Readers often ask me about the action-skills training I receive when I write novels like THE PROTECTOR and THE NAKED EDGE. After the Colorado-theater shooting, I was reminded of my firearms training when gun sales increased because people wanted to be ready—“just in case.”
There are good reasons and bad reasons to carry a weapon in the United States. The pros and cons aren’t the subject of these remarks. What I want to talk about is training. When people tell me that they received a concealed-carry license after a day or two of instruction, I’m appalled. Anybody can easily learn how to fire a weapon. It’s not difficult. But there are so many other factors.
A proper concealed-carry course should spend at least a day on the legal use of deadly force. Did the opponent have the means, motive, and opportunity to threaten your life? Did you have absolutely no other option except to shoot? Do you know about grand juries and the sorts of serious questions they ask when someone shoots someone else? Ideally, a proper course would even put you in a grand-jury scenario, requiring you to get an idea of what it’s like to justify your serious actions in a way that convinces people who don’t have experience with guns.
Further, a proper concealed-carry course would provide a minimum of two days in which the class acted out scenarios that may or may not have required the use of deadly force. A man bangs on your door. He’s extremely distraught. He says his car broke down outside and his wife’s in the back seat—she’s pregnant, she needs an ambulance, she needs to get to the hospital! He pushes his way in, saying he needs to use your phone. You tell him to wait outside while you make the call. He shoves you away, demanding to know where the phone is. “Wait outside!” you order him. He knocks you to the floor and lunges past you toward the kitchen, yelling “The phone!” He might be a nutcase. Or he might be telling the truth. If you shoot him, you might be spending the next ten years in jail. Not to mention you might be financially ruined if it turns out the guy was telling the truth and the woman gives birth in the car, but the baby dies, and the woman almost dies also. You’ll be living in a tent by the time the lawsuits are over. But maybe the guy is indeed crazy and dangerous, and you saved the lives of your family and yourself. You need to make a decision in an instant. Good luck. Two days of rehearsal in this kind of scenario are probably not enough.
And then there are the physiological reactions to being in a gunfight. Most gunfights occur within ten feet of the shooters, and in many case, although a lot of shots are fired, the bullets go everywhere, except at the target. A gunfight is chaos and noise and adrenaline. Hearing shuts down. Tunnel vision sets in. Some objects get amazingly large. To replicate that chaos, which is not at all like the movies, this is one valuable scenario I experienced.
I was put through a shooting maze (sometimes called a “shooting house”). Inside a structure, there were various rooms with pop-up targets. Some showed bad guys with guns and grenades. Others showed a businessman with a briefcase or a woman with a baby carriage. One showed a woman being used as a shield by a guy with a gun. But I didn’t know what any of these targets looked like before I entered and confronted them.
My instructor spun me violently five times to the right. Then he spun me with equal violence five times to the left. As dizziness set in, he cursed at me, using the foulest language imaginable. Meanwhile he also pounded my chest and back. He literally threw me into the shooting maze so that I almost fell on the floor.
Mind spinning, heart pounding, lungs heaving, adrenaline flooding, I had 30 seconds to get through the maze and shoot the bad guys but not harm the good ones. I managed to do it, but it wasn’t easy. I personally saw a student empty a 15-round magazine into a target that showed a woman with a baby carriage. The instructor yelled, “She’s got a gun! She’s going to kill you!” The student kept firing. “She isn’t dead!” the instructor yelled. “Shoot her again!”
Having emptied his magazine, the student did a rapid reload and emptied another 15-round magazine into the target of the woman with the baby carriage. He was absolutely certain that he’d shot a bad guy, because the instructor had shouted repeatedly that the target showed a bad guy (the instructor was lying to make a point). It took the student 20 seconds to get his mind straight and to realize what he’d done.
Let’s consider the situation in the Colorado theatre. The place is full of smoke. Theater patrons are stampeding. The loud, action-filled movie adds to the confusion. The shooter is wearing body armor. Does it make sense to use a concealed-carry weapon in this scenario? As more guns go off, who can know the difference between the shooter and the people trying to defend themselves. The phone calls to the police would have said there were multiple shooters, thus adding to the deadly confusion. Well-meaning people with guns would almost certainly have hit bystanders.
It all comes down to adequate training and knowing what’s the right thing to do at the right time. If you decide that a concealed-carry weapon is necessary for you, remember what I said a minute ago. There are few responsibilities greater than carrying a weapon. Does the gun own you, or do you own the gun? There can never be enough training, and it can’t be repeated often enough.
These are some of the topics in my novels THE PROTECTOR and THE NAKED EDGE, which have a long list of the people who were kind enough to teach me the expertise that keeps them alive in their dangerous professions. I’m fascinated by protective agents and the commitment they make to strangers to defend them, even at the possible cost of a defender’s life.
If you think you’d enjoy reading action scenes based on the variety of training I received, please click on the the titles that are highlighted above.