gunThis .380 caliber Walther PPK, a popular style and caliber for concealed carry, has a long history, dating to the mid-1930s.
I like firearms and own several, both handguns and long guns. A couple border on antiquity—keepsakes from relatives and friends now deceased.
I grew up in a family of hunters. Wild game helped put food on the table. Today, I shoot for both recreation and sport. I am not a firearm expert, but I am comfortable around guns and am a competent shot.
I’ve never really considered carrying a gun on my person. I’m not opposed to concealed carry, which, by varying degrees, is now legal in every state. A recent vote by the Illinois General Assembly that overrode a gubernatorial veto gives Illinois residents the right to carry, making the state the 50th in the nation to allow concealed weapons. I’ve just never felt the need or had the desire.
I was surprised to learn that Kentucky’s Carrying Concealed Deadly Weapons (CCDW) license covers more than firearms. According to the Kentucky State Police (kentuckystatepolice.org/conceal.htm), other items covered by the license include any knife other than an ordinary pocket or hunting knife, a nightstick or club, blackjack or slapjack, nunchaku, shuriken and artificial knuckles.
I took the concealed carry training partly out of curiosity but also on the recommendation of a retired state police officer. When transporting firearms for hunting or other sporting use, there is a slightly gray area in what constitutes a concealed weapon and what doesn’t, depending on where and how a firearm is stored in a vehicle.
“It’s better to just get the license,” I was advised.
I enrolled in a class offered by FirstChoice FireArms gun retailer (firstchoicefirearms.net). The cost, set by the state, was $75. Tracy D. McKinney and Steven S. Dabbs, both certified instructors and co-owners of the gun shop, led the class.
McKinney limits his classes to 24 students, although state regulations allow up to 40 students per class. Our class was full, as most are. I had waited two months for a seat. Ages ranged from a couple in their early 20s to a gentleman in his 70s. About a third of the class was female. There were several married couples.
The state Kentucky General Assembly approved concealed carry in 1996. The number of Kentuckians who actually carry a firearm or other deadly weapon is unknown. But through 2011, the last year for which statistics were available, the Kentucky State Police had issued 216,463 CCDW licenses. Nearly 25,000 licenses were issued in 2011.
The state Department of Criminal Justice Training supplies all CCDW classroom materials, which includes two videos and a half-inch-thick manual. The course consists of about six hours of classroom instruction and an hour or two at the range. Trainees shooting from a distance of 7 yards are required to hit a silhouette target 11 of 20 times. Each student must fire 20 rounds.
The classroom instruction was thorough and informative, although the two videos featured a mind-numbing format with an instructor sitting at a desk speaking to the camera.
The primary focus was on firearm safety, but a considerable amount of time was spent reviewing CCDW-related state statutes, including when and where deadly force legally can be used. Considering that these are sometimes split-second decisions made in heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled situations, the class made one thing crystal clear: The decision to carry should not be made lightly.
The classroom training concluded with a 25-question test. It was open book with no time limit. Students must score 70 percent or higher.
At the range, we shot in groups of four. Nerves and anxiety were on display, but the instructors handled things deftly. A bad case of the jitters caused one student to have trouble loading her gun. The instructor ordered a stand down (guns down and shooters step away from the bench) while he guided her through the proper loading procedure. She then loaded the firearm and proceeded to hit the target 19 of 20 times.
Following successful completion of the course, students receive a Certificate of Training. This must be presented to the sheriff’s office in the trainee’s county of residence along with $60. The certificate and another round of paperwork, along with $40 of the $60, is forwarded to the Kentucky State Police, which, following a review of the application and background check of the applicant, will issue or deny the license. The entire process can take up to three months. Slightly more than 6,000 applications have been denied since the program began.
I passed the training course and filed the required paperwork. I still have no real interest in carrying a firearm on my person, although that could change, I suppose, once I am legally licensed to do so. But if it does, I’ll have to answer a question every CCDW license holder should ask themselves: If faced with the unthinkable, am I physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to take a life?
I’ll have to think about that one.