Think twice about carrying a gun

A panel of the 9th Federal Circuit Court in Peruta v. County of San Diego (actually the county sheriff) surprised nearly everyone by upholding our Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

Writing for the majority, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain stated: “Because the Second Amendment has always been an individual right to defend oneself … states may not destroy the right to bear arms in public under the guise of regulating it.”

Of course, that is not the final word on the matter.

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris has already announced that her office will appeal the decision.

If the matter were in front the current Supreme Court, it is likely that the local decision would be upheld.

But timing is everything. If Harris can delay until President Obama appoints another liberal to the court, the Second Amendment will become dead-letter law.

This is an especially egregious sin by Harris, who is African-American, because African-Americans are very disproportionately the victims of gun violence.

However, assuming for the moment that the ruling against Sheriff Bill Gore is upheld, what would our community look like?

Would it be like the days in Tombstone, Ariz., when the Earp brothers were called out by the Clantons and their evil buddies and bullets started flying everywhere?

Not likely.

We only need to look at the other 40 states that already comply with the Second Amendment and issue permits to anyone except the criminals and the crazies.

In those states, even though they can, most people do not apply for a permit. And most people that have permits do not carry weapons.

Even better, author John Lott, in his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” documents the decline in crime rates in “must-issue” states.

“Must issue” means that absent some reason to deny the person a license to carry a weapon, the government must grant them one.

Criminals are not looking for a fair fight when they rob or rape: They are looking for helpless victims.

In states where people are authorized to carry guns, the criminals are not guaranteed an easy score.

Thus they are less likely to either stay in those states or commit crimes in the first place.

California has long been laissez-faire about this issue with some counties being generous, while San Diego County has a tradition of miserliness in such issuances.

But the primary hurdle to safer gun use and self defense is the preparation of potential gun owners themselves.

At first thought, new gun owners are likely to think in terms of the biggest, baddest weapon they can obtain to be able to withstand, say, a sustained gang attack.

Certainly, if you are attacked by a gang, no doubt a multimagazined M-79 grenade launcher loaded with buckshot rounds would be your best defense.

The problem is that statistically that is not our likely fate.

By far the biggest problem with owning and carrying a gun is its danger to the owner and those around them.

So before anyone buys a gun to carry around, I suggest they think twice about not only their own situation but the safety of their friends, neighbors and grandkids.

First, the reality of carrying a pistol is that it legally can be used only as a last resort for self-defense in a life-threatening situation.

It cannot be pulled and brandished to scare away the bad guys.

In any shooting, it is likely the gun owner will be on trial in both civil and criminal proceedings.

The best way to learn the huge risk one incurs by carrying a gun is to take any of the presently required classes.

Experienced gun owners will give you dozens of examples of where fellow gun owners suffered from not knowing the very limited extent that a gun can be used in self defense.

For example, you can never display the gun in any situation, as displaying the weapon can get you charged with “assault,” which is defined as putting another person in apprehension of getting shot.

The only time you can pull out a gun is when you are going to use it and the only time you can use it is when your life is clearly threatened.

Nor can you or should you carry a pistol while drinking alcohol because your judgment is impaired.

Worse, if you pull a gun on someone bigger than you, they are likely to take it away and use on you.

However, the most serious danger is that you leave the gun lying around your house or car and your grandchild picks it up and hurts him or herself or someone else.

How could you ever forgive yourself?

Another risk is dropping the gun and having it discharge. Most likely you will be the victim but then again, it could be a neighbor on the other side of the wall.

“Hair triggers” are a greater threat to you than they are worth in a confrontation.

Before I bought a weapon to carry when necessary, I consulted San Diego Police Department's long-time range master, president of its Pistol Club, and the department’s top expert on weapons, Fred Hoyle, now retired.

It was Sgt. Hoyle who clued me in on all of the issues above.

He recommended, and I now fully agree that if you do want to carry a weapon, it should be from the new family of lightweight pistols.

That makes them easier to carry, especially on your belt.

Make sure that the trigger pull is difficult and that the hammer is not only down, but internal to the weapon so that there is no spur to get cocked and fired accidently.

And finally, he recommended the use of “wad cutters” as the ammunition of choice for the reason that the projectile does the job while reducing the risk of “collateral damage,” such as going through a wall and hurting an innocent.

The legislature would be wise to repeal its present raft of confusing and unconstitutional anti-gun laws and re-enact those that promote the safe issuance and use of guns to comply with the Second Amendment and to make California a safer place to live.

Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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11 UserComments
Sean T 12:47pm May 12, 2014

Charles your comment is awfully presumptuous..the Peruta opinion is quite sound actually and is largely based on SCOTUS precedent (Heller etc). "Likely overturned"? How so? I actually do not believe it's "likely" that it gets overturned via en banc at the 9th either. More likely is the fact that the current attempt by the AG to intervene is denied and en banc does not occur. Whether or not petitions for cert to SCOTUS is anyone's guess and whether it's taken up by SCOTUS is also a wild card. (See Drake for example). Seems your agenda is clouding what should be more realistic view into what happens on Peruta.

