State Mandated Training Requirements: Help or Harm?

State Mandated Training Requirements: Help or Harm?

State Mandated Training Requirements: Help or Harm?

Let me begin by stating that I am in favor of training.  I am a trainer, I regularly receive training, and I compete to put my training to the test.  I analyze my weaknesses and seek more training to eliminate them.  With that said, however, I believe there is a glaring inconsistency within the pro-gun movement that at best undermines progress and, at worst, reveals an incorrect mindset.  The popular saying, “We have met the enemy, and they are us” should give us pause for consideration.

As of mid 2017, approximately 38 states have some form of training requirement to obtain a concealed handgun license.  That translates to just over 75% of the country and a clear majority.  The issue is settled then, right?  A majority of states have training requirements and more people are getting concealed carry licenses, so it must be helping.  But do these state issued mandates actually help or harm the movement?  To answer this question we must first consider the nature of true freedom and then, with that mind, examine the effects of state training requirements.

True Freedom

Often in discussions around guns and legislation someone will proclaim, “It’s about freedom!”  But freedom in what sense?  What is usually meant is freedom from responsibility or the freedom to do whatever I want.  But the fact is, that’s not reality…it’s anarchy.  True freedom is freedom unto responsibility to fulfil our duties before God with all our might.  True freedom is also messy with mistakes/failures and loaded with risk which is something the modern man cannot stand.  He demands all the benefits of maturity but with none of the responsibility.  Furthermore, we see the results of this drive for cradle to grave security in a variety of forms: too-big-to-fail bailouts, national healthcare, gun control legislation, and even state mandated training requirements.  We thus have a choice: slavery which is void of risk (and responsibility) or freedom with all the risks (and responsibility).  There is no halfway point.

The issue of the state wrongly stepping in when men fail to fulfill their duties is not new to us.  Ancient Rome held, “Salus populi suprema lex esto” or “The health of the people is the highest law.”  This was reinforced with Rousseau at the time of the French Revolution when he said, “The general will is always right and ever tends to public advantage.”  However, for Rousseau, the general will was manifested by the state and not by the people at large.  The former Soviet Union carried this idea with their tyranny of the dictatorship of the proletariat and we have it in our country as well.  In every instance, the state moves in to control the people and progressively reduce them to slaves because men fear failure or liability.

Mandated Training Requirements

By this point you may be wondering what all this has to do with state mandated training requirements.  Based upon what has been presented, these mandates negatively affect concealed carry and the pro-gun movement in the following ways.

First, they cause an atrophy of the human mind with regard to responsibility.  After all, the state has dictated what you have to do in order to carry, so little to no thought is required to pursuing the best training you can find.  Instead, whatever will meet the state requirements is sought and purchased because, after all, “if it’s good enough for the state then it’s good enough for me.”  This has also led to things like online safety training classes which, while minimally helpful, do not have the oversight of an instructor and allow for bad/unsafe habits to continue.  In a similar vein, when was the last time any of us looked for ways to pay more taxes?  Never, as we all seek the maximum lawful ways to minimize our required tax burden.  The same applies to required training.  Similarly, required driver’s education programs have failed to overwhelm us with skilled drivers and safer roads.

Second, training requirements only affect the law abiding.  The criminal by definition does not obey the law.  Often, those most vulnerable are also the ones hit hardest by this because of the high cost to the classes.  This is, incidentally, an area where instructors can make a difference by offering low cost/no cost firearms training.  Therefore, such mandates are nothing more than controls on the law abiding and have nothing to do with ensuring safety.

