Law enforcement officers hold concealed carry handgun classes
“What’s the first thing you do when handling a gun or when handed a gun?” Toby Jenkins, a state law enforcement officer, asked as he addressed eight individuals at the Mill Spring Volunteer Fire Department on Thursday evening. “You point the weapon in a safe direction and check to see if it’s loaded.”
Jenkins and fellow officer Mitchell Kirkland are certified firearms instructors who have taught their Will 2 Conceal class for more than 15 years. Will 2 Conceal is a concealed carry handgun and firearms safety training class, which North Carolina requires in order for individuals to obtain a concealed carry permit.
The purpose of the class is to explain to students the aspects of the North Carolina concealed carry handgun law and to teach and apply the fundamentals of safety and basic marksmanship fundamentals.
“Concealed carry classes are
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of high interest right now. Many people are taking these classes for safety reasons, while others are taking it because they feel as though their rights are being stepped on,” Kirkland said.
The concealed carry handgun class requires a minimum of eight hours of instruction and a written legal examination. Students also participate in a live fire practice qualification and a shooting proficiency examination using B-27 silhouette targets. The course of fire includes 30 rounds with 10 rounds fired from a distance of three yards, 10 rounds fired from five yards and 10 rounds fired from seven yards.
“Our biggest concern during this class is safety, which is why we don’t allow any ammunition in class. We want to make sure safety is paramount for future concealed carry permit holders,” Jenkins said. “If we see anyone mishandling a gun, we’ll ask them to leave and refund their money.”
Students in the class gave various reasons as to why they were taking the Will 2 Conceal class. One man said he wanted to be able to help protect his wife, who owns a convenience store and does not want to carry a handgun herself; a couple said they felt the need to protect not only themselves, but also their six children; a father said he wanted to provide better safety to himself and his two sons after a traumatic experience where they were held up at gunpoint in their vehicle.
At the end of the class, students are able to perform several objectives in accordance with the information received during the instructional period. These include demonstrating proficiency in safe handling of a handgun to include loading, unloading, storing or securing and firing, identifying the places that handguns may not be carried even with a concealed carry handgun permit, identifying the major parts of a revolver or semiautomatic pistol, demonstrating proficiency in basic marksmanship, and explaining the provisions under North Carolina Common and Statutory Law in which the use of deadly physical force would be justifiable.
“We are not here to train you to kill. We are training you to protect yourself, your family or a third party,” Kirkland said. “You don’t shoot to kill, you shoot to stop the threat. Being a concealed carry permit holder is like having insurance — just like insurance for your car, home or life, it’s there in case you need it.”
According to Kirkland and Jenkins, proficiency with a handgun does not come from merely carrying a handgun. Proficiency comes with knowledge, with practice and with safe and responsible handling. Skills are of little value when not combined with knowledge of the law and the ability to use sound judgment.
“The more you practice and practice safely, the better your skills will become and the better you will be able to handle high-stress situations,” Jenkins said.
Kirkland and Jenkins teach students that the use of a handgun in a defensive situation should be a last resort with the knowledge that your use of the weapon is within the law, and that you have the ability to use the weapon properly.
“You are not taking this class to become Barney Fife. It’s so you can be safe,” Jenkins said. “Don’t go looking for trouble... The best way to win a deadly confrontation is to avoid the situation in the first place.”
“Many of these situations you will never find yourself in, but as a concealed handgun carrier and with a concealed carry permit comes a tremendous responsibility,” Kirkland said. “If you are responsible in how you handle your firearm and responsible in how you shoot your firearm, it will benefit you as well as others. An irresponsible person taking this class is like Superman who just got his cape. Getting a concealed carry permit does not give you the right to fight crime. You must be a responsible concealed carrier and know when and when not to use deadly force.”
Kirkland and Jenkins offer their Will 2 Conceal class is offered twice a month, every month, depending on how many people are interested. Average class size is 25 and the class costs $75 per person, which includes all classroom materials and range equipment like targets and eye and ear protection.
“We notice in some of our classes, some of the women seem intimidated by shooting on the range with a majority of men. We are currently looking into a women-only class,” Jenkins said.
Every month, Kirkland and Jenkins also offer basic firearms training classes, advanced firearms training classes and NRA gun-safety classes. Most classes are taught in Polk or Rutherford County and are open to residents of all North Carolina counties.
“Teaching these courses is something I enjoy, it’s always been a passion,” Kirkland said. “I like teaching people and making them responsible, I like seeing people progress and be confident in their abilities.”