Yesterday I began to write a series of columns in which I stated some strong opinions about the strategies being promoted by Gun-controlNation to reduce the violence caused by guns. Let me repeat again what I said yesterday, namely, that I have never (read:never) been opposed to any public policy that will reduce gun violence; my role,as I see it, is to raise questions about the research and information used tocraft and justify these policies when/if I see gaps in the research or theinformation which need to be filled.
That being said, today’s topic covers one of the truly great scams both within and without the gun world, namely, the idea that an activity referred to as ‘safety training’ does anything to reduce gun violence at all. Which groups and organizations support training in the use of guns? Every group on both sides of the debate. The NRA of course is in favor of training, that’s why America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ was formed. As for the other side, the latest bromide can be found in a recent policy statement from the American College of Physicians: “Sales of firearms should be subject to satisfactory completion of a criminal background check and proof of satisfactory completion of an appropriate educational program on firearms safety.”
The difference between Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation as regards safety training is that the latter groups want such training to be mandated (i.e., required) as a requirement for gun ownership; as far as the former coalition is concerned, nothing involving 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ should be mandated at all. Okay, so the NRA gave in on background checks back inn 1994, but in fact the requirement that gun owners be law-abiding has been in statute since 1968. If anything, the ability of the NRA to portray its members as the most law-abiding citizens has been a master-stroke in terms of promoting the value and benefit of guns. Back to the issue of training.
I may have a rather weird view of things, but I always thought that ‘training’ is a process whereby someone learns how to do some kind of activity correctly every single time. And it doesn’t matter whether what you are doing involves driving a car, or working on a computer, or cutting into someone’s chest, either you can always do it the same way, or you can’t. And the way we go about validating someone’s training experience is to test their performance to make sure that when actually engaged in the process for which they have been trained, they won’t make a mistake.
Now if someone makes a small mistake, like not putting on a turn signal at the intersection or not shutting down the computer while an app is still running, it’s usually no big deal. But if someone makes a mistake with a gun, the result not only can be horrendous, but the odds that one can mitigate the effects of the mistake will often be zero to none.
There is not one, single jurisdiction anywhere in the United States, even jurisdictions which mandate gun-safety training, where the proficiency validation even remotely begins to show that the person who has received training can be expected to safely use a gun. Sorry, but standing in front of a stationery target and shooting a few rounds downrange doesn’t prove anything at all. A study of live-fire requirements in all 50 states found that some states required a smattering of live-fire for a concealed-carry license, but rarely do any jurisdictions require live fire for simply owning a gun.
If medical organizations like the American College of Physicians want to announce their support for gun safety education, the least they could do is take the trouble to learn what they are talking about. Ditto Gun-control Nation, which seems to assume that anything which smacks of mandated (government) gun regulations is a good thing. Sorry, government mandates are basically useless if they require activities that have no value at all. Which happens to be the case with gun training today.