We have had the shooting of Travon Martin, the Aurora Colorado rampage and now, today, a gunman at a Sikh temple killed 6 and left three critically injured before he was killed.
This has resulted in a huge amount of public debate over the issue of allowing citizens to carry a gun concealed. And like so much of our dialog, people are taking simple and rigid positions behind prominent ideologues. You either believe that guns should be outlawed and no one needs to even consider carrying one in public or you believe that the right to carry concealed is similar to the right to breath air.
I think the discussion is more complex than presented. To qualify my comments, I want to state that I am an active gun owner and have taken many classes in tactical gun training. I do not conceal carry because I live in Illinois.
I consider the concept of conceal carry as a public safety issue in two very different ways. First, the most obvious reason to carry a concealed weapon is to provide a person with the opportunity to defend themself and others against physical harm by another person. Conversely, the legally armed citizen that has all the best intentions but is ill trained or simply incapable of properly using the weapon can fail to defend themselves and actually hurt other innocent people. That ability to hurt other innocent people is why this issue is complex. If the result of incompetence with your firearm was restricted to you, the entire concept becomes very simple and I would be an unqualified supporter that everyone should be allowed to conceal carry. Unfortunately, the incompetent can be as deadly as the person against which they are trying to defend themselves. They can do this by hitting innocent bystanders or by using inappropriate ammunition or both.
I make the comparison to flying an airplane because there are many similarities and I am a pilot as well. Flying a plane is really very simple and easy just like shooting a gun at a range. The bulk of our flight training is to prepare us for the most unlikely of events. The preparation is so important because it gets your muscle memory and mental memory ready for a task during an event that by definition is highly stress filled. Shooting an approach to land in bad weather is challenging. Doing so and losing an engine definitely adds to the event. If you have repeatedly practiced single engine approaches “under the hood;” your muscle memory and mental preparedness could turn the event into a smooth landing versus a spiral stall into the field next to the airport.
And just like an errant bullet, an out of control aircraft could land in a field or a highly populated area. In other words, my incompetence as a pilot could kill uninvolved people.
Likewise, handling a gun during a real event requires practice, situational awareness, calm and focus. Tough stuff under the circumstances. No disrespect to our police but there are many reports of shootings involving police where there were many, many more misses then hits. Regardless of whether you think our average policeman has adequate training, I fully believe that they are much better trained then the average citizen that participates in concealed carry. Despite that fact take a look at some statistics.
“The mean score for NYPD police officers (1990-2000) for all shootings is fifteen hits per 100 shots fired, which is almost the identical hit ratio seen among Miami officers who in the years 1990-2001 fired some 1300 rounds at suspects while recording fewer than 200 hits. Almost unbelievably, some NYPD figures show 62% of shots fired at a distance of less than six feet were complete misses.” (http://www.pointshooting.com/1acamp.htm).
This statistic amplifies the point I am trying to make. These are trained professionals who in theory, are ready and alert for a situation. An untrained citizen in a surprise emergency situation cannot be expected, on average, to do any better and I believe would do much worse. Does this mean that they should never be allowed to conceal carry? No. It just greatly concerns me that in many states you can get a carry permit with nothing more than a background check, one day class and license fee. I believe this is inadequate for a license to carry in the general public. Defending your home is very different, although not absolutely. Your skill or lack thereof will likely only impact you, assuming you are using appropriate rounds. Use a full metal jacketed high power round and your neighbors could become a part of the situation. But assuming you’re using the right bullets, your training as it applies to the use of the gun in your house should be a personal choice.
There are even more complexities to this situation than I have written about here. For example, the deterrent factor of a criminal in a situation where he knows there are armed citizens could be significant. Another complexity is that by adding requirements to the license generally adds costs, which would restrict lower income people the right to defend themselves.
I believe that there should be more required training and education to carry a gun in public. I do not see that as a restriction in my freedom or an offense to the Second Amendment. I acknowledge that it is not a perfect solution, there rarely are those. Lower income people may be shut out of the right and even trained, certified citizens can be incredible boneheads. But I do believe it will actually increase the effectiveness of those who carry a weapon into the public and will reduce the risk to innocent bystanders.