Third, it reveals something about us when we press for mandated training: that we are statist in our mindset.  By supporting such legislation, we are implicitly agreeing with the gun controllers that some form of regulation by the state is required to ensure our safety.  It is saying that we as a nation will be saved by law rather than by simply enforcing full liability and restitution for our actions.  As a result, we end up arguing with the gun controllers over the amount of control by the state as a matter of degree rather than a difference of kind.  Remember, true freedom means the messiness of mistakes, the possibility of failure, the risks of tragedy, but the blessings of fulfilling our duty.  Someone may ask at this point, “Doesn’t that mean more negligent discharges or bad publicity?”  Not necessarily.  By enforcing full liability for our actions and, more importantly, encouraging duty over anarchistic thinking gun owners will have the motivation to get the training they need and can afford.

Finally, state mandates create an effective monopoly by forcing the gun owner to attend some sort of state approved training to fulfill their duty to defend life (their own, their loved one’s, or their neighbor’s).  While there may be many offering approved training, the fact remains that the market is not permitted to operate freely and the quality of training suffers as a result.  Gresham’s Law states, “bad money drives out good” and likewise, training to state requirements drives out true, preparatory training.  You end up with limited choices based upon bureaucratic whims with the force of law (i.e. coercion) behind them.

I recognize that many reading this actively pursue training.  To those I will say: You understand the responsibility in carrying a firearm for protection and have embraced the mindset to continually improve yourself.  Bravo!  But state mandates did nothing to change your mindset to that end.  It is time we stopped thinking as statists in this area by pushing for legislation that requires training as though that will change the man.  Law has never and can never accomplish that.  Just look at Soviet history to see how it worked for them.

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Chris Zimmerman is husband, a father of four, and a strong advocate for the freedom for concealed and open carry. His background is in cyber security, but he is also the owner of Covenant Defense, a Christian firearms training, sales, and service company in western Washington state. You can contact him at
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Stephen Heath

Unfortunately I believe you are missing the common sense point – you are assuming people know how to use a gun safely. Less and less people have that in their younger years like they did in the past. Let’s do a comparison…should we stop drivers training and let people use a “weapon” that has as much potential (if not more) for destruction? Am I a “statist” for supporting drivers ed? No. How about hunter’s safety courses? Should those be thrown out too? Yes…there is a fine line with too much government control. However, sometimes lives are saved because of practical training requirements.

Tim Lange

Maybe a different incentive to get people to get training. Use to be you would get a discount on your auto insurance if you had and passed driver’s ed. Maybe when you buy a gun you get a one page list of criminal and civil liabilities you can encounter if you shoot at someone (justified or not). The mention of liability insurance that is available and possible discount if you have training.


How about handing out CCW Badges to those who undergo the necessary training to become a sheepdog?


I’m torn on the issue. As far as background checks and permitting, in theory they sound like a good idea, this might weed out some people with crimes of violence and such that might think they are ok to carry under the law and are in fact not but that means they have at least a desire to be law abiding. Criminals have something else in mind and they aren’t concerned about the laws and will carry without a permit.
Also we should not be charged a fee (taxed) to exercise a Constitutional right. Yet people should have to know the laws and their legal and moral responsibilities but wouldn’t the the enforcement and penalties inspire most of us to seek that knowledge out on our own? Why can’t the government simply satisfy their need to be involved by providing easy to find, interesting and easy to understand sources in a variety of formats? As if the government can produce anything interesting…
As far as training goes, even the the classes that do provide the 15-30 minutes of live fire can’t be truly considered training. True training to me means regular and ongoing, with sources to critique and give advice. Is going to the range regularly and to keep practising the same bad habits truly training?


Unfortunately, most people want their time for themselves. Forget about the criminal element. Nothing you say will apply to them. Instead, look at the people who want to legally own and know how to use a handgun. The basic firearms course is a joke. I paid $50 to learn the four basic safety guidelines in a class that took one hour, and part of that class included how to load a magazine for various handguns. I found that my local police offered this course for free. It could be given as a pdf presentation and be just as effective and in my mind is no where near comprehensive enough to be the ONLY training required. The additional training I got, which was optional even in Massachusetts was a three part class, Use of Force, Concealed Carry and Home Defense. THIS is the class set that should be mandatory because it outlines in detail when use of force is necessary and how to avoid loss of life. It also offers an opportunity to discuss various what-if scenarios with actual ex military/ current law enforcement officers. Getting a LTC is a constitutional right, but still an option, like a drivers license, so paying for the license and training is appropriate. After that, ongoing training is up to the user.

