When I bought my wife her first handgun, I asked her if I put it loaded on her side of the bed and an intruder came in, would she use it. When she said she didn’t know I told her I wouldn’t put it beside the bed. I explained that if she wasn’t certain she would use it then the intruder might take it from her and use it against her.
In my classes I pose the same question. “Can you point a loaded handgun at another human and press the trigger?” It is a thought exercise. It is an exercise that anyone who carries a firearm should be doing.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has written books on the subject. One, On Killing, looks at the challenge the military has in getting soldiers to shoot at people. This challenge has arisen from the societal shift away from families who raised and butchered livestock and supplemented that protein source with wild game they also slaughtered themselves.
Today we get our meat from grocery stores, butcher shops and big box retailers. We no longer have the task of ending the animal's life and carving it up of our dinner. This was graphically illustrated by Ted Nugent’s Surviving Nugent reality show. One episode required the participants to cook a chicken for a meal. Unfortunately for those in the show, the chicken was alive. In explaining the challenge, Ted illustrated the task. He grabbed a chicken, slammed it’s head on a rock then ripped the breast out with his bare hands. Several of the participants were very repulsed. Ted said: “You have to kill it before you grill it.” The participants were all very hungry. Many of them could not carry out the task.
Today we have a world where the snowflakes complain that hunters shouldn’t be killing animals. They should get their meat from stores where no animals are harmed. They have no idea…
In the Civil War it was not uncommon for a soldier to be deemed unfit for combat due to teeth that were missing. It was required to have front teeth to be able to bite open the cartridges when loading. Many of these missing teeth were intentionally knocked out to avoid going to war. The reluctance to go to war was not fear of getting killed, it was the repulsion over killing another person.
The actual fire rates have increased from war to war due to conditioning. After WWI the military started using silhouette targets. During the Viet Nam war the soldiers were conditioned using pop-up targets and timing. The target would pop up and the time between then and firing at was used to qualify. The silhouettes were to condition the soldier to shoot at a human shape. The pop up targets were to build neural pathway conditioning to shoot quickly to overcome the hesitation of shooting a person.
It is not natural for a normal person to kill another person. That is why we lock up people who commit murder. The only type of person who can kill without psychological affects is the psychopath. Some soldiers meet the criteria for psychopathy. Most do not. That is why they must be conditioned.
In normal society we have the same issue. There are some psychopaths. We know them as serial killers, mass shooters, murderers. They are out there with us. Our legal system does society a disservice when jails have a revolving door for violent criminals. That is why we carry and train.
As we train, we should be using the same techniques the military uses to condition it’s citizen-soldiers to move past the revulsion over shooting another human. If we hesitate, the psychopath is just as likely take our firearm and use it against us or other innocent people.
As we train, we should also remember that, as Lt. Col. Grossman says in On Killing, the military has 10% of it’s highly trained soldiers who still don’t fire at people. In Viet Nam it was not uncommon for a soldier to shoot his ammunition above the intended target.
We may have the attitude we need to carry a loaded firearm with the intention of using it (as the last resort) to defend ourselves or others. If we do, our lives will change forever. It is very likely the fight or flight response will cause the blood our sphincters need to retain our bladder and bowel contents will be diverted elsewhere.
Many police officers who have a line of duty incident that ends up with a threat perishing, leave the force. Many who get into a defensive gun use cannot tolerate firearms after the incident.
We must train regularly. We need to get a variety of training from a variety of instructors. This is how we get as close as we can to being able to engage and stop a threat. When the fight or flight response occurs, our neural pathways will take over. If we are training properly, we are much more likely to be in the 90% group of people who will engage the threat.