Common sense

Isn’t it just common sense to ensure you know what you’re shooting at?

That question was posted on my Claude Werner, Researcher and Analyst page.

It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective.

Not intending to be pejorative but there is no such thing as ‘common sense.’ What we refer to as ‘common sense’ is actually learned behavior based on our past experience.

For instance, as adults, we consider it ‘common sense’ to not stick our hand in a fire. When we were three years old, we didn’t know it would hurt and probably found it out the hard way.

Similarly, we as gun people would consider it ‘common sense’ to not look down the bore of a firearm. If you gave a pistol to an Australian Aborigine, one of the first things they would do is look down the bore because in their worldview, knowing what’s in a hole is really important. Even Al Gore did it when he was searching for the Internet in Viet Nam. That was before he realized he had to invent it.

Al Gore looks down bore.

Al Gore looks down bore.

Ninety-nine percent of what most people know about firearms usage they learned from TV and the movies. In those media, there is never any ambiguity about the shoot/no shoot decision. As a result, when people get placed in a real set of circumstances, they do indeed default to their ‘training,’ which is the media programming. So they tend to make mistakes and shoot, even if it’s not appropriate. I once bemoaned to a colleague that my Threat Management classes didn’t sell. His response was “Nobody buys a gun with the idea that they’re not going to use it.” His comment put it in perspective for me.

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14 responses

  1. I’ve never been impressed by instructors who claim to teach mindset and then brag how many gunfights their students have won. I would rather know how many they didn’t have to fight. There is a difference between asocial and antisocial behavior. The former is rare and can usually be avoided with a little forethought; the latter is common. Too often, we get them confused and respond inappropriately.

  2. So they tend to make mistakes and shoot, even if it’s not appropriate.

    I would like to ask if there is any evidence to support your contention or is this based isolated cases reported in the news?

    I know that Texas monitors arrests and convictions of those licensed to carry. I review many of the shootings in the state – at least those reported by the media. Add to that the studies done showing citizens do better at Not shooting the wrong person and hitting the right person than Cops do — while I’m not not seeing a major problem with people making mistakes and shooting when not appropriate.

    Bob S.

    1. Good question, Bob.

      We have to be careful between drawing conclusions based on those with Weapons Carry Licenses. Overall, according to the survey by the GAO, roughly 10 per cent of adults in the US have some form of written governmental approval to carry a weapon outside the home. Comparing that number with the figure of around 50 percent of households that own guns means that the Pareto Principle applies and less than 20 percent of gunowners actually may carry their weapons outside the home.

      I agree with you that those people who go through the process of obtaining a License/Permit/Whatever, regardless of taking training or not, have a strong tendency to be very responsible about their usage of firearms. Also, situations in public places for Armed Citizens tend to be less ambiguous than those at home. When someone pulls a gun on you outside Taco Bell and says “Give it up,” that situation is rather clear cut. It’s rather different for the Police Officer who arrives a few minutes later and has to figure who is the victim and who is the perp with almost no information about what actually happened other than their dispatch report.

      Early last year, a colleague encouraged me to do a presentation at this year’s Rangemaster Tactical Conference about ‘Bad Shootings.’ Without even making it a serious research effort, the number of Negative Outcomes I found shocked me. I now have over 500 incidents on my hard drive. That’s one year without even working at it. On average, that’s more than one every single day. I can no longer consider the phenomenon ‘isolated.’

  3. I would like to know how you define “bad shootings”.
    Is that based on convictions? Or simply media reports like the first ones coming out from George Zimmerman?

    On average, that’s more than one every single day. I can no longer consider the phenomenon ‘isolated.’

    Okay, let’s look at that and be very very generous on the bad side. Let’s say you miss many of them. Let’s say not 500 but 1,500 happen each year.

    1,500 a year for 50,000,000 gun owners – right? So that would be 1,500 divided by 50 million times 100 to get a percentage = 0.003% of the gun owners per year involved in a bad shoot. Is it bad that it happens, yes but how many people get in a car accident each year, how many people get food poisoning or give it each year.

    Let’s keep the numbers in perspective.

    Bob S.

    1. Bob, anytime someone shoots a family member unintentionally, like this case, that’s a bad shooting. Brought to trial and convicted, that’s a bad shooting. Self inflicted gunshot wounds are bad shootings.

      I know we want to extol the value of owning firearms and I agree with it. That ownership is a two edged sword, though, just like a lot of other things. No good comes of ignoring the downsides of gun ownership. Pretending they don’t exist and consequences don’t happen doesn’t benefit the community of gunowners in any way.

