We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Training To Carry A Gun.


Jennifer Mascia has just republished an article which should be required reading for everyone who’s interested in reducing gun violence.  This is valuable research because she has figured out how many states allow people to carry a gun who have not taken any training at all.  And don’t forget to notice the picture that goes with the story showing some dopey kid in Utah sitting in a gun class with his finger right on the trigger of his Sig 226.

torso             It turns out, according to our intrepid Trace reporter, that 26 states have no live-fire training or live-fire certification of any kind.  In other words, you can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun, walk out with the gun in your pocket to protect yourself from all those street thugs, having never actually fired that gun, or any gun for that matter.  And Gun-nut Nation has the absolute, unmitigated gall to reject mandated gun training while, at the same time promoting the idea that ‘armed citizens’ protect us from crime. Oh well, we have a President who says with a straight face that cutting 40 million people off of medical insurance will make us healthier all around, so why shouldn’t the NRA tell just as big a lie when it comes to talking about guns?

What I found interesting about Jennifer Mascia’s story, however, was not the fact that more than half the states don’t require any kind of training before someone can ‘strap on’ a gun. Rather, it’s the idea that the states which do require training are, in fact, mandating anything that could even remotely be considered responsible or serious training at all.  Because if anyone actually thinks that the 24 states which do require some form of training before issuing a CCW license have instituted some kind of system that will prepare someone, anyone, to use a gun properly for self-defense, think again.

Know how long the ‘average’ gun fight lasts?  About three seconds, and by the way, the target is usually moving during that brief span of time.  Know how many shots are fired during such an encounter?  Two, or maybe at best, three. Now when was the last time you or anyone you know went to a shooting range and tried hitting a target that was ten feet away with two or three rounds?  And let’s not forget that the three seconds you have to complete this exercise also includes the time you need to yank out the gun.

Our friend Jennifer quotes a gun trainer in Kentucky who claims that his state is going about CCW training the right way. And in his case, what this means is a class which is mostly book-learning and QandA, but also includes a live-fire qualification at a private range.  The qualification consists of firing at a torso target placed seven yards away, and the student has to hit the target 11 out of 20 times.

Forgetting for a moment whether hitting the target means putting a hole anywhere on the torso, note that the shooter can take as long as he/she likes, there’s no timing requirement at all.  And the target, of course, is stationery, which means that neither the person doing the shooting or the ‘person’ getting shot is simulating anything that might be considered a real-life event. And this exercise is believed by an experienced gun trainer to be an effective way to determine whether someone should be able to walk around with a gun.

I’m not suggesting in any way that Jennifer Mascia’s piece is either misleading or wrong, and she gets kudos for pointing out just how easy it is in most places to get a concealed-carry permit and walk around with a gun. But the idea that anyone with a CCW has actually developed the skills necessary to use that gun to defend us against all those street thugs is some kind of sick joke. But such jokes now abound in the Age of Trump.



Want To Learn How To Survive A Combat Wound? Join The NRA.


The National Rifle Association started in 1871 as a training organization, and they have been supplying gun safety and shooting courses to the public ever since.  They claim to have more than 100,000 certified trainers (I happen to be one of them) who, in addition to providing training in all kinds of small arms, also serve as the organization’s ‘shock troops’ by promoting the aims, values and member benefits of the NRA.

medic             So I couldn’t help but notice an email I received today from the gang at Fairfax advertising two new training courses and one course in particular, Emergency Casualty Care Course, being offered three times next year.  The instructor, Gary Melton, is connected to an outfit called Paramount Tactical Solutions, located in the mountains about 50 miles northwest of DC, and their logo, ‘survival is paramount’ tells you all you really need to know. Melton says that he deployed four times to war zones as a Green Beret and then was a Senior Special Tactics Instructor with a ‘federal agency’ that he doesn’t name.  Okay, that’s fine.  A guy’s gotta earn a living, I have no issue with that.

But I do have an issue with the topics covered in the course, which teaches students how to “take action and save a life.” And what kind of action will you learn to take? Well, for beginners there’s non-trauma medical events like choking, diabetes stroke and cardiac arrest.  Then you go on to trauma care, in particular hemorrhage control through tourniquets and wound packing.  And then after you stop the bleeding you study something called drags and carries and learn how to make an improvised litter to get the body out to somewhere.

The course only costs $1,250 (transportation, lodging and meals are not included in the fee) and at the end you receive a ‘First Care Provider Certification’ even though it’s not clear exactly who is certifying what.  Oops, before I forget, there’s also a discussion about medical equipment, in particular what you should carry around every day and you also get a medical kit “stocked with professional-level equipment” for use when the need might arise.

