Although I think he might reject the label, The Tactical Professor Claude Werner thinks a lot like a sociologist. Although sociology is sometimes seen as “the painful elaboration of the obvious,” in reality the discipline’s motto is “things are not what they seem” (to quote Peter Berger’s famous Invitation to Sociology).
Professor Werner has a knack for taking issues that we think we know something about and showing us a different way of seeing them. Case in point: gun training.
I have yet to meet someone who is opposed to gun training. Gun control advocates are appalled at how low the training requirements are to get a concealed carry permit in most states (not to mention permitless carry). They also frequently lament the lack of training among gun owners in general.
For their part, gun rights advocates do not think much of required concealed carry “training” either. Many of those involved in the large and growing U.S. gun training industry take strong exception to the notion that the typical state-mandated concealed carry course is even training in any meaningful sense of the term. “Concealed carry is a licensing class, not a training class,” Arkansas gun trainer Rob Jennings once told me over drinks in Little Rock. “If gun training is a ladder, a concealed carry course is just walking up to the ladder.”
Noted trainer Karl Rehn of KR Training offers a similar perspective in his book with John Daub, Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training. They argue that “state standards aren’t realistic minimum performance standards” because they “don’t include all the skills the average gun owner should be trained in” if they carry a handgun for self-defense.
Rehn has famously attempted to quantify how much or how little training gun owners pursue. Using data from Texas, he estimates that only 4% do any kind of training beyond the mandatory license-to-carry class, and 75% of those only take some kind of basic NRA course. Rehn’s analysis raises the question of how to get “beyond the one percent”?
Why more gun owners – especially the growing percentage who say they own and carry guns for personal protection – do not get training is a frequent topic of discussion among the gun trainers I know.
Re-enter Claude Werner. He begins a 2015 blog post about “Why People Don’t Train?” like a good sociologist by questioning the premise of the question itself. Werner observes that the civilian gun training industry has only existed since the 1970s and yet people have defended themselves with firearms for all of American history. Moreover, people with minimal training continue to do so today quite regularly. So, how important is formal gun training, anyway?
A gun trainer himself, Werner is not opposed to training in the least and he does consider the good reasons more people don’t avail themselves of training. These include time and other resource constraints. As economists would say, the benefits must outweigh the costs for a person to consume a product or activity.
But while economists seek to explain the rational choices people make, sociologists highlight the many constraints within which people must make those choices. The Tactical Professor-qua-sociologist highlights an obvious but overlooked constraint on training: limited places to shoot. He notes:
According to the US Census, 80.7 percent of Americans live in urban areas. Where are most training facilities? Out in the boonies, in what the Census describes as ‘rural areas.’ While there is some instruction that goes on at indoor ranges, my experience is that it is best described as ‘familiarization’ rather than training.
(Werner has also discussed another constraint: the limited number of gun trainers in the US relative to gun owners.)
Professor Werner generously shared with me an infographic that highlights the imbalance between the number of gun owners in the United States and places for them to receive training.
But what if there were ways of conducting gun training that didn’t require a live fire shooting range? This could help rectify some of the imbalance Werner observes. My experience at The Complete Combatant’s Force Readiness class offers one model for doing this, as I discuss in my next post.