Discomfort Zone

There's more to carrying a gun than carrying a gun by Steve Dupree

I shoot. I own a firearm. I respect, enjoy and utilize the rights the Constitution confers upon us with reference to firearms. As many of you know, I'm ex-military. Though I much admire the works and teachings of the Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others, I have not been able to fully embrace pacifism.

The massacre at Virginia Tech was barely over before I read the first comments on the Internet positing that the way to stop things like that from happening is to arm all who wish to carry with firearms, specifically, handguns. I could not possibly disagree more.

In the movies, there is always a bad guy who grabs a hostage/shield and either shoots from behind them or convinces would-be heroes to drop their weaponry and cease their assault. Normal, mentally healthy people don't want to hurt an innocent and no one needs to apologize for that. However that movie situation highlights just one of the problems with arming citizens willy-nilly. A bad guy who encounters those who will not risk killing an innocent may collect additional weaponry or ammunition with which to commit even worse mayhem. Unfortunately, the fix may be worse than the problem.

Through training and repetition, military special forces develop a habit called war-gaming (although others may well know it by a different name) wherein they constantly envision different scenarios and plot their response to it. Essentially they will fantasize violent encounters and their responses. They do this so as to lessen the chance of being caught unaware and unprepared. They will take into account their own skill with whatever weapon they have at hand, time of day, field of fire, motion of themselves or of potential targets, access to health care, consequences of the failure of a given action, consequences of the success of a given action, potential for personal injury, potential for incarceration and God only knows what.

In the hostage/shield scenario, they would have to consider (assuming they had firearms) attempting to shoot the assailant regardless of the hostage which, of course, runs the risk of accidentally shooting/killing the hostage and being held liable for that. They would consider shooting the hostage intentionally to get to the assailant and halt worse destruction.

So how do you feel about it? A gunman on your local college campus has shot people. You are there with a gun, and right as you think you have a shot at him, he grabs a girl that you know. She is a cheerleader, hot, volunteers at the local children's hospital, maintains a 3.8 GPA and happens to be the daughter of a member of your church. If you don't take this guy out, he'll probably (note: probably ) shoot more people. If you lay down your gun as he is requesting, it may be your weapon that kills the next few.

What do you do? Do you risk killing little miss adorable? The guy isn't standing still, you can't get a clean shot. Do you try to shoot through her to take out the bad guy? Now, imagine how your average college-age student would feel trying to answer those questions.

You can be trained. IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) training is a standard part of the FBI and several other law enforcement regimens. They practice making snap decisions about when to fire their weapons. Potential targets pop up, but some have clear signs that they are not valid targets. The pop-up might be a school girl with books or a bad buy with a hostage or an innocent unrelated to the training scenario. You have to make the choice and, to do well, you have to make the choice quickly. It isn't necessarily what you consider fun, but it is training that helps them protect your safety. Most likely, college kids aren't interested in undertaking such training, and that is OK. However, if you are thinking of yourself as a public protector, it is training that you need.

Anyone who is going to carry a firearm for protection needs to war-game. However, it takes a particularly mentally healthy individual to walk around fantasizing about shooting people, to be willing to shoot people, to have a plan for shooting people, and to not actually want to shoot people. Most people I know are ill-suited for war-gaming. I have perhaps two or three friends that I am confident have war-gamed. The habit can be learned, but do you really want a campus full of kids picturing themselves killing the other kids on the campus? I think not.

Clearly, something needs to be done. I don't know exactly what, but I rather sincerely doubt the efficacy of arming those not suited for violence.


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