When Bans Go Wrong: MA Struggles to Enforce Weapons Ban

AG Healey at an April hearing for the weapons ban lawsuit.
AG Healey at an April hearing for the weapons ban lawsuit.

On July 20, 2016, in the wake of the Orlando Pulse Night Club shooting, Attorney General Maura Healey issued a warning regarding the state’s assault weapons ban to all gun sellers and manufacturers in the state, stating that her office would be ramping up enforcement of Massachusetts’ already strict gun laws, including a crackdown on the sale of copycat weapons.

Clarifying the Weapons Ban

The notice, which is posted on the Massachusetts government website, clarifies what guns, according to the decisive ban, are considered “copy” or “duplicate.” The law, which was in place prior to the expiration of the Federal assault weapons ban in 2004, prohibits the sale of copies or duplicates of banned assault rifles, including two of America’s most popular firearms — the Colt AR-15 and the Kalishnikov AK-47. But in spite of the law, an estimated 10,000 copycat assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts last year alone.

According to Healey, the weapons ban has been purposefully misinterpreted by gun manufacturers for decades.

Essentially a gun is considered a copycat if it has the same internal operating system as one of the ones prohibited by the ban — either that or they are outfitted with important functional components that are easily interchangeable with those of a banned weapon. The Attorney General’s office hopes that these important specifications will force gun manufacturers and sellers to discontinue the manufacture and sale of duplicates.

Backlash

In a Boston Globe op-ed piece published the same day as the enforcement notice, Attorney General Healey stated that each of those assault weapons were “nearly identical to the rifle used to gun down 49 innocent people in Orlando.” She continued, stating, “In the week after the Pulse nightclub massacre, sales of weapons strikingly similar to the Sig Sauer MCX used at Pulse jumped as high as 450 percent over the previous week — just in Massachusetts.”

Despite having one of the nation’s toughest set of gun laws, Massachusetts continues to face an uphill battle in the firearms industry. According to Healey, manufacturers “market ‘state compliant’ copycat versions of their assault weapons to Massachusetts buyers. They sell guns without a flash suppressor or folding or telescoping stock, for example, small tweaks that do nothing to limit the lethalness of the weapon.”

Challenging the Ban

According to Healey, “In the dozen years since the federal assault weapons ban lapsed, only seven states have instituted their own assault weapons ban. Many of those bans have been challenged (unsuccessfully) by the gun industry, and we anticipate our directive may be too.”

Turns out, she was right.

This past January, the Massachusetts affiliate of the National Rifle Association sued Healey and Governor Charlie Baker, calling the state’s ban — and its revisions — unconstitutional and unlawful. The purpose of the suit was to have the ban declared “void and unenforceable.”

Jay Porter, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated, “Our position is that the state doesn’t have the authority under the Second Amendment to ban firearms that are commonly kept by responsible law abiding citizens for lawful purposes. … The Supreme Court has told us emphatically that the government cannot ban popular firearms which are commonly kept for lawful purposes.”

Weapon of War or Safety?

But the question needs to be asked, what lawful purpose do assault weapons have? The most commonly reported reason for owning a gun is self-defense.

However, Healey stated rather concisely in her op-ed that assault weapons like the AR-15, are “[weapons] of war, originally created for combat, and designed to kill many people in a short amount of time with incredible accuracy… These are not weapons of self-defense. They are weapons used to commit mass murder. And they have no business being in civilian hands.”

Since the enforcement notice, manufacture and sales of assault weapons has ended in the state of Massachusetts. But gun industry lobbyists and gun rights activists continue to fight what they consider unjust gun laws.

And their lawsuit is not without precedent.

Gun rights advocates have previously filed similar complaints in New York, Connecticut, and Maryland.

As of April 7, 2017, the judge overseeing the case met with both parties to discuss whether or not the July directive constitutes a new state regulation before he decides whether to move the lawsuit forward.

Since then no new information has come out. We will continue to update the story as it progresses.

In the mean time, we’d love for you to weigh in. What do you think of AG Healey’s assault weapons ban? Do you think people need semi-automatic weapons for purposes of self-defense? Let us know.

 

Why Massachusetts Has the Nation’s Toughest Gun Laws

The debate rages on for gun owners and gun laws in the United States
The fight for better gun laws continues to rage on despite decades of firearm legislation.

It’s no secret to Massachusetts gun owners that the Codfish State has some of the strictest firearm laws in the United States. And as the years have gone by, those laws have continued to tighten — despite the efforts of organizations like the NRA. So how exactly did it get to be this way?

