It Seems So Simple

21 Feb

Why aren’t firearms the answer to everyone’s personal security? What could be easier, buy a gun, stick it in your pocket, purse or glove box and eureka you are safe from violent crime. Easy as pie, right? I’m not so sure.

No matter who you are, should you ever need to defend your life from a violent attack, with or without a gun, it will be the single most stressful, difficult, overwhelming event of your life. To use a firearm predicably and effectively in such a circumstance you need to be extensively trained, mentally prepared, and you need to practice on a regular basis. Carrying and being prepared to use a firearm in self defense or the defense of another is a massive responsibility that is all too often taken for granted. In addition, If you make a mistake in this paradigm, the best case scenario is that you are the only one who is hurt. At worst, you injure or kill an innocent who happens to be in the line of fire.

The first time I ever drew and fired my sidearm on duty (and not at the firing range) was in defense of a fellow officer from an attacking dog. At least one of the rounds I fired missed the dog and ricocheted off the pavement and towards a nearby home. After the threat was neutralized and after I made sure my partner was safe, I was nearly overcome with the fear that my errant round may have injured someone in the home. We immediately ran across the street to check on the occupants. Luckily no one, including the children in the home were injured, but the outcome could easily have been much different. If someone had been injured or killed, I would have been solely responsible and I would have lived with that mistake for the rest of my life.

It’s a problem that everyone seems to envision the average gunfight in the most simple unambiguous terms. Instead, real life is much less likely to present a clear and present danger or circumstance. None of the shootings I’ve been involved in have followed any kind of script or easily predicable pattern. Most happened unexpectedly, blindingly fast with visceral and surreal violence. Each shooting happened whether I was paying attention or not, they happened at night and in the pouring rain and in dark houses or backyards. Sometimes they happen when you are injured and fighting for your life. They never happen at the well lit grassy firing range or with any kind of warning or time to prepare. Even those that occur in the tightly controlled environment of a tactical scenario, are startling and unimaginably stressful.

Now I’m not saying that you should be required to train like a street cop or SWAT team member to defend yourself with a firearm, but given the stakes, even if everything goes exactly right, why would you feel confident with anything less.


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