The Training Myth

One common objection to armed citizens being welcomed into what are now designated “gun free zones” are fears that a lack of training will put that person and those around him or her at risk. On the surface that may seem reasonable, especially if all you know about defensive gun uses is what you’ve seen in the movies. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find it’s not a very substantial objection at all, and fails to satisfy the simple logic of giving responsible citizens the tools they need to resist an assault . . .

A responsible gun owner will pursue training, including marksmanship, mental preparation and understanding the law. That said, you don’t need to be an expert marksman to effectively defend yourself or others. In the real world, a large number of defensive gun uses (DGUs) don’t result in a weapons discharge – the presence of the gun alone stops the threat.

An armed citizen in a mall or school isn’t up against a movie villain. Whether mad or just criminal, killers don’t take SWAT training either. They will likely have less training than someone who has taken a concealed carry class and has spent a little time at the range. The fundamentals of safe handling, carrying and storing a firearm plus basic defensive marksmanship will suffice in 99.9% of likely real-world situations.

Soldiers, Marines and specialized law enforcement officers train because during their lifetime it’s a given that they’ll face an armed threats. Professional training boils down to incremental improvements in the likelihood of success in a DGU. SWAT teams who confront armed criminals on a regular basis will benefit by preparing for relatively unusual situations because they have a far higher likelihood of facing them. In the extremely rare event in which Average Joe has to confront an active shooter, 99.9% of his ability to succeed will depend on having a gun and a willingness to use it.

The overwhelming social utility of armed citizens is simply adding a level of risk for a criminal. The belief in the mind of a bad guy – even a lunatic – that their potential victims are armed will have a deterrent effect. The Aurora Colorado killer went out of his way to go to a theater that was a designated gun-free one.

Grown-ups with no more training than that needed to get a conceal carry permit could provide the majority of the deterrence benefit without a firearm ever leaving its holster. Should one ever have to actually confront a killer, simply seeing a gun aimed at them by a determined citizen has ended a large percentage of rampages. Should a weapon need to be discharged, imperfect shot placement will still effectively suppress a criminal (being shot anywhere is very distracting).

None of these potential scenarios that represent the majority of actual events demand much training for a defender to succeed. They simply need a determined individual who has followed the first rule of a gunfight – bring a gun.