The 1998 Massachusetts Gun Control Act

In 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the nation’s toughest gun legislation. That law sought to make the gun licensure process more comprehensive and difficult to navigate. It banned semiautomatic assault weapons, created additional licensing rules and sought severe penalties for those storing unlocked guns. Part of the legislation required all new firearm license applicants to complete a certified firearms safety or hunter education course.

The law also imposed a ban on covert guns, unreliable guns (junk guns), and certain assault weapons. Despite these restrictions, many argued the laws were ineffective in curbing gun violence. But as James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist stated, “The quality of your gun-licensing laws is only as good as those surrounding you.’’

The 2004 Revisions

In an attempt to further strengthen the 1998 laws, Massachusetts legislators enacted a series of revisions to the original act. As part of the revisions, the ban on certain assault weapons was continued; an extension was put in place for the term of FID cards and LTC from four to six years; a provision was added for a grace period of 90 days following the expiration of a license, as was an exemption of the LTC renewal fee for active law enforcement officers.

Beyond that, the 2004 revisions sought to establish a firearm license review board whose responsibility was to review applications from individuals convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses who were disqualified under current law.

The 2014 Laws

Following the devastating 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Massachusetts lawmakers came together in an effort to overhaul the state’s gun laws — which many believed were too lax, despite the state’s consideration as one of the nation’s toughest states for gun owners.

The 2014 law stiffened penalties for certain gun-based crimes, instituted real-time background checks in private gun sales and created a firearms trafficking unit within the state police. It also gave police chiefs the right to use judiciary means to deny FID cards to people whom they felt were unsuitable to own a weapon.

Going Forward

Despite the efforts Massachusetts lawmakers to stiffen firearm laws and curb gun violence, many argue that these laws aren’t enough on their own. Jim Wallace, head of the Massachusetts-based Gun Owners Action League and a vocal gun rights advocate, said “more laws don’t necessarily mean good laws.”

But if you look to countries like Australia, where strict gun laws have led to a massive decline in gun violence and gun-related murders,, Wallace’s assertion might not stack up. It seems to go without saying that a nation’s level of gun ownership would be proportionate to their gun-death rates. Following nationwide buyback and confiscation efforts in Australia, there hasn’t been a single mass shooting since 1996.

The problem is, in America gun ownership is very much apart of the culture. It’s one of the nation’s most coveted and controversial amendments. Australia is a small country compared to America. A nationwide buyback and confiscation program would probably not go over very well. So it’s clear that the issue goes deeper than law. Moreover, many argue that gun laws only serve to hurt those gun owners who go through the proper legal channels to obtain their firearms, while criminals will continue to find easy ways to arm themselves.

So tell us your thoughts. Do you think stricter gun laws means fewer gun-related crimes? Do you think statewide legislation is enough to curb gun violence? Or is there something deeper at play which we must first address?

 

How Simulation Technology is Transforming Gun Safety

Virtual simulation technology is changing the way we learn about firearms. MassGunLicense employs the very same kind of simulator used in law enforcement settings.

In recent years virtual simulation technology has reached new levels of depth and immersion. With the help of high definition graphics, users are interacting with virtual environments in all sorts of ways. From video game consoles to golf driving ranges to gun safety training courses, this technology is changing the way we experience our world.

FATS and the Virtual Sim Revolution

Despite the recent surge, virtual simulations have been employed in law enforcement and military settings for more than thirty years. For example, in 1984 Firearms Training Systems (FATS) was established in Atlanta, Georgia, by 1979 Formula One World Champion Jody Schechter. FATS was the first company in the world to introduce interactive gun training simulators for law enforcement and military markets. Since then, a number of innovations have changed the game such as bluetooth technology and, more recently, 3D technology. Other companies like VirTra have joined the game, making the technology that much more cutting edge. While these simulators were made primarily available to police, military, and security personnel, civilians are now benefitting from greater distribution.

One such company utilizing high-definition virtual simulation technology in training settings is our very own Guaranteed Mass Gun License School located in Woburn and Quincy, Massachusetts. Following a vital lecture on the fundamentals of gun training, students are able to test their newly acquired skills in a simulator much like the ones FATS created.

How It Works

Just imagine a first-person shooter but instead of a controller you’re given a real gun. Of course there’s no live ammunition involved so there’s no risk of injury. But nonetheless, the simulator offers users a chance to get comfortable positioning themselves, holding and aiming their firearm, while receiving hands-on training and support from the school’s professional instructors.

