Gun safety training leaves much preparedness to be desired

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

As a first step toward getting a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia, I recently completed a state-approved firearms safety class. Might as well get my Roscoe and shoulder holster ready because I nailed that test.

"Let's say I'm walking alone on a street, minding my own business, got my legally concealed handgun and a lady comes out of nowhere and attacks me with a butcher knife," said Jim Reynolds, a National Rifle Association certified gun safety instructor who conducted the class. "Would I be justified in using my weapon?"

I'd almost forgotten about that particular threat -- the crazed butcher woman out of nowhere. Terminate with extreme prejudice, Jim.

"But what if she's next to a school and there are children on the playground behind her?" Reynolds added. "Is that a shot I want to take?"

Someone in the class said no, "try to disarm her instead." Another advised: "Just run away." And all I'm seeing is two classmates down -- one stabbed in the front, and the other with a knife in the back -- when all they had to do was pull their gats and smoke that dame.

Jeepers creepers, I can't wait to get my concealed gun permit.

The firearms safety class was held this past weekend as part of a gigantic gun and knife show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. At first, I just wanted to learn more about the Virginia law that went into effect last month allowing concealed-gun permit holders to go armed into restaurants and bars as long as they don't drink.

Who, besides a trained law enforcement officer, would even want to do such a thing?

But I found myself getting psyched during Reynolds's five-hour class -- which included recruitment pitches for the NRA and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a Newington-based gun lobby whose members brought firearms to the General Assembly in January for a protest against pending gun control legislation.

"When a thousand armed people storm your building, people take time to listen to them," Reynolds said.

You getting all of this, U.S. Supreme Court? The court might have relaxed gun control laws in the District and Chicago, but . . .

"Both of the Supreme Court votes were 5 to 4," Reynolds told the class. "What if one more had gone against us?"

"Disaster," someone moaned.

"Revolution," cried another.

If I were the Supreme Court, I wouldn't cut it so close next time.

As a Maryland resident, my next step toward getting a Virginia concealed gun permit is to move out of that commie anti-gun "People's Republic," as Reynolds called the state, and stake a claim on freedom as a citizen of the Old Dominion.

But not in Fairfax County, which Reynolds referred to as "Unfair Fax," because those Northern Virginia bureaucrats like to drag their feet when processing applications for concealed gun permits.

Don't they realize that lives are at stake?

"A crack addict jumps out from behind a car swinging a Louisville Slugger," Reynolds said. "You pull the trigger, and it goes 'click,' instead of 'bang.' You've got a problem."

Virginia doesn't require you to know anything about the workings of the gun you're concealing. But Reynolds still gave us a heads-up on common firearm malfunctions and tips on how to fix them while being attacked by a crackhead with a baseball bat.

"If your weapon won't fire because two cartridges are jammed," he said, simulating the trouble with fake bullets in a chamber of his .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic, "pull the slide back, remove the magazine and . . . "

"Oops . . . no, I didn't," he whispered as the magazine -- the part of the gun that holds the bullets -- slipped from his fingers and fell to the floor. And as he bent down to retrieve it, I could almost hear that Louisville Slugger whistling through the air.

If a gun safety instructor with more than 12 years of law enforcement experience could mess up a gun fix during a classroom demo, you can imagine what'll happen to a novice gunslinger when his heat misfires during a real fight.

Fortunately, there is no limit on the number of handguns you can carry concealed in Virginia. Look for me to pack a piece in every pocket -- just in case the Louisville Slugger and butcher woman come out of nowhere at the same time.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company