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Aiming to enhance self defense: Permit to carry class

Brian Nelson, a retired law enforcement officer who served as Perham's police chief, operates course which can qualify gun owners to carry a concealed weapon. Submitted photo

Like everyone else, Brian Nelson is the sum of his experiences, and he has seen more than his share of violence.

To do what he can to counter the violence, Nelson offers a class called "Tactical Defense Systems" which teaches people how to defend themselves in deadly situations. Nelson, who has taught both public and private classes all over Minnesota, puts on classes each month in Perham which can put qualified people on the road to obtaining a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The former Perham police chief will be one of the first to tell you that carrying a handgun is a right for law-abiding citizens.

"I tell them, 'You are a responsible gun owner, you behave that way, you represent all of us.'"

At the same time, the burden the permit holder carries is a heavy one.

"With the ability to be able to use deadly force comes a huge responsibility because in our culture life is sacred," Nelson said. "The laws are written so that using deadly force is an absolute last resort to resolving a problem. It's when your life or when someone else's life is in danger."

Nelson takes pride in the fact that so many of those taking his classes understand the message. He has also found there is ample evidence to bear out permit to carry gun owners are right far more than they are wrong when it comes to actually using this deadly force. The reason is a natural human instinct.

"It's unnatural to kill another human being," Nelson said.

The escalation of mass murders, especially in schools, has alarmed many Americans.

Nelson's personal advice to combating this terrible situation would be to always have guns in the schools but in the hands of trained and responsible people who would not wear uniforms and would conceal their weapons at all times.

He says wearing a uniform can put a big target on a person. The first person shot at the Red Lake (Minn.) school in 2005 was an unarmed school security officer. Ten people, including the shooter, died in the murder spree.

The Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, which took 58 lives, and the abundance of school shootings in the U.S. in 2018 has pushed gun violence into the national spotlight. As of late May, an average of one shooting per week had occurred in U.S. schools in 2018. The largest happened Feb. 14 at a high school in Parkland, Fla. when 17 students and adults were murdered by a former student.

While the interest in permit to carry classes have exploded all over the country in the last several years, Nelson said that the greatest influx of students in his classes came after Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008.

The perception that there was a threat of losing their Second Amendment rights triggered the explosion of interest, according to Nelson. The Second Amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

"When he (Obama) was elected the first time my classes doubled and tripled in size," Nelson said. "When he was elected the second time the same thing happened. I almost sent him a thank you card."

Nelson believes the "anti-gunners" have been largely responsible for the interest shown by Americans taking permit to carry training.

"With their rhetoric, talking about more restrictions, more gun laws, it has had a reverse effect," Nelson said. "I've had people who have come to my class who were somewhat apathetic about it, and they said, 'the moment they start talking about tampering with a freedom, I want to exercise it.'"

Many of Nelson's students do not carry handguns even though they have the right. As a peace officer, Nelson had to carry one, but like many others, he sometimes considered it a nuisance.

"Bad guys are going to behave like bad guys, criminals don't follow the rules, that's what makes them criminals," Nelson said. "Look at Chicago, it's virtually impossible to own a gun, and yet they had 24,000 shootings last year and 774 homicides. Someone's not following the rules."

Nelson pointed out there are 27,000 gun laws on the books nationally in the U.S. and yet handguns are used lawfully 2.5 million times a year in the country.

"I live in the real world, I'm sorry," Nelson said. "Will Rogers said it best, 'Your right to swing your hand ends at my nose.'"

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