By Vicki Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental and physical preparation to defend yourself against another person intending to do bodily harm was, in a nutshell, the purpose of a 12-hour class I attended recently preparing students to get a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Known as a "concealed carry" class, the 12 hours of class time and hands-on practice contained entirely too much information to relate here.
PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON
Students in Kent Nord's concealed carry class line up at an outdoor range for instruction.
But I jotted down highlights as instructor Kent Nord taught from video, from the National Rifle Association Basic Pistol Shooting Course book and from his own knowledge.
So I'm going to relate a broad overview of what I learned and some of the things I think are most important for the general public to know.
Nord invited me to attend the class to make people more aware of concealed carry laws and decisions.
Class in session with Kent Nord
By Vicki Johnson, email@example.com
When Kent Nord first signed up to take a concealed carry course, he intended to gain some information that might be useful in his legal practice.
"When I originally took the training course, my intention was only to better my knowledge and help defend those who had concealed carry and were arrested for something that I thought would be frivolous," he said. "But as I got into it, I realized what a great value having concealed carry was."
But not only did he get a license himself, he decided to start teaching the course about exercising the
constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
A little more than a year later, the class is gaining popularity. He limits each class to 12 people.
"I've already run over 100 people through the basic course," he said. "I only teach once a month."
Nord said his wife and daughter are supporters of his efforts and have completed the class.
His 14-year-old daughter often assists with the shooting portion.
"She ends up shooting instead of doing targets for me," he said.
She's the youngest student he's taught, but she has to wait until she's 21 to get a license. The oldest has been a 78-year-old woman.
"I love the diversity of people that come in," Nord said. "The ladies in the class add something to the class, rather than just a bunch of guys."
About a third to a quarter of his students have been women, and 15-25 percent have never fired a handgun.
"Some have done it once or twice and some not for decades," he said.
His most experienced student was a retired military sharpshooter.
Nord said he imparts knowledge and education.
"I'm just a firm believer that there's no better way to protect yourself if you have the right training," he said. "I hope I never have to pull my gun. But I'm prepared to use it."
Tim Brown of Upper Sandusky, one of the students in a recent class, said he signed up to learn self-protection because he and friends frequently attend antique shows and gun shows.
"There may be times when we may be carrying a couple thousand dollars cash apiece," he said.
He said he also lives alone in the country and often gets people at his door who run out of gas or need other assistance.
"I learned a few more things about how to handle a firearm properly," Brown said. "I think there are things we should all understand about that class."
He said the main point the sticks in his mind is Nord's statement that people who carry handguns must be prepared to use them.
"If you pull that handgun out, you have to be prepared to use it," he said. "I spent a couple months thinking about whether or not I should take the class. I decided I should."
"The main thing is it's a big decision knowing if you have to pull the gun out to defend yourself," he said. "Somebody's going to die, and hopefully it isn't me."
Brown went a few days after class for the Wyandot County Sheriff's Office, filled out the paperwork, got his fingerprints scanned. By Friday afternoon he had his license.
"It depends on how long it takes the courts," he said. "And they got it done right away."
Brown said he has practiced taking his pistol with him to get accustomed to carrying it.
"I'm now observant of places (that are posted) that I can't carry," he said. "It makes you more aware of the places you're entering."
Sally Wagner of Tiffin, another student, said she took the class because a family member suffered bodily harm from an intruder at her home in another part of Ohio.
"It hit so close to home that I just felt like I needed to be secure in my own home," she said.
"The main things I learned was being familiar with it and not being so intimidated by a gun," she said. "Not to fear it, and learning how to handle it more safely, which is very important."
Wagner said she hasn't gone to get her license yet, but plans to soon.
"I have more security within myself to be able to use it if I had to," she said. "Heaven forbid if I would ever have to do that. But I would for the safety of my family."
Her daughter and son-in-law are planning to take the class, as is her husband, Mark.
"I never thought that I would ever do this," she said.
But that's not because she hasn't been around guns. "There's hunting background within my family big time," she said. "I wouldn't be afraid to use it now. That the biggest thing. My main thing is being safe within my home."
Russ Damman of Fremont took the course with his 21-year-old son, Ryan.
"Well, actually I did mine to be with my boy," Damman said. "It's just something you should do because of the way things are in this country. It's nothing in terms of a Rambo attitude. It's just a precaution.
"In all honesty, I didn't know what to expect going it into it," he said. "I would be considered a novice compared to my boy. I just pick up what I can from them guys."
He said he learned a lot.
"It was very informative to me," he said. "Mr. Nord was a very good teacher. I would highly recommend him."
Although father and son had planned to take the class elsewhere, the time had to be postponed because of Ryan's baseball-related activities at Ohio Northern University.
"Although he was second choice, if I had to do it again I'd choose Mr. Nord," Damman said. "He's our kind of guy, so he'd be my first choice now. After baseball season, we're looking into taking some of his more advanced classes."
He and Ryan now plan to go to the sheriff's office to get their licenses.
He said each person who carries a gun must mentally prepare themselves to pull the trigger if necessary.
"Actually pulling the trigger is about the middle of the process," he said.
First comes training and being prepared to handle a dangerous situation. Then comes acting during a situation. Then comes handling the after-effects.
"If you pull your gun in public, you're guaranteed to be taken into custody," he said.
At home it might be a different story.