And if there’s any doubt in your mind as to when or if this whole, cockamamie nonsense might actually be put to use, the entire course begins with a lecture on ‘Tactical Combat Casualty Care History,’ which is another way of saying that you’re going out to West Virginia to play soldier boy with some medical gear instead of a gun.

Now I thought the NRA was devoted to gun training but obviously I’m somewhat behind the times.  Because we all know that we live in a world where all sorts of bad things can happen on the spur of the moment and you have to be trained and ready to help ensure the survival of victims from all sorts of tactical combat attacks.

Want to get serious about what happens after a tactical attack? Take a look at the report issued by the State of Massachusetts that evaluated, among other things, the medical response to the marathon bombing that occurred on April 15, 2013.  Three people were more or less instantly killed when the device went off, but 60 critically-injured patients were triaged immediately and then sent off to different hospitals where they all survived their wounds.  And the reason that so many badly-injured men and women survived was because the Boston Marathon happens to be a favorite activity for young physicians, of whom many just happened to be standing around the finish line at the time the bomb went off.

You don’t learn how to stop bleeding because an army medic wraps a bandage around your arm.  You also don’t learn how to defend yourself with a gun by going out and firing a few rounds. But if the NRA is the last word on training about how to use guns, why shouldn’t they also be the last word about how to behave when someone gets shot with a gun?


Want To Live Where You Don’t Need Training To Walk Around With A Gun? Live Just About Anywhere.


Anybody who thinks The Trace isn’t a source for serious journalism about gun violence ought to think again. Last week Mike Spies authored a story about the conflict between hunters and ranchers in places like the Malheur Reserve, and went far beyond any of the cliché-ridden nonsense that spewed forth from the media before and after the Bundy Boys tried to protect their Constitutional rights.  This week we have another important contribution to GVP journalism with Jennifer Mascia’s report on training required for concealed-carry permits, although her research clearly demonstrates that in most cases this so-called training amounts to no training at all.

training              You may recall that before he was found groping between stalls in a public toilet, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) had introduced the first national, concealed-carry bill. The bill went nowhere, but it has of late been gaining steam, and last year fell just a few short of getting a positive Senate vote.  It goes without saying, of course, that the entire clown act running for the Republican Presidential nomination would sign such a bill into law.

What Mascia’s article points out is that even without formal, national reciprocity, Gun Nation has managed to create a state-by-state reciprocal infrastructure which allows CCW-holders to carry concealed weapons in a majority of states and, in many cases, to do so without being required to experience any live-fire instruction or proficiency-testing whatsoever.  And why does an organization allegedly devoted to training and gun safety like the NRA promote such dangerous behavior?  Because, as one trainer told Mascia, “I agree with it from the safety perspective, but disagree with it constitutionally.”  In other words, according to this constitutional expert-turned-gun-trainer, the 2nd Amendment grants Americans the unfettered right to own and use a gun, and nobody can be prevented from exercising this ‘right’ just because in the process of doing so they might prove to be dangerous to themselves or someone else.

Now let’s not waste anyone’s time by reminding the ‘I can do whatever I want with my gun’ crowd that, in fact, the majority opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller explicitly gives public agencies authority to regulate the use of guns.  And let’s also not waste anyone’s time by reminding the same crowd that the courts have said again and again that “preventing danger to the community is a legitimate regulatory goal.” Because the truth is that Gun Nation believes that walking around with a gun is, in fact, a way of preventing community danger, and they cling to this belief even if it means that people are out there protecting the rest of us by carrying guns that they haven’t shot at all.

Or maybe they shot the gun a whole, big 25 rounds which is what the Nevada CCW requirement entails. Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that standing in front of an unmoving paper target and taking as much time as needed to hit a humanoid outline 4 out of 5 times prepares someone to safely deliver lethal force with a gun?

Never mind shooting the gun.  How about just holding it?  Take a look at the picture of the concealed-carry class in Utah which adorns the top of Mascia’s text.  Notice the kid is sitting in a crowded classroom with his finger on the trigger of his gun. Of course he knew the gun was empty, of course he knew. He checked, right?

Anyone who thinks I applaud this journalism because The Trace is anti-gun can go lay brick.  If Gun Nation had one, single media venue whose concern for accuracy and evidence-based reportage was even a fraction of what is practiced in The Trace, we might actually engage both sides in a serious and substantive discussion which might yield some fruit. But as long as pro-gun organizations continue to deflect concerns about gun violence through some half-baked reference to their 2nd-Amendment rights, we might as well ignore the 30,000+ gun deaths each year because nothing’s going to change.