With the help of computerized laser technology, the HD simulator delivers a precise, responsive training experience — offering users the opportunity to improve their marksmanship and judgement in true-to-life situations. Moreover, the student will get to practice their skills in a number of dynamic scenarios, tailored for a variety of proficiency levels.

This isn’t Duck Hunter and it’s sure not Call of Duty, but HD virtual shooting simulators are certainly the way of the future for everyone from local and federal law enforcement to the commercial user looking to hone their skills in a low-cost, safe environment. We at GuaranteedMassGunLicense are committed to creating an in-depth educational experience for you and our police simulator is just one of many ways we are able to do that.

 

 

 

People With Guns Do the Darndest Things

When I was in 10th Grade, I took a calculus class. My teacher’s name was Mr. Frank. Frank was his last name. He had two first names but that’s mostly irrelevant to this story. 10th grade was 12 years ago. Now, if you ask me what the derivative of 6x cubed is, I’d say it’s 18x squared and I may or may not be right. The moral of this story is: I don’t remember a damned thing from that year in calculus class. Now, how is this relevant to you, a potential owner of a gun or multiple guns?

Well, it’s relevant because guns are a lot like calculus: they’re complicated and you better pay attention if you want to get it right. The fact is, no matter how many gun safety classes you take, there’s always the possibility that in some given moment you’ll forget everything you learned and accidentally you shoot your parakeet named Derek. The point is, it’s always possible to do something stupid with your gun.

Did you know that on average at least 500 accidental gun deaths occur every year? Did you know that in 2010 firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents? Did you know you’re more likely to shoot yourself if you own a gun than you are to be shot by someone else? Did you know that owning a gun won’t necessarily make you safer at all?

These are just a few things you might not learn in your average gun safety course. But on your way to acquiring your Massachusetts gun license, it’s probably a good idea to keep in mind all the stupid things that could happen when a gun is in your midst. So, for the sake of constancy, here are five stupid things people have done with guns.

 

What to Consider When Buying Your First Gun

Buying a gun is a big deal any time you choose to do it, but the first time is something special. After all, what’s the point of having a license to carry if you don’t know what to carry? Well, luckily we here at GuaranteedMassGunLicense.com have got your back. So without further ado, let’s go over some of the most important things to consider when purchasing your first firearm.

A handgun is a common choice for first time buyers seeking to protect themselves and their home.

What’s the Use?

The first thing to consider when buying your first gun should be obvious. What are you going to use it for? Are you looking for a gun for security purposes, such as home protection? Is it for recreation? Hunting? Concealed carry? Whatever the case, it’s probably a good idea that you figure it out before heading off to your local gun shop. That way the friendly clerks and firearms experts won’t secretly make fun of you in the back when you’re not looking. Not to mention, they’ll be able to steer you in the right direction for your specific needs.

So what are first-time buyers doing with their guns?

  • 87.3% use their guns for in-home protection.
  • 76.5% report using theirs for self-defense.
  • 73.2% use theirs for recreational purposes

    Fortunately for you, you’ve already taken the gun licensing courses. These will have no doubt helped you acquire the knowledge necessary to pick out the right model for your specific needs.

    So let’s say you’re one of 87.3% of first-time gun buyers who plan to use your firearm strictly for home protection and self defense purposes. In this case, I would look into purchasing a basic shotgun such as the Remington Versa Max Tactical. As opposed to the pump-action shotgun, this semiautomatic has an eight-pound heft, gas-action, cushy buttpad, and gel comb insert, and it’s likely the lightest recoiling 12-gauge on the market. Although semi-autos are more expensive than pump-action, they’re more reliable and easier to fire, making them ideal for first-time self-defense oriented buyers.

How Much Ya Got?

The next thing you’ll want to do after deciding on your intended use is set yourself a budget. If you didn’t already know guns range from anywhere around $150 to $5000 depending on the model. The only person who can determine your budget is you. Which is why, if you’re opting for a handgun, you should set your budget between $400 to $800 assuming your finances allow. The reason for this is that within this price range it’s easy to buy a handgun that’s reliable, well designed, and has a solid warrantee from its manufacturer.

For shotguns, the price will depend on the action type. If it’s a pump, you’re looking at anywhere from $349 to $700. For semi-autos, it’ll run from $700 all the way up to $2000. Again, it all depends on your needs and how much time you’re willing to put into your gun.

Would You Like to Supersize Your Gun?