Larry Stirling 9:49am April 26, 2014

In response to Mr. Tranfaglia and Mr. Looktwiceandmiss, The slice of time between when you accurately perceive a life threatening danger and can use your weapon in self defense is likely to be thin. That is why it is important to undergo shoot/no-shoot training if you are going to carry a weapon. I know from my years working for the San Diego Police Department that even veteran police officers struggle with this issue and they get extensive practice. If you shoot someone, effectively YOU will be on trial. You will have to satisfactorily explain your conduct to a jury. As we used to say in the Army: "Dont fight the problem." Get the training and be prepared.

Ian 10:31pm April 24, 2014

I disagree with the permit to carry in the first place. SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED! It's pretty clear and any state that requires a law abiding citizen to ASK PERMISSION TO EXERCISE A RIGHT apparently doesn't understand the fact they are breaking the law... the supreme law of the land. The 2nd Amendment is our carry permit and anything else... it's unconstitutional and illegal. But the liberals will have you believe otherwise.

Roger V. Tranfaglia 9:38pm April 24, 2014

I'm confused Larry,after I take all the required safty courses and then some. After I pass the background check after I take a personal safe use courss for my pafticular weapon....I still shouldn'tcarry??? Ergo I cannot defend myself from attack????

looktwiceandmiss 6:33pm April 24, 2014

"It cannot be pulled and brandished to scare away the bad guys." "The only time you can pull out a gun is when you are going to use it and the only time you can use it is when your life is clearly threatened" So its all or nothing? Being able to conceal carry should be about being able to deter and protect yourself from crime. You seem to give it a description of being able to kill and kill only.

Larry Stirling 5:10pm April 24, 2014

Since two people mention my recommendation regarding the setting of the trigger pull resistance, let me repeat the point. As twenty -year Infantry officer and having requalified for my CCW a half dozen times, I am well aware that trigger resistance impacts aim. You simply practice and compensate for it. The point of the article is to add some wisdom to the decision about carrying a weapon. Carrying a weapon vastly increases the danger of accidently shooting yourself or someone you love just as driving a car, without precautions, does the same. Anything like a hair trigger increases the likelihood the gun will fire inadvertantly with diasterous consequences. In an actual self-defense situation, you are most likely going to be able to smell the bad guys stinky breath. Aiming and trigger pressure will be the least of your worries. I repeat, for your safety and that of those you love, make it a heavy trigger pull. Fir the rest, man up and get a strong trigger finger. Larry Stirling

BHirsh 3:41pm April 24, 2014

I did think twice about it (more than that, actually) before I got my first carry permit in 1982. I've been carrying all day, every day since. That's 32 years carrying a concealed handgun. I've yet to see the downside. Why are you so set on talking everyone out of it? Seems to me that YOU have a problem, not US.

xqqme 6:40am April 24, 2014

If the "trigger pull is difficult", accuracy will suffer, because the extra applied force will tend to pull the firearm sideways, away from the target.

Abraham Collins 11:05pm April 23, 2014

Mr. Nichols I have been following your case and would like to personally thank you for your efforts regarding it. That aside, I disagree with your prediction regarding the US Supreme Court. As you have said a state can regulate concealed carry OR open carry but not both. They certainly will take up either this issue in California, the one in New Jersey or perhaps both. The ruling regarding the carry ban in Illinois set a precedent and it is almost a certainty that the next case will be very similar. All states with unreasonable limitations on both open and concealed carry will eventually be put on a timetable to have their carry laws either in compliance with the US Constitution or outright repealed as has been observed in Moore v. Madigan. Thank you.

Charles Nichols 2:57pm April 23, 2014

The Peruta decision will likely be overturned by the US Supreme Court, if it ever makes it that far. The more likely scenario is that a 9th Circuit en banc court will overturn the Peruta decision, the NRA/CRPA will appeal and the Supreme Court will then turn down the NRA appeal. People seem to forget that the Supreme Court said there is no right to carry a concealed weapon in public. The High Court said that Open Carry is the right guaranteed by the Constitution and that concealed carry can be banned. Two of the three judges on the Peruta court instead concluded that what the Supreme Court really meant to say is that Open Carry could be banned and the non-right to concealed carry can be substituted for the fundamental right of Open Carry. There is no precedent to support this and I don't think that even the 9th CCA is going to allow Peruta to be the first to create such a precedent. Charles Nichols – President of California Right To Carry

Abraham Collins 12:25pm April 23, 2014

Fantastic article, Mr. Stirling. I can agree on everything except, perhaps, on your insistence on having a heavy trigger. Unless you're a champion competition shooter like Jerry Miculek, any trigger above six pounds is going to have a detrimental effect on your accuracy and, thus, put more people in danger if your threat is beyond a distance of three yards. All concealed pistols should be striker-fired only for reasons you've stated as well as the necessity for a consistent trigger pull. Carrying a concealed weapon is a heavy burden to carry and the responsibility to ensure that the public isn't put in any unnecessary danger is great. I hope many will heed and appreciate your message, as I have. Thank you. -Abraham Collins