Want Some Free NRA Training? Join The Indiana National Guard.

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If there’s anything the NRA has been able to accomplish in its quest to be the defining voice in the gun debate, it was taken care of for them by Indiana Governor Mike Pence.  He decided to arm his National Guard after the Chattanooga shootings and then authorized America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ to conduct training classes on concealed-carry of handguns.  The NRA announced that their “world class” training program would be cost-free to any Guardsman.

training                The NRA was founded as a training organization in 1871, and while most of its current activity involves lobbying for more lenient gun laws at the federal and state level, it still maintains an active training department and claims to have certified somewhere north of 120,000 trainers of whom 13,000 are ‘active’ in law enforcement training.   Getting certified as an NRA trainer isn’t exactly the same thing as getting certified as, let’s say, a Honda mechanic.  For the latter you not only have to take an intensive training program at a company-certified training facility, you also have to pass a battery of written and hands-on tests to demonstrate that you can actually repair a car.  Regarding the requirements to be certified as an NRA trainer, I’m being generous and polite by saying that the requirements are basically that you show up at a range, a classroom or someone’s house, sit through an eight-hour recitation of the training manual, take a short-answer written test that nobody flunks and you’re good to go.

I suspect, of course, that the NRA probably took a more direct hand in the Indiana Guard training, because it’s one thing to conduct training for every Tom, Dick, Harry & Louise who wants to carry a gun (although very few states actually require specific training to qualify for CCW), it’s another to become a training partner for the U.S. Military.  And if you think that the National Guard only gets called out for local emergencies and disasters, think again.  Half the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been Guard units, and one out of ten troops killed in the war theater were from the Guards.  So if you’re training the National Guard, you’re training front-line, military troops.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The NRA isn’t doing the basic firearms training for the M-4 battle rifle carried by the Guard both here and overseas. To date the training is being offered to Guard members who want to carry a concealed handgun which has evidently become an aspect of the beefed-up security measures that Pence and other Governors ordered in response to the Chattanooga shooting deaths.  Indiana has no training requirement whatsoever for state residents who want to walk around carrying a gun; the state police website says: “Please be safe and responsible whenever and wherever you carry your handgun.”

I see two problems with the decision by Governor Pence to engage the NRA to train his Guard.  First, it’s yet another manifestation of off-loading government functions onto the private sector, in this case, government functions involving security and armed defense.  Nobody’s going to tell me that the NRA ‘s approach to certifying firearm instructors is even remotely close to how the U.S. military trains and equips its own.  But let’s not forget that Pence is running for re-election, and it never hurts to cozy up to the gun-owning lobby when you’re up for office in a red-meat state.

The bigger issue, however, is whether there’s any proof that sticking a handgun in your pocket makes anyone safer at all. Using a gun for protection involves a lot more than just learning how to aim and fire the damn thing.  What it really requires is extensive training to know if armed force is required at all.  Someone points a gun at you is a no-brainer.  But what if he walks up to you with one hand behind his back?  Sorry, but reading a few sentences about ‘being alert’ from the NRA manual doesn’t quite work. At least not for me.

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We Can Solve Gun Violence Not By Getting Rid Of Guns, But By Getting Rid Of Doctors.

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Sooner or later the gun-nut lobby would begin to notice that groups that want to do something about the 100,000 gun deaths and injuries that occur every year have begun talking about gun safety.  And while I’m not sure the issue is clearly understood by these groups, just the fact that they are moving into a space that has always been completely defined and owned by the NRA is enough to get the gun-nut noise machine off and running, the first salvo appearing in a statement from none other than Dr. Timothy Wheeler whose website, Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, can be counted on to promote every loony, pro-gun idea imaginable, whether it has anything to do with medicine or not.

Wheeler’s statement, “Gun Safety is the New Gun Control,” tells you exactly where the gun nuts are going with this issue; viz, that nothing anyone other than gun nuts say about gun safety should be taken seriously, because everyone else is simply trying to get rid of guns.  And since one of these safety campaigns comes out of the Everytown group, and since we all know who funds Everytown, what more proof do you need?

docs versus glocks                I joined the NRA in 1955 and learned both sportsmanship and safety from the NRA instructor who met each week with my NRA-sponsored rifle club.  The NRA was formed as a training organization and you really can’t train people to shoot guns unless you also train them how to shoot guns safely.  Which the NRA has been doing since 1871.  And they do it very well.

