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Pistol Packing Realities

Words of caution for those inclined to carry

The Nov. 29 cover story by Camilla Mortensen on carrying concealed pistols, “Born To Gun,” while entertaining, leaves out more reality than it presents.

Real world possibilities: Verbally instructed, fingerprinted and cleared by the sheriff, you’ve finally got your concealed gun permit. Packing your brand new pistol, you head out for a celebration drink. A drunk sees the bulge, grabs your piece from under your shirt, and waves it around inside the bar. How embarrassing!

An aggressive panhandler gets in your face. You panic, draw, fumble and mistakenly fire. You’re stunned by how much blood a dying person hemorrhages. And stunned again by how long you will suffer in criminal and civil courts.

Imagine a pistolero like the one in Mortensen’s article. He goes fishing with a fly rod and two pistols only to be ambushed by a rifleman from 200 feet away. An angry teenager who blames middle-aged men for his problems shoots a .22 caliber bullet into the pistolero’s chest. Face down in the river, dead from a small hole in the heart, he never got to draw his guns.

A gun can’t save you from stalking and surprise attacks. A big, capable but unarmed friend of mine was recently mugged in downtown Eugene, knocked out from behind. A gun might have been taken from him and used to finish him off. He’s glad he wasn’t carrying!

All things ready: If you choose to be armed with a gun, then be adequately prepared. Raised in a military and cop family, everyone, including my five sisters, was trained to shoot. I was further trained as an Army infantryman by combat-tested weapons masters. Given my experiences, I question inexperienced people carrying concealed guns. I suggest a permit should, as a minimum, require substantial live-fire training. Not only to teach safe and effective shooting techniques, but for the uninitiated to witness bullets blowing up melons or blasting through wood planks. 

A good friend of mine, an ex-SWAT cop, teaches tactical live fire exercises to concealed pistol applicants. His Liberty Handgun Training T-shirts are embossed with the Shakespearean quote “All things are ready if our minds be so” that describes the essence of self defense, with or without a weapon.

“All things are ready” is the physical preparation. As with martial arts, this means practice. Expert instruction, hands-on familiarization, and lots of focused shooting. Anyone reluctant to seriously train should rethink carrying a gun for self defense.

Pulling a gun without a determined follow-through can get you disarmed, even killed. If you’re hesitant to shoot someone at close range, watch them bleed to death, and be entangled in legal proceedings, don’t carry a gun for self defense.

Less lethal defenses: Consider martial arts, not just for the physical conditioning and empowering moves, but for the awareness training good instruction provides. Practice awareness by avoiding or leaving places and people that make you feel threatened or uneasy. If you walk late at night, or go out to your car in a dark parking lot, quit texting and be alert! Looking and listening are the first line of self defense.

If you want to be armed, but with a less lethal close-range weapon, consider high quality pepper spray. Buy at least two, one for practice, one to carry. Practicing is crucial with any weapon. 

If you want a home defense gun, consider a shotgun instead of a pistol. With a little training, a fully stocked shotgun can be used to butt-stroke an intruder or fire an intimidating warning shot without sending bullets into your neighbor’s house. Shoot at least a box of shells for practice.

Eugene’s not always a safe city: Though our judicial system turns violent criminals loose on our streets, as a bicycle commuter, I’m more threatened by aggressive or distracted vehicle drivers than by robbers. Still, as a senior citizen, there are times when I’m comforted by a concealed pistol, typically a small Beretta.

Walking downtown recently on an early Sunday morning, a carload of late night trolls drew slowly alongside. Feeling their vibes, I became very ready. They cruised on, perhaps unsure if the pocket my hand dropped into held my wallet or pistol. Hopefully no one will have to push hard enough to find out and I won’t have to prove up!