As a new shooter, you’re probably going to need every advantage you can get when operating your first gun. That means you should have a specific eye on a high capacity gun with low recoil. As you improve your skill level, you can graduate to larger caliber firearms. But for the sake of sensibility, it’s best to start simple. And again, you’ll want to refer back to your intended use when making a selection here. For example, if you’re looking to conceal and carry your first gun, you’ll want to look for something compact with a high caliber. A gun of this sort won’t be very pleasant to shoot but you’ll have little trouble keeping it concealed. On the other hand, if you’re looking for ease of fire, you’ll want to opt for a full size duty style gun chambered with a lower caliber. You’ll find this option more comfortable for shooting, and will surely enjoy its high ammunition capacity.

Whatever the case, make sure you consult your local gun experts, weapons trainers, and so on when making this most important decision. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for so keep in mind that going on the cheap might not necessarily be the best option, especially if you’re looking for reliability and smooth functionality. Anyways, that’s all for this week. I hope you found this to be informative in all the right ways. Happy hunting, folks.

Original Bob’s: The Best Gun Range in Massachusetts

According to a federal study, Massachusetts had the lowest gun death rate in 2015. Much of that is attributed to the state’s tough gun laws. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, there were 213 gun deaths in the state in 2015.

John Rosenthal, cofounder and chairman of the Newton-based Stop Handgun Violence, said of these statistics that “gun laws work to reduce gun violence.” But for those looking to further their gun training, a good place to start would be a gun range. So for your sake we’re bringing information on the top Massachusetts gun range straight to you. Original Bob’s Shooting Range and Gun Shop located in Salisbury, MA. Here are just a few perks of Original Bob’s that might entice new and long time gun owners.

Massachusetts gun ranges are few and far between due to strict gun laws, but Original Bob's offers the whole experience
Massachusetts gun ranges are few and far between due to strict gun laws, but Original Bob’s offers the whole experience
  1. Only Public Gun Range in Massachusetts – Boasting one of the only public gun ranges in Massachusetts, Original Bob’s offers gun enthusiasts a safe space in which to test out their firearms. They also rent semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and rifles for $10 each, according to their website. Renters are able to choose from a solid array of guns with which to test out in the shooting lanes.
  2. On-Site Gun Shop – As well as touting one of the only public ranges in Massachusetts, Original Bob’s also has an adjoining gun shop with tons of diverse inventory available for sale. From semi-automatic handguns to revolvers to rifles to shotguns, prospective gun owners are often able to find the exact gun to fit their firearm needs. Their prices also appeal to buyers from all sorts of economic backgrounds, with costs ranging from as low as $316 to $1849.
  3. Gun Use Trainers – Are you a first time gun operator? Well lay your anxieties to rest at Original Bob’s where on-site gun trainers are there to usher you through the process of renting and firing the guns in the shooting range. These same trainers offer customers private pistol lessons and gun safety classes as well. Whatever level of skill you might have upon entering Bob’s, their staff of experts and seasoned gun users will assist you in satisfying your gun ownership needs, as well show you everything from loading to disassembling your guns.
  4. Options for Unlicensed Customers – According to Original Bob’s website, unlicensed customers may rent and operate a firearm. The only restrictions state that you must be in a party of at least two customers. Moreover, all shooters must be at least 21 years of age with valid government issued IDs (i.e. driver’s license, military ID, passport). If an unlicensed guest is accompanying a licensed one, they must be at least 18 years or older with a valid government issued ID.

    In a state of with such strict gun laws as Massachusetts, Original Bob’s Public Shooting Range and Gun Shop offers one of the most unique gun-related experiences in the region. Whether you’re looking to buy your first firearm or shoot one of the more tried and true rifles in your locker, Original Bob’s offers you a wide array of experiences and expertise to deepen your knowledge as you seek a Massachusetts gun license.

The Historic Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts

The history of gun use in Massachusetts is as storied as America itself. Long before the Declaration of Independence was written, guns played an important role in American life. While gun control pervaded many echelons of English society, things were different in the New England colonies. In those times, no one needed a gun license. Rather it was quite the opposite.

History of Early Massachusetts Gun Laws

As far back as the late 17th century, colonial governments required its citizens to bear arms. In Massachusetts Bay, guns were readily available, and widely distributed among the population. In 1632, a Plymouth Colony statute ordered “that every freeman or other inhabitant of [the] colony provide for himselfe and each under him able to bear arms a sufficient musket and other serviceable peece for war.” With the looming threat of attack from indigenous tribes, citizens were required by law to undergo gun training, and in some cases, to carry it with them if they planned to travel farther than one mile from their own home. For many Americans nowadays, self defense is the primary reason for owning a gun. It’s powerful to know this principle has its roots more than three centuries ago.

