GTM Original Blog — Range
By Robert Farago via The Truth About Guns
I oppose mandatory firearms training. It violates our Second Amendment protection against government infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. That said, I’ve been impressed with the instruction rammed down my metaphorical throat. Tedious yes, but comprehensive; instructors cover everything from how a gun works to the legal use of deadly force to anger management and firearms retention (added in Texas for licensed open carry). Plus live fire! But the classes don’t cover everything. Here are three things they don’t teach you in a concealed carry class . . .
Carrying a Gun Makes You Paranoid – At Least at First
The first time you strap on a concealed firearm, it feels like you’re carrying a Howitzer. Like you’re wearing a T-shirt that says “I’VE GOT A GUN!” Even in states with a gun-friendly culture (e.g., Arizona), first-time concealed carriers worry that a stranger is going to see their gun and confront them.
Pistol-packing paranoia makes perfect sense. Public speaking is Americans’ greatest fear; we’re hard-wired to be afraid of public embarrassment. (Loss of social status is a thing.) Being “outed” while carrying a gun – especially by someone who’s rabidly anti-gun and/or terrified of guns – is public speaking on steroids. “Oh my God. He’s got a gun! What do you need that for?”
Even if you live in a gun friendly culture, this fear isn’t completely unrealistic. No matter how much you mentally rehearse a reply to gun shamers or prepare for a police response (the police!), the prospect of “armed confrontation” still creates low-level paranoia (and constant checking of cover garments). It’s not comfortable.
Exposure therapy is the only “cure” for this paranoia. More precisely, lack of exposure therapy. The more you carry a concealed firearm without being “outed,” the less paranoia or anxiety you feel. It’s simply something you have to go through; a condition that lasts between a week and a month. The trick: go through it. If you find excuses not to carry daily, the paranoia will never disappear entirely. Or you might eventually abandon the whole idea of concealed carry.
Carrying a gun changes your personality – for the better
Gun control advocates have this strange idea: they believe that carrying a gun makes a person into amucho macho trigger-happy Clint Eastwood wanna-be.
Like so many of the antis’ “arguments,” they’ve got it exactly backwards. Carrying a gun make you lessconfrontational. D’uh. Why would you want to engage in any confrontation when any confrontation could lead to escalation which could lead to a gunfight which is something you don’t want to have? Which you could have, now, because you have a gun.
This confrontation avoidance thought process becomes second nature. You become far lesslikely – if not completely unlikely – to engage in road rage or any sort of argy-bargy with a stranger. Sure there are concealed carriers with anger issues – which don’t disappear when they receive the state’s blessing to bear arms. But that’s not you, a person who took the time to read an article entitled Three Things They Don’t Teach You In Your Concealed Carry Class.
Another psychological aspect instructors don’t mention: concealed carry makes you more independent. By assuming direct responsibility for your own safety, the safety of your loved ones, and the safety of other innocent life (optional), you lose your inherent perhaps subconscious dependency on the state’s protection. You realize that you are a sovereign citizen.
I don’t mean that in the terrorist sense of the term (obviously). It’s an understanding that you’re in control of your own destiny in the worst case scenario: when controlling your destiny is a matter of life and death. Which makes you feel more in control of your own destiny at other, less dramatic times.
Don’t get me wrong: firearms instructors talk (and talk and talk) about the enormous responsibility of carrying a deadly weapon. Fair enough. What they don’t tell you is how good, how right that feels. How it makes you a better person.
Carrying a gun is addictive
The only way to tell if you’re addicted to something: remove it and see if you suffer withdrawal. At the risk of giving the antis [additional] ammo to deride Americans exercising their gun rights, I’m going to say it. Concealed carry is addictive.
Anyone who carries a gun on an everyday basis can tell you about those times when they suddenly realize they’re not carrying one. Like when they disarm to go into Whole Foods, forget to rearm and enter a non-gun-free zone. Crap! I don’t have my gun! They’re plagued by the niggling (at best) thought “what if this is the one time I need it?” Which, by the way, can happen.
The paranoia/anxiety of having a gun eventually becomes the paranoia/anxiety of nothaving a gun. Traveling to states that don’t recognize your concealed carry license/permit can be an ordeal for a habituated concealed carrier. There are gun owners who won’t go anywhere where their gun isn’t welcome: local businesses, entire states and foreign countries.
Normally, NGP (No-Gun Paranoia) manifests itself in increased situational awareness: scanning for bad people, checking exits, carrying or contemplating alternative weapons, etc. Gun control advocates believe this behavior indicates some kind of moral weakness or personality disorder. It is, in fact, a normal, natural survival instinct, amplified by carrying a concealed weapon on a regular basis.
I’m sure those of you who carry have other examples of what you didn’t learn in concealed carry class. Please share them below.
Marcella Robertson, 13News Now
The group, 757 Ladies Packing Heat, are gathered for lessons at the Colonial Shooting Academy.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Every Tuesday, Kathie Gerber stands in front of a classroom full of women at Colonial Shooting Academy.
