Time to complete a handgun permit-to-carry class

U.S. Concealed Carry Association Certified Instructor Tim Sixta provides shooting instruction to a student participating in permit-to-carry Minnesota Gun Class on Sunday, Feb. 12.

After years of recreational shooting with handguns, I enrolled in a permit-to-carry class in Minnesota last weekend. Instructor Tim Sixta of the Minnesota Gun Class led a group of 20 on Sunday through four hours of classroom time, then a couple of hours at a shooting range in Chanhassen.

My quick conclusion from the experience? Any handgun owner will learn new skills and perspectives from a permit-to-carry course, even if he or she doesn’t apply for the actual permit.

The diverse classroom contained folks from all races, creeds, and colors, and it included nine women, about half the group. Sixta tells me the classes average about 30 percent women, and he believes many people would be surprised to learn how quickly the shooting sports, and the desire to have a permit to carry, is growing within the female demographic.

Let’s back up a moment and answer a basic question: What is a permit to carry? After all, I drove myself to the range with my 9mm Beretta M9 unloaded and cased in the backseat of my automobile. What does the permit allow a citizen to do?

Thanks to the Minnesota Citizens’ Personal Protection Act of 2005, individuals can obtain a permit to carry a handgun in public. There is no stipulation in the law regarding whether that weapon must be concealed. A permit to carry also constitutes a permit to purchase, so you don’t need a purchase/transfer permit from your local law enforcement agency to buy a handgun if you possess the carry permit. I’m thinking of buying another handgun, so that’s an added benefit of completing the process.

The author fires a 9mm during an unsighted shooting drill as part of a Minnesota Gun Class.

There are many caveats to the above, such as schools, federal buildings, and those businesses that post signs to prohibit guns. The class explains all those rules and potential penalties, should you violate them.

Anyone expecting politics or 2nd Amendment chatter at my permit-to-carry class left disappointed. My instructor mentioned his NRA membership, and the class materials certainly assume a basic respect and support for firearms ownership and personal protection. But I mostly heard deliberate, professional caution about the responsibilities that come with being a handgun owner and permit-to-carry holder.

U.S. Concealed Carry Association Certified Instructor Tim Sixta answers questions during the classroom portion of a permit-to-carry course on Sunday in St. Louis Park.

In addition to shooting fundamentals, gear and gadgets (like holsters), and the legal use of force, the course strenuously covers conflict avoidance. Sixta repeatedly stressed that a firearm is your last option in a violent encounter and you should avoid using it in any way possible. Your firearm and your permit to carry are not a “fix” for the guy exhibiting road rage in the next lane… or anyone else exhibiting a bad attitude. A concealed carry permit is not a junior police officer badge.

Sixta repeatedly stressed the added responsibility that comes with possessing a permit to carry, and the textbook that accompanied the class, “Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals,” by Minnesota’s own Michael Martin, makes it clear: Do not look at your concealed carry permit as a permit to go places, do things, or say things we shouldn’t otherwise. It’s not an invincibility shield. (The course curriculum is mostly from the U.S. Concealed Carry Association  and Martin is part of the USCCA leadership.)

From the book: “…we’ll occasionally hear of an enterprising organization selling ‘Concealed Carry Permit’ badges. These are really bad ideas, not only because they could be confused with actual police badges (possibly resulting in a charge of impersonating a police office) but they may also give the ‘holder’ of the badge the incorrect impression that they may have some special powers or authority. Save your money.”

On several occasions during the class, after explaining liability and the extra onus placed on permit-to-carry holders, Sixta asked, “Still want your permit to carry?” Many in the room chuckled nervously and/or shifted in their seats.

Here’s some added value from the experience, and forget your firearm for a minute. Every citizen should recognize that conflict avoidance starts by not looking like a victim. Avoid blind spots and move “off the line” when necessary. Walking down the street staring at your phone while wearing headphones gives you a tiny situational awareness bubble and sets you up for a bad encounter. This is advice that any citizen, whether he ever touches a firearm or not, should heed.

For permit holders, the class and textbook emphasized the “use of force continuum.” It states that deadly force may only be used when there is an immediate and unavoidable danger of death or great/grave bodily harm to an innocent person, where no other options exist other than the use of deadly force.

The coursework also demonstrated overwhelmingly strong respect for firearms safety. I’ve written before that I sometimes worry that society is slipping with attention to gun safety, but this class was reassuring. Sixta exhibited exemplary firearms handling skills, and the textbook and classroom discussion thoroughly emphasized safe firearms use.

You’ll spend a few dollars obtaining the permit. Shop around, and most classes will run you $125. My class was $89 plus $30 for the book and about $20 for the range time. Applying for the permit through the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will set me back another C-note.

In Minnesota, a permit to carry is valid for five years and authorizes unlimited purchases within that time period. There’s a $75 renewal process.

After the classroom portion, we fired two magazines of 10 rounds at a local gun range  We took several shots using sights, then some unsighted rapid-fire shooting. Handguns were available for rent, and I sensed a few students probably had little shooting experience, if any. Sixta discussed both the Weaver and Isosceles stance, but had us all shoot from the latter, since research has shown that people move into it more naturally under duress.

Knocking out a permit-to-carry class was a good experience that I believe every firearms holder should consider.

I enrolled through Minnesota Gun Class, a company with almost 50 instructors nationally at this point (as part of U.S. Gun Class), all of whom are required to be NRA-certified instructors, NRA range safety officers, USCCA certified instructors, and Front Sight graduates. There are lots of carry class options in the Twin Cities and around the state. The Minnesota DNR also has adult firearms safety classes for those who want to learn about firearms handling perhaps with less of a handgun emphasis.

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