Making My Peace With Guns

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Guns. Either you love them or you don’t. There usually isn’t any middle of the road on this subject. As for me personally, there is no love lost between me and those hard, cold pieces of metal. So be it.

To all you gun enthusiasts, don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning guns. Both sides of my family and Jim’s family are all avid hunters and sportsmen. Guns, in their own right, can be very beautiful pieces of machinery – just not in my eyes.

So, what possessed me to take a concealed carry class? Our honorary granddaughter, Rachel Plushnik, just turned 21 years old and that is all she wanted for her birthday. She asked me to come with her. I told her she had no idea what she was getting into. Reluctantly I agreed even though I had serious doubts as to whether I would even be able to pick up a gun. I could just see me being a big embarrassment to her so I told her before we went, “I’m sorry!”

Seriously, I had to do some soul-searching before we went. I think what scares me the most about guns is, not that I doubt that I am intelligent enough to learn to use one, but rather there is no room for error. One error in judgment or one careless move could be a deadly mistake. There are no second chances. On the other hand, our pastor continuously reminds us that we live in a broken world and you never know when you’ll find yourself or someone you love in harm’s way.

Not until I could answer yes to the question, “If you or someone you loved was threatened, could I shoot and would I shoot to defend?” did I wholeheartedly make up my mind to go to the class. I am glad I did because, after five hours of classroom instruction, I learned some interesting facts.

Photo: Fotolia/oocoskun

First of all, I never even knew what the initials CPL stood for. Formally, CPL stands for “concealed pistol license” and sometimes you hear the slang version of CCW, which is “carry a concealed weapon.” This permit allows you to legally carry a gun in your car and into certain buildings. Once you complete the class successfully you are given a certificate. You then take this to the county clerk in the county where you reside along with a passport-quality photograph. Then you will be fingerprinted and once the fingerprint comparison report is complete, you will either be issued or denied a license within 45 days. The cost of the permit in Michigan is $105.

Besides the safe storage, use and handling of a pistol, the course touched upon some other interesting aspects of gun usage. These included ammunition knowledge and the fundamentals of pistol shooting, various positions and stances while holding your firearm, ways to avoid criminal attacks and controlling a violent confrontation, and all laws pertaining to carrying a concealed pistol including liability issues.

Aside from dealing with the moral issues involving doing great bodily harm to another individual, many people are confused on exactly what rights they do have and how far they can go to protect themselves, loved ones and their home. First and foremost, everyone has a right to be safe.

This is where the castle doctrine comes into play. You have heard the adage that a man’s home is his castle. Apparently Michigan law agrees because Michigan is a castle doctrine state. This law basically states that you can use deadly force without repercussions if you fear imminent death, great bodily harm or sexual assault. Sometimes it is referred to as the “Make My Day Law,” which stems from the 1985 Colorado statute named after Clint Eastwood’s famous line uttered by his character Dirty Harry Callahan in the 1983 movie “Sudden Impact.”

This law addresses the issue of an intruder inside your home. You are also allowed to protect yourself and property outside of the home by the Michigan Stand Your Ground Law.

I was naive enough to go into the class thinking that, even if I did get a gun, just having one would be enough of a deterrent, I wouldn’t actually have to have it loaded. After all, you point a gun at someone that should be enough to scare them, right? Wrong. Most criminals already have the upper hand because they don’t fear guns. Also, if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they tend to do amazingly brazen things.

So, I could at least just aim for an arm or a leg, just enough to stop them without intending to do great physical damage, right? Wrong again. I learned that many times an assailant doesn’t feel the effect of a gun wound immediately and will keep on coming with the attack. On top of that, an attacker is usually not still, which makes them even harder to hit.

It is hard to believe with all the training that law enforcement officers go through, that nationwide they only have a hit ratio of 20 percent in shooting situations. What this boils down to is that 95 percent of the time you are at arm’s length to an assailant or threat, which means you don’t have time to even use the sights. It’s basically a point and shoot situation and all about technique and memory, which is why practice is so important.

One other good piece of advice is when calling 911. Be sure and tell them what you are wearing so, in case the tables are turned when they arrive, they know who the attacker is.

Speaking of practice, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to pull the trigger once we were on the shooting range. Rachel told me not to worry, that if I couldn’t, the instructor would pull it for me. Now that would be beyond embarrassing!

Photo: Fotolia/casanowe

When we got to the range I was the first to shoot. He told me to load up and I met him with a blank stare. I didn’t even know where the magazine was. However, by the end of the session I had not only shot his .380 but also a .45 that another student had brought.

Have I changed my mind about guns after this class? No, but I do realize they are a necessary evil. Recently, there was a scam going around where a person would impersonate an IRS officer and say you owe a huge sum of money and they were sending someone out to collect. The State Police confirmed that, indeed, they did follow through on this. This is when I really got scared.

There is an odd paradox here: People who are willing to shoot in self defense are less likely to have to do so. However, someone who carries a gun just to threaten an attacker is more likely to have an attack. So, it’s time to be pro-active. I will be getting a gun. Then I’ll never have to use it.

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