"You can legally draw your weapon if you see people fighting dan-gus-ly, but only after you declare your desire for peach."
Huh? What do stone fruit have to do with a citizen responding with lethal force? The man teaching my Concealed Weapons class in an industrial park on north McHenry Avenue wasn't a day under 70 and spoke like he had something in his mouth. Perhaps a snack cake of some type. I'm pretty sure he meant "peace," but I was drifting off, three hours into the eight-hour training I had to go through to get my permit, and he was impossible to follow.
He started with a strong question — "Are you prepared to kill someone to protect yourself?" — but degenerated into anecdotes of encounters with stupid criminals in his long police career as the class wore on. Cute, but I needed some serious guidance if I was going to walk around California and 16 other states with a pistol under my shirt. Can I keep it in my truck when I'm in meetings? — "Bad (unintelligible), but we prolly won't arrest cha."
Can I take it out if the guy is really big and kind of threatening me but isn't showing a weapon? — "Uhhh same thing."
The tests came out in hour four, and all dozen of us in class passed — I guess. We never got the tests back nor saw the results. Then we were off to the range in a cramped basement in Salida. I cowardly crept behind a chubby general contractor as we watched a classmate, a middle-aged woman, fire her revolver for what clearly was her first time. She had one hand on the gun, the other pressed against the side of her head in preparation for the blast.
Then I had to survive the police background check and interview. The detective who called just wanted to talk about my job ("That sounds really interesting") and I was good to strap my gun on before I drove back to Oakdale from Riverbank.
Maybe I got one of the bad instructors and the thousands of newly armed citizens walking around Stanislaus County packing heat got outstanding training from dynamic, rigorous trainers. But if you're fighting and hear a voice behind you demanding peaches, you best freeze, shugga. I've got a gun and I don't how to use it.
Steve Taylor is a behavior analyst who lives in Oakdale.