Wayne Clark

I’m all for incentives…but they need to come from the insurance companies, not the Government. In reality, the gov shouldn’t be involved in anything pertaining to the 2A except making sure it’s not messed with…but we don’t live in reality, do we?
Training should be highly sought after to improve our abilities. It should be greatly encouraged but never mandated. We have to own up to our responsibility as individuals, as the article points out, or suffer the consequences of not doing so. That’s how it is in life, in general, everyday. As pointed out in every discussion about permits, or training, or anything 2A, criminals will not abide to any mandates, or laws that, although may be well intended, will not affect them in the least bit. That’s the whole purpose of criminality. This horse has been beaten enough & until our Constitution is recognized by our illustrious leaders as the law of the land, not a damn thing is going to change.


I took the training in Kansas several years ago. It seems like it cost about $100 for the course that was supposed to last about 8 hours including firing around 20 rounds on the range. You were supposed to shoot with a certain degree of proficiency from around 4 different distances. I liked the part about the state laws so I would know what was and was not legal in our state. I felt most of the rest of the course was pretty much worthless. Instead of taking 7-8 hours the part that was really helpful could have been covered in 1-2 hours. Granted someone who had no background or experience with firearms may have been helped by the longer course. Another downside was the class was so large you had virtually no one-on-one time with the instructor. Kansas has had constitutional carry for awhile now and I do not see in major problems as a result of people not taking the course required for a concealed carry permit.


Mandated advance training and insurance wil have a negative impact for CCW. I feel the NRA are pushing this as a silent compromise with the left for ‘common sense’ gun control.
They need to fight for laws that protect self defense and stand your ground. We know the second amendment is a right and so is ‘innocence until proven guilty’. Where is the fight for the latter?


Correct! With this insurance bull crap, we will de-facto be squeezed out of our lawful rights. Actually, none of that will hinder me. It will hinder those easily cowered by the gubment man.


I “DO” believe SOME training “NEEDS to be conducted”. I’ve seen these “RAMBO” mentality people with no regard for COMMON SENSE… I was AGAINST guns, growing up in CHICAGO, but I “LEARNED”… now I fully support the USE and ownership, which I believe SHOULD NOT BE ON A LIST, but a fair reasonable training DOES need to take place.

Van Phillips

Chris, this is a good and thought provoking article. And, it has caused some interesting comments, as well!

I’m an instructor (at several levels from 4-H through Adult and concealed carry certification classes) like you are, and I agree with your comments about what good instructors bring to the table. At the NRA Convention in Louisville, I worked once again in the youth shooting area. While there I had the chance to talk to several individuals from the NRA headquarters office. I told them at the time, that the online Basic Pistol Class Idea was flawed from the foundation up, and that none of the Instructors I knew were going to be willing to do the range portion – and then sign the NRA Certificate. At least they heard me out and asked why. I pointed out that 1. they could not be sure if the person taking the online course and test was the same person standing in front of me at the range. 2. that there was nothing to replace the individual evaluations each good Instructors makes part of their work in teaching and certification. 3. that there was nothing in the online course that covered the state laws related to firearms/pistols where the person lives. And that, that was like teaching someone to drive – and not teaching them about the laws and responsibilities related to retaining the right to drive. 4. finally, I mentioned that I and my colleagues were not going to be willing sign a certificate just based upon the range portion … knowing that if they got in trouble with their pistol later that we (as the name on the certificate) would be the ones that were now going to be involved in any legal suits. And, I also doubted if any range, under today’s liability rules, would be willing to have NRA’s online graduates at their facility. I was surprised when 7 or 8 of the other Instructor volunteers, working the youth area, stepped forward saying some version of, “I agree with him!”