      1. No one is trying to ignore the downsides of gun ownership.
        So again –
        Compare the number of people injured in ‘bad shootings’ to the number of people injured in food poisoning? More or less
        Compare the number of people injured by a family member running over them or crashing a car — more or less than ‘bad shootings’?

        How many people are injured in swimming pools or lakes each year due to ‘bad parenting’?

        I’m not trying to ignore the number but is it not an epidemic. It is not something that can be solved by another law.

        What it seems you want to do is force everyone to be perfect in their use of firearms but not require that for anything else? Is that common sense?

        Using the CDC’s WISQARs program for 2013 for Unintentional Injuries
        Drownings — 5,327
        Firearm related — 16,864
        Dog — 342,021
        Fire — 393,005
        Machinery – 186,409
        Poison –1,055,960 (including drug use/abuse)

        So out of all the issues our country faces isn’t it fair to say that unintentional firearm injuries and deaths is not the biggest problem?

        I just want to use some common sense and keep this is perspective.

        So again — what do you change to address the 0.003% of gun owners involved in ‘bad shootings’ each year?

        Bob S.

      2. What I’m trying to figure out, Bob, is what your point is. This discussion is about firearms not swimming pools, fires, dogs, or poison. And, I don’t recall bringing ‘another law’ into the discussion at any point. So I will ask a Yes/No question.

        I can document hundreds of people who, since February 2014, have unintentionally shot themselves or a family member. Are you saying that we, the firearms owner community, and me, a firearms trainer, should not talk about that fact and just completely ignore it?

        Yes or no is all that is required. Anything more will just be obfuscation.

        BTW, the three boxes quote is generally attributed to Frederick Douglass.

  4. Reblogged this on Concealed Carry Lifestyle.

  5. Are you saying that we, the firearms owner community, and me, a firearms trainer, should not talk about that fact and just completely ignore it?

    NO, I am not saying we should not talk about the fact or ignore it. To imply that I’ve said so is a straw man argument. Nothing I’ve said shows that. What I’m trying to determine is HOW much we should be talking about it and what level of hysteria.

    Ninety-nine percent of what most people know about firearms usage they learned from TV and the movies.

    Really? Seems to me with so few accidental and bad shootings per capita (see above numbers) your statement is a little out of line with reality.

    It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective.

    ABSOLUTELY !!!! Your STATEMENT – I’m just trying to put it into perspective. This is not a huge problem. The number of bad shootings per capita is a much smaller problem then other ‘bad’ anythings – bad driving, bad cooking, bad use of tools. Let’s keep it in perspective and not make it sound like every 3rd person is out there shooting someone they shouldn’t. The evidence just doesn’t support your contention this is a problem that

    …they tend to make mistakes and shoot, even if it’s not appropriate.It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective. Sorry the evidence isn’t there. Does it happen, yes. But it is a rare event. Prove to me otherwise and don’t cite anecdotal evidence — tens of millions of people own firearms, millions of people use them to stop crime, to defend themselves, to shoot recreationally — and darn few result in ‘bad shootings’.

    Address those people and don’t make it sound like the vast majority of people need to be trained by people like yourself. They aren’t doing so bad.

    Bob S.

  6. I’ll try to keep this as short as possible. I started shooting in he early 80’s. I was small game hunting in upstate NY . I was pretty much done for the day, had met up with my friend and we were headed back (walking) to his sisters house. We took a shortcut through the local ‘unofficial” town dump and had stopped for a cigarette. My friend was telling a joke and as I started laughing I heard a pop and a sharp crack sound. my friend stepped back, looked down at my feet and his eyes went wide. I asked what happened and he said “you almost just lost your big toe”. I looked down and right next to my foot was a smooth stone about 4″ long, and a couple of inches wide that looked like it had been split down the middle with a chisel and hammer.
    My rifle was a Ruger 10/22, and although I had removed the magazine before we started walking, I had apparently failed to clear the chamber, and while holding it I had compounded my mistake by letting my finger go inside the trigger guard and it had convulsively pulled the trigger when I started laughing at my friends joke.
    It’s a mistake I’ve never made again in the last 30+ years. Sometimes when I’m at range these days I’ve had other people who don’t know me well ask something along the lines of “how much more are you going to work the action/clear your action”?
    My usual response is “until I’m happy with the result”.
    Whether it’s clearing the action, storing your firearm, or searching your house, it only takes moment of inattention to make a life altering mistake.

    1. “Whether it’s clearing the action, storing your firearm, or searching your house, it only takes moment of inattention to make a life altering mistake.”

      Thanks for sharing that. You are spot on.

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