With gun rights comes responsibility - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

With gun rights comes responsibility

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2010 3:30 am | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

We’ve all heard the stories about beheaded corpses in the desert, undocumented immigrants who are all AK47-toting weed smugglers and how Mexican drug cartels have taken over parts of Arizona. In the Valley, we constantly hear about kidnappings, home invasions and those two unsolved murders of college kids in Tempe.

It’s enough to make you want to get a dog and buy a gun. I’ve got two of each.

It’s been a month since Arizona’s new concealed weapon carry law went into effect. No longer does a person have to go through an eight-hour course to study state law as it relates to the use of deadly force, how to conduct one’s self while armed, the fundamentals of safely handling a loaded firearm, reloading and qualifying on the range with your handgun. Some courses include how to properly clean and maintain your firearm.

Now those who want to pack heat are on the honor system. The government hopes a person carrying a concealed weapon knows what they’re doing. And we all know how bright our state legislature is when it comes to thinking things through.

While the legislature and the governor aren’t worried, the real professionals are.

Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead told the Tribune in July, “It’s disconcerting, the fact that anyone can walk around and carry a gun without training. We don’t let our police officers walk around with a gun without training. Some people will start shoving a gun down their pants and shoot themselves.”

And people do shoot themselves, and innocent bystanders, on a regular basis. Once that finger hits the trigger and the bullet leaves the barrel, there’s no calling it back.

The Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, the state police union with 7,000 members, opposed the new CCW law. Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Ortolana, president of the FOP, told the Tribune: “There will be people carrying firearms that have no clue about how to operate one, or the problems that can be caused by not knowing how to operate one. Some idiot is going to do something egregious.”

No one I know disagrees with a law-abiding citizen’s Second Amendment right to possess a firearm. But there’s a whole lot more to using a handgun properly to protect yourself than hopping down to the local gun shop and buying a Glock.

According to Dan Furbee, a retired Mesa police officer, licensed police range master, NRA-certified firearms instructor and owner of Ultimate Accessories Firearms Training Academy, “I’d say about 75 percent of the civilians I’ve trained didn’t have a clue about the law that allows a citizen to use a firearm to protect themselves. Some didn’t even know how the gun they just bought works.

“Most people aren’t aware that there are places in Arizona that if you get caught with a loaded gun, even in your car, without a state CCW permit, you are risking up to five years in prison. At least with an eight-hour class we were able to get them pointed in the right direction.”

A Phoenix businessman was recently sent to prison when he chose to illegally use deadly force against someone he thought was a threat but in fact wasn’t.

A state permit costs $60, is good for five years and allows you to legally carry a gun in Arizona and more than 30 other states. Most state-approved CCW training classes cost less than $100 — money well spent if you choose to put your trust in a handgun to defend yourself or your family.

Or, as Furbee said, would you want people driving a car without a license?

We all know the answer to that.

Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net

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