By Larry Correia
Gun control disarms regular people, which makes them easier targets for regular criminals to victimize, and it does pretty much zilch against dedicated mass killers.
What can we say to the “I’d be more comfortable if you gun people were forced to have more mandatory training” crowd? This is a subject that has caused some division among gun rights advocates over the years, but I’m firmly against any sort of legally mandated training for private citizens before they can exercise their rights.
To clarify, I’m a huge fan of training. I think gun school is great. I’ve taken many classes over the years, and I still try to take at least one or two classes annually to continue my education and not become stagnant. I think if you’re going to own a gun or carry a gun, it behooves you to seek out quality instructors and keep learning.
But mandatory training, required by the state, before you are allowed to defend yourself? Absolutely not. This Do-Something! mentality is usually accompanied by a tortured analogy equating gun ownership to getting a driver’s license. Except mandatory training is a placebo at best.
The Absolute Minimum
There have been different kinds of mandatory training required to get a concealed carry permit. When I got started, some states required attending a classroom lecture, others required classroom time and an actual shooting test. The length of the classes and the difficulty of the test varied greatly state to state. And there was one state (Vermont) that required no training or license at all, so anybody who wasn’t a prohibited person could just carry a gun.
When I first started teaching CCW I did a full-on basic live-fire handgun class in addition to the lecture portion required by the state. What I quickly discovered was the people who were going to be smart were smart. People who were going to be stupid were on their best behavior while I watched them, then immediately went back to being stupid when they were on their own. People who want to get trained pay attention. People who are there because it’s required do the absolute minimum and then forget it as soon as they reach the parking lot. Sort of like every other kind of mandatory training for every other single field ever, in all of recorded human history. So no big surprise there.
Shooting is a skill that can be taught. Those who want to learn are going to learn. Those with giant egos assume that what they already know is good enough, and you can’t teach them anything anyway. Plus, shooting is only one part of the equation, and not the most important part either. Don’t get me wrong, being able to hit your target is important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of making good decisions. I can teach a monkey to hit a piece of paper. Teaching someone to react intelligently under stress is a whole lot harder.
Even mandatory training often has giant gaping holes in what it covers, and one-size-fits-all training rarely helps with an individual’s specific needs. Mandatory minimum standards get you a lot of mandatory minimum instructors producing mandatory minimum shooters. This isn’t just for gun stuff, but you’ve all seen it in whatever it is you do for a living. What boxes are we required to check? Let’s hurry and check them.
The old Utah course required a bunch of extraneous stuff that was best learned on your own, or from the owner’s manual, yet there was only a small section about use-of-force laws, when you can shoot, why you should shoot, and absolutely nothing at all about tactics. There was no section about what to do after a shooting, how to deal with the responding officers, or what the legal aftermath would be like . . . but I was legally required to spend time explaining stuff like the difference between rimfire and centerfire.
After about a year, I changed up my CCW class. If a student wanted to learn to shoot better, then he could come to an actual shooting class. Then I expanded my classroom portion. I’d cover the mandatory basic silly requirements, then spend the majority of the time going over use of force, decision making, and the stuff that keeps you alive and out of jail.
I added a role-playing section, where students would be armed with a rubber dummy gun, and then we’d run through various scenarios. I’d usually play the bad guy and enlist other students to act out various roles. Sometimes the answer was to shoot, but usually the answer was to avoid or deescalate. Then the entire class would discuss the decision-making process and why they did what they did. I used this to challenge the students’ preconceived notions of how “their gunfight” was going to unfold. I lost track of how many times I had somebody who’d already been through a state-mandated CCW class come up to me afterward and comment about how eye-opening the scenario training was.
To Assuage the Conscience of Bureaucrats
You might be thinking, Wow that sounds great. Let’s make all the basic training that good. Except I did that because I wanted to, and the students were there voluntarily for that extra time. If the state made that sort of thing legally required, the mass-produced version would start to suck like all mandatory training does, and it would just become a longer exercise in box checking.