But there’s one little problem with the NRA’s approach to training, namely (to use a medical term) it’s contraindicated by the organization’s endless and continuous attempt to sell gun ownership based on the idea that armed citizens protect us from crime.  It’s not true, it appeals to the most primitive human emotions of insecurity and fear, and it’s a cynical and dangerous effort to sell more guns.

When a gun is used to commit a suicide, a homicide, an injury or a threat, this constitutes an unsafe gun.  We make a mistake discussing gun safety with reference only to accidents, or what the CDC refers to as “unintentional” injuries from guns.  The NRA would like you to believe that suicide is an issue of mental health which has nothing to do with guns.  And homicides and assaults are crimes which also have nothing to do with guns.  After all, it’s not guns that kill people.  It’s people who kill people, right?

Last weekend, three people were killed and sixteen wounded by gun violence in New York City.  There were the usual flurry of news reports, a street-corner news conference featuring irate community activists, the as-always ‘we will do everything we can’ bromides from de Blasio and Bratton, and then business gets back to business.  If the media reported that three people had died over the weekend in New York City from Ebola, I can guarantee you that you could walk through Times Square today and you’d have the place to yourself.

When a virus that killed 30,000 people in Central Africa over one year is brought under control, we thank our lucky stars there’s something called the CDC.  When a noted clinician named Katherine Christoffel  refers to guns that kill 30,000 Americans every year as a virus, she’s attacked by a crackpot like Tim Wheeler as “reckless” and a “raving ideologue.”

There’s no question that different strategies are required to deal with accidental as opposed to intentional shootings.  There’s also no question that anyone who counsels gun owners needs to be mindful of their passion and enjoyment that is too often ignored when an argument heats up about guns. But if anyone thinks that pushing physicians out of the debate on what to do about 30,000+ gun deaths each year will make it easier to find a solution to this problem, then either they don’t think that gun violence is a problem or they should, in the words of my friend Jimmy Breslin, go lay brick.



Another State Requires Live-Fire In Order To Carry A Gun

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Last time I looked, only a minority of states required that a citizen who wants to walk around with a concealed weapon actually know how to use it.  And the only way to determine whether someone knows how to shoot a gun is to watch them shoot it.  Kind of a no-brainer, wouldn’t you think?  After all, doesn’t every state require that someone actually drives a real car before they are issued their first driver’s license?  But of course driving isn’t a Constitutional right.  But according to the NRA, it’s all about the 2nd Amendment if you want to strap on a gun. So if a state is going to impose the onerous requirement on CCW licensees that they actually shoot the damn thing, they better not trample on our 2nd Amendment rights.  They better not!!! 

Gov. Nikki Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley

Governor Nikki Haley and the South Carolina legislature got the message loud and clear in the new gun bill that she signed this week.  Among other things, the new law allows Carolinians to bring a gun into a bar or other establishment where liquor is served.  But it expressly prohibits anyone from consuming alcohol if they happen to be carrying a gun.  It also allows bar and restaurant owners from prohibit patrons from entering their premises with a concealed weapon; you may recall that Toby Keith’s restaurant chain took a hit from the 2nd Amendment crowd when his Virginia restaurant told patrons to leave their guns outside.

What I found most interesting about the new South Carolina law is how it rewrote the training requirement that must be met in order to hook a gun up to your belt.  The old CCW law required eight hours of training, the new law doesn’t specify any time requirement at all.  The new law requires that a CCW candidate receive information on the following topics: laws covering firearms, firearm use safety, and proper storage of firearms with emphasis on practices that reduces injuries to children.  And after all that information is digested, no matter how little or long it takes, the candidate then must “fire the handgun in the presence of the instructor.”

Did you get that?  Because I quoted directly from the text of the law.  Any resident of South Carolina who wishes to walk around with the right to deliver lethal force with a handgun must actually pull the trigger of a handgun at least once.  Is South Carolina really saying that in order to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights I have to shoot the damn gun?  Well, I guess pulling the trigger only once isn’t much of a Constitutional threat.  But I’m going to tell you right now that if I lived in South Carolina, the last thing anyone’s going to make me do is pull the darn trigger twice.

Just remember, us South Carolinians were the first state to secede from the Union over the abridgement of our Constitutional rights.  We’ll give Governor Haley a pass on this one because we know she’s generally on our side.  But nobody better try to shove any more gun training down our throats or the Palmetto State might just rise again.

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