Tags: Staff Editorial
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October 15, 2013 | 03:51 PMGenoa City Police Chief Joe Balog is serious about firearms training.
He's a former SWAT officer and U.S. Army Paratrooper, and he teaches all sorts of classes on firearm safety and personal defense.
I attended Balog's most recent class at American Legion Post 183 in Genoa City. All payment received for the class was donated to the Legion.
I haven't held a handgun since my last Army field training exercises more than a year ago and holding a Glock was a treat for me.
It was kind of a mess, too. I have small hands. The Glock I was using was Balog's service handgun.
The slide is hard to manipulate while keeping control of the gun. I still need to search to find the right fit for me.
Balog suggested before buying a gun, before carrying a gun, especially before concealed carrying a gun, get familiar with it.
Hold it, practice with it, wear it. Be comfortable with it.
He also said to have a plan.
"If you're going to be carrying a firearm around, you have to be prepared to extinguish a human life," Balog said. "Have a plan for what you're going to do if a situation comes up that you need to defend yourself."
The best option is to avoid risky situations.
"If you're going somewhere that you wouldn't go without your gun, why are you going there?" Balog asked. "Maybe you just shouldn't go there if you feel that threatened."
In that situation, the best thing to do is run. Balog called this the "Nike defense."
If you can't run, then hide.
"Only then, if you can't run, if you can't hide, fight back," Balog said. "The safest thing is to not be in that situation in the first place."
Realistic and scary
Hearing Balog talk about situations in which he's had to draw and use his gun are chilling. It's nice to think that police are just out giving speeding tickets and helping kids cross the street.
Balog's experience on the Beloit SWAT team wasn't like that.
I wish we lived in a world that we didn't need to defend ourselves with guns. It's not realistic to think that those things will only happen to other people in other places.
It's scary to think this, but realistic, because someone who wants to hurt other people will find a way to do it.
"I see you guys, those that get (concealed carry) permits, as an extension of law enforcement," Balog said. "It's an extra set of eyes and ears. The police can't do it alone."
Balog is glad responsible citizens are carrying guns, but it doesn't always make life easy for police officers.
"Follow law enforcement directions (if they approach you and you're carrying)," he said. "If you're pulled over at a traffic stop, tell the officer that you have a license and are carrying. Don't reach for the gun."
Common sense, right?
Balog said people are often too excited to show a weapon to police.
"The bottom line is that me and my guys are going home at the end of the night," he said. "I always expect to be handcuffed when I'm carrying (a concealed gun) in another jurisdiction and the police arrive (at an incident). They don't know me from Joe on the street. They want to keep safe, too."
The police know that concealed carry is legal. Balog said they aren't trying to disarm properly licensed residents.
The class is only a four-hour commitment. That's a little scary, too.
Balog said he'd like it to be an eight-hour class, with time spent on a range shooting.
In the class, we didn't spend any time learning to holster or unholster a gun. We did learn to load and unload a gun.
We didn't learn any shooting stances or proper shooting technique. We did learn about different types of pepper spray.
I would have liked to learn a lot more, and I have six years experience handling firearms.
Balog said a concealed carry class is the absolute minimum standard for carrying a gun.
I haven't applied for my state concealed carry permit yet. It's a $40 fee, and the permit lasts for five years before needing to reapply.
I'm going to wait until I find a gun that I can control and that feels comfortable.