Concealed gun might backfire

Richard Elk is a retired Chico State University journalism professor and frequent contributor to the Chico News & Review

For me the idea of obtaining a state permit to carry a concealed gun evolved over several years. As the victim of a near-fatal heart attack in 1988, I could neither run nor fight if accosted. My doctor has urged long walks outdoors, weather permitting, rather than on a treadmill, so I walk all over town. But Chico isn’t the safe little hamlet I fell in love with in 1967 when I came here, and as the media inform me of muggings, shootings and assaults, I feel, at 79, ever more vulnerable.

Thus I recently enrolled in the four-hour qualifying class at a local indoor shooting range. The first two hours involved listening to a well-qualified instructor tell eight of us (full class) things we needed to know if we were packing heat—the gun must be concealed, you’re not required to render first aid after shooting someone, avoid playing cop or hero, etc. I found it fascinating that you can’t legally shoot someone who’s stealing the wheels off your car in your driveway. You must call the cops, even if they arrive too late. Never mind the logic that if you cannot defend what you own, you don’t own it.

The shooting test required 30 rounds, 15 in regular light and 15 in subdued light. Qualifying means 26 slugs in a still paper target measuring 7.75 inches by 11.75 inches at 21 feet. In spite of less than perfect distance vision and a slight hand tremor, I scored 27 with my trusty .38 special snub-nose revolver.

Next, I tackled the probing application form and had it almost finished for the sheriff to sign when a growing sense of ambivalence made me pause. I pondered what I had learned and thought about all the trouble I could get into with a handgun. Maybe with my gun so readily available, I’d use it before I absolutely had to if I suddenly encountered danger. Yet hesitation could mean becoming a victim, perhaps of my own gun. Also, shooting at a person is different than shooting at a target. In a crisis situation, adrenalin starts pumping big time, meaning my hand could shake enough so I’d miss that crucial first shot. So many split-second uncertainties.

Then I thought about how much I would hate to kill somebody, yet only wounding an assailant would mean a certain lawsuit. I decided to leave my gun at home. Many others decide differently because I also learned the range routinely scheduled extra classes for all those seeking permits to carry.

I’m now hoping to level the risk field a bit with pepper spray, plus maybe get a dog.