That’s classroom. For states that require actual shooting portions, lazy instructors love qualifiers, because they can simply check off a list and feel like they’re accomplishing something. Two shots at five yards. Check. Good shooting instructors actually take the time to watch students, they have the experience and awareness to diagnose students’ weaknesses, and then they help them to individually get better.
If anything, passing a basic qualifier is harmful in that it provides a false sense of security. I saw this all the time when working with law enforcement. “I passed my shooting qual in POST! I already know how to shoot good!” they’d exclaim, not realizing that the qualifier they passed was relatively easy and usually designed for the lowest common denominator to pass.
So make the tests harder, right? Except super in-depth qualifiers for regular citizens assuage the conscience of bureaucrats, and that’s about it. You will often see articles lamenting the terrible hit ratios for police in gun fights, and then they extrapolate out from there that if even trained police miss a lot, how much worse will civilians be? Well, first, people miss because gunfights are hard. Second, most of the cops with those infamously lousy hit rates come from programs where their training consists of the same type of B.S. qualifiers that the bureaucrats want to force on CCW holders.
Cops are supposed to respond, chase down criminals, and arrest them. That’s the opposite of what armed citizens do. The vast majority of the time, just producing the gun solves the problem for the regular gun owner. Or the violent encounter happens so close that fine marksmanship doesn’t matter. So why, exactly, should we put some extra hoops for the permit holder to jump through, that don’t really matter, don’t really help, and just add one more expense to getting the permit to begin with?
Time and Money
The more training you mandate, the more it costs in time and money to check those boxes. So now the rich guy who can easily afford time off work to go to his nearby shooting range with instructors on staff can exercise his rights. But the poor single mom who lives in the city that drove off all its shooting ranges can’t afford the days off. No rights for her. Oh well. Too bad she has a stalker. If he shows up again, she should just call 911 and hope.
If you’ve already got the law written so that it requires a shooting portion, what is to keep some future anti-gun bureaucrat who hates the idea of regular people being armed from tweaking the test to make it so difficult that nobody can pass it? And even if it is only as difficult as the qual for, say, the old air marshal test (which is the only federal qual I’ve ever shot that’s legitimately challenging), and you personally are a badass gunslinger killer of cardboard, do you want to force that requirement on your mom? Sorry, Mom, you don’t get to carry a gun to use at conversational distance against a rapist, because I don’t feel safe knowing you can’t shoot the SEAL Team Six pistol qualifier.
Also note that the people who are in favor of more training and tougher tests don’t want to set the bar so high that they can’t personally reach it. They would much rather set the bar just below what they can do, because obviously, that’s how proficient you should be. Anybody who can’t shoot as good as they can is obviously a menace to society. It’s like the old joke, anybody who drives slower than you is a loser, and anybody who drives faster is a maniac.
When people who are nominally on my side tell me that they want mandatory training to weed out the unworthy, I’ll tell them Sure, let’s do that. Except I think you should shoot at least as good as me (and odds are that since I’m a fanatic who used to do this for a living, with my own private shooting range at my house, I’m way better than they are). I’ll make a super test that only hardcore shooters with big practice-ammo budgets can pass. So no permit for you. That’ll keep out the riff raff.
Yeah, they don’t like that idea.
Show Me the Numbers
That’s basically what this fixation on mandatory training comes down to. Feelings. There are some on the pro-gun side who are no different from the anti-gunners who want to ban everything because it makes them feel unsafe. Regardless of your feelings, show me the numbers. If mandatory training made a huge difference in safety, how come Alaska and Vermont’s permit holders, subject to no required training, were about as safe as Utah’s and Arizona’s, despite Utah’s minimum four-hour requirement, and Arizona’s historic 16 hours of training?
I already told you the answer. People who care, care. People who don’t, don’t.
Over the last decade, states slowly have caught onto this, and more of them have passed constitutional carry, requiring no training or license at all. Fully half of the states have some version of this now and it is wonderful, because your rights shouldn’t depend on someone else’s feelings.
