Study Says Using Firearms In Self-Defense Is Problematic Without Training


After the Newtown school shooting, the National Rifle Association proposed putting more guns in schools. After a racist shot up a Charleston prayer group, an NRA board member argued for more guns in church. Now, gun rights advocates are calling for guns in movie theaters after a loner killed two people at a theater in Louisiana. The Washington Post says research shows that more gun lead to more homicides, not fewer, and that guns are rarely used in self-defense. A new study from Mount St. Mary’s University sheds some light on why people don’t use guns in self-defense very often. Knowing when and how to apply lethal force in a potentially life-or-death situation is very difficult. The study was commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council, an advocacy group favoring “sensible gun laws.” It found that proper training and education are key to successfully using a firearm in self-defense: “carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense unless the carrier is properly trained and maintains their skill level.”

The study recruited 77 volunteers with varying levels of firearm experience and training, and had each of them participate in simulations of three different scenarios using the firearms training simulator in the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department. The first scenario involved a carjacking, the second an armed robbery in a convenience store, and the third a case of suspected larceny. They found that people without firearms training performed poorly in the scenarios. They didn’t take cover. They didn’t attempt to issue commands to their assailants. Their trigger fingers were either too itchy — they shot innocent bystanders or unarmed people, or not itchy enough — they didn’t shoot armed assailants until they were already being shot at. The conclusion should be fairly uncontroversial: if you want to be able to use a gun in self-defense, you should be trained in how to do so. The NRA has long emphasized the importance of training and safety in personal firearms use, and offers a series of self-defense courses.

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