I took the training, now all I need is the $50 permit to conceal the handgun, knife, pepper spray, or Taser of my choice on my person or in my automobile. Wisconsin's new concealed carry law goes into effect on Tuesday, November 1, and I intend to be among the first to qualify.
The only question is this: How often will I actually use that CC permit?
I spent an entertaining six hours with two retired law enforcement officers, Jerry Whitfield of the Madison Police Department, and Larry Lathrop of the Dane County Sheriff's Department. Both gentlemen teach firearms to police recruits.
This Wednesday they trained civilians at Madison College's distinctive west campus building on the corner of Gammon and Mineral Point roads.
I was one of 16 students -- four of them women, one black, one Asian -- who took the Concealed Carry and Handgun Fundamentals safety course. The MATC courses are Justice Department-approved. Indeed, the department requires only four hours of training; we did six. (Yes, DNR's hunter safety qualifies but has nothing to do with concealed carry. Especially if you are new to handguns you really need to take this or other CC courses.)
Whitfield and Lathrop made no apologies for concealed gun possession nor did they sugar coat their subject matter. Hollow point bullets? Use them, Lathrop advised. "Stays in the person rather than going through the apartment wall."
Don't fool around with small calibers. Nothing less than a .38 if you want do do the job. And keep shooting until he goes down. An enraged bad guy, perhaps high on meth or heroin, may keep on coming.
"The fact is, you want to stop the threat."
"It should not be easy to take a life"
But here's the other side: shooting a man is an awful, ugly business. This statistic jumped out at me: 50 percent of all police who shoot a man in the line of duty resign within the year, these veteran cops told us. Yeah, the shooting has been ruled justifiable, the officer followed every procedure, doesn't matter. The thought of putting a bullet into another human being was more than those police officers -- with their countless hours of training to do just that -- could bear.
You have to ask yourself, instructor Lathrop said, "Would I be able to take a life? If you can't, you're in greater danger even if the assailant does not have a weapon." Why, because an angry assailant could wrest that gun from your paralyzed fingers and he may have no such compunction.
That is a problem even trained law enforcement officers share. Too many police officers die yelling "Stop!" when they should be shooting, Whitfield and Lathrop told a somber class.
On the other hand, "It should not be easy to take a life," Lathrop said.
Here's the other problem with concealed carry: where to conceal? O.K., bundling up for Wisconsin's approaching winter makes that easier. But try that with shorts and a t-shirt in summer's sweltering heat.
Handguns with effective firepower tend to be bulky, heavy, and uncomfortable. The little concealable fellas, usually plastic, are hell to fire because they have no mass to withstand the recoil.
Then, too, add the growing list of No CCW zones: schools, city buses, courtrooms, and posted private property. Whitfield-Lathrop predicted many trips back to the car trunk to deposit the proscribed firearm -- especially in the city of Madison.
(One myth: CCW in taverns is not prohibited by statute, although the establishment may do so itself. But drinking and concealing is prohibited.) The statute, Wisconsin Act 35 (PDF), is lengthy.
"If you decide to carry, it kind of dictates how you live and what you wear," Lathrop said before demonstrating the under the pants-leg ankle holster he used as an undercover narcotics detective.
Fight or flight?
The two instructors spent much of the class urging situational awareness, putting space between you and trouble, avoiding feeling like a vigilante just because you are armed, avoiding trouble-prone areas. Seek the light, travel in pairs, use your cell phone to call 911, look trouble in the eye.
"Don't be an easy victim. If someone is watching you, watch them back."
The trainers walked us through the mechanics of a revolver versus a semi-automatic pistol, the workings of a bullet, and proper shooting form. Above all, keep your hand out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot. It was apparent that some in the class had never fired a weapon, much less taken down a turkey or a deer. Our instructors are lobbying Madison College for a follow-up class with time on a shooting range.
I highly recommend the course.
Now I'm waiting for the Wisconsin Department of Justice to post the application form on its concealed carry website, although I'll have to mail it in with proof of training. I have been convicted of no felony, have not been adjudged mentally defective (except by the Jeremies on The Daily Page Forum), and am under no restraining order that would screw up the background check DOJ will conduct.
Now, will I use that permit? Here is my answer: You don't want to find out.