Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to get a Concealed Weapons Permit in Florida.

Even though this article is written for Floridians, the process and points I make are very similar in other states.  What ever your reasons are for getting a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) are your own, but more and more I see people getting one because our current political climate is making people think this right will be taken away.  This is a right that law abiding citizens have, and just because you carry a concealed weapon, does not mean you have the right to use it.  The laws around this are very strict, and somewhat complicated.  Educate yourself.

In Florida CWP licensing is a Florida Department of Agriculture responsibility.  Normally I like to hyperlink the website, but since this has been changing lately I'll point you in the right direction.  The site is, and you need to go to the Division of Licensing, where all the forms and instructions can be downloaded.  They used to mail out packets, but I think that's been discontinued.  Here is a condensed version of the process. 

Fees to expect:
License fee: $70
Fingerprint fees: $42 (may be less)
Passport photo: $10
Training fees: Free to $150 depending on type

1. Read the Chapter 790, of the Florida Statutes and see if it is for you. alternate link here
2. Download the application and instructions here.  The application must be signed in front of a Notary.
3. Get your finger prints taken at a local police or sheriff's office.  If you submit the traditional fingerprint card with your application, it will cost you $42 more.  If you have law enforcement electronically send in your prints, they will charge you a fee, but it is less and will speed up the process for you.  The overall cost of this is about the same, but it is a real time saver.
4. Have your passport photo taken, you will need to submit this with the application.  Be sure to read the application instructions about this.
5. You will need to submit a "training certificate".  The rest of this story addresses this training requirement.

I (and others) teach many firearms classes, but the two most people are interested in are FWC Hunter Safety, held normally once a month (8 to 16 hours), NRA First Steps Pistol Orientation (3-4 hours) and NRA Basic Pistol (8-10 hours).  The only way you can have a course last only an hour or two is if you come in with previous, near expert knowledge.

The Florida CWP requirement for training is "You must be able to demonstrate competency with a firearm.", which is a very broad statement, and often misinterpreted.  Some less than honest instructors are willing to take your money under the guise of Concealed Weapons Permit Training.  Buyer beware, know the requirement.  Below is text copied from FL DACS - Question 6, Application Instructions:

Florida law requires you to submit proof of competency with a firearm in order to qualify for a concealed weapon license. A copy of a CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION or similar document from any of the following courses or classes is acceptable:

• any hunter education or hunter safety course approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or a similar agency in another state;
• any National Rifle Association firearms safety or training course;
• any firearms safety or training course or class available to the general public offered by a law enforcement agency, junior college, college, or private or public institution or organization or firearms training school, utilizing instructors certified by the National Rifle Association, the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;
• any law enforcement firearms safety or training course or class offered for security officers, investigators, special deputies, or any division or subdivision of law enforcement or security enforcement;
• any firearms training or safety course or class conducted by a state-certified instructor or by an instructor certified by the National Rifle Association.

The copy of the training certificate/document must be clear and legible. The certificate/document must include your name, your instructor’s name, your instructor’s qualifications/credentials (National Rifle Association instructor, law enforcement firearms instructor, Class “K” Firearms Instructor licensed by the State of Florida, etc.), and your instructor’s license/certification number.
FL FWC Hunter Safety classes can be found here.
NRA Training Programs can be found here.
NRA Courses near you can be found here.

Hunter Safety is about a 12 hour class and $10 (sometimes free) and my NRA class is 3 hours and $60 per person.  I have significant family discounts.  There are many other good classes that can qualify you for your application, but the important thing is that you feel confident in safe firearms handling, and you are aware of the laws that apply to your new permit.  Neither of my classes deal with CWP laws to a significant degree, because FWC nor the NRA wish to carry that liability of giving legal advice.  To get the advice you need for legal purposes, read the law and consult law enforcement and / or an attorney.