As a final thought, I just moved from Indiana down to Tennessee late last year. After a month or so I asked, some of my wife’s staff, if they taught drivers Education” in Tennessee. They all said flatly, “NO!” I said, “I thought not!” My point is I have never experienced so many careless, and reckless drivers on the road before. Crossing three lanes to make an exit, cutting off everyone in their path. Passing on the left and jumping into the right lane to cut you off. Passing stopped school buses. I could go on, but you get the point!

Luis Arzola

I completely agree with you about the NRA online Basic Pistol Class. I made pretty much the same objections to them when they asked from comments by instructors after reviewing the online course. I also pointed out that if they were to go online, the cost of the course should be minimal or free. Instead they overpriced the course, which together with all the other problems mentioned above cause the online class to crash and burn.

I do think that some sort of training should be mandated to obtain a concealed carry permit, but it should be focused on the laws governing concealed carry and the defensive use of firearms, with the students being encouraged to take more advanced gun handling and self defense courses. This is already the case for driver’s licenses: you have to pass a law test before being issued a license (the driving test portion in most sates is a joke). Does this make for better concealed carry permit holders and better drivers? Not necessarily, but it does make permit holders aware of the law, which decreases the chances of law abiding citizens unwittingly violating it.

Van Phillips

I agree with the need for education and training, and that those are separate issues. And, I think we all agree that criminals could care less about training.

In my Basic Pistol Classes, I include a section about “Self Defense” and approach it from two points.

1. That if that is why you are in this class it will
a. take more training
b. open up other issues that are NOT covered here and need to be addressed in the NRA self defense In the Home and the one for self defense Outside of the Home (And show pictures of the study book covers for both classes).

2. That the decision to use your pistol for self defense
a. can not be made in the moment (and I show a couple of video clips of people who have had to use it) . I point out that I’ve had two students over the years who have lost loved ones form their own gun, because they were unwilling in the moment to use the weapon. and
b. really requires more advanced classes, that include tactical training, and followed by consistent practice and preparedness.


NOT to get too far OFF subject, HAVING TO HAVE a “LICENSE” TO A “RIGHT” – (TRAVEL FREELY) ie “DRIVERS LICENSE”, Yet the dumbed down MURIKINS are clueless. THE UNITES STATES is NOT the united states of America, UNTIL people LEARN they TRUTH.. we’ll ALWAYS REMAIN DIVIDED!


Yea, and bigmouth idiots will be required to leave their vocal cords at home until attending the required “free speech sensibilities” course.

I suggest that the gangs with illegal guns should be subject to progressive requirements in order to keep their guns considering that THEY are the ones generating the STATISTICS that are being used to force the “discussion”.



“Yea, and bigmouth idiots will be required to leave their vocal cords at
home until attending the required “free speech sensibilities” course.”

If you want to be the one to take a trip to Houston Texas and tell that to Sheila Jackson Lee, please be my guest.


3rd paragraph and you already lost a bunch of readers, using some connection to religion; why, I don’t know.


The 2nd Amendment doesn’t say that in order to exercise our God-given right to BEAR arms, that we need to have gubment-sanctioned training first.

Douglas Moose

If you believe in the purpose of the 2nd Amendment, it was to have a “well regulated militia.” That means trained. So, not only is there a RIGHT stated, there is also a DUTY on the part of those who keep and bear arms — the duty to be trained.

As for safety, the NRA has the experience and number of trainers to get the job done. My state mandates a training affidavit to register handguns. One source of the affidavit is a certified NRA instructor.

I’d be okay if the states mandated training, but stop short of stating the requirements beyond NRA certified. Generic wording for teaching the federal, state and local laws plus live fire should be sufficient. If changes need to be made in the training, the NRA can incorporate those.

As for LE and military, that’s a toss-up as to their training being adequate. If the state allows CCW, I think the NRA course should be taken by everyone. Cost for military and LE could be subsidized if the state wishes.