A Person In Your Sights
This is in no way an extension, justification or promotion of the ongoing gun debate in America today. The reason for this article is poignant due to the recent events in Charleston, SC, where a gunman entered a church meeting and subsequently gunned down several people for biased means. I generally prefer to keep these articles timeless by not delving too deeply in events that mark a specific point in time, but it was worth mentioning due to the nature of the subject matter.
What must it be like to point a gun at another human being?
It seems like it would be easy. Those of us that were “allowed” to play with toy guns as kids did it a thousand times, watching in pleasure as our foe dramatically bit the dust in a overacted play of convulsive death. The video game generation uses a virtual world of gun/knife/sword/explosive/fist massacre-enabled pandemonium whose bloodbath desensitization is rivaled only by their frighteningly degraded attention spans.
As a civilian with no prior military experience, I have had only one personal experience with actually taking up a firearm in defense of myself. While living in an apartment complex I was awoken one night to what sounded like a sledgehammer being used on my front door to gain entry. While my first instinct should have been to first call the police, instead I retrieved my firearm, loaded it and stood at the top of my stairs, staring down at the front door where the noise was coming from.
I recall the nervous excitement of the event and at the same time saying to myself; “What if someone actually breaks through? Am I ready to shoot someone for smashing through my front door?”
That question hung with me for what seemed to be an endless amount of time, but in actuality was probably only about a minute or two. In the end, it was not my door that was being bust upon, but the door directly next to mine, where the downstairs occupant’s boyfriend was attempting entry after a fierce lovers quarrel.
Did I feel stupid?
No. Why? Because I’m sure misunderstandings like this one happen all the time. The fact that I happened to be well versed in firearms safety kept the situation from escalating from a 2-person argument to a three-person catastrophe involving a firearm. I shutter to think of how many people have actually pulled the trigger in fear and shot right through the door.
What about police?
The causality of more recent events involving the police and the discharge of their firearms has officially made being a police officer the most difficult job in America, unless you are comparing them to our military forces overseas.
Why anyone would be looking to become a police officer today is beyond me—the “can’t win scenario” ever clear and persistent—yet still they apply. Unfortunately, and adding even more to the pressure of American law enforcement, is the fact that police are notoriously undertrained when it comes to firearms marksmanship. Imagine making the snap decisions necessary in those life or death confrontations and not being able to hit a brick while standing in a chimney.
Sadly comical are the news reports that tell the tales of thirty shots fired with only three hits…on civilians. I would never want to be in the shoes of an officer with a gun drawn on someone.
What about military?
Soldier: “Possible enemy target in sights…Am I clear to fire?”
Voice in headset: “Hold.”
Soldier: “Target moving. Ten seconds until obstructed. Am I clear to fire?”
Voice in headset: “No confirmation of target. Shooters discretion.”
What would you do, knowing that the wrong decision could land your ass in jail for a war crime? Hows that for your country standing behind you in a crisis? Take the shot and you could end up a criminal. Don’t take the shot and some of your buddies could be killed. God bless em.
What about self defense?
If my little “gun pointed at the door” scenario didn’t illustrate it enough, how must it be for the concealed carrier, the home defender, or the open carry advocate to defend him or herself for the first time? The reality is that the sense of self preservation can help or hinder depending on training.
The untrained gun user in a self defense scenario will be inaccurate, undisciplined and potentially dangerous to him or herself as well as others around them—hopefully the assailant too. This might be an unwelcome or unpopular view to take on this, but it’s the reality that must be faced with the carrying of firearms.
To the trained user, however, the opposite will usually be the case. There will always be moments of panic that drive out the forethought and how-to’s of using a firearm in a high-pressure and immediate situation, but the trained individual has a much better opportunity of delivering actions quickly, decisively and safely to deal with the threat.
The psychological ramifications.
Lining up the sights of a firearm on another human being is something that is and will be unknown and unexperienced to 99.9% of the population of humanity. The possibility of taking another human life is something we hear about every day, but as much as the media tells us that we have become desensitized to violence and killing, psychologically we really haven’t. Military or law enforcement PTSD, civilian survivors guilt or any number of psychological terms really does not drive the point home to the casual reader or prime-time news observer.
The simple reality is that be you civilian, soldier or cop, pointing a gun at someone is not easy to do. Forget about pulling the trigger—there are those who could not even fathom it—but just the act of aiming the firearm with the possibility to do harm in that simple act can be too much for some to handle. How do you know if you can handle it? I can only hope that you’ll never have to find out. As for me, I train…a lot. Can I pull a trigger if all other solutions have been exhausted? Yes, of that I am confident. How will I handle the mental aspects of having done so? Time and experience are the only deciding factors.
Hopefully, I will never find out.