A study recently commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council revealed a sobering yet not too surprising conclusion: Armed citizens usually perform better in a self-defense scenario when they are equipped with proper gun training and ongoing education.
The study was conducted over a two-day period in April by researchers at Mount St. Mary’s University, which included professors of criminology, sociology and quantitative research. The participants were made up of 77 volunteers with different levels of firearm training and experience, from civilians with no training to law enforcement officers.
Using a police training simulator at the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland, each volunteer was tested on how they would react to three different real-life scenarios – a carjacking, an armed robbery and suspected larceny. Researchers measured and recorded the reactions of the volunteers, including judgment and accuracy.
Their reactions – and the end results – were all very different.
Volunteers with no training performed the worst, not taking cover when they could and failing to issue demands at their assailants in an effort to diffuse the situation before using lethal force. In addition, untrained participants were unsure when to pull the trigger, either shooting without a clear shot, taking down innocent bystanders or unarmed individuals in the process, or not being ready to pull the trigger before the threat became fatal, leaving the armed citizen dead in the simulation despite the fact they were carrying a gun.
On the contrary, those who underwent prior training and maintained skills performed significantly better, disabling threats while protecting bystanders – and themselves – with fewer mistakes and less bloodshed during the simulation. But, perhaps not surprising, none of the participants were able to match skills with the volunteers who were trained law enforcement professionals.
“For citizens to realistically defend themselves they must have a high skill level. To attain that level requires extensive initial training in the classroom, on the firing range and with real-life scenarios,” said Joe Vince, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Mount St. Mary’s. “To maintain such levels, semi-annual skill maintenance training, like what police officers go through, is required.”
Elliot Fineman, CEO of the National Gun Victims Action Council, said he would like to see the study used to inform public policy and likened the importance of continued training for gun owners to training used by athletes.
“Low-skill carriers cannot defend themselves and are a threat to public safety,” Fineman concluded.