Instructor Rod Townsend (right) supervises two students for the shooting portion of the License To Carry class offered through Go Heeled. Photo by Phil Houseal

June 27, 2018–I’m going to write about guns. More specifically, the training to get a license to carry a gun. This is not advocacy. If you have strong feelings about this issue, on either side, you might want to skip this one.

For context, I, as did anyone growing up on a farm, became familiar with guns from an early age. We all got our Christmas BB guns, and used them to plug cans, light bulbs, and the careless sparrow that roosted too low. When older, we learned to handle a 22 rifle and shotgun.

While I have no opposition to hunting, I also have no interest in it. Crawling out of a warm bed before dark to sit in a tree in freezing weather to shoot an animal just doesn’t make my list of “things I like to do for fun.” But if you want to, go for it. And bring me some deer sausage.

My kids gave me a 22 revolver last Christmas. I had wanted something to carry on my walks around the countryside, where you have the very real risk of encountering critters that bite, strike, and give you rabies. So far the only time I used it was dispatching a rat snake that was curled up in my nesting boxes. He had swallowed a whole egg, shell and all, along with four golf balls (I use golf balls as faux eggs, to discourage hens from cannibalizing their own eggs). My bullet saved him from a lingering, painful, Par 4 death.

But with all the recent debate, and out of curiosity, I decided to take the License To Carry class. So I signed up along with my adult son and daughter. They both have an interest in the shooting sports. They both own handguns and know how to use them safely and effectively. My daughter pegged a porcupine out of the top of a tree, at night, without reloading.

We spent a Saturday at Go Heeled in Boerne. Our instructor, Rod Townsend, a former Marine sergeant who served in Iraq, put seven students through a day of information on gun law, gun safety, gun care, and the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership. Others in the class included another former Marine (who shot a perfect score), a retired engineer, a young man who works as a fashion model in Japan, and a grandma who took the class back when Texas first offered it in 1995.

It’s all about safety, folks. Safety for children, safety when dealing with law enforcement, and safety, God forbid, if you are ever in a situation where you need to protect your home, your family, or yourself.

While he has been in firefights, Townsend is adamant that the primary purpose of this class is to exhaust every avenue to avoid that circumstance.

“The key is to have trained people, who are aware of their surroundings and who are making good decisions when going about their daily business,” he said.

Part of the course is working through a checklist of deterrents, beginning with situational awareness and avoiding or running away from danger, then proceeding through the options of vocal warnings, using non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, or other force such as punching and kicking.

Deadly force is just one of the options we have, Townsend said over and over.

“It’s better to be logical than lethal,” he said. “That means make logical decisions about where you go, what you are doing, and what time you are doing it. If you take the gun out of the equation, would you still go to an ATM machine at midnight? If the answer is no, then probably you shouldn’t do it with a gun either. This is more about the avoidance and mitigation of risk, rather than looking for a fight.”

But in the end, if all other tactics fail, the tool is there should you need it.

“My mission is to go home and kiss my kids good night.”

The day ended with a round at the shooting range. Fifty rounds, actually. After another lesson on shooting safety and gun range protocol, Townsend took us to the targets. We shot a variety of scenarios–single shot, double taps, five rounds in 10 seconds, etc.–at distances of three, nine, and 15 yards.

The training was only the first step in acquiring an LTC. After scoring and certifying proficiency in both written and shooting assessments, we must submit documentation and fingerprints to the state, which will check our employment and criminal records. If approved, we are licensed for four years.

My thoughts?

Obtaining your license to carry is less exhaustive than obtaining a license to drive. But tougher than getting a license to marry. Personally, I feel there should be a rigorous course that prepares you for parenting. With a stiff fee. And a mandatory waiting period.

One counter intuitive thing I learned is that having a License To Carry tells a law enforcement officer that you are less of a risk than someone who does not. According to Townsend, the Texas Department of Public Safety has yet to report an incident of an LTC holder harming a law enforcement officer.

“I’m not going to jump up and down and tell you that guns are the solution,” he said. “But those of us that carry have to have a clean nose to qualify. And you have to keep your nose clean.”

If you don’t want to touch a gun, then don’t. I didn’t shoot for decades.

But if you are going to own a gun, I believe in learning the techniques of how to use it, and the laws about when to use it.

The ride home started a discussion of the 2nd amendment, which ended on how amazing the Bill of Rights is. The longer you live, the more you appreciate the foresight and courage it took to put in writing that the government shall not infringe speech, worship, the press, or the right to keep and bear arms.

As far as my superficial research revealed, the US is the only country in the world today that upholds all of those tenets.

It is worthwhile to learn more about all of them.


For information on the License To Carry class, visit LTC courses are also offered through Dietert Club Ed,