The Myth of Mandatory CCW Training

By Jeff Knox

Rights activists are shooting themselves in the foot whenever they advocate for mandatory training for concealed carry, and they’re shooting themselves in the foot a lot lately. There is absolutely no question that all gunowners, especially those who choose to carry in public, need to take their responsibilities seriously and seeking out quality training is just the beginning of the responsibility.

But legislating training is a seriously bad idea.

If it is reasonable and prudent to mandate training for concealed carry, why would it not be reasonable and prudent to mandate training for open carry? If that is reasonable, what about mandating training for anyone wishing to even own a firearm, and mandatory training for anyone who lives in a home with a firearm? If mandatory training makes sense, then what is the argument against mandatory storage requirements? The bottom line is that firearm safety is a matter of personal responsibility and that responsibility can not and should not be legislated by government. Personal responsibility is, by definition, personal.

The idea of mandatory training stems from the huge and disturbing assumption that the people have no common sense of their own and must be led to sensible behavior by the government.

The error of that assumption is proven every day in states that do not require training; Alaska, Vermont, Washington, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and other states where training is not required do not have higher rates of accidents or erroneous shootings than states with strict training requirements.

Washington State has had a "shall-issue" concealed carry permit, with no training requirement, since 1961 and Vermont has never had any requirement for training and requires no permit to carry a firearm.

Alaska removed their permit requirement several years ago and there has been no increase in crime or accidents.

Arizona requires several hours of classroom and range instruction for a concealed carry permit, but open carry is virtually unrestricted and has been common in the state for decades. Arizona's legal open carriers are no more accident or error prone than their "highly trained" concealed carrying counterparts.

As a matter of fact, lawfully armed citizens – in states requiring training and permits and those which do not – typically have lower firearms "incident" rates than do sworn police officers.

What the record demonstrates is that individuals who choose to carry a firearm for personal protection take their responsibilities seriously and the vast majority of them take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are able to do so safely and responsibly. The irresponsible minority who do not are very unlikely to be helped by any amount of training or education because, as the saying goes, beauty may be only skin deep, but stupid goes all the way to the bone.

The fact is you probably knew everything you really need to know about firearms safety when you were just 4 or 5 years old. You knew that pulling the trigger makes a gun go "Bang." And you knew that whatever the gun is pointed at when it goes "Bang" will be killed or destroyed. It took a few more years for you to understand what "killed or destroyed" really mean, but the basic knowledge was there and that's all anyone really needs to be safe with a gun. That knowledge, along with the assumption that "All guns are always loaded," make up the cardinal rules of firearms safety: "Never let the gun point at anything you are not willing to see killed or destroyed," and "Keep your finger away from the trigger until you're ready to shoot." All other gun safety rules are just expansions of those basics.

Firearms safety is so basic that the whole idea of firearms accidents has been rejected by serious firearms aficionados who have replaced the term "accidental discharge" with "unintentional" or with the truly descriptive, "negligent discharge." Accidents are a result of unforeseeable circumstances. A firearms discharge is virtually always the result of operator error or mishandling and they are comparatively rare. Unintentional firearms related injuries have been going down for decades while at the same time the number of guns and gunowners has skyrocketed. Forty eight states now make some provision for concealed carry and although the training requirements in the various states runs the gamut from no training requirement, to minimal training, to extensive training, the real-world results are virtually indistinguishable.

How is that possible? It's because responsible people are going to learn what they need to know to be safe, but no amount of government mandated training will ever change an irresponsible person into a responsible one.

Is professional training a good idea? Absolutely. Is professional training a necessity for safety? Not at all. Should training be mandated by law? Absolutely not, and anyone who advocates otherwise is undermining the whole concept of individual rights.

Permission to reprint this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included. To Receive the Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Knox Hard Corps Report, write to The Firearms Coalition, PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA 20108 or visit
©Copyright 2009 Neal Knox Associates

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