Final note - I hope this process will prompt you to practice your firearm safety and skills for a long time, and it will not be something you get and then forget.  Use this opportunity to meet people at a local shooting range or gun club.  I think you'll find shooting sports and the people you meet to be fun and rewarding.  Also, when you go through this process share it with your family, especially your children.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - My Early Years as an Adult, Part 4

My senior year in high school I was as active as ever in my new Christian faith. I began to ignore my mom’s requests to attend Mormon events. I had no desire to go, nor did I even know anyone there. All the while I could see how much it meant to her.

Before graduating high school (1977) I went to my Presbyterian church and spoke with the pastor. I felt I was being called to the ministry. We discussed it, and he with the church leadership and I prayed about it. A few weeks later I was notified by mail that the church had awarded me a $1500 scholarship to college, and made arrangements for me to go to Austin College, a liberal arts Presbyterian school in Sherman, Texas. So I did.

At college I was a Pre-Theology Major and studied mostly general education, but I also took classes to apply toward seminary. I wasn’t a very good student in math or science, but I excelled in the Christian and theology classes. Philosophy and religious history fascinate me to this day. In the dorm I was very much distracted by partying and goofing around. I seemed to slip away from my Christian friends and go more toward people who had little to no belief in God. I stayed away from my family completely, because every time we spoke they would express their disappointment in my religious choice.
After my first year of college (September 1979), I attended a class at Brigham Young University at the recommendation of my father. The class was Youth Leadership 480, Outdoor Survival. YL 480 was comparable to Outward Bound, an extreme survival course and just as rigorous, but had higher morals and spiritual-academic components. The reason I am including it here, is that it was a life changing event, and probably had the greatest short term impact on my life thus far.

On survival about thirty of us spent 29 days in the desert of southern Utah, learning the survival skills of great outdoorsman Larry Dean Olsen. We hiked over 450 miles in that month and survived on miniscule amounts of food and water. I drank from potholes and learned to eat bugs. We worked together as large and small communities, as well as alone. During part of our trek, we were able to spend seven days completely alone along the banks of the Escalante River without books, tools or hobbies. The only conversation we had was with ourselves or God. It was at this point where I decided to show my parents and family respect by following their advice and go on a LDS mission. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to them. They told me it would help me make up my mind in regards my faith, and I tended to agree. Now I can see they probably thought it would convert me back to their faith, once and for all. Only God knows our motives sometimes.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do You Receive God's Grace In Vain?

I've been reading my Bible daily, as per this new plan I started a week ago.  Every day of the year it has a reading, and coincidentally it started me out in Corinthians.  The funny part is, that every day I've read so far, it seemed to have just the right verse for me and the particular situation I happened to be in.  Today was no exception.

Over my lunch hour I got some discouraging news about a particular job I applied for, that I thought was in the bag.  I felt I was the perfect candidate for this one.  In spite of my enlarged ego, I tried to remain humble, putting it in God's hands and actually saying, thinking and believing I wanted God's will to be done.  Then the bad news came via an email and I was so discouraged.

When I read my chapter for the day, I didn't read out of dispair, but because it was time to and this appeared...

2 Corinthians 6: 1-2 - 1. As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (NIV)

What hit me was this: "...not to receive God’s grace in vain."  I have never heard or read that before.  This means to me, that His grace is all abounding and sufficient, and I am experiencing it in every aspect of my life.  Just because this particular thing didn't turn out the way I wanted, does not mean He doesn't have a hand in my life.  I thank the Lord for His Word, and providing me comfort around the clock, and especially in times of need.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - My Acknowledging Christ, Part 3

Mormons don’t call God, God much; they refer to Him primarily as Heavenly Father. They call Jesus - Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost. The strongest influence upon my spirituality from the age of eight to fourteen was the Boy Scout program. My troop taught us to live true to the Scout Oath, Law and ideals, among which was “a Scout is reverent”. I was also very active my 10th through the 12th grade in Young Life and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). I have to admit my attendance was initially for social reasons, not spiritual. Soon though I loved the stories and how much happier I felt when it was over. I felt peace and hopeful. I remember vaguely one evening, sitting on the floor and then standing up when the Youth Minister called people to come forward, who wanted to accept Christ as their Savior and follow Him. I did that evening thirty-eight years ago when I was fifteen. I continued to be active in those organizations, taking a leadership role in FCA. My junior and senior year, the entire starting lineup on our football team were Christians.

