Mary, a Lynnwood mother of five, is getting ready to shoot a gun for the very first time on a range out in Kirkland. She’s taking classes with her husband at Safe Insight, a firearm training company started by former law enforcement officer, and firearms instructor, Michael Cox.
“Washington is one of only eight states that does not require any form of training to get a concealed license for a gun,” Cox says. “Almost every other state does require that.”
Michael says very few people seek out a class. And when they do, the class is only about four hours, which is, at least, half as long as other states require. So Michael quit law enforcement, feeling it was his duty to help educate the community.
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“They come to us and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ve had my Concealed Pistol Licence, or CPL, for a couple years now. I just thought I should brush up on my training.’ We say okay, we hang a target for them, let’s kind of see where you’re at, so we see what we’re dealing with. They’re not only not hitting the bullseye, they’re not hitting the target,” Cox says. “Your eyes kind of bulge because you go, wow, these people are carrying a gun in our community, to protect themselves and us, theoretically, but they’re actually more of a danger with a gun to everybody around than they are a help. It’s scary, actually, the number of people who just don’t get the training. The ones who do get the training are not that good with their gun as it is. It’s very concerning.”
He teaches people like Mary how to handle and shoot a gun, but he also teaches gun laws and the proper way to carry a concealed weapon.
“One of the things that we see, that’s really a problem, is the lack of education out there. I feel like it really shows itself in the way people handle guns when they’re interacting with law enforcement. On more than one occasion, I would stop somebody at a traffic stop and they would inform me that they had their Concealed Pistol License as they’re pulling their gun out of the holster to show me the gun. Well, that’s not a good idea. They’re not meaning anything bad but they don’t get it.
“Another time I had a really scary incident where I had a youth who was probably 14 or 15 years old. I get a call that somebody was chasing somebody through the neighborhood with a gun. I stop him with his gun, I pull my gun out and say, ‘Hey, drop your gun!’ thinking it’s a gun and he turns around to show show me that it’s an Airsoft pistol but points the gun right at me to show me. It was a heart stopping a moment for me, a little gut-wrenching because I realized I almost had a fatal situation. There was nothing bad intended but you don’t know that in the heat of the moment. I think if everybody was better educated about guns, why it’s important you don’t point guns at people, just the very basics, it helps everybody in the community.”
When Mary and her husband decided to start carrying, they were sure they needed training.
“I think that people need a driver’s license to drive, and you have to go through training to handle the car,” Mary says. “So why not understand something that can potentially harm and kill somebody, understand how to handle it safely.”
But many believe that requiring Washingtonians to take a class before they can legally carry a gun is a violation of their rights.
“You’re really not taking away rights, what you’re doing is helping them,” Cox explains. “What they don’t realize is, almost every state that fails to recognize our Washington Concealed Pistol License does so on the basis that we don’t require any training to get that. So if we actually require training here, we would be able to carry, not completely across the country, but virtually across the country, legally, in other states with your Washington Concealed Pistol License. If you were required to get training for it.”
Cox is such a strong proponent of training, Safe Insight offers a free one-hour community class that teaches basic laws, safe handling and the dangers of lead exposure.
He also trains law enforcement and is working on a gun-free training program for teachers, so they can be prepared in the case of a mass shooting.