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Rob Douglas: Aurora and concealed handguns

The killing of 12 and wounding of 58 moviegoers in Aurora by alleged gunman James Holmes has reignited the debate about gun control — including whether citizens should be able to carry concealed handguns. The debate should be put to rest. After all, if a man won't abide by the laws against murder, he won't abide by gun control laws.

In the past 30 years, the overwhelming majority of states, including Colorado, have legalized the carrying of concealed handguns. Currently, the legislative trend is toward further reduction of existing state restrictions on concealed handgun permits and increased permit reciprocity between the states.

To date, more than 6 million Americans have availed themselves of their right to carry a concealed handgun. As expected after an incident like the Aurora mass shooting, there will be an increase in the number of Americans purchasing weapons and seeking permits to carry guns.

Carrying a gun brings a tremendous responsibility — the responsibility to assure yourself that you have the maturity and competence to be in possession of a deadly tool. Make no mistake, a handgun is a deadly self-defense tool and one that I carried for a number of years during my career as a private detective.

From the day I decided to carry a gun, I set personal ground rules that went beyond what the law required to obtain a concealed handgun permit. I followed the rules until the day I stopped carrying a weapon. Those rules included but were not limited to:

■ At the outset, three months of weekly gunfight training with a combat firearms instructor

■ After the first three months, monthly range shooting and quarterly gunfight training

■ Keeping the gun completely concealed at all times

■ Never informing anyone that I was armed

■ Never consuming alcohol while carrying a gun

■ Storing all guns appropriately at home or work

My self-imposed rules are not unique among those who routinely carry guns. Most everyone who carries a deadly weapon quickly realizes doing so is a responsibility and, indeed, a burden. There never was a moment that it wasn't in the back of my mind that I was armed.

On more than one occasion I walked away from situations that, had I not been carrying a gun, I might have allowed myself to engage in a confrontation. Twice, I was physically assaulted while working. During those fights, my paramount concern was ensuring that my gun remained holstered and concealed so the assailant wouldn't attempt to grab it.

If you're considering obtaining a concealed handgun permit because of the events in Aurora, wait a month. Let the emotion of the moment pass. Then, do an honest appraisal of your need for a concealed weapon. Be forthright with yourself about whether you will invest the time and training needed to carry a gun competently and responsibly.

If you decide to move forward in the permit process, enroll in a firearms training class that goes beyond what is required for the gun permit. Find the best instructor you can. Go shoot. Shoot a lot. Shoot under every conceivable circumstance. Get to know your gun like the back of your hand.

After you receive your permit and you are carrying your weapon, keep training. If you stop training for more than several months, stop carrying your weapon. You owe it to yourself. More important, you owe it to those around you should the day come that you must employ your weapon in self-defense.

Bottom line: With few exceptions, law-abiding Americans have the right to carry concealed handguns for self-defense. The Aurora massacre won't change that reality, nor should it. But, the right to carry a concealed handgun brings the responsibility to train in the proper use and handling of that deadly weapon.

Since 1998, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.