I agree with Kathleen Parker’s June 24 column that we need to do a better job screening people seeking to buy guns or conceal-carry. But I don’t know how we prevent someone who has not committed a crime or has unknown mental health issues from getting a concealed weapons permit.
How do we screen people for anger management issues, when they or their loved ones might not know they have them until it’s too late? The answer: We can’t.
How do we stop people from carrying guns just because they want to with no permit? The answer: We can’t.
How do we stop out-of-state drug dealers from killing Mainers in drug deals gone bad? We can’t.
But to conceal-carry, we can require training — real, quality training.
I spent 14 months in Florida and worked at a security checkpoint in a state building in Orlando where, among other services, residents could apply for a concealed weapons permit. Close to 100 people per day would come in to either renew their permits or apply for one.
That state gives out concealed weapons permits like candy. You don’t have to have a minimum number of brain cells. You just can’t have a criminal record or have been committed to a mental institution, and you do have to take a basic safety class. But many agree the training course doesn’t prepare people for high-stress, life-or-death situations.
Maine has similar requirements.
I felt it necessary to also have a concealed weapons permit in the Orlando area because it seemed all the wrong people had them. But here is the difference. I’ve had one since the early 1970s when I worked for a Maine county sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department required firearms training for all of its officers, both full- and part-time.
I spent 26 years in the military and qualified with various weapons. I spent almost four years as a security police specialist where we trained on a regular basis with highly qualified instructors. Part of the training involved interactive “shoot or don’t shoot” videos. I went through that same type of training a third time during a civilian police academy.
While in Florida, I attended a four-week armed security officer training class that was taught by retired police officers. In order to get a state certificate, we had to pass a tactical shooting range test, which tested our safety knowledge and ability to shoot under pressure.
In Florida, I went to indoor ranges several times a month. Now that I’m back in Maine, I practice monthly with several handguns at a range. I plan on taking more classes.
I am out and about in my city and often open carry. I constantly run scenarios in my mind as I go about my daily activities. Anyone who carries a weapon, concealed or not, needs to do this. The military teaches muscle memory. If you are going to carry a weapon, you have to know when to use it and how to use it. You need to know how to give yourself a chance to survive an incident.
Using my weapon would be a last resort. I carry a stun gun and mace, which would be my first choices, depending on the circumstances. I also have the option of removing myself from the situation.
Parker is correct that serious training is the answer. If one is going to carry a firearm, it needs to be a lifestyle. The consequences of not approaching it that way are just too horrible to even consider. Yes, lawmakers, let us have our guns, but pass laws that ensure we know how and when to use them.
David Winslow lives in Brewer.