Decision Making With A Gun When Guns Are All Around Us

The challenge of decision making with a gun is heightened in a society in which many people — military, sworn law enforcement, security guards, private citizens, and criminals — have and carry guns.

Some, like Franklin Zimring in his book When Police Kill, argue that the ubiquity of guns forces law enforcement officers to treat every encounter as potentially lethal and to react accordingly, particularly when cutbacks in staffing in many agencies require officers to patrol individually putting them at greater risk.

Over the weekend I trained with him recently, Joe Weyer of Alliance Police Training emphasized repeatedly that the average police officer on the streets is scarcely better trained at “decision making with a gun” than the average armed citizen (who is quite poorly trained).

Indeed, there were two police officers in Weyer’s shoothouse course, both of whom had served for over 20 years and neither of whom had received the kind of training we went through that weekend.

And so I was saddened, though ultimately not surprised, to see news coming out of the Chicago area of a private security guard being shot by a police officer responding to an incident at the bar where the security guard worked.

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It is too early in the process to know what exactly happened, but any “blue-on-blue” incident, or any case in which an innocent person gets shot, is tragic.

People with far more law enforcement experience than I have (which is 0) and whose opinions I trust insist that race was not likely a factor in the shooting of security guard Jemel Robeson. I hope it was not and of course I render no final judgment without knowing the facts. But the history of racial injustice in American society, from the nation’s very founding to its complex and uneven present, tempers that hope, always. But still I hope.

Beyond hope, I would love to find ways to get any person who lawfully keeps a firearm at home or carries a firearm in public a level of training proportionate to the responsibility that goes with having the power of life and death in one’s hands.


  1. Another example of poor decision making by a “trained professional.”

    Maybe we need a new priority that every shooting drill needs to include a shoot/no shoot decision based on a visual cue, not a buzzer. Speed and accuracy are important skills, but when those rounds need to go down range and where they will ultimately end up are of ultimate importance. Just a thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Its posts like these last few that remind us that the armed citizen is only as good as his or her training. To be effective, the training has to be rigorous and periodically repeated, whether self defense training as David has been describing here or shooting trap in preparation for pheasant season. Hitting a stationary piece of paper 75% of the time at 3 and 7 yds ain’t much of a hoop to jump but its more than most states require.

    Too often, the NRA and firearms community considers training to be an “infringement”. Well, I am sure some state legislatures intend it to be an infringement but if we got out of the pro gun/anti gun paradigm, training could be seen as no different than taking rhetoric in high school: one cannot fully use one’s First Amendment rights without knowing how to read, write, critically think, and debate (and the rise in “fake news” suggests we are doing a bad job of training people to be good 1A stewards). Similarly, one cannot fully use one’s 2A rights without exercising the RKBA in a safe and mentored environment.


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