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Why let thugs practice shooting? Or give gun permits to the witless?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on July 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
July 28, 2010 7:00 pm

Last weeks’ fatal shooting of Lisa Marie Melancon – and a lot of other casual and criminal gun play that happens around here – has me thinking about two possible ways to save a few lives.

Start with the casual.

Insane as it is, some otherwise law-abiding people handle guns sloppily or pull them out in disputes that could either could have been avoided or don’t involve a credible claim of self-defense. In a particularly stupid case, one of last year’s candidates for the Puyallup City Council drew a pistol in a school parking lot while arguing with someone he saw dent someone else’s car.

That’s like using a torpedo to settle a dispute over fishing rights.

You can’t pass a law against foolishness, but you can make a dent in ignorance. Some other states don’t issue permits carry a concealed weapon unless applicants have taken a serious course in firearms safety and the laws governing self-defense. Some require that you actually know which end the bullet comes out.

Washington’s instruction requirement: zero. To get a permit in this state, you merely have to fill out an application and not have record of criminality or involuntary commitment. What reasonable objection could there be to making the permit contingent on a few hours of safety training?

Then there’s the criminal issue.

I have often wondered where the average common thug learns to shoot. Shooting a handgun competently – that is, actually hitting anything in particular more than 10 feet away – is a discipline that doesn’t come easy. Like archery or golf, it involves technique, attention to body mechanics, fine motor skills and extensive practice. Not many people are naturals; most need expert instruction.

You can’t pick up this ability by occasionally trading shots on the street with other thugs. Nor can you practice in the backyard without the neighbors noticing. I can only imagine that some bad guys are frequenting some of the same shooting ranges where police officers, hunters and other peaceful types keep up their skills.

Radical idea: What if the indoor ranges made a point of running criminal background checks on the people who show up to perfect their trigger pull?

Not every time, but at least the first time with a new customer. Ranges tend to be connected to gun shops, which have the capacity to run checks. Yes, the ranges would lose customers if they were screening out people with criminal records. I assume those are customers they’d like to lose.

I’m trying to see a downside here. I haven’t come up with one.

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