Jared Lankford: With firearms, knowledge is power

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In the mid-2000s the Neosho High School basketball team was one of the greatest in southwest Missouri.

The two best players on that squad were Tyler Chaney and Trent Barrett. Chaney went on to star at Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State University) and Barrett is now the head basketball coach at McDonald County High School.

As a Neosho alumnus, and an avid fan, I attended nearly every one of those players' games during their junior and senior seasons.

It was their junior year that Denny Chenoweth's Wildcats won the district title over a loaded Kickapoo squad with NBA talent Anthony Tolliver in Joplin.

However, it is the semifinal game I will never forget, not because of outstanding play, but because of what occurred afterward.

The game was scheduled for a 6 p.m. start and I had worked an extended shift at my former place of employment.

With my replacement showing up late, I was forced to change in a hurry and made it to Kaminsky Gym just in the nick of time for tipoff.

As was my ritual, I sat with my father and a gentleman who drove the Neosho team bus, Ron Boman.

All I will say is, people at any of those games back then knew we were there and who we were cheering for during those contests.

After the game, I told my parents I would be home after a quick bite to eat.

I stopped at an accelerated service restaurant, got my order and sat down to enjoy my greasy delight.

As I stared at the window, I could see by the reflection that something was odd. There was a figure standing at the counter in a position that I had only seen in the movies.

I stood up and turned around to see a hooded man turn and point a .38 Special at my large frame.

It was at that moment that I realized two indisputable truths: first, I was part of an armed robbery and second, the circumference of a .38 Special when pointed at your body, is the exact same diameter of a cannon.

The gunman made us lie down on the floor while he made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

That night is the only time I can truly say that I was in fear for my life.

Two weeks ago, I attended a conceal and carry class required to obtain my conceal and carry license (CCL).

During the eight-hour course, lessons about the law, scenario situations of shoot or do not shoot were covered among a vast array of other required topics.

The question that I found most intriguing was "Why do you want to obtain your CCL?"

All the standard responses were given.

One classmate had a business that dealt with cash and he wanted to protect himself. Another classmate wanted to feel safe when alone, and two gentlemen named Smith & Wesson on his person gave him that comfort.

While you might be guessing that my traumatic event would have been the accelerant needed to propel me to get my license, it was not.

My motivation was, in fact, two fold:

First, I enjoy shooting guns. Rifles, handguns, muzzle load, it does not matter. From the time I could pull the rubber band back on a slingshot, I have enjoyed target shooting.

As such, I wanted to be legal when I put a handgun into my pocket to carry it around. As a law-abiding citizen, the CCL card is cheap insurance policy that provides me the peace of mind to know that I am not breaking the law when I tote around multiple firearms that may be concealed.

Secondly, education.

You would be surprised how many people have joked to me that you only get a CCL to feel like Dirty Harry, John Wayne or some other private vigilantly force.

My motivation was to obtain more knowledge. Knowledge that could be passed to my kids, to uninformed individuals and to make myself a more responsible gun owner, not because I plan to gun down the next law breaker that I encounter.

I applaud the efforts of the Monett Sportsmen's League, who help Monett High School students learn to love the joy of shooting and about firearms and firearm safety.

When it comes to firearms, ignorance is not bliss and knowledge is the true power that all should seek.

On Thursday, I received a call from the Lawrence County Sheriff's office that I had passed my background check and my license was ready to be picked up.

I have played that robbery scenario over and over millions of times in my head and have been asked if I would change anything had I been packing heat that night.

I would not. Even though the moments were tense, we all lived. The threat was short-lived and the gunman fled after getting his cash.

There are three things you must understand about bullets. Incoming rounds have the right of way. You cannot take back a fired round, and once discharged, are you prepared to deal with the consequences?

I am a firm believer in firearm safety. I believe that proper education, regardless of your stance on guns, is necessary.

I would hope that people empower themselves by gaining that knowledge as well.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or at 417-847-2610.

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