Getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Washington state is as easy as buying a new set of tires. There's a bit of paperwork, and you may have to sit for a spell while they make sure your record is clean. But you can be out and packing in less than an hour.
Nobody likes to be wrong, especially when it comes to gun laws.
In a recent column lamenting the accidental shootings of three children — two of them fatal — I noted that one of the guns was owned by someone with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon. Surely, I said, he had received some safety training before being issued a permit to carry — right?
Getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Washington state is as easy as buying a new set of tires. There’s a bit of paperwork, and you may have to sit for a spell while they make sure your record is clean. But you can be out and packing in less than an hour. You don’t even have to know how to shoot your own gun. Just get on out there!
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Reader Paul Butzi called it “trivially simple.”
Dana Lustofin wrote to tell me how she and her husband got permits without taking a single gun-training class.
“I was actually surprised at how easy it was to get the permit,” Lustofin wrote, “and when I mentioned that to the officers processing us, they made the comment that it’s not the ones that come get the permits that are the problem.”
That may be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that 3-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh was able to shoot himself in the head because his mother’s boyfriend (who had a permit) had simply stashed his gun under the seat of his car when he got out to pump gas. Had the boyfriend had safety training before obtaining a permit, maybe the boy wouldn’t have been able to get to the gun.
Which makes me ask: Should the law be changed to require gun owners to take a safety class before getting a permit to keep a gun at their sides?
That would take changing the state constitution, which states (in Article 1, Section 24) that “the right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired. … “
So any mandatory classroom or firing-range training would be considered an impairment? Something that would get in the way?
I don’t even know what to say to that.
Every time I write about guns, gun owners write and call to tell me how safe and responsible they are. They don’t want to be tossed in with the gangbangers and nimrods who shoot first and think never.
“You can’t legislate common sense,” they tell me, and they’re right.
And yet, these same safety-minded people bristle at the idea of a uniform requirement for safety training. I don’t get it.
Firearms instructor Michael McKinney, of Survival Systems in Everett, said that all but about 2 percent of his clients take his classes voluntarily. (The other 2 percent are required to take the class by a judge, or to get work in the security business).
“They want to know the rules, how to shoot, ballistics,” McKinney said.
McKinney said he tells people that “you are no more a competent gun carrier if you just bought a handgun than you would be a competent driver if you had just bought a new car and had never driven one.”
In both cases you need training, he said, or you risk injuring or killing someone.
“The only difference between the two is that the courts have held self-defense to be a human right and driving to be a privilege that can be regulated by government.”
He called a concealed-weapon permit a “get out of jail free card.”
“It only verifies to any law officer that this individual has been checked by the state and his or her local agency and they cannot find any reason not to issue the permit,” McKinney said.
Of course, none of this means anything unless the safety lessons people do get register in their heads.
If only locking up a gun was as ingrained as locking your seat belt.
It wasn’t the case with Julio, nor was it the case with 7-year-old Jenna Carlile, who was shot to death by her younger brother while they were alone in the family car in Stanwood on March 10. Their father, Derek Carlile, a Marysville police officer, had left a handgun in the vehicle and was standing outside with his wife when the shooting occurred.
That is punishment enough, I think; parents lost their children in, literally, a flash, because of one careless mistake.
“Inattentiveness,” McKinney told me. “You left the gate open and kids, they get into everything.”
I know that. But I still think that the great American right to bear arms can get a little out of hand. Especially when those arms get into the wrong hands. Little ones, that somehow find the trigger.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She’s been to Butch’s.