In the last six days I have:
- (Friday) Obtained my concealed-carry permit. It was almost trivial, really—the hardest part was physically finding the room where I needed to go (well, assuming you don't count the previously executed step of obtaining character references). I went to a room, showed ID, filled out a form, and they printed the permit on the spot.
- (Sunday) Purchased my carry gun, a Glock 19.
- (Tuesday) Bought a holster and some hollowpoint ammunition.
- Carried in public for the first time.
It's interesting that having a carry firearm seems similar to how I imagine it might be to have an infant in one's care—there is a certain physical object for which, if one forgets its existence for even a brief span of time, Bad Things can happen. Any particular time when one does forget, the chances of something bad happening are small, but they accumulate rapidly, necessitating a constant state of mindfulness. Right now I'm extremely mindful because I'm learning the ropes, but I will have to retain that state of mindfulness throughout the entire time that I carry, or I will be a danger to myself and to others. Of course, it seems unlikely to cause any harm to be mindful by default, with any exceptions (sleep, allowing oneself to consume alcohol, etc.) being deliberately chosen.
I'm amazed by how easy the process was, though. All the concrete steps necessary for me to carry a firearm occurred in the last week. The background checks were instant. I don't think this is “wrong”—in fact, I suspect that the legal process functions as a filter, with most people who would commit crimes with firearms carrying illegally—but I still find it surprising.
In Pennsylvania, one of the fields on the CCW application form is “reason”. I checked “self-defense” since that's my primary goal, though I expect to use my carry permit for easier compliance with the rules regarding transportation to and from shooting ranges as well (though the possibility of doing so without a permit is nice, the rules are a little arcane—they ban such things as carrying any ammunition in the same compartment of the car as the firearm and stopping at a friend's house en route to the range, if one doesn't have a CCW). In, e.g., Maryland, on the other hand, one has to give a “real” reason for a CCW application. The last such reason listed, which is (I guess) somehow supposed to accomodate the need for self-defense, is “6. Personal Protection; must be documented evidence of recent threats and/or assaults, supported by police reports and/or notarized statements.” (source: packing.org, which URL was incidentally written on a sticky note given to me by the officer who issued my CCW, had I not already known about it). I find this frightening—the government dictating when you do and don't have a good enough reason to defend yourself. Honestly, in a way this is more frightening than an outright ban, because the existence of such CCWs implies that the government admits it can't protect some people, but insists they fulfill requirements that will inevitably let some people who need protection slip through the cracks. Furthermore, such requirements deny those like myself who don't expect to need to employ deadly force in self-defense, but are willing to assume the cost and responsibility themselves, the right to do so.
Florida's system is more what I would consider reasonable if one wants to be very careful: a shall-issue law, but contingent on strong documentation, including proof of training. I don't think I support such strong requirements, but I see them as merely annoying, not actually unethical. In fact, Florida issues non-resident CCWs, and I might get one eventually—since their requirements are so strict, they're accepted in an awful lot of states. (The Pennsylvania CCW I already have is honored in: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. In addition, Alaska and Vermont allow carry without a permit.)
Do I feel safer? Yes, a little bit. I didn't feel that unsafe most of the time to start with, but in certain situations I can see this making a significant difference. I also feel a lot of satisfaction at having finally accomplished a long-range goal of mine (and a certain amount of embarrassment at having taken so unnecessarily long to achieve it).
Oh, my new gun needs a name. I think I'm probably going to need to pick it myself, but if you do have suggestions, I'll listen, and if one happens to strike me just right, I'll use it.