by Justin Hinckley, LPNC Second Amendment Issues Coordinator
In light of Independence Day and my reflection on those who rose up in defiance of tyranny, today we will discuss the duty bestowed on us by the 2nd Amendment. Yes, America is perhaps the greatest experiment in self-governance, individualism, and liberty ever, but the reputation of the United States is not something us modern Americans should live off of, but something we should live up to.
Being an American should be an injunction to live a life of service and responsibility. Americanism should not be a matter of geography, ethnicity, race, religion, or political affiliation. It should be one of values, a challenge to be good enough to call yourself an American. So often our focus in discourse is that of rights, freedoms, and liberties. While these are essential elements of our nation, it is a disservice to have any discussion of the former without also discussing what is demanded of us in return. Thus, our focus turns to what obligations we have as gun owners when we exercise our right to bear arms. What responsibilities do we have? What standards must we live up to?
If you own a gun, but have never received formal training in its use, you are violating the spirit of the 2nd Amendment. Likewise, if you do not train regularly, you are ignoring your obligations of being an armed American. As those who have accepted the responsibility of carrying and owning firearms for protection and security, it is incumbent upon us to be well-regulated in the matter. You may think I have lost my mind and have conceded a key point to the anti-gun side just then, but what was the true definition of well-regulated in the 18th century? According to Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science, Emeritus at Stanford University and Robert J. Cottrol, Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law at George Washington University, in separate analyses they have individually found