Monday, February 25, 2013
Would You Shoot These People?
Someone recently showed me an article about some controversial targets and asked me what my opinion was. The targets are:
The overall sense of the comments following the article is that the government is using targets like these to train law enforcement to shoot women and children – and that Nazi killing squads are just around the corner. These two sum up the general consensus:
“This is disturbing and disgusting on so many levels.”
“This makes me want to puke to think that the law enforcement here in the United States could stoop this low. Bad days are comming [sic] to this country if crap like this is allowed to go on.”
Don't get me wrong, I think the militarization of law enforcement in this country is a terrible thing. However, rather than being nefarious, the purpose of these targets is actually fairly straightforward. Bear with me as I step through this...
Imagine someone training to deal with real-life violent encounters, and all their shooting is done on bulls-eye targets. What can, and often does, happen is that when such a person finds themselves in a violent altercation, seeing a person with a gun or knife in their hand can come as a shock to them. They've done a bunch of shooting at paper, and can make nice little groups, but when faced with an actual attacker they freeze. Changing the targets to resemble actual threats was a significant improvement, and history suggests that “freezing” when faced with an actual threat was significantly reduced. That's the simple reason to use pictures of real people as targets.
If you look at the first two posts I made on this blog (here and here), you'll notice that some of the shooting I did was in a “shoot house”. The goal with this is to search for the “bad guys”, and when you see them – shoot them. This sounds simple, but it's more complex than that.
For example, what if every target is of a “typical” criminal (big, mean-looking male with a weapon in his hand)? If that was the case, the training you'd receive by going through a shoot house could be summed up as - “Search the house and shoot everyone you see.” This is a pretty bad idea.
Now, how about mixing in some obvious “no-shoot” targets, say some little old ladies or children? That's much better because it makes you stop and evaluate whether a person is a threat before firing. However, you still don't want to program yourself with the idea - “If you see a man, shoot him. If you see a woman or a child, ignore them.”
The goal is to train yourself to see someone and immediately evaluate whether or not they are a threat – to shoot, or not to shoot. There are all kinds of distractors – is the person male or female, black or white, young or old, large or small? While all of these may be important, and give you an indication of the threat level, this doesn't tell you what you need to know. What you need is to look at the hands, and determine what, if anything, is in the hands. Don't get distracted by the other aspects of the target – evaluate whether there is a threat and act accordingly.
If you look closely at this video (posted earlier on my blog), you'll notice that there were two “no-shoot” targets. At 1:07 I come around a corner and see two men. You can't really see it on the video, but the man in front is holding a couple of credit cards in his hands, and the guy standing behind is holding a gun. If you look very closely, you can see me transition from a center of mass point of aim and shooting the second man three times in the head. The man in front was an “innocent”, and the man behind was a threat that needed to be neutralized. (The other no-shoot is at 1:43, and was fairly straightforward.)
“Look at the hands. The hands (and what's in them) are what kills.”
Now, what do you do if it's a child or pregnant woman who is threatening to kill you? Do you simply let them?
When asked by the person who sent me the article what I would do if a woman or child pointed a gun at me, I responded with:
If a woman or child points a gun at me in an assault, my evaluation of the threat is different than if it were a man. Generally, I would expect a woman or child to be less familiar with guns, less prone to aggressive violence, and less skillful with violence than a man. Basically, my propensity to shoot someone is highly dependent on how much of a threat I think they are – so I'd be less likely to shoot a woman or a child, but I'd still shoot them if I had to.
For example, if I was within arm's reach of a very large muscular man who just pulled a gun or knife on me, I'd be very inclined to shoot him. If it was a woman or a child, I would go “hands-on” and subdue them.
If I was at some distance from a woman or child who pulled a gun on me, my instinct would be to aggressively get off the line of attack (get off the X) while pulling my gun. I would run to any cover that I could, while focusing on the attacker and shouting at them to “drop it”. If the attacker tracked me with their gun, and especially if they fired, then I'm in a gunfight and my goal is to end it as quickly as I can.
Also – once you have done a great deal of training, it's possible to take in a large amount of information about a situation almost instantaneously. For example, looking at the targets above, it's clear that the people pictured have little knowledge of or skill with guns. However, if I saw a woman pointed in on me using a classic Weaver or Modern Isosceles stance, my evaluation of the threat level would be very different.
Learning to evaluate threats and acting accordingly is very important, and having all sorts of targets, including those depicting women and children, is a valuable tool in this type of education.