Operating a firearm safely and accurately takes work and repetition, a lot of each. In a 2018 study of shooting accuracy involving over 150 officer involved shootings at a major metropolitan police department, trained police officers missed their targets 65% of the time. Similar studies have generated similar results.
With officers who have undergone firearms training typically between 80 and 120 hours coming up short, one can only imagine how new gun owners are likely to fare in a life or death situation requiring the use of their firearm. It’s no secret most firearms owners have very little formal training on the use of their firearm and even less invest in higher education with professional instructors to further hone their skills.
Accidents are a big problem. A staggering 33,000 Americans are shot unintentionally every year and almost 500 die (i.e. Brady). Firearm accidents and accidental shootings share certain common themes and we can break them down into two groups. In the first group the gun went bang when we didn’t want it to, and in the second group a round or series of rounds missed the intended target.
In the first group at some point the trigger was pulled when it shouldn’t have been pulled. It’s that simple. Everything else that led up to the event, sympathetic reflex or startle, etc., will not lead to an accident if we train gun owners to handle a firearm properly. This means having our finger indexed along the side of the frame until we are on target and have made the decision to fire. If we allow our trigger finger to go anywhere but pressed against the side of the frame until we have met the conditions to fire we are setting ourselves up for an accident.
The second group is much easier to understand. Simple as can be. We miss the target. Shooting is very much a perishable skill and if we don’t practice often we are simply getting worse by the day. That degradation is also dependent on the amount of firearms training and use a person has had in the past. A SWAT operator has so many repetitions with the proper handling of a firearm, he/she is probably fairly safe going a month without hitting the range or using a laser training target. This does not go for the other 99% of the shooting population. An average gun owner who might have received 30 minutes of training when buying their firearm and no follow on training is not in any way shape or form set for success if they have to employ their weapon under stress.
In my experience firearm instructors do an excellent job in providing overall operational training including the need for safe storage and the inviolate do’s and don’ts of handgun operation. Having Governments mandate firearms training is not the answer. But I believe we as an industry can do more in promoting proper training and continuing education. We recognize the great legal personal liability any use of a firearm carries with it. I believe the insurance companies should do a better job at evaluating and rewarding the decreased risk of insuring shooters who receive more training.
An important option and as the founding president of a training firearm company I admit to being biased, is the need for at home practice with a training gun. Twenty years ago this was impractical as there were no realistic training guns nor the targets and simulators to practice with. Equipped with lasers and targets and scoring systems gun owners can now safely practice shooting at home. This creates an opportunity to practice in a low stress environment and get in the repetitions needed to maintain proficiency.
The training gun we produce at Smart Firearms has a sensor suite built into the trigger guard which will alert the shooter of unsafe handling involving allowing the trigger finger to migrate into the trigger guard unintentionally. Law enforcement has been using this system for years in both Academy and in-service training to avoid accidents and these are becoming more readily available at a cost the average shooter can afford at Amazon and other popular outlets.
33,000 accidental gun injuries annually is a staggering number resulting in untold carnage and billions in expense. I know we can do better as an industry to promote proper training including live instruction with licensed trainers as well as feature rich training firearm products. A greater focus on training is an easy and significant, non-political step to make firearms safer for all of us.
Founder and President Smart Firearms