Over a hundred years later, in the 1770s descent began to reach its fever pitch in the British colonies. In response, British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts. This came a year after the Boston Tea Party. These acts ordered a ban on the import of firearms into the colonies, as well as systematic confiscation of arms and gunpowder, and if necessary using violence to forcibly remove guns from the hands of colonists. In Pennsylvania, the Patriots of Lancaster issued a decree saying, “in the event of Great Britain attempting to force unjust laws upon us by the strength of arms, our cause we leave to heaven and our rifles.”

History of Massachusetts Gun Use
Americans have been bearing arms since the 17th century.

Around this time British officials came to realize that pretty much ever colonist over the age of 16 owned a musket and stock of gunpowder. Not only that, but by then gun ownership had been essentially mandatory, even among householders, for nearly a century. In order to quell rebellion in the colonies, the British did everything they could to disarm New England’s population. On September 1, 1774, 260 of General Thomas Gage’s soldiers sailed up the Mystic River and seized hundreds of barrels of powder from the Charlestown powder house. This came to be known as the “Powder Alarm.” In response, American revolutionaries declared that any attempt by the British to violently confiscate firearms from the colonists would be interpreted as an act of war. And that’s exactly what happened on April 19, 1775.

The Battles of Lexington and Concorde

At dawn on April 19, 1775, over 700 Redcoats marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize arms. They were met by a militia of more than 200 patriots, ages 16 to 60–all of them carrying their own guns with few exception. Outnumbered, the militia at Lexington suffered major casualties and fell easily to the British army. They were less fortunate, however, at Concord. After unsuccessfully searching the town for munitions, the British began their march back toward Boston–where on Concord’s North Bridge, a massive town militia had gathered to drive them off. After only three minutes of gunfire, the Redcoats retreated.

While Concord wasn’t exactly a pivotal turn in the Revolutionary War, it provided a major morale boost to the colonists. More importantly, patriots began to realize that guerilla warfare would serve them well against British forces. Using their knowledge of the American terrain, militiamen overwhelmed the Redcoats, both in numbers and in combat style. Although the war raged on for a little less than a decade, the storied history of gun use in the American colonies proved pivotal for the revolutionaries. In the end, America gained her independence because of its well-armed militias spanning the eastern seaboard, and because of their sheer resolve to expertly bear their arms.

While gun use in Massachusetts looks a lot different today, and the government now discourages as opposed to encourages gun ownership among its populace, it is nonetheless important to know the role that firearms played in the birth of the United States.

 

 

What Do You Know About Gun Safety? A Primer on the Four Golden Rules

One of the most sacred laws of the land in America is the right to bear arms. It was with their guns that American revolutionaries fought against the tyranny of British rule. But that was 24o years ago. Nowadays people use guns for a variety of different reasons: hunting, self-defense, emergency preparedness, target practice, sporting pursuits. The list goes on.

But, as Americans are endowed with the right to bear arms, so too are we tasked with learning the ins and outs of gun safety. In 2015 alone, at least 141 deaths of minors were attributed to unintentional or accidental shootings, according to a nationwide review conducted by The Associated Press and USA TODAY Network. Moreover, each year the number of deaths by accidental shooting hovers somewhere around 500.

Hence why obtaining a gun license can be difficult and often discouraging. In order to encourage responsible gun use, lawmakers have taken steps to ensure that gun owners learn the necessary tenants of firearm safety. As in the state of Massachusetts, one must complete a state-approved firearms safety course before qualifying for a license.

As part of that course, you will most likely learn the four basic rules of gun safety. Though you might use your guns in a number of different ways, these four rules apply no matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter what you intend to do with your gun. If you make sure to follow these rules carefully and consistently, you can be certain you’ll never have a firearms accident. Fortunately for you, we’re going to present them here as a primer for any courses you will take in the future.

  • The First Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
    Always treat your gun as if it’s loaded. Or more simply, all guns are always loaded.

Now what does this mean exactly? It means treating every gun with the same respect that you’d treat a loaded gun, regardless of whether it’s loaded or not. In other words, you wouldn’t jokingly point your loaded rifle at your best friend’s face, so you obviously wouldn’t if it was unloaded. It doesn’t matter if you’ve checked or not. There may be a bullet hiding in the chamber. That’s why Rule Number One is so important, and why it precedes all the other rules. Because it means, no matter the situation, that we’re using our firearms with mindfulness and care.

  • The Second Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
    Never point the gun at something you’re not prepared to destroy.