At first glance it looks like your typical ladies night. You can hear side conversations about nail polishes and cute boys, but the women are there for a much different reason.
The group calls themselves 757 Ladies Packing Heat. What started with just four women has expanded to nearly 100 women. They meet every Tuesday to shoot guns.
The 757 Ladies Packing Heat Club's Facebook page.
"This is my second family. This is where I want to come and where I look forward to every Tuesday," said Debbie Robins, a member of the group.
The women are just a small piece of a growing trend of women owning guns in America. According to the National Rifle Association of America, women are the fastest growing demographic of new shooters.
"It is the fastest growing demographic in the shooting industry that I've seen, said Skyler Thomas, an instructor at Colonial Shooting Academy.
Every Tuesday the women work to improve their skills. They learn about safety, how to clean their guns, and work on tactics on the range.
"It's just so encouraging and empowering. It makes you feel good as a woman that you can take care of yourself and protect yourself and your family," said Robins.
For many of the women, joining the club was all about breaking into a male dominated sport. For others like Gerber, it was about much more.
Gerber was carjacked in Norfolk a few years ago. Her driver's side window was down, and within seconds a man was in her car.
"This gentleman jumped through my window and held a gun to my head and wanted my car. I didn't know if I was going to live or die. All I knew is that I had a gun to my head and at that point I was just thinking about survival," said Gerber.
The next day she went to buy a gun. Gerber walked into Colonial Shooting Academy to learn how to use her gun, and never left. Soon after that, Gerber started the 757 Ladies Packing Heat Club with just four women. The therapist turned gun instructor says the incident has changed her life in so many ways.
757 Ladies Packing Heat at the Colonial Shooting Academy
Many women have stories to tell just like Gerber. Some have been victims of domestic violence, searching for ways to protect themselves.
"I went through 11 years of it and finally decided to stand up for myself," said Robins.
The group is diverse and has members in their teens to their 80s. They even have a mother-daughter duo. Joanna and Jenna Washburn joined the club in January. Since then, it has become a priority in their lives.
"We look forward to it. It's something we can do together," said Joanna Washburn.
As the group continues to grow, Gerber wants to make sure every woman has a shot at protecting themselves.
"We're trying to get them all avenues they can use to hopefully save their life one day," said Gerber.
757 Ladies Packing Heat has expanded tremendously since its inception. Gerber says the second largest growing demographic is senior citizens. They plan to start catering to that group soon.
CENTENNIAL, Colorado -- Marc Rabinoff lines up the paper target in the sites of his Wilson Combat 9 mm handgun and squeezes the trigger. “I love doing this,” he says as the shot echoes around the shooting range. “It’s a great feeling when you hit that target. It’s an accomplishment.”
Rabinoff is engaged in target practice in one of eight V.I.P. lanes at Centennial Gun Club. At 35,000 square feet, the $10 million, 2-year-old facility is Colorado’s largest shooting range and among the biggest in the country. It offers the sort of upscale amenities that have led some to label it a "guntry club." Patrons can rent a sleek boardroom for corporate gatherings. The 5,000-square-foot gun shop offers “Gun Tote’n Mamas” concealed carry purses and other items marketed to women, who make up 35 percent of the operation’s clientele. And Rabinoff pays a hefty membership fee to frequent the Statesman’s Lounge, an exclusive section of the range -- accessible via a retina scan -- where professional athletes and other luminaries enjoy private lockers, a cigar bar, a pool table and a private shooting range.
Lately, business at Centennial Gun Club has been booming, as it has at other shooting ranges nationwide. Ever since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, the gun club has been welcoming roughly a thousand people a day on the weekends and 600 daily during the week. That amounts to 30 percent more traffic than usual. And this week, CEO Richard Abramson says he’s received three calls from local corporations that are interested in security training classes.
“I’ve never had those calls before,” says Abramson. “I think we are seeing a lot of people buying guns out of fear.”
Never mind that Colorado is still reeling from a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs late last month. The incident left nine people wounded and three dead. The state was already known for two of the country’s worst gun massacres: the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. Never mind that over the past few days President Obama and a front-page New York Times editorial suggested the answer to such bloodshed was less civilian access to firearms, not more. And never mind reports that the San Bernardino attackers frequented shooting ranges, which suggests that some of these operations could be used to train potential mass killers. As in the rest of the country, where gun sales have reached record highs, more people than ever in Colorado are embracing the world of firearms. And in places like Centennial Gun Club, they’re finding that guns offer not just protection but also escape, empowerment and, above all, personal enjoyment.
The situation hints at the difficulties ahead for those who aim to restrict gun ownership in a nation of approximately 100 million gun owners: How do you implement gun control when you’re not just talking about taking away attack weapons but also an integral part of many people's lives?
