I know, I know, concealed carry permits, or Concealed Handgun Permits as North Carolina calls them, are for the most dedicated shooters, the people who want to be armed 24/7 (except anywhere alcohol is sold and consumed, or anywhere that charges admission, or …) but bear with me! I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but for completely new shooters looking for an entry in to the hobby, I think it could make some sense.
But first, a brief legal review of NC gun laws. In this state, to buy any gun, you have to pass a federal NICS background check at the time of the purchase from a dealer. To buy a handgun, however, you have to either turn over a Pistol Purchase Permit, or show a valid CHP at the time of purchase, both of which are applied for and received from the sheriff of the county in which you reside. North Carolina is a “shall issue” state, meaning unless the Sheriff’s Department has a good reason to deny you, they must issue you the permit in a timely manner (45 days or less). Usually Pistol Purchase Permits are issued after a week or two, so they can be a way to save up to a month of waiting if you are ready to buy a gun today. Purchase Permits are, additionally, cheaper, last for five years, and don’t require you to take a class or pass a test. Ahh, and here’s where it gets interesting.
The North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit class is taught with varying amounts of rigor from a few hours in someone’s dining room to a convention center hall with 100+ students. The class is, by law, required to cover the topics of not just the legal use of force under state law, but handgun nomenclature, safety, and fundamentals; marksmanship fundamentals including grip and stance; presentation techniques; cleaning and maintenance; ammunition; and proficiency drills. This is then followed by a proscribed live fire qualifier that could be passed by anyone with reasonable physical faculty and a quality firearm, no real training or practice required.
Since requiring some kind of test to prove knowledge and proficiency with a handgun would have been legally tenuous, the class accomplishes the goal of making sure that everyone with a CHP had at least some rudimentary education in safety, technique, and weapons handling so as to not be a gross danger to themselves or others.
Do I think that the NC CHP class is a good foundation for learning to actually shoot a gun well instead of regurgitating bullet points on good technique? Of course not. Do I think that the class is sufficient training to shoot well at the range, much less to save your life? In short, no.
But as a baseline class to establish things like basic weapon manipulation, a revolver vs a semi-auto, how to load, unload, show clear, and field strip your gun (if you have one to bring, they’ll help you with that stuff if you don’t know it already), I think it’s decent. The class won’t make you a great shot, but it’ll at least point you in the right direction on a lot of gun-related topics you might not know about. And for a full day of training, it’s usually not too expensive depending on where you go.
And of course, if you actually get trained and proficient before going to the class, a lot of it will end being boring review.
But even more important, I think, than what you learn in the class, is the general utility of having your permit even from day one. Once you have your permit, you can buy a handgun on the spot, from a dealer or private seller, without having to go get a PPP or carry one with you all the time. You can be less concerned about transporting a handgun, for example, in the backseat of your car rather than in the trunk, the former requiring a CHP unless it’s clearly visible, i.e. lying on the seat.
And eventually, one day you might find yourself comfortable enough with your handgun, after receiving good quality training and having practiced with it, to decide to actually carry concealed. No making a note to remember to go file the paperwork at the courthouse and wait a month, just slip the gun on and head out to the 7-11.