This one’s pretty simple. It essentially states Rule One more clearly. No matter what you’re doing with your gun–whether you’re unloading it, correcting a jam, cleaning it, or showing it off to your friends–you must always be aware of which direction the muzzle is pointing. Even for something as basic as setting your gun down after use, make sure it’s pointing in a direction that won’t cause destruction or harm. Otherwise don’t pick it up in the first place.

  • The Third Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you have made the decision to shoot.

    As with every other moment of use, the decision to shoot should be approached with conscious attention and care. This rule is simple: keep your finger off the trigger and it won’t accidentally discharge. These days firearms are made so they won’t ‘just go off’ on their own. For anyone operating a gun, unless you’re engaging a target, their finger should be placed high on its frame–not on the trigger, not hovering near the trigger guard. And the definition of a target is equally simple: a target is anywhere you deliberately point a gun. If you’re not deliberately pointing a gun somewhere, your finger is high on the frame. That’s it.

  • The Fourth Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
    Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

    It’s important to know that bullets can go through an intended target. Which means you must ensure that your target has a proper backdrop to receive fire. It seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many accidents happen when you’re not entirely aware of the environment surrounding your target. Whether you’re disassembling and cleaning a glock, or practicing on a makeshift shooting range (such as cans in your backyard), you have to make sure that, one: there isn’t anyone lurking behind the target or potentially in the line of fire, and two: that there’s a solid backstop behind it to absorb the bullet. You might be wondering what qualifies as a solid backstop. That depends entirely on what type of gun you’re operating, its power, and the kind of rounds you’re using. Buckshot, for example, will fall to rest with sufficient open space, whereas bullets from a hunting rifle could travel for miles without a solid surface to hit.

    So there you have it, the four universal rules of gun safety. Do not take these rules lightly. To quote from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Guns are some of the most powerful machines in the world, and so owning one is a serious responsibility. In order to ensure safe and proper use, always follow the four basic rules. As you go through a firearms safety course, you will probably go much deeper into the nuances of each rule. But for now maybe print this out and keep it handy whenever you pull your rifle off the rack.

    The Four Universal Rules of Gun Safety:

1. Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

 

 

Do You Have the Training You Need? And How Do You Really Know?

Buying a guitar does not make you a rock star.  Likewise, buying a gun does not make you a Navy SEAL.  There are more than 100 million legal gun owners in the U.S. and I’ll bet less than half of us are properly trained to do what we think we can do with a gun.

What do you think you can do with a gun?  And how do you know?  Have you completed training prepared and presented by an experienced professional?  Do you have a gun licenseHave you visualized the scenario you think you can overcome so that your every move is already thought through, and when something does not work, you’ve visualized an alternate action as well?  Have you practiced enough that you can load, reload, clear a malfunction and reload again in the dark, operating entirely by feel because you know your gun so well?

Tom Gresham of GunTalk Media describes it in a way I like very much.  In my own paraphrase, he says we ought to be able to operate our guns with the same level of familiarity as we operate our cars.  When we get into our car, we buckle the seat belt, put it into gear and operate the steering wheel, accelerator, brake, clutch and turn signals all without ever looking at any of them.  We know it by feel and we don’t even think consciously about the actions we’re taking.  We just do it.  Can you operate your guns like that?  If not, perhaps some training is in order.

Chris Sajnog, Navy SEAL Firearms Instructor (retired), literally wrote the book, and the rest of the program, on firearms training for our SEAL Snipers.  He would tell you, again in my paraphrase, that top performance comes from completing an action correctly so many times that your neural pathways have created a groove so that when you take the action, your body follows that groove without having to think through it.  You just do it.

Consider the five training levels outlined below that follow a training path along the line of practical handgun shooting. If we define “functional” as able to perform consistently well without having to think about it, at which level do you start to think, “I’m not so sure I’m really functional at that level?”

1. Basic Firearms Safety: I am functional with a proper understanding of how my guns operate, I can properly load and unload, I understand proper storage of my guns and ammo, I know the four fundamental rules of safe firearms handling and practice them consistently.

2. Fundamentals of Shooting: I am functional with the key aspects of shooting; a proper stance, draw, grip, sight picture, breathing, trigger control and follow through. (Yes, all 7 count! And Chris Sajnog would add an 8th of sight refinement following sight picture!) I do dry fire training.  I practice visualizing what I want to accomplish with a firearm (the body won’t go where the mind has never been…).

3. Practical Handgun Shooting: I can identify a threat. I can identify cover and concealment (and know the difference).  I can move then shoot.  I am functional with tactical reloads. I am functional clearing a malfunction.

4. Advanced Practical Handgun Shooting: I can function when confronted with multiple threats.  I can shoot while moving to cover.  I am functional communicating with an armed team-mate during a gun fight.  I am functional shooting with my support hand.