Zen of Shooting
Rabinoff first picked up a firearm three years ago, after a lifetime of being afraid of guns. One of his sons was enrolled at Columbine Middle School during the 1999 mass shooting, and his other son nearly attended the 2012 “Dark Knight Rises” midnight movie screening where James Holmes killed 12 people. They encouraged their father to look into defending himself. Little did they know just how thoroughly Rabinoff, a retired sports and human performance professor and self-described “liberal Democratic New York Jewish kid” would become enmeshed in gun culture. Now, he shoots at the Statesman’s Lounge several times a week, has taken nearly all of the Centennial Gun Club’s many training courses and is armed with his Wilson Combat 9mm, with a bullet in the chamber, wherever he goes. His wife, Diana, has become a gun aficionado too; she has a pink camouflage AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and they both compete in a variety of shooting matches each month.
“This is what we wanted to do with our retirement,” says Rabinoff with an accent that hints at his years growing up in the Bronx. “Other people take trips around the world. We shoot guns.” Shooting is something they can enjoy together and with like-minded friends, like playing tennis without having to worry about the weather or skiing without bothering with long winter drives into the mountains. But it’s also the ultimate calming activity, they say. All their minor troubles melt away when they’re looking down the sites of a locked-and-loaded weapon. “When I come here, I have to concentrate,” says Rabinoff. “You are not allowed to be distracted.”
Finally, in a world where technology has made nearly everything easy and convenient, there’s something galvanizing for them, something intoxicating, about the ultimate responsibility that still comes with properly handling a firearm. “You take the gun out of its holster, you point the muzzle and you pull the trigger – it is 150 percent you,” says Rabinoff. If you don’t know how to use a gun, it’s a pretty dangerous tool. If you know how to use a gun, it’s a great tool.”
Knowing that they’re armed and properly trained in something so formidable and deadly when they go shopping or out to dinner is a potent feeling. “I feel empowered when I walk through the mall,” says Diana. “It’s just addictive, that’s what it is.”
These aren’t the only reasons people fill Centennial Gun Club’s 28 firing lanes day after day, honing their skills far beyond simple practical purpose. Some are drawn to the historical aspects of gun culture, including Bart Miller, the range’s head gunsmith, who’s quick to show off his prized 400-year-old Japanese matchlock musket, his oiled, calloused hands tracing its intricate etchings of bounding rabbits and samurai helmets. Others come for the social opportunities, like those who flock to the ladies night gatherings that draw 100 women a month. And still others come with a sense of responsibility, a belief that the Second Amendment isn’t just a privilege, but a duty. It’s why 500 people have recently been attending a church security training course at the range.
Since the San Bernadino shooting last week, however, the Centennial Gun Club’s management has been concerned about another potential reason for folks visiting the range: practicing for nefarious purposes. “It’s absolutely a concern,” says CEO Abramson, a soft-spoken, genial fellow. He notes that according to the U.S. State Department, visitors from certain countries aren’t allowed to visit shooting ranges, and his operation collects identification from everyone who shoots there. Still, he says, “I am talking to our local sheriff about what additional screening can be done. We don’t have a good answer right now, but we are certainly looking into it to see what options there are.”
Bridging the Divide
For people like Rabinoff and his wife, it’s not just that gun control advocates want to restrict their access to firearms, it’s also that these outsiders don’t know the first thing about the gun culture they’re so concerned about – nor do they attempt to learn about it. Rabinoff bristles when folks confuse gun clips and magazines, mistakenly call an AR-15 an assault weapon, and act like having a thousand rounds of ammunition in your house is unhealthy. (Rabinoff and his wife easily burn through that much in a typical month of competitive shooting.) He hates that people like Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey say he shouldn’t be able to defend himself, when they’re protected by a phalanx of armed security. And he’s frustrated by gun violence measures that position gun owners like himself as a liability rather than a resource. That includes the creation of gun-free zones that he thinks do nothing other than make such locations “soft targets,” as he puts it, for violent extremists.
While he shoots for the fun of it, the polarization of the gun debate has impacted Rabinoff’s personal politics. He won’t vote for Obama, Hilary Clinton or anyone else who’ll “take away our right under the Second Amendment of the Constitution to protect ourselves.” And while he doesn’t agree with every position espoused by the National Rifle Association, he’s now a card-carrying NRA member because “they’re the only ones doing the work in Congress to keep my rights.”
And while he believes proper firearms education is of utmost importance – he’s offered to pay for people’s training classes when he heard they purchased a gun without learning how to properly use it – his frustration with the government’s handling of gun issues has reached the point where he’s against federally mandated firearm training. “I don’t trust the government to come up with how much training you have to have,” he says.
Bridging the divide, culturally and politically, between pro- and anti-gun advocates might therefore seem impossible. But Rabinoff is at least willing to give it a shot. It’s why he’s happy to open up about his newfound love of guns to anyone who will listen. It’s why he’s more than happy to bring guests into the exclusive confines of Statesman’s Lounge and let them take a few shots with his $4,000 handgun, letting them feel for themselves the difference between firing one of his preferred polymer-coated bullets and the standard full metal jacket variety.
As the casings fly and the smell of gunpowder fills the air, Rabinoff grins infectiously.
“You gotta admit this is fun,” he says.
If folks on the other side of the gun debate are willing to admit that, maybe there are other things they can all agree on, too.