In the 10th and 11th grade Kelly was my girl friend. I became very close to her entire family. She helped me get to know God and what it meant to be a Christian by our talks and Bible reading, associations with her friends and family and by going to her church, Ridglea Presbyterian in Fort Worth. I eventually joined the church because it felt like home. To this day the fellowship I received was the most wonderful thing I had experienced to that point. We eventually broke up because my family was Mormon and she kept degrading and criticizing the faith of my family. It was devastating. Also traumatic was the reaction my family had when they learned of my joining the Presbyterian church. I never felt “Presbyterian”, but as a member of a body of believers. Even the next year when I dated Tina and attended the Methodist church, I felt like a Christian, and that I was loved and accepted. I think because they were Methodists, they loved and accepted me, and tolerated my family’s religion. Methodists seem one of the most tolerant religions.

I never felt that my new faith was accepted by my family members, or my old faith accepted by my high school friends except for Tina and a few others. My brothers and sisters preached to me about how wrong I was, and wept for my leaving the Mormon faith. My mom was sad that I did so, but my father never expressed his opinion. My sense is that he loved me, and knew I was on my own journey. This was a whole new experience for me. I really loved God, but felt so conflicted by those around me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

St. Francis Prayer Still Brings Comfort

I'll never grow tired of reading this prayer of Saint Francis. What is commonly referred to as the Eleventh Step Prayer in AA, or the Prayer of St. Francis, provides us specific direction on how to live God's will.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace that where there is hatred, I may bring love that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness that where there is discord, I may bring harmony that where there is error, I may bring truth that where there is doubt, I may bring faith that where there is despair, I may bring hope that where there are shadows, I may bring light that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted to understand, than to be understood to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

May all who read it find comfort and strength.   


Wrestling With Obedience

I was raised in a church who's faith was very obedience dependant. Sure, they acknowledged the sacrifice of Jesus and the saving of all mankind by His Atonement - but they also placed obedience to God's Laws as prerequisite to ultimate salvation. By ultimate salvation I mean a Celestial kind of glory, or "better" Heaven than the rest of Christ's followers might possibly attain.
This way of believing, supported by the Bible in their view, goes directly in the face of mainstream Christianity - hence the struggle I've had.
In our daily walk with God as we understand Him, we must realize and know that we can only do our best and if we are making that sincere effort, asking God for help, that's all we can do.  For me (and many) obedience to God's commandments is our way of saying "thank you" to our Creator and opens up special opportunities for us to follow His Spirit and accomplish His will.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - My Upbringing, Part 2

I was born in 1959 to the parents of Karl and Irene in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am the youngest of six children. Both of my parents were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or Mormon church. As an infant I was blessed and named in the church shortly after birth. I do not remember ever being associated with any other faith or religion. My mom was a devout member of the LDS church from my earliest memories until she died in 2001, as was her entire family in Utah and Idaho. My dad was raised as a Minnesota Lutheran and later converted to the Mormon church not long after he married my mom. I have two brothers and three sisters. From oldest down, they include Karl, Kristi, Julia, John and Irene.

The three oldest children I know were active LDS. Karl and Julia served as missionaries for two or three years when they were in their twenties, both in Taiwan. My oldest sister Kristi married a returned missionary and has always fully embraced her faith. Growing up we lived in Texas, and I recollect my sister Irene going to church quite frequently growing up, and her having friends there. My brother John went to church as I recall, but with our age and interest difference (~8 years), we didn’t communicate very much. My attendance at the Mormon church was much less than my siblings. I recall not wanting to go, my dad not going very often, and sometimes my mom dropping me off at Wednesday night meetings. The talk of going to church virtually always produced an argument in the family. The reasons for me not wanting to attend were not philosophical, but social. I didn’t have any friends there. There may have been one other kid from my school there, but we weren’t good friends.

