Continuing Education

Mandated Training is Useless

Every state that licenses lawyers requires those lawyers to take continuing education courses every year. In some states, like Missouri, that includes specific training on ethics. Some federal courts require continuing education on federal rules. Medical professionals are required to get continuing education to stay current on the newest medical procedures and research. Nurses, respiratory therapists, and nearly every other professional that offers services to the public are required to receive ongoing education.

Professionals Train Regularly

Professionals that offer hands-on services, like police officers, EMTs, paramedics, fire service professionals, and others are required not only to receive additional education, but also training. The difference between education (which is primarily directed at the provision of facts) and training (which usually involves both education and the provision of hands-on services) is important. Physical skills, like putting on a splint, cinching up a tourniquet, or using a baton in self-defense, often degrade over time without refreshing those skills through repetition. The loss of those physical skills is particularly acute when stress is added. So, for instance, when an EMT, taught in a 80 hour course to apply a traction splint, she is tested in a physical lab on that process. She must demonstrate that she can apply the splint safely. If it’s been two years since she participated in that lab and testing, and is called upon to apply the splint in the field, the delay in implementing that physical skill can often result in either a delay in applying the splint, or the improper application of that splint. Nearly every other physical skill, like endotracheal intubation for paramedics, nurses, or respiratory therapists, must be refreshed with training and practice because these skills are often called upon during times of intense stress.

As a health care professional who worked both in the ICU and on the medical floors, I know that a “Code Blue” on a medical floor is a much more stressful event than in the ICU, because in the ICU these happen two or three times a week, and on the medical floors they happen rarely. I’ve seen floor nurses freeze. Even though they know CPR, even though they may have taken an ACLS class, they freeze because they have not committed those skills to muscle memory. Because there is stress, limited time to make decisions, and very high stakes, without refresher training, clinicians either freeze or perform from flawed memory.

Why is this important?

Just like a nurse, doctor, police officer, or lawyer needs refresher training from time to time to keep their skills current, so too does a concealed carrier. In fact, just as the law requires these professionals to get this training, it should require concealed carriers to get additional training before every re-licensure as a minimum.

The minimum training necessary to get a concealed carry permit is rather minimal. In Florida, for example, simple hunter education or hunter safety courses that have been approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or a similar agency in another state are accepted as firearms training. Hunter safety courses routinely relate to long guns. These courses do not contain any information about when deadly force is justified. They do not require that a shooter demonstrate proficiency with a firearm. They do not require that a shooter be able to operate both a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. While some states, like Missouri, make these requirements a mandatory part of getting a pistol permit, states like Florida do not. As a result an individual can obtain a permit without ever taking any steps to prepare themselves for the eventuality of having to use that permit in an emergency situation.

This is why those who regularly and routinely carry should take frequent courses to obtain the education necessary to ensure their use of a firearm will be justified, and why they should seek out training of a practical nature in deploying their weapon in an emergency.

The Freeze Response

In a recent article (Leach J. Why people ‘freeze’ in an emergency: temporal and cognitive constraints on survival responses. Aviat Space Environ Med 2004; 75:539‐542) the authors noted that responses to an emergency (like someone pulling a knife and demanding your wallet) can be divided into three groups. In the first group, between 10‐ 15% of people will remain relatively calm, and their judgment and reasoning abilities will remain relatively unimpaired. A second group of approximately 75% of the population, will be stunned and bewildered. The remaining 10‐ 15% of the population, will tend to show a “high degree of counterproductive behavior.” The authors go on to note that the brain is “a multi‐ channel, limited‐ capacity signal processor which has built‐ in temporal constraints that affect its ability to operate in a real‐ time emergency.” The author’s main conclusion that has application to training for concealed carriers is reproduced below:

What Training Does:

The functional implications for a [crime] victim are as follows:

  1. If an appropriate response to such an event has been prepared and embedded in the cognitive database of behavioral schemata, then the speed of response can be as fast as 100 milliseconds. This is an immediate action.
  2. If more than one possible response is available, then choosing the correct behavioral sequence requires simple decision making, which can take 1 to 2 seconds.
  3. If no appropriate response exists in the person’s database, then a temporary behavioral schema has to be created. This will take at least 8 to 10 seconds under optimal circumstances and much longer under threat. The result is that no behavioral schema will be triggered from the schemata database and no temporary schema can be created within the time available. This produces a cognitively induced paralysis or ‘freezing’ behavior.

In other words, if you’ve trained for an emergency situation, and you encounter an emergency situation, you are more likely to be able to respond to that emergency situation properly. That tends to make sense. This is why police officers are taught to approach vehicles in a specific manner. It is why the FBI uses multiple courses of fire in its qualification course. Some of the more dynamic training courses require shooters to engage moving targets, from within vehicles or from behind cover and concealment, and demand that those who qualify for a completion certificate achieve a certain level of proficiency. Some courses focus strictly on home defense. Thus, no matter whether you never expect to carry, but simply want to be safe at home, or whether you think you might get mugged going to the theater, there are training courses out there to help you develop the physical and shooting skills necessary to prepare for that event.

If what Mr. Leach says is correct if we prepare for what may happen, and pre-wire into our memory and physical skills a set of responses to those events, then at the time when an event occurs, our responses can be as fast as 100 milliseconds, and even when we have to make a choice, we can make it within one to two seconds. The reduction of reaction time, particularly with shooters who are older (because cognitive and physical skills degrade with age) (see., e.g., Sharon J. Male , Dianne M. Sheppard & John L. Bradshaw (2009) Aging Extends the Time Required to Switch Cognitive Set, Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 16:5, 589-606, DOI: 10.1080/13825580902871026) could well be lifesaving.

The state’s requirement for training is generally thought to be there to protect the public from those untrained in the use of firearms. But training beyond the basic level is really designed to protect concealed carriers from the hazards of everyday life. If taken and internalized this additional training provides skills that reduce reaction times during periods of extreme stress. All of this makes it more likely that if a concealed carrier encounters a soulless, sociopathic or psychopathic killer, that the concealed carrier – not the killer – will prevail in that situation. And frankly, it makes it more likely that the sociopathic or psychopathic killer will avoid the confrontation in the first place, because they will recognize the enhanced situational awareness and confidence that additional training instills. This is because predators do not pick on people who are strong, and ready. They pick on people who are unaware, and who may believe that carrying a gun alone is enough of a “talisman” to ward off bad people in the first place.   Training is vital.

Every month in the NRA Publications there are training courses listed. A brief internet search will turn up names like Gunsite Academy, Frontsight. Even your local sheriff may offer basic classes specific to handguns.

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What you want to avoid is thinking that video training – training that you watch on YouTube – somehow compensates for not taking an instructor-led in-person course. A video can’t watch you and see what you’re doing wrong. A video can’t provide the kinds of feedback that a shooter needs to drill out of their personal performance. It may be helpful for purposes of general education, but it cannot make up for in-person instruction.

Training does not end with the course completion certificate. Every skill taught, and every skill learned, needs to be practiced. Practice makes perfect, and it also prevents bad outcomes. The more often you draw from concealment and fire on a target, the more likely that when the time comes you’ll be able to do that effectively. The more often you practice the skills you acquire in training, the more useful and repeatable those skills are in real life.

Do not ignore your need for training. It is the difference between being prepared for combat, and being embalmed.




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