Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Elements of Complete Defensive Firearm Training

There's been good news and bad news for self-defense advocates.

Of course the best news was the US Supreme Court's finding in DC v. Heller that:
"The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."  --DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER, No. 07-290
The election of Donald Trump ensures Supreme Court appointments will not void or otherwise change this ruling anytime soon.

The Bad

The bad news stories support the contention by anti-gun people that civilians are negligent, incompetent, and poorly trained and therefore cannot be entrusted with firearms:
DETROIT, October, 2015: A 47-year-old woman fired multiple shots at alleged shoplifters in a Detroit-area Home Depot parking lot. When she spotted a store security guard pursuing two men from the store, the woman drew her handgun and opened fire on the suspects as they fled in an SUV.
MIAMI, February 5, 2017: A man came to the assistance of a Walmart employee who had confronted several thieves loading stolen diapers into a car. The citizen shot and killed a suspected thief who later succumbed to his wounds.
In the first case, the woman was firing at fleeing (alleged-- not absolutely determined) perpetrators of a property crime.

In the second case, a petty larceny was escalated to a homicide.

Both cases (if the reports are accurate) suggest the civilian shooters were not trained in the legal and ethical aspects of self-defense.

Not Only Civilians

Yet police officers -- professionals with extensive training in legal implications of deadly force -- are charged and sometimes convicted of misuse of deadly force.

For many years law enforcement agencies trained officers by using marksmanship courses for firearms training. Officers would fire from various distances at paper targets. The environment was closed, low-key, and completely unrealistic.

On April 6, 1970, four California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were killed in a 4½‑minute shootout in the Newhall region of Southern California.

The incident had a significant impact on procedural, doctrinal, and firearm training by CHP and many other police agencies across the country. Agencies began creating stress courses that incorporated stress, movement to cover, engagement from odd angles, rapid reload, time limits, and shoot/no-shoot scenarios.

Lots of Civilian Carriers

Estimates vary wildly, but most impartial observations conclude that up to 6% of the US Adult population has a concealed carry permit.

The Crime Prevention Research Center published a report in 2016 entitled "Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2016" (John R. Lott Jr., July 26, 2016) that stated:
During President Obama’s administration, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared to over 14.5 million – a 215% increase since 2007. Among the findings of our report:
  • The increase in the number of concealed handgun permits last year set another record, increasing by 1.73 million. That is slightly greater than previous record of 1.69 million set the last year.
  • 6.06% of the total adult population has a permit.
  • In ten states, more than 10% of adults have concealed handgun permits. Indiana has the highest rate — 15%. South Dakota is close behind with 14.7%.
  • Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas each have over a million residents who are active permit holders.
  • In another 11 states, a permit is no longer required to carry in all or virtually all of the state. Thus the growth in permits does not provide a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, in states that provide data by gender, the number of women with permits has increased twice as quickly as the number of men with permits.
People can quibble over rates and percentages, but all evidence shows there has been a huge increase in the number of people purchasing handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

How are we Trained?

Unfortunately, the focus of most firearm training is practical: handling, maintaining, effectively shooting the firearm. Yet the use of deadly force has a host of other considerations.

Of course, the recent flood of enthusiasm for handguns carries in the tide lots of pure nonsense.

Most of the nonsense is harmless.

Consider all the "tactical" stuff that allows people to experience real-life video games in shoot houses, team assault courses, and long-range target sniping.

While some are threatened by the idea of civilians receiving military-style instruction, it's no different than the car enthusiast who buys a day in a race car -- it's fun, out of the ordinary, and satisfies the human need for excitement and stimulation.

.50 Caliber, Drum-Fed, Holographic Red Dot Sight, Muzzle-Suppressed, Chainsaw-equipped, Folding-Stock Battle Rifle

Every hobby has enthusiasts. Some are collectors, others appreciate the fine machining, design, and capabilities of quality firearms. Others enjoy perfecting a skill, such as target shooting.

But these pleasant diversions are not preparation for deadly force encounters. While some of the skills learned transfer, it's not equivalent.

Shooting at a paper target is poor preparation for shooting at a human -- no matter how heinous and threatening that human may be at the moment of attack

Defensive firearm carry is serious -- deadly serious. It has life-ending and life-changing implications and it seems that very few training classes stress these implications adequately.

The Other 99%

The more complex – yet rarely addressed – considerations for deadly force are physical, legal, social, emotional, and ethical (moral).

Each aspect is inextricably linked to the act of self-defense.

Only a careful and deliberate study and personal assessment of these aspects before the moment of need will enable you to react correctly in a deadly force situation (even if you don’t actually fire the weapon).

It's axiomatic that we revert to habits when under severe stress.

The life or death question each of us must consider is: Which habits will prevail?

Developing Right Habits

The point of training is inculcating right habits.

"Right" is best defined as "Efficient actions that result in the greatest benefit."

Efficient actions use the minimal amount of energy required to get the job done. An efficient golfer will drive a ball further even though the swing seems "effortless."

Good training steadily and deliberately pares away unnecessary actions and wasted efforts.

Few of us are willing to change unless there is a compelling reason. Therefore good training also includes an appeal to our reason before recommending changes to our actions.

Classroom time is spent providing justification for the changes in behavior which will be inculcated by training.

For example, in flight training, we spend time on the ground discussing Angle of Attack. This is a somewhat theoretical concept that describes the wing's motion through the air, and the forces of lift and drag working on that wing.

This is tedious for some less-analytically-focused pilots until they're shown the relationship between Angle of Attack and the airplane's ability to fly (Even the most theoretical student suddenly becomes very interested when the airplane stops flying and the aircraft gives in the gravity's relentless tug),

Thus, and effective instructional pattern in flight and many other forms of training is:

  1. Appeal to reason (Provide evidence and logic as to why the student should know and apply a specific bit of content)
  2. Demonstrate (Provide example of how the appeal to reason is supported in reality)
  1. Attempt (Student tries to replicate action and result demonstrated by the instructor)
  2. Correct (Instructor identifies wasted movements and less than ideal results)
  3. Practice (Student repeats attempts with corrections now internalized)
  4. Perfect (Student strives reduce mental and physical expenditures for greatest possible reward)

The Journey

Thomas Paine (of American Revolution fame) wrote: “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly.”

All truly engaging pursuits demand full attention and commitment. 

The civilian bearing arms has assumed a role that demands full attention to the physical, legal, social, emotional, and ethical (moral) aspects of deadly force.

If you carry concealed, commit yourself to a disciplined study and practice in all aspects.

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