On a Wednesday morning last month, a week after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a group of seven retired men gathered outside the shooting range in the basement of Deerfield Pistol & Archery Center.
Similar gatherings take place each morning in gas stations, fast food joints, golf course clubhouses, barber shops all over the country. Flannel shirts, coffee, donuts, news analysis and a good amount of grief.
“They’re done shooting at targets,” said Brett Fankhauser, the store’s general manager, as he led a tour of the shop. “Now they’re shooting the bull.”
A quick poll of the seven men revealed that all had served in the military, one was a former law enforcement officer and four carried concealed guns every day. In a short discussion about whether that’s something more people should do, one gentleman made his opinion clear with nodding approval from his friends.
“The state says all you need to carry concealed is a hunter safety course,” he said. “And I think that’s a bunch of bunk.”
Fankhauser and Scott Whiting, the store’s owner, generally agree with that sentiment. The shop stocks an impressive inventory of guns and accessories, along with police and security uniforms. It also offers its own concealed carry class and a full slate of shooting instruction and law enforcement certification.
Their philosophy on concealed carry is summed up by Fankhauser: “I agree with the right to carry a gun, but I don’t agree with the right to carry a gun just ‘cuz.”
Whiting, who worked in law enforcement for 20 years, and Fankhauser, a security guard and volunteer fire fighter, hosted a Cap Times reporter in Deerfield and answered several questions about their business and the current gun debate.
Who’s coming in to take your concealed carry classes?
Fankhauser: From beginning shooters to people who have shot a long time. The fact that Wisconsin takes hunter education as training really limited the number of people we see, because everybody in Wisconsin has had hunter education and a lot of those people will just use that to get their permit. But the ones we do see are at least responsible enough to come and get some training.
Whiting: We get all ages, all nationalities, all income levels. It’s really amazing.
What do you teach in that class?
Fankhauser: The state of Wisconsin tells us we need to cover certain things: gun safety, gun handling.
Whiting: Legality. Where you can go, what you can do. Locations you can carry in. The state sets the standard. At minimum you have to cover this and then can add additional things. We’ve added a lot to ours, above and beyond.
What are some of the important things you’ve added?
Whiting: Liability. There’s a color code system about awareness of your surroundings. Police contacts.
Fankhauser: Physical and psychological reactions to high stress and how that’s going to affect you during and after an incident.
Whiting: Range qualification. We put that into ours and the state doesn’t require that. We make you go on to the range and show that you can actually handle, load and unload and safely, effectively use your firearm. A lot of places out there are holding classes in a hotel somewhere and you never even touch a firearm. What kind of a class is that? They watch a movie. Here it’s hands on.
Are you expecting them to shoot with some degree of accuracy?
Fankhauser: We expect you to handle the gun safely and be able to control the firearm when you shoot. When I do the qualification and they bring the targets back, I say, “Count your holes.” We shoot 25 rounds. If you don’t have 25 rounds on paper, those other rounds are killing people. They’re liabilities. Until you’re putting all those rounds on paper, I’d suggest not carrying.
Whiting: And that’s where we give ‘em the spiel. We say, “Look at where you’re hitting. Do you feel you can defend yourself and others from an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm and do it effectively?” And the answer sometimes is no. Well then we say you should get in here, get some personalized training so we can make you a better, safer shooter.
What do you think motivates newcomers, people who come in fresh, almost a ground zero?
Whiting: A lot of it’s the media. Personal protection. And a lot of them are like, “This world’s getting crazy.” Look at Madison. There’s a gun incident in Madison just about every day. There’s either a random shooting, shots fired, somebody got shot, a burglary where guns are stolen. That never used to be.
Fankhauser: And maybe it wasn’t reported as much.
Whiting: And part of it’s that people are worried about their rights. There’s a good percentage of people out there who don’t want firearms in America. And I think there’s a lot of people who say, “What happens if the government comes in and says we don’t want guns anymore?” What’s next? Freedom of press? Search warrants?
Arming teachers is a flashpoint in this discussion about school safety. What do you think about when you hear that?
Fankhauser: I’d rather see them screen schools than arm teachers. If you post a place as no guns, you’d better make sure there’s no guns there. Everybody’s against making our schools like prisons, but if you put trained personnel at the doors, you have them walk through metal detectors…
Whiting: In the Florida incident, the officer who was supposed to handle the call didn’t go in to handle the call. That’s not the teacher’s role. So now you’ve got an armed teacher, what happens if an incident occurs? They’re overrun, now you’ve got a firearm loose. If the police are going in to respond to an active shooter and you’ve got someone in the hall with a gun, they’re going to get shot.
How long would it take to get a standard teacher, starting at zero, to the point where you’d feel comfortable with them carrying in the classroom?
Fankhauser: To see the broad base of shooters we see here, and that’s people who want to come here and learn to shoot, the lion’s share of them I wouldn’t want as a defender. Average at best.
Whiting: Shooting a firearm requires a skill set. It’s a repetition of consistency to make it muscle memory. That’s why SWAT guys are SWAT guys, because they go out and train every week. And they’re good at it. The only way you can be good at it is to go do it. Unfortunately, most people don’t take the time. It’s costly and you’d probably lose interest. You have to come out a couple hours each week.
Fankhauser: They don’t have time to do everything they need to do to teach. Ninety-nine out of 100 teachers at my kids’ schools, I’d prefer they focus on their teaching. Let’s hire trained personnel to secure the schools. And they’re getting better. Entryways are locked, they limit how you get in there. But there’s still nobody at that entryway. If I wanted to get in…
Whiting: Shorewood Hills. They buzzed that father in and he walked right to the classroom and handed the teacher a note. You shouldn’t be able to get into a school without a resource officer meeting you at the door and escorting you where you need to go.
You’ve got a group of gentlemen downstairs having coffee and talking. How often are they talking about these issues?
Whiting: Every day. Somebody comes in and says, hey did you see what Channel 3 said? What Fox News said? What the paper said? What CNN said? Every day. We’ve got a large group of people who are Second Amendmenters.
Fankhauser: Cold dead hands.
Whiting: "You’re not getting my guns, I’m going to do what I want to do." Then you’ve got guys who are more liberal and say, "Well listen, maybe we shouldn’t have all these guns." We’re kind of in the middle.