Saturday, January 10, 2004

Bang, bang, you're legal

Instead of writing or working on spring-semester syllabi, I spent Saturday immersed in gun culture, taking the required pistol-handling course so that I can apply for my concealed-carry permit. (Colorado is a "shall issue" state, meaning that the county sheriff must give you the permit if you pass the course, pay the fee, and are not a convicted felon, mental patient, or otherwise fail the pro forma background check.)

At 10 a.m. I reported to the Cactus Flats shooting club with two small-caliber pistols (I was indecisive up until the last moment about which to bring), protective ear muffs, shooting glasses (rose-tinted lenses that turn the sky Martian indigo and the arid landscape almost Martian orange), and ammunition.

My four fellow students were all in their fifties or sixties--one man probably over 70--and all of us lifelong shooters. (One man had had a concealed-carry permit in Seattle already.) Consequently, the morning instruction session was, shall we say, leisurely, conversational, and fairly cursory, although I picked up a minor point or two. After lunch we demonstrated that we could all hit the silhouette targets at short range, and we learned some useful things about practicing for "the gravest extreme," to use Massad Ayoob's phrase. When the class certificate arrives, I can do the paperwork for the permit.

But why? Other than when hunting, I do not normally go around armed. Once in twelve years in this house--just last month--did I strap on a revolver for the night-time dog walk up through the woods and down a dark road, because I had seen a mountain lion here the night before and a prison escapee was possibly in the area (he was captured elsewhere in the county). Rationally, therefore, I could say that I want the permit primarily for when I have a pistol in the truck when traveling, especially in other states that honor Colorado's permits. (New Mexico just passed its own concealed-carry law, so maybe they will sign a reciprocity agreement soon with us.) The permit adds a layer of legal protection.

And it is also because an armed citizenry bothers the bejesus out of authoritarians of all political stripes. (Do I think that George W. Bush really endorses the Second Amendment in his heart anymore than Senator Joe Lieberman does? No, I don't.)


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