"We now have the right to defend ourselves in our house and that even carries over into our car," he said. "The bad guy is presumed to be there illegally and we are presumed to be acting in self-defense."
I learned there are four levels of awareness.
The first level is unaware, "where most of the people are most of the time."
He encouraged people to move toward awareness, when they are aware of their surroundings and the possibility of danger.
At that stage, a noise or unusual circumstance might trigger the next stage, "alert."
Generally, alerts downgrade back to awareness, but sometimes they escalate to "alarm" when action is needed.
"When the economy goes down, break-ins go up," Nord said. "That's our goal for today. To move you from being unaware to aware and have a plan in place."
I used to walk around unaware most of the time, but I find I'm not much more aware of my surroundings since I took the class.
"We want to move you out of unawareness and start becoming more aware," he said. "Start role playing in your mind. "
For example, when you're sitting in a restaurant, where would be the safest place to sit?
He encouraged everyone to have a "safe room" in their home where they keep the equipment they'll need in an emergency.
"Charge your cell phone in your safe room," he said. "I encourage you to have your cell phone with you all the time. It's almost as important as having your gun with you."
That's where the gun safe belongs.
"I strongly encourage you not to have a loaded gun in your house that is not in a safe," he said. "They will find it."
Part of the mental preparation is thinking about a time when you might have to use your gun.
"You have to start thinking, 'Can I do this? Can I take the life of another?'" he said. "If you are not prepared to take the life of another, you should not carry a concealed weapon and you should not have a loaded gun in your home.
"If you can't make that decision, don't do it," he said.
Families should have a plan in case of intrusion just as they should have a plan in case of a fire, he said.
"Think of a gun as a last resort," he said.
"If you're forced to defend yourself, it's going to happen at very close distance, usually an arms-length away," he said. "It's going to happen very quickly and it's going to be extremely violent. That's what you have to be prepared for. Shoot to eliminate the threat."
Nord also said people who carry a gun must practice shooting on a regular basis - at least once a month.
"Self-defense shooting is different from target shooting," he said. "It's just like everything else. If you don't practice it, you're going to lose it."
Nord encouraged people to shoot outside in all different types of weather and temperatures because you never know when you might have to use your gun in adverse conditions.
"The bad guys sometimes use the weather as a cloaking device," he said.
Yes, Kent used "bad guys" frequently in reference to people who might be looking to rob you or rape you or have other ill intentions.
If you pull your gun and the intruder runs away, he suggested letting him go.
"It's not worth sacrificing your life," he said. "Every time I put that gun on my hip in the morning, I run through the same scenario."
The course went through basic knowledge of guns and gun handling, which I'm not going to go into too much. It included information such as the main parts of a gun, how they work, types of ammunition, types of powder and, of course, safety.
I learned more details on some of the points about firearms that had been kind of "fuzzy" inside my head. But the main point I remember from this section was: "Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot."
Also, more obvious to me were pointing the gun in a safe direction and keeping the gun unloaded when not in use.
But carrying it for self-defense means it is in use.
We reviewed several types of guns and the best ones for self-defense as opposed to target shooting. Again, too much information to relate easily here.
In learning how to fire a handgun (which I had only done once before the class), I discovered something very important. I'm left-eye dominant, which means I must focus with my left eye to aim accurately.
In summary, we learned how to aim with sights, control breath, limit body movement, use a good grip and use trigger control.
The term "acquire the target" was new to me, which simply means see the target through the sights.
I learned shooting with arms fully extended is usually best for beginners to help with the timing on when the finger goes on the trigger.
But mostly, your technique has to be comfortable.
It ends with follow-through.
"It's putting all of this together so you repeat it over and over and over as quickly as possible," Nord said.
The best target to use for self-defense shooting is a sheet of typing paper.
"Any shot into center mass is a good hit," he said.
The goal is to develop a consistent habit, like a baseball pitcher who uses the same wind-up before each pitch.
"What we're trying to do is develop a habit until you don't have to think about it anymore," he said.
We practiced some indoor dry firing before we went outside in the very cold weather to practice on a range.
How did I do? Not bad at all.
When we returned to classroom to wrap up the day, we learned about legalities such as where you can and cannot carry a gun. For example, you can never carry a gun inside law enforcement stations, correctional institutions, airports, colleges or universities, daycare centers, government buildings or bars and restaurants that sell liquor by the glass.
Churches have the option of allowing guns.
You can't carry a gun inside a school, to a school activity, on a school bus, or on school property unless you are simply picking up a child and not getting out of the car.
This list isn't complete, but you get the idea.
The only government building where a gun can be carried is at rest facilities along major highways.
Private businesses must post a notice if they don't want people to carry concealed weapons on their property.
Nord handles it this way.
"If there is a private business that has a concealed carry sign up, I don't go there," he said. "I don't do business there."
He carries a business card with him that he gives provides to the owner or manager outlining the reasons they should allow guns.
To carry a gun on your person, it must be contained in a holster of some sort.
But, ladies, you can carry a gun in your person as long as it is closed in some fashion - for example, by zipper, button or snap.
To reiterate, much of the preparation for carrying a concealed weapon is mental.
"Just because someone's coming into your house doesn't mean you can blow them away," Nord said. "You have to be in imminent bodily harm."
Shooting is a last resort if you believe you are in imminent danger of being harmed.
"The last thing you really want to do is take somebody's life," he said.