02 August 15
n the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the National Rifle Association proposed putting more guns in schools. After a racist shot up a Charleston prayer group, an NRA board member argued for more guns in church. And now predictably, politicians and gun rights advocates are calling for guns in movie theaters after a loner killed two people at a theater in Louisiana.
The notion that more guns are always the solution to gun crime is taken seriously in this country. But the research shows that more guns lead to more gun homicides -- not less. And that guns are rarely used in self-defense.
Now a new study from researchers at Mount St. Mary's University sheds some light on why people don't use guns in self-defense very often. As it turns out, knowing when and how to apply lethal force in a potentially life-or-death situation is really difficult.
The study was commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council, an advocacy group devoted to enacting "sensible gun laws" that "find common ground between legal gun owners and non-gun owners that minimizes gun violence in our culture." The study found that proper training and education are key to successfully using a firearm in self-defense: "carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense unless the carrier is properly trained and maintains their skill level," the authors wrote in a statement.
They recruited 77 volunteers with varying levels of firearm experience and training, and had each of them participate in simulations of three different scenarios using the firearms training simulator at the Prince George's County Police Department in Maryland. The first scenario involved a carjacking, the second an armed robbery in a convenience store, and the third a case of suspected larceny.
They found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, people without firearms training performed poorly in the scenarios. They didn't take cover. They didn't attempt to issue commands to their assailants. Their trigger fingers were either too itchy -- they shot innocent bystanders or unarmed people, or not itchy enough -- they didn't shoot armed assailants until they were already being shot at.