If your need to Do Something! overrides all reason and logic, then you likely wish to ban guns despite all of this. Other nations have banned guns, so why can’t we?
I hate comparing the United States to other countries, because they simply aren’t us. These comparisons are always terribly flawed, as cherry-picked crime stats from the socially, culturally, and economically diverse United States are compared to their idealized version of some super-homogenous, tiny-population Nordic nation that’s as exciting as oatmeal.
But since this is inevitably going to get brought up by the ignorant or dishonest, here we go.
Murder Capital of the Universe
If you go by media talking points, America is the murder capital of the universe. This is so pervasive that Europeans on Twitter will talk about how they’re terrified to come to America because surely they’ll get shot to death as soon as they get off the plane.
If you look at the per capita murder rates by country, depending on which source you use, America is usually toward the middle, with legendarily violent Third-World nations at the top, and tiny resort countries at the bottom. Not that anybody should trust what other countries claim as their crime stats, because everybody compiles their stats by different criteria, and some just outright lie for propaganda purposes. Personally I have a hard time believing that Sierra Leone is four times safer than the United States. According to China, they have almost no murders there.
But we all know what Mark Twain said about statistics.
America’s overall murder rate is also extremely misleading, but we’ll get to that.
Giant, chaotic, melting-pot America has a complicated history of social volatility that has more in common with Mexico or Brazil than Norway, but the anti-gun zealots never want to compare those stats. Go figure.
They love to use Australia though. Australia had a mass killing and instituted a massive gun ban and confiscation—a program that simply would not work here, but let’s run with it anyway. As anti-gun zealots like to point out, Australia hasn’t had any similar events since. However, they didn’t really have any before that, either. You need to keep in mind that mass killings are horrific headline-grabbing statistical anomalies. And Australia has a population of 26 million. The United States has nearly 13 times more people.
So the big thing they didn’t have before still isn’t happening. But if the Australian population is disarmed and criminals still exist, what happens without those defensive gun uses by regular citizens we talked about earlier?
Australia smokes the United States when it comes to high assault and rape rates. They are assault and rape champions. Again, stats comparing different countries are notoriously unreliable because of different reporting parameters or outright propaganda, but though you might be less likely to get shot in that gun-free paradise, you’re a lot more likely to get raped or beaten. Australia is way above the world average.
Personally, I’m in favor of rapists getting shot by their intended victims. Apparently the Australian government disagrees with me on that. We also diverge on prison camps for sick people, but I’m trying not to get into politics other than guns. Of course most of the articles about Australia’s crime rate will declare that this has nothing to do with regular citizens no longer being able to defend themselves.
So then we’ve got England, where they reacted swiftly after a mass shooting, banned and confiscated firearms, and since then their violent crime rates have risen dramatically. During the same timeframe, America became increasingly well-armed and our violent crime rates were trending downward—until “fiery but mostly peaceful” 2020 at least—and Britain’s were rising. Their violent crime rate is somewhere between four and six times worse than ours, and Britain is notorious for underreporting their violent crime statistics.
Like Australia, a cursory Google search about Britain’s crime will find their ludicrous stats, yet also plenty of articles from their blatant anti-gun media outlets declaring that the increase totally has nothing to do with their regular citizens no longer being allowed to defend themselves . . . Sensing a trend yet?
Gun Control Stops Mass Killers, Right?
So gun control hinders regular citizens and emboldens run-of-the-mill criminals, but surely it stops mass killers. Right?
Not particularly. Take Norway with its extremely strict gun control for example. Their gun control laws are simply incomprehensible to most Americans. Not only that, they have been a well-off, tiny-population, ethnically and socially homogeneous country, without our gang violence or drug problems. Their gun control laws are draconian by our standards. They make Chicago look like Boise. Surely that level of gun control will stop mass killers! Except of course for 2011 when a maniac killed 77 and injured 242 people—an absurdly high body count.