5. Scenario Based Training: I have participated in live force-on-force training. I am functional in a number of practical shooting scenarios due to live training experience and/or visualization through scenarios such as; a mass murderer in a church sanctuary, a parking lot kidnapping, a home invasion by two armed would-be murderers and other life threatening scenarios.

At what level are you able to perform consistently well without having to think through each action?  Be honest. 

OK, now you know where you are.  Congratulations!  So, where do you want to go and how do you get there?  Since you’re reading this article you’d probably like to be a Level 4 or 5 shooter.  Let’s walk through the different training approaches to consider and then I’ll offer my personal recommendations for the best training material from Level 1 to Level 5.

Books, Videos, Live Instruction and the Discipline of Practice

Books & Videos

A lot can be gained from books and videos.  A well done book or video can teach the principles to help us “get it” when we enter a new territory of learning.  Please keep three things in mind however, when it comes to books and videos.

1. Someone who can do it is not necessarily a good teacher.  We need teachers who can help us understand and develop the skills we need.  A good demonstrator and a good teacher are not always the same.

2. Don’t be a YouTube Commando.  We can pick up some interesting tips here and there along the YouTubeisphere but much of what’s posted is just someone showing off.  That is not a learning event – it is entertainment.  Be cautious of the difference.

3. Books and videos by professionals are generally well worth it.  Amateurs post videos to share their knowledge (or entertain) but professionals write books.  Many professionals then also create videos to supplement their well thought out written material with helpful visuals.  Stick with the pros.

Live Instruction

While a lot can be gained from books and videos, nothing beats live instruction.  Where books and videos can help us understand a concept, live training makes it tactile and, let’s face it, shooting is extremely tactile.  Our level of functionality increases exponentially when we get our hands on the gear and have a professional observe and correct us.

That professional instructor does require more money than any book.  The financial hurdle of getting into a good training course affects most of us at some level.  With this in mind I have two questions for you.  How important is it to you to be fully functional in protecting your family?  Can you bear having to say, “Kids, I’m sorry I couldn’t protect your Mom.  I just couldn’t come up with the money to learn how to handle it any better.” 

Yes, I know that’s a painful and extreme scenario but our topic is extreme isn’t it?  Every time a murderer invades a home and takes a life, that above comment could be spoken by a survivor.  Don’t let that be your family!  Make the time.  Find the money. Instead of buying another gun, buy some training instead!

A lot of training is actually quite affordable anyway.  For those of us in New England, the go-to place is Sig Sauer Academy.  Have you ever heard the rumor, “Oh I’d love to go to Sig Sauer but it’s like $1,500 for a course.”  I’ve heard that one many times and it is complete bologna.  They have multiple practical shooting, concealed carry, close quarters combat courses, and others, in which you can spend a day with an instructor in a small class for $500 or less, including the ammo!  If you want to spend a week you can go from Level 1 firearms basics on Monday and by Friday you’re doing advanced drills.  Now that will take you to somewhere closer to $1,500 but you blaze through multiple levels in a very short time.  Personally, I think it’s better to take a one or two day course at a time because you will learn things that you need to practice before moving on to another level.  This brings us to the final portion on the discipline of practice.

The Discipline of Practice

“Pave your Path to Perfection” is the concept and slogan we hear from Chris Sajnog for those of us who are familiar with his training material (and if you’re not, you should be!).  When we have practiced our draw correctly and perfectly so many times that a physical pathway is developed in our neural system (sometimes referred to as muscle memory) we become functional as defined above; doing it correctly and smoothly without having to think through it.  We need a functional draw, a functional sight picture, a functional trigger pull, etc.  Becoming functional in these actions requires the discipline of practice.

I recently took a practical handgun, one-day course at Sig Sauer Academy and came away with a couple key things I knew needed improvement; grip and tactical reloads.  Using the concepts I learned from Sajnog’s book, Navy SEAL Shooting, I worked through the disciple of practice:

Bought hand grips to strengthen my hands and forearms and solidify my grip.

Dry fire practiced with a perfect hand placement on the holstered pistol up to presentation with a focus on grip and support hand placement.

Did the above with my smart phone video at the range so I could see from an objective point of view exactly what was happening and make corrections.

Completed many slow and perfect repetitions from draw to presentation.

That was my range session that day.  No ammo fired.

The next week I did all the same things but the focus was on tactical reloads.  Again, just slow perfect repetition.  For this I did use ammo only because I wanted to include the slide lock in my neural pathway development.

