Science & Tech

What happens when untrained civilians use guns

(Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
(Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

The gun rights debate in the US has re-emerged in the last few months in the wake of the Charleston and Lafayette Theatre shootings.

In response the National Rifle Association (NRA) proposed more guns in churches and theatres respectively.

A study, commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council, from researchers at Mount St Mary’s University in Maryland, has investigated how difficult it is to know when and how to apply lethal force in a potentially life and death situation.

Unsurprisingly, it has found that having the proper training is very, very important to using a gun in self-defence.

Seventy-seven participants with varying levels of firearm experience and training were put in front of a simulator of three different scenarios.

People without firearms training performed poorly, failing to take cover or attempting to issue commands.

They either shot too quickly, injuring bystanders, or too slowly and were themselves shot at.

To compare, here is an officer’s response:

And here is a typical civilian:

The study is limited, as a sample size of seventy-seven is very small. However it does prove a good point.

If you want to be able to use a gun in self-defence, you should be properly trained to do so.

The NRA does emphasise the importance of training and safety in personal firearms use, and offers a series of courses dedicated to self-defence.

However, it does put a little asterisk in its motto:

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun*

*With all of the relevant training in firearms and situational management for a life or death situation such as this.

Most states have no training or licence requirements before purchase or ownership of a gun and a handful have passed laws prohibiting localities from imposing their own training requirements. Sadly, recent cases in the US have also demonstrated that being a trained officer of the law far from guarantees correct firearms use.

To watch the full simulation, see below

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