatic”, a “wing-nut”, a “doomsday obsessed camouflage wearing bunker sitting crazy” and other things. My favorite ad-hominem attack is when the gun-control supporters start calling us “gun-fetishists” with references to “phallic obsessions”. These always make me laugh, because just as homophobes are said to be projecting, I think those who throw out gun-fetishist and phallic talk are just projecting in their own way. In fact, just as Godwin’s Law states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”, I learned that there is “Markley’s Law” which stipulates something similar.
Another thing I noticed through months of debate is how the left-leaning commenters often seem to think of the NRA as an all-powerful organization that “rejoices” in “body counts” and gives lots of money to politicians who oppose gun control. The fact of the matter is that the NRA does not represent gun manufacturers, it represents gun owners, approximately 5 million of them, including me. I joined for the first time on December 15, 2012, knowing that gun control was about to be the hottest issue in America. I remain a member and am on my way to becoming a NRA certified firearms instructor. When the lefties accuse the NRA of being evil, they are accusing its members, including me, of being evil. I resent that.
After two months of intense political debate, five of the ten gun-related bills were passed by the legislature and forwarded to the Governor for his signature. They were: HB 1224, the magazine ban (probably the most disliked of the five); HB 1229, the universal background checks (also intensely disliked); HB 1228 Payment for background checks; SB 197 No firearms for domestic violence offenders; and SB195, No online training for CHP. The campus concealed carry prohibition and assault weapons restriction act (HB1226 and SB196) were killed by their sponsors. As of this writing, there is no evidence of any arrests under these laws or that they have saved any lives.
As I wrote in another blog post, these laws are unenforceable, possibly unconstitutional, ineffective and will do nothing to improve public safety.
In June 2013, I traveled to Texas for a family event. While there, I purchased several 30 round standard capacity magazines for a rifle I didn’t even own at the time. I wanted to have them in my possession as of the day they became illegal in Colorado, just in case I ever did buy an AR-15.
As the Colorado summer arrived, my attention turned to other things including putting as many miles on my bicycle as I could. I continued to observe events, and in the final part of this series I talk about how I completed my journey from casual gun owner to committed Second Amendment supporter and activist.
By Richard D. Turnquist
January 24, 2014
Link to Part Five