The next week, I brought out the targets and ammo to confirm my improved grip and reload skills, having also continued to strengthen my hands with the grip exercises.  As expected, I experienced massively improved accuracy!  I now “naturally” grip my every-day-carry pistol with greater control and stability than ever before.  I don’t even think about it.

This is not a “hooray for me” boast but only an example of the effectiveness of disciplined practice under the guidance of a professional. If I can do it, believe me, anyone can do it!

How to Get There

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as advanced firearms training, only the basics mastered and applied to different situations.  I agree with this.  However, for the purposes of clarifying training recommendations at increasing levels of experience, I am going to organize recommendations into 5 levels anyway.  The below resources are personal favorites and I am confident you will find them just as valuable as I do.

Books & Videos Live Instruction Discipline of Practice
Level 1 New Rules of Marksmanship Basic Firearms Safety

Live Shooting w/Instructor

Handgun Orientation

Memorize the 4 rules

Learn your gun’s locks and levers blind folded (no ammo of course!)

Level 2 Navy SEAL Shooting

New Rules of Marksmanship

Chris Sajnog.com

Basic Practical Handgun Skills Dry fire the 7 steps slowly and perfectly

Visualization

Level 3 Navy SEAL Shooting

Fighting with the 1911

ChrisSajnog.com

Practical Handgun 103

Practical Handgun 104

Dry fire the 7 steps slowly and perfectly

IDPA competition

Visualization

Level 4 Navy SEAL Shooting

Concealed Carry 1&2

ChrisSajnog.com

Concealed Carry Dry fire the 7 steps slowly and perfectly

IDPA competition

Visualization

Level 5 First Person Defender

Target Focus Training Videos

Close Quarters Combat, Low Light, more…

Martial Arts: Sport fighting is not combat but it will bring most of us much closer to where we need to be. Join a club!

Visualization of personal scenarios in YOUR life.  For three days at the top of the hour ask, “What would I do if I were attacked right where I am now?


Level 5 scenarios include knowing how to fight without a firearm.  We all need to know how to fight for protection purposes when a gun is not available.  If it’s not in your hand, it’s not your primary weapon!  This is another scenario I believe rightly fits into Level 5.

So what will you do now?  You know where you are in this 5 level structure, you have multiple resources laid out for you.  It is up to you to decide what is the right level for you to pursue and then to take a small step toward gaining that training right now.  Click a link and buy a book or sign up for a training class.  Get started right now!  Go for it!

Stay safe and enjoy the training journey!

Rob Eggeman

Compelling Reasons Why Gun Ownership and Right-to-Carry Should be Reconsidered

Numerous people are still advocating and pushing for a “constitutional right” to own and carry a gun, believing that more guns will result in fewer incidences of crime and violence. While the debate on this issue can be exhausting, it is best that feelings and assumptions be set aside when discussing this matter but an objective reasoning is used instead. Below are reasons why gun ownership and right-to-carry should be carefully reconsidered:

More Guns = High Rate of Gun Violence

Statistics reveal that in 2015 alone, the following gun-related violence have been recorded in the U.S.:

School shooting – 64 incidences, including occasions where no injuries were reported after a gun was fired.

Mass shooting (defined as a single shooting incident which results in the killing or injuring of four or more people) –  372 incidences, killing 475 people and injuring 1,870.

All shootings – 13, 286 people were killed and 26,819 were injured by firearms, which is approximately 1.4 million individuals.

It is important to note that the number of gun-related violence instances described above are so much higher compared to other highly-developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. In fact, from all the cases of murders in the U.S., 60% were carried out using guns, compared to only 10%, 18%, and 31% in the UK, Australia, and Canada, respectively.

Strong Correlation Between Household Firearm Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates.

A study published in American Journal of Public Health in 2013 revealed that the number of gun-related deaths from homicide is grossly higher among states with higher rates of gun ownership; implying that gun ownership is an effective predictor of firearm homicide rate. Specifically, the rate of gun homicide increases by almost 1% for every percentage increase in gun ownership.

Other countries that shifted to a highly-restricted gun-access, like Australia, experienced a dramatic decline in the rate of murder.

When Australia introduced highly stringent gun control laws, including making the use of firearms in self-defense a crime, the said country’s gun homicide and suicide rates dramatically declined as well as the rate of murders and robberies. 

The reasons above are not mere suppositions but verifiable facts. Ultimately, it is best that the public base their opinion on hard facts rather than what “feels” or “seems” right, particularly if it means life and death of someone. If you do choose to own a gun, in the very least make sure you have a license to carry your gun in whatever state you reside.