Let me begin by stating that I am in favor of firearms training. I am a firearms 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 thirty-eight states have some form of training requirement to obtain a concealed handgun license. That translates to just over 75 percent 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 in mind, examine the effects of state training requirements.
Often in discussions around guns and legislation someone will proclaim, “It’s about freedom!” For others, the lyrics to a popular song come to mind,
I’d thank my lucky stars
To be living here today Cause the flag still stands for freedom And they can’t take that away.1
But freedom in what sense? Contrary to the sentiments of Mr. Greenwood, what is usually meant is freedom from responsibility or the freedom to do whatever I want. But the fact is, that’s not freedom, it’s anarchy. True freedom is freedom unto responsibility (Eph. 2:10, Rom. 8:7) to fulfill our covenantal duties before God (Gen. 1:28) with all our might without interference. Because of our sin nature, true freedom is also marked with the mistakes, failures, and risks that modern man cannot stand. Being lawless by nature, he is a slave at heart (to sin) and demands all the benefits of maturity but with none of the responsibility. 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. We do well to look to the Scriptures for a true understanding of man’s flight from maturity, as Dr. Rushdoony titled it, specifically at the time of the Exodus. Multiple times we see the covenant people that had been taken out of slavery in Egypt by God’s gracious power but were still slaves in their hearts. They murmured (Exod. 17:3), they complained (Exod. 5:21,16:3), they revolted (Num. 16:11–13), and they longed to return to slavery rather than face the problems of freedom (Exod. 14:11–12). Dr. Rushdoony stated it clearly,
So that the Israelites, in turning on Moses were saying “We don’t want a future,” and that’s the mark of slavery. A slavery situation means you don’t gamble, you don’t risk anything. You don’t have a future because it’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. You’re cared for from cradle to grave. You don’t have the options of advancing yourself. It’s a risk-free society, and this is exactly what people today want, risk-free society. And this is why we are becoming slave people, and unless God breaks that in us, we will be a slave people…2
Lest we should think that we are somehow different than the ancient Hebrews, we must remember that Christ has led His people out in the true exodus to victory, of which the prior exodus was a type (Luke 9:31). Therefore, we face the same problem of a hunger for slavery in both the unregenerate and the covenant peoples—the former being part of their sin nature and the latter as part of their sanctification. Again, Dr. Rushdoony statement was prescient,
What Israel wanted was not God, but miracles guaranteeing security. Slavery under Pharaoh meant security, and it seemed preferable to freedom under God, because freedom means uncertainties and responsibilities. This is why politics has replaced Christianity as the central concern of many peoples. Politics succeeds by the promise of security, which is another way of saying slavery. The slave may or may not have a good life, but the slave has cradle-to-grave security. Slave revolts are simply destructive because the slave’s vision rarely extends beyond security. This is why, when politics becomes primary in the life of the people, the people are headed for slavery.3
Later, ancient Rome held, “Salus populi suprema lex esto” or “The health of the people is the highest law.” Rome’s premise was built upon cradle-to-grave security in the context of salvation by law that could be summed up as: the force of law will force the heart to change. 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.”4 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 forward 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 the possibility of 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 or 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. The problem is not limited to firearms training, either, as required driver’s education programs have similarly 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 of 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 hidden behind the pretense of ensuring safety.
Third, it reveals something about us when we press for mandated training: we are statist slaves 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: the godly in their sense of gratitude for the grace of God and the ungodly by seeking to limit their exposure to liability.
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.
What, Then, Do We Do?
As covenant men and women, we have been restored back into our original dominion mandate under Christ and as a part of our new humanity in Him. We must first recognize that without risks there are no blessings. Every business owner starts off with the risk that the venture may fail but, despite this, presses forward for prosperity. As Christians, we must be on the front lines teaching people about their covenant duty to defend life (Exod. 20:13) in a Biblically lawful manner, including the potential for liabilities. We must teach the Biblical penalties for those that take life, regardless of the tool they use, and the blessings of God upon a faithful society. As the Holy Spirit regenerates hearts that are no longer bound to slavery, He renews hearts open to His every Word with a hunger. But those that look at the cost of such freedom and decide it is not for them would then fit into the category of the servant who chooses voluntary slavery over freedom:
And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. (Exod. 21:5–7)
We are commanded to pursue maturity (2 Tim. 3:16–17, Heb. 5:12–13) and freedom (1 Cor. 7:22–23) by walking by faith according to the law-word of God. This is not a lawless anarchy with its death and destruction, but a responsible blessed peace for man and society. State mandates only serve as a statist thermometer of sorts, warning us when we are coming down with a bad case of slavery due to a lack of faith. But we have the certainty of knowing “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). While this does not mean life without failure or problems, it does mean that all things are under His sovereign control and ordered for our good.
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.
1. Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA,” 1984.
2. Rushdoony, “Exodus: Unity of Law and Grace, The Loneliness of Moses,” audio lecture RR171H15.
3. Rushdoony, “Numbers: Faith, Law, and History, The Cowardice of the People,” audio lecture RR181N25.
4. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book II Chap. 3, www.constitution.org/jjr/socon_02.htm