Wednesday, June 7, 2017
The truth about carrying a gun
In a previous post I discussed the legal civilian carrying of firearms, and based on the responses here and on my Facebook link, I don't think many people understand all the intricacies of getting a license, the responsibilities, and the liabilities of carrying. This is how the program works in Texas, and as we have reciprocal agreements with most other states, I imagine this is fairly standard:
To get a license you must make an online application with the Texas Dept of Public Safety (DPS), give them some basic info, and pay an application fee. While they're processing your initial request, you must take a class and pass a test, followed by a live-fire test on the range. The curriculum of the class and the range requirements are mandated by the State.
In our class they instruct us how to avoid conflict (retreat if at all possible, go into a public place and call the police, etc), as well as our legal obligations and possible personal liabilities (more on this later). The instructors give possible scenarios and ask how you would respond. If you answer "I'd pop a cap in the sumbitch" or something similar, you're immediately disqualified and your declined status is sent to the DPS in Austin. Your judgement is obviously defective. You can't just go down the street and try again. And yes, this has happened!
If you pass you must next be fingerprinted and photographed, and these are passed back to the DPS along with your class instructor's certification. Then it's wait time while the DPS checks all state and federal databases....you must never have had a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction within 10 years, must not be "wanted" anywhere or have a restraining order against you, been involuntarily committed for mental health issues, and more. This process can take about 3 months. Personally, the requirements could be toughened and it wouldn't bother me, although the present process has been used for 20 years with no problems.
With a Concealed Handgun License (now called a License To Carry), you can carry either concealed (hidden from view) or as of a year ago carry openly for anyone to see. No knowledgeable firearms expert I know recommends open carry. They say it makes you a target (if you happen to walk into a robbery-in-progress you'll be the first one they shoot), or likely to be hit over the head and your gun stolen, to be sold later on the black market. (Over 500,000 guns are stolen every year.) Thankfully open carry in Texas is rarely seen.
The law prohibits you carrying into a federal building (including a post office), a school, a polling place, a court building, a sporting event, a bar, and some other places, too. If a business owner doesn't want anyone carrying a gun on their premises they can simply post a notice (with specific verbiage) on the front door or window and carry is legally disallowed.
If you're ever stopped by law enforcement for any reason, you must produce for them both your ID (drivers license) AND YOUR PERMIT TO CARRY. You should keep your hands visible to them at all times. (Cops will seldom look you in the eye, but will constantly be looking at your hands and what might be within reach. Hands behind your back or in your pocket will likely get you a gun shoved in your face. Cops know "eyes won't hurt you, but hands will".)
Now for a reality check: If you're ever blindsided by an attacker and you can't retreat, and you shoot someone, your life will be turned upside down. Our class instructor said you should immediately call 911, tell the operator you have shot someone in self defense, where you are, request police and ambulance response, tell them what you're wearing so responders will know you when they see you, and tell them you will be unarmed when they arrive. Then offer whatever emergency first aid you can to the victim.
When the police arrive you should be seated on the ground with your hands visible, preferably on top of your head, and your gun should be 10' or so away, definitely out of your reach. As no facts will immediately be known, you'll be handcuffed and hauled to jail, as you will initially be a suspect.
At the jail you'll be asked to give your statement, but you shouldn't until legal representation arrives. Tell them you'll answer any and all their questions after your lawyer is beside you. (I personally have a firearms legal protection insurance policy that provides legal counsel if needed.) The police should eventually recommend you not be indicted, but the DA will still have to send it to the Grand Jury, who will No Bill you. That's the end of any criminal liability you might have.
Next will come a likely civil suit against you. The victim or his family will sue claiming you were unjustified in using lethal force against their poor, horribly injured loved one, who was WRONGED! They'll tell a jury you should have just shot him in the foot or arm, and that you owe THEM a Gizillion Dollars.
They, and probably the jurors, too, think a shooting is like they see on TV. The good guy draws his gun, aims carefully, and delivers a perfectly placed shot. Here's how it REALLY is: When you draw your gun your mind will suddenly exhibit the IQ of a gerbil. Adrenaline will course through your body and you'll be shaking. There is NO WAY you'll be able to place an exact shot. We're taught to shoot for the torso, from the neck to the waist...a pretty large target...in the hope that you'll hit something vital enough to stop the attack. You never shoot to kill, but just shoot to stop the attack.
Hopefully your lawyer will be able to convince the jury of this. You don't simply pull your gun and fire off 15 rounds in 3 seconds, because YOU are responsible for every round you fire. If you miss your target and your bullets hit the kids in the yard or the house across the street, and someone is injured or killed, YOU will be charged and will go to prison. This would also apply if you go to the aid of someone else as a Good Samaritan. In fact, you're not legally required to be a Good Samaritan at all if you carry a gun. You have to weigh what might happen to that victim vs how your family would cope without you if YOU were killed trying to help someone else. It's a sobering dilemma.
Finally, you'll have to go through the personal anguish of knowing you've injured or maybe even killed someone. Simply put, we're taught that no material possession you own is worth shooting someone over. If someone wants your laptop or TV, let 'em take it. Buy another. Only if you believe you or a loved one's life is truly threatened should you pull the trigger. The liability is simply too great.
So you see, carrying a gun is serious business, and must be done only by those of very sound mind who exhibit good judgement...this is not something for "cowboys". Those of us who do carry firearms (legally) are deadly serious and are not just blood thirsty knuckle draggers. We simply feel it's prudent to be prepared.