March 16, 2000

No one gets out of my class without a good background in the laws on the use of force. If they don't ask me a lot of questions, I start asking them. Not only do I lean heavily on the legal portion of the class, but I give them scenarios and ask them what laws were violated. At the end of my class, I give each student a type of "Miranda Card" for their wallet with statements and approach speeches to cops and airline ticket agents.

I stress that the best tool for defense is the mind, not the launcher. If you're ever in Tucson, I invite you to audit my class and compare it to Caswell's. It might be an eye-opener.

The Arizona CCW class is not a lawsuit waiting to happen. The advisory board to the state on it was very careful in its crafting of the training requirements. To date, very few of the 67,000-plus permits have been revoked for misbehavior. As a rule, CCW permittees behave much better than the average non-criminal citizen.

Charles Heller

I want to congratulate David Holthouse on a well-written firearms column. It certainly was an eye-opener. Most articles on firearms are either slanted toward either the left-wing "Take the guns away from everybody" point of view, or the right-wing "The government is out to get us, and they're starting by disarming everyone" point of view. Holthouse's seems to be right at the center of objectivity. I am a former Air Force security policeman, and am now a correctional officer for the State of Arizona. Even though I am authorized to carry a concealed weapon, I rarely ever do.

I must say that I am in agreement with his instructors on many aspects they presented in the course, yet sorely disappointed in many others. They just "blew through" the care and cleaning of the weapons? Every firearms course I've ever been in requires a working knowledge of this in order to pass it. What about storage of weapons and ammunition? One surely does not want their children to take an ill-secured weapon to school and end up shooting one of his classmates such as what recently happened in Michigan.

The fact is, there are many training films available on all these subjects that are made by experienced law enforcement professionals with many years of firearms experience. The fact that many persons are granted CCW permits who "couldn't hit the broadside of a barn" with their weapons concerns me, as it should any citizen. I agree that this could be a legal nightmare in the making for the state. Did the instructor recommend that the little old lady with the .45 or the palsy-stricken gentleman with the long-barreled .357 find weapons that would be a bit easier for them to handle? That is, if they must handle them at all.

In summary, it sounded as though your instructors were very well-qualified and knowledgeable people. The course they are teaching should be intensely reviewed and standardized. In other words, let's not "blow through" anything, lest the wrong people at the wrong place and time get "blown away."

Bill Summers

I am the director of the American Shooting Academy, and in that capacity I teach the CCW permit and renewal courses. I am reasonably well-educated with a BS, summa cum laude in criminal justice, an MS and am ABD-Ph.D. in Justice Studies from ASU. My master's thesis was on gun control and my doctoral dissertation is on CCW permit holders. As a former law enforcement officer and with nearly 10 years as a special-operations soldier with combat time, I have a somewhat different perspective on the issues raised in the column about David Holthouse's CCW experience. I have spent seven years as a professor of criminal justice and forensics at three major universities where my primary area of scholarship has focused on interpersonal violence.

I do agree with many parts of Holthouse's assessment. I think he took some journalistic license to make for a good read in his interpretations and representations of some of the material presented in the CCW course he took.

At the ASA, our program is very much different from that presented by Caswell's. I make no attempt to teach people to shoot. It is not possible in 16 hours to adequately train people to handle weapons in a lethal confrontation. We have very comprehensive and sophisticated weapons training programs to prepare people tactically. In our CCW program, I stress the legal rights and responsibilities of carrying and using weapons in self-defense. Our whole approach is dedicated to "A-R-e" AVOIDANCE -- RETREAT -- engage (as a very last resort).

I do not agree with his assessment of "pending tragedy." The empirical data from both here and elsewhere in the U.S. on CCW holders does not begin to support that conclusion. In fact, some studies demonstrate that citizen CCW holders are less likely to become involved in criminal behavior or poor shooting situations than are police officers.

I would like to extend an offer to Holthouse to attend my CCW course in April as my guest and no obligations (financial or evaluative) to provide him with perhaps a different perspective. I would also be willing to discuss some of his reactions to or analysis of the CCW permit system.

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