During that time I knew of God. At eight years old, I was baptized on a Saturday afternoon. I was wearing all white clothes, and so did the man who baptized me. I think it was my dad, but I am not sure. To this day I remember the man saying a prayer, and dunking me fully under water. LDS people baptize by immersion, and do so in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I remember two witnesses watching real close, and how clean I felt afterwards. After I dried off and changed clothes, I sat in a chair in front of a small group of friends and some men put their hands on my head, and said a prayer including the words “receive the Holy Ghost”. I know my dad was one of the men this time. This is not a unique experience for young Mormon people. It happens this way with most LDS children at the age of eight, when they are considered the “age of accountability”.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - Introduction, Part 1

They say there comes a time in everyone’s life when they must evaluate themselves to see where they stand regarding their moral character, relationship with a higher power or place in the universe. That has recently happened to me. I felt required to define and describe my spirituality on paper, making it concrete saying, “This is where I stand, and I want everyone to know it – at least those closest to me.”

This story may change over time due to my recollection of facts and motivations, but overall it is quite accurate. I have no idea how my father or grand-father felt about God, and I don’t want that to happen to my kids with me.

I was raised in a Christian home by wonderful parents, with normal human characteristics. They taught me to acknowledge God and believe in Jesus. Over time that belief has developed and become my most important treasure, and I want my family to appreciate my journey and take from it an example to learn from, for good and for bad. Experiences and people who challenge us, sometime teach us more than those we readily accept or agree with. My faith is similar to many others, but different than most. One thing for certain is that I’m not ashamed of it, and I want my family to use it to build their own, find their own unique relationship with God, nurture it, and in turn share it with others.

My Most Significant Ash Wednesday Ever

Last night I rushed to the church to attend the Ash Wednesday service, and I got there right on time.  The irony was I didn't know why I was there, other than its a Christian tradition and that's where I needed to be.

The Pastor did a great job explaining to us the reason for the holiday.  She explained that on this day, ashes are placed on the foreheads of the congregation, marking each forehead with the sign of the cross.  Traditionally people also wore sackcloth, or clothing made from the rough material of burlap. This ritual echoes the ancient eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to signify repentance before God.  In her sermon she explained that this day signifies the first day of Lent, representing the first day Christ went out into the wilderness and fasted for forty days.  At the end of the forty days will come Good Friday, the day of Crucifixion and then Easter, the day of Resurrection.

The scripture she read was 1 Samuel 15:22 - But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  I really like this approach to the term sacrifice.  When we obey, we are giving up self-will, which is very much a human sacrifice, shown to us by the ultimate sacrifice and act of obedience - Jesus giving himself up on the cross.  He obeyed His Father.

I don't know if I fully understand the significance of the event, but to me it is a day of sorrow and repentance for the things that I've done wrong, my disobedience to God, keeping His commandments and most of all the affect it has had on those around me.  After receiving the charcoal marking on my forehead, I went to the alter to pray.  I prayed for forgiveness and the strength to follow Christ fully in the future.  When I arose, I felt the relief from the forgiveness that we receive from Jesus, but still sorrowful because those I've sinned against that are not so easily willing to forgive, and are unlikely to forget.  I struggle with regret and shame from some of the things I've done wrong.

The good news that Christ is working in us and in the lives of others.  We interact, and in doing so bless and sin against our fellowman and loved ones.  It is a cycle of love, forgiveness and accepting each other for our humanness.  At the alter I also took a vow of sacrifice for the next forty days.  My sacrifice is self-will.  I made a promise to God to study the Bible everyday for this period, and I look forward to doing so.