In My Defense

When Jayson Gilbertson first contacted me about attending his Minnesota permit to carry a handgun class in Worthington, I must say I was a little apprehensive.

Guns are something I don’t know a whole lot about. Several people I know have guns, but their arsenal consists mostly of shotguns and rifles … not the kind they strap to their belt and carry around in public.

Following a discussion about the subject at a newsroom staff meeting, I decided to see what the class was all about.

For about six hours last Saturday, I joined 16 other women and men who were seeking their first permit to carry certificate, or wanting to renew the permit they already had.

The fact that I was not seeking a certificate … or had any intent to get a permit to carry … should be mentioned. It was offered to me, but I would have had to fire a handgun out at the range, and I just didn’t want to do that.

In fact, it wasn’t until the group was ready to go and practice firing at a cardboard figure that the instructor learned I don’t really like guns. I’m not against owning them. I just don’t want to shoot anything.

Growing up on the farm, my brothers had BB guns, rifles and shotguns … used to kill all kinds of critters.

I was probably 8 or 9 when my oldest brother and Dad handed me the 4-10 (I don’t even know what that means, other than it was bigger than a BB gun.) I aimed at nothing in particular, pulled the trigger and then felt as it kicked back against my shoulder. That was it. I decided right there that shooting was not something I liked to do.

Well, there was that earlier incident in my life … when one of my brothers and I went out with BB guns to help control the bird population. I tried to aim and fire, but the BB never seemed to hit its target. Then, by some freak act it finally did and I watched as the bird dropped to the ground. I remember going over and picking up the bird and telling it I was sorry … I remember crying.

I have long understood that guns are for protection. On the farm, that means protecting the livestock and poultry from critters like coons, ‘possums, badgers and wood chucks. I’ve just never spent an entire day thinking about owning a gun to protect myself from other humans.

It’s in my nature to trust other humans … to think that they won’t harm me. I’ve read enough crime stories and seen enough CSI to know that isn’t always the case, but I guess I’m willing to take my chances … and I’m not alone.

While there are more than 61,000 Minnesotans who have a permit to carry a handgun, the state’s estimated 2008 population is more than 5.2 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even if you consider that there are probably as many people carrying a handgun without the required permit as those who are certified, the numbers are still quite low.

One of the most important things I learned from the permit to carry class was that those who take the training and carry a handgun are less likely to ever fire it in a situation than those who haven’t had the training. Why? Because as Jayson Gilbertson told his students,  you do everything you can to avoid a confrontation. The costs … legally, physically and emotionally … are not worth it.

But if the threat is real … if it comes down to the life of you or your family versus that of the intruder … you shoot at the center cavity. If that doesn’t stop the threat, you aim for the head.