Our current carry permit program works. It ensures that law-abiding gun owners are accountable and responsible when carrying handguns in public. As a concealed carry permit instructor, I speak from a place of experience, and I’m disheartened that some of our state legislators continue to push a proposal to allow the permitless carry of firearms.
My opposition to the permitless carry and to Senate Bill 656, which includes the proposal, is not a matter of being pro-gun or anti-gun. It is about being pro-responsibility. The permitless carry provision would allow people to legally carry hidden, loaded handguns, in public, without a permit, safety training, or knowing the use-of-force laws. Gov. Jay Nixon has recently vetoed this bill, but now some of our state legislators are trying to override his veto.
I teach Missouri concealed carry classes through my company, Alpha Protection LLC. My background is in law enforcement, the close protection industry and I’m a POST certified firearms instructor. The goal I have for my students in my concealed carry classes is that they come away from my class with a greater understanding of the responsibility of owning, carrying and using a firearm. The majority of people who take my classes haven’t given much thought about the responsibility that comes with carrying that firearm before they complete a class.
My professional experience with self-defense situations gives me the opportunity to share with people the dynamic effects on the body and mind in a violent, overly stressful, and scary situation. We cover a range of gun safety topics in our classes: target identification, finger placement (this is the safety rule we see broken the most,) and situational awareness. We also cover the importance of your mentality when carrying a firearm, responsibility, assessment, reaction to a situation, immediate action drills, magazine manipulation, muscle memory, having an action plan if your home is invaded, and levels of protection, along with other important topics.
This class is not designed to make you a professional or a marksman with your firearm. In fact, we have students tell us that before taking the class they thought they would carry right away, but after taking the course, they have a better understanding of the responsibility and the training that goes into carrying. They realize they need additional training before they strap a firearm on their hip. Too often, people feel a sense of security when carrying a firearm — that they are safe because they are carrying. Through training courses like mine, people realize that it’s awareness and paying attention that is the key to staying safe, not the firearm itself.
Senate Bill 656 would take away the requirement of this invaluable training. It would harm public safety. I have expressed my concerns to our Missouri lawmakers from testifying at committee hearings, to meeting with political leaders and staff one-on-one. Each office has a different reaction — some simply stated they did not feel the same way I do, others agreed with me and stated they would work to defeat Senate Bill 656, and then most alarming were the people who agreed with my views, but stated they could not publicly oppose or vote against Senate Bill 656 because of the politics of the issue. The resounding reason was because they didn’t want to be labeled as “anti-gun.” I’m the furthest thing from that. I just believe we all need to be responsible.
The idea that you cannot vote “no” on Senate Bill 656 in favor of public safety is foolish. In fact, polling shows an overwhelming majority of Missouri voters oppose permitless carry as well.