I own guns. I’ve had some decent training, but it was a while back. I don’t practice frequently. When I do, it tends to be with a favored few firearms. I haven’t rehearsed clearing a room or firing while “moving in a highly dynamic manner” in ages. Nor do I regularly practice things like shooting with partially obscured vision or slippery hands.
According to certain persons (self-styled experts), this makes me an “irresponsible and incompetent” gun owner.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to great training or steady practice. On the contrary. If you have the time, money, need or inclination to train like a pro (and given that we’re meeting here in S.W.A.T. Magazine, there’s a good chance you do), more power to you. We need people like you.
What we don’t need are so-called experts who set the bar so high that they discourage decent, responsible people from possessing guns. One such bloviator recently wrote, “Get professional training. Then get more professional training. And do it again. Practice on your own. Every week. With each of your weapons. If you’re not going to train with your guns, don’t buy guns for self defense.”
Don’t buy firearms for self defense. Period. Do as he says or you’re too “irresponsible and incompetent” to own firearms.
Yet nearly every gun owner I know is more like me than Mr. Operator up there. We received elementary training (or more). We religiously observe safety procedures. We practice a few times a year. We clean and check our firearms periodically. We rarely slip into Condition White unless we’re asleep. But mostly, our guns remain tucked away. We may lack prowess, but we’re hardly menaces to ourselves or society.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing trend to assume that every gun owner needs to be trained like a Navy SEAL or a member of Delta Force. It’s great that such options exist, but it’s terrible if elitism (and after all, those are by definition elite groups) scares ordinary people away.
My friend and sometime co-writer, Joel Simon, answers these “experts” in an article titled Thank You, Rambo:
“If you’re interested in self-defense with a firearm, it definitely isn’t enough to just go out and buy a gun. A basic familiarization course won’t give you any level of justified confidence in your ability to defend yourself with the weapon. Sometimes you can do it yourself and sometimes you need professional help, but you should train. No argument there.”
Nope. No argument. But…
Joel continues, “It’s all very well to be a trained operator,operating operationally in an operational area. Aggressive dominance of any potential battlespace. And all that… Sure. Whatever.
“When I was young and single, I would have pumped my fist and yelled ‘Amen!’ I did all that stuff. I got professional training, and then I got more professional training. I practiced several times weekly. I competed with battle rifle and handgun. It was easy then—I was young and strong and undistracted. It was what I did. It was pretty much all I did. If I do say so myself, I was pretty hot stuff for a while.
“Then I got married. Got serious about a career. Got a kid, got a mortgage. Got a lot more things to spend money and time on than gear and travel and classes. Had I suggested I spend my vacation time and hundreds or thousands of dollars on a shooting class … well, I didn’t make any such suggestion, so I don’t know what would have happened.
“Did I then become unworthy to carry a gun for self-defense?”
Joel admits his proficiency with firearms promptly went down the tubes. And now, with worsening eyesight, he’s probably even less proficient for reasons beyond his control.
But incompetent? Irresponsible? Unworthy? I’d trust my safety to Joel (who frequently needs to dispatch varmints around his desert lair) over some theoretically brilliant “operator” who’s never had to make real-world decisions.
I’ve personally seen Joel put the fear of … well, fear of heavily armed desert hermits … into strangers who are where they ought not to be, doing what they ought not to do. And every time, he’s done it simply by being his polite, well-armed self. He hasn’t even needed to draw a weapon, let alone “move in a highly dynamic manner” (something a 60-year-old guy with one leg isn’t likely to be great at).
Again, don’t think that I (or Joel) would ever say that training and practice aren’t good things. Obviously, the world is dangerous and unpredictable. At some time, any one of us might need to move like the dickens while shooting or being shot at. Someday any of us might need to keep our presence of mind while blood is running into our eyes or making that gun in our hands as slippery as a greased carnival pig.
Yes, our lives could one day depend on knowing the difference between concealment and cover. At such a moment, we might desperately wish we’d built up good habits and better muscle memory.
For an average, cautious person who is not a cop or soldier and who doesn’t go seeking (or carelessly stumbling into) trouble, the chance of such an adrenaline-soaked moment is probably greater than the chance of being struck by lightning. But how much greater?
Great enough that millions of us must devote a significant portion of our lives and budgets preparing for the possibility—or be entirely unfit to bear arms? Sorry, that’s just a way (whether the “expert” intends it or not) of discouraging ordinary people from buying guns and learning the basics of safety and self-defense.
There’s a video online, taken from surveillance tapes, of a pair of thugs thundering into an Internet cafe in Florida. One wields a gun, the other a bat with which he proceeds to smash a computer. Though the video is silent, you can see from the reactions of the customers that the thugs are barking orders and scaring the bejabbers out of everybody present.
Except for one fat old guy, 71 years old, out of shape, and clearly not thinking “operationally.” Nope. That old guy, Samuel Williams, just charges straight at those criminal invaders, handgun extended in two thick paws. He blasts away at the younger, stronger, bigger men as they panic, stumble, skid—and get out of there as quickly as they can scamper. (He wounded both and they were later arrested.)
You could make a long, long list of what Samuel Williams didn’t know—or knew but forgot to do because he hadn’t practiced enough. But he won. Decisively.
Could he have gotten himself killed? Of course. “Operators” can die too. But as Joel noted, “He had aggressiveness and audacity, a willingness to attack, to bring the fight to the bad guys. They weren’t there to fight and die: All they had in mind was fleecing some helpless sheep. Suddenly they found themselves in a gunfight, and it freaked them right the hell out.”
Yet according to some, that clumsy old hero was unfit to be a gun owner. Therefore, he should have just stood by and allowed himself and the other innocents in the place to be robbed. Or even killed if that’s what the thugs chose to do. He and millions more like him—just because they don’t spend every Saturday practicing El Presidente drills.
Some of the elitists who’d rather see us dead than armed hang out with Michael Bloomberg and his gun-banning mayors and “Moms.” Others, so it appears, write gun blogs and promote elite firearms training.