Monday, April 7, 2014

A Highly Controversial Issue

Recently I attended a seminar for women that was offered in our town by the Union County (Pennsylvania) Sherriff's Office.  It was a one evening, four hour class held for specifically educating those women who decide to obtain a permit to carry a handgun.

I have had a permit to carry a firearm for many years, primarily because our family cabin is located in a very remote area, and the land is heavily populated by bears and rattlesnakes.

I feel much safer taking a hike or an ATV ride on our property if I have some protection on me, especially in the season when the mother bears have their young ones in tow.  I am well aware that it can be highly dangerous to find myself in a situation where I have come between the mother and her cubs.

In order to transport a pistol legally in my vehicle to and from my property, I've kept my permit current throughout the years.

However, when I saw this class advertised, I decided to attend and learn all I can, whether or not I would ever decide to carry a pistol on me or in my purse on a daily basis.  I have taken gun safety and marksmanship classes in the past, yet I think a person can always learn something new and get better at what they do.

It turned out to be a very interesting and informative class, whether or not I would ever decide to carry a weapon every day.  There were about 20 women in attendance, and most of them brought along their own firearms, which the sheriff and his staff members checked and emptied of ammunition before allowing entrance to the classroom.  Even though I knew in my head all those pistols were empty, I felt uneasy, not knowing those other women at all, and not knowing their level of gun safety.

The sheriff opened the class by giving some statistics.  He noted that typically each month our sheriff's office issues about 30 permits to carry.  However, after the Sandy Hill school shooting in Connecticut, the monthly average of permits issued rose to 300.  With that many people potentially carrying a dangerous weapon, the sheriff and his staff decided to offer this class in the hopes that all those folks carrying their weapons could hopefully do so more safely.

Of course an element of the class involved the safe handling, loading and unloading, and appropriate holstering (or purse conceal and use) of pistols.  White plastic dummy bullets were available for practice.  Various types of handguns were shown and their differences explained.  Methods of safely and intelligently storing guns in the home were recommended.

A main part of the evening involved instruction on when deadly force may be legally used in order to protect oneself.  Every state has its own laws and Pennsylvania's seemed difficult to me when I listened to various crime scenarios and their outcomes.  Things I had always assumed about when a person could shoot to protect himself weren't always correct.

This one screen was displayed throughout the seminar, which is basically the mantra that one must use before deciding to pull a trigger in defense.  A Pennsylvania criminal lawyer was on hand and actually used about two hours of the seminar showing videos of crimes and their outcomes.  The ladies in the class had oodles of good questions for him, many of the questions not having clear answers according to our state law.

In a court of law, you would have to be soundly able to convince the jury that you had every "reason to believe you were in  imminent threat of death or great bodily harm" before you pulled a trigger in self defense.  Rape, in particular, becomes a cloudy issue in the state of Pennsylvania.  Even though a woman may feel she is in terrible threat of death or serious injury, a jury may believe "she brought it on herself," and she may be the one who lands in jail.

A little test was given at the end of the course.  I was also evaluated by the sheriff as I handled, loaded, unloaded and holstered a pistol.  Yes, I passed the test.  My father was the real teacher throughout my young childhood and adulthood, always impressing on me that I needed to carefully handle every every every gun as if it was loaded, whether it was or not.  He was ruthlessly stern with my brothers and me on this issue, reminding us often that there is never a good reason for even one instance of careless handling.  To this day, I am grateful for his life lessons when it comes to the issue of handling guns.

I'm not committing at this point as to whether I will or will not end up carrying a pistol, but I did learn a lot that evening, and I definitely have some food for thought.  

Throughout that next week following the course, I spent some time reading and re-reading all the course notes and handouts, and doing some research on purse carrying options.  As of now, that's where it all sits for me.

I'm sure a blog post like this one could potentially stir up some very strong emotions and opinions.  I'd be interested to read some of your thoughts and opinions, and even more so, your experiences with this highly controversial issue.


  1. It is the "empty" gun that kills people. Be careful shooting a bear, it may just make it real mad at you. . . Now, you are really a dangerous gal to mess with since you are a karate expert and now can carry a handgun. I believe everyone should be able to carry a gun.

  2. I grew up with a father who didn't ever shot a gun so I really know nothing about them at all. However, I did marry a man who has a few guns and a concealed carry permit. I think growing up in Montana I just kind of took guns for granted because, even though we didn't have any in our house, almost everybody else I knew did. I've often thought I would like to take shooting lessons but haven't done anything about it.

  3. Interesting post for me as my brother-in-law has now owns a gun shop and my husband is showing an interest in joining a gun club and wants me to take lessons to learn to shoot.

  4. Well if Eric Holder has his way you'll have to wear a monitor if you're a gun owner.