I got my HQL, baby! The government now trusts me with a deadly weapon, which is freakin’ neat and I haven’t quite got over it yet. It took 2.5-3 weeks from completion of my application, but it was all worth it once I felt that plastic card in the envelope. You know what? They’re right. I do feel like a big man now. NOW WHAT WERE YOU SAYING ABOUT ME BEING A CLOWN, BITCH? Hahaha. I’m kidding. The government trusts me with it because I can be trusted with it. Call me whatever you want on the Face’o’Gram, I stopped giving a shit what people thought of me a long time ago. I only care what I think of me. And I think I’m a big, big man with a fully legal hand cannon that is now 500% more prepared for the coming apocalypse/Chinese Invasion/Climate Change Wars, or Water World, if you will.
Let’s back up and talk about what an HQL is. Maryland is one of the most restrictive states in the Union when it comes to purchasing handguns. This class of weapon is classified as “regulated,” while long guns like (non-assault) rifles and shotguns are not. If you want to purchase a handgun, state law requires you complete a Handgun Qualification License course first. There are exemptions to holding an HQL for current & retired law enforcement or military. There is also an exemption from taking the course, but still require getting a license, for folks that have already completed a Hunter Education Course from the Department of Natural Resources.
For private citizens like yours truly, getting your HQL is a three step process. First, you have to get fingerprinted, which means the government now has my squiggle lines in a database like on CSI, in case I decide to go on a Joker-style crime spree later, or if Minority Report oracles predict I will at some point in the near-future. Damn their Third Eyes!
The second step is the course itself. HQL training takes four hours and you can expect to pay around $120 for it. Fingerprinting isn’t free but you might get a discount doing it thru the same company that offers HQL training- mine was $50 on top of the course cost.
Our instructor, a competitive shooter, was knowledgeable, engaging, and even funny at times. I learned a lot during the class. We didn’t get into laws regarding self-defense in Maryland, as there are none, technically. There’s some case law but you’re gonna end up defending yourself in court if you find yourself in a lead-based kerfuffle. My research indicates that Maryland is a Castle Doctrine state, so you don’t have a duty to retreat while in your home, but you do anywhere else.
Instead, we went over the laws that are clearly established: how to transport your firearm, what straw purchases are (buying a gun for someone who isn’t allowed to have them), and the frequency with which you are allowed to buy regulated firearms. Without a Maryland Designated Firearm Collector license, you’re limited to one handgun every 30 days.
Luckily, it’s not a big deal to get this license and my favorite shop helps you file the paperwork once you pick up a purchased handgun. Once that goes through, I can buy pistols and revolvers as frequently as I want (and my waning wallet can afford, of course).
The most important part of the class is the safety training. We were presented with a version of The Four Rules of Firearm Safety. There are other versions, including expanded rules, but this is what we were taught:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Other versions use language like ‘away from anything you don’t want to destroy,’ which is significantly more badass, but this version plays better for the squares.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
- ALWAYS know your target and what is beyond it.
The safety rules are redundant by design, so in case you screw one up, the others will still keep everyone safe from an accidental discharge. The last part of the class was live-fire. You have to fire two rounds at a target, but you’re not graded on accuracy. You’re also not graded on whether you screw up any of these rules, which is good, since I had to be reminded to take my finger off the trigger after I finished taking my shots. Whoops. My bad, everybody.
I have no idea if I hit the target or not. Live fire training is the last section of the class and by that point it was 9:30pm and I was only propped up courtesy of Red Bulls, which made my breathing irregular and palms sweaty. We used low-velocity rounds for that part so we didn’t need ear protection to use in our classroom/indoor range conversion.
The last step is completing an application with the Maryland State Police that requires a background check. Since I already had to do something similar to get my Mossberg 88 shotgun, I was confident I’d pass again. And so I did!
When I finally got my HQL, I took the advice of my instructor and got my butt down to a range that rents handguns so I could try some out. They were really busy both times I went, so I only tried out the one I had set my sights on after a fair amount of Googling. Turns out that was the only one I needed; the action felt smooth, the grip solid, and I displayed a surprising degree of accuracy for a handgun virgin. I’m a natural, baby! Maybe I don’t have that far a learning curve before I can take my Wear & Carry Permit test, after all.
So what did I end up with? I can’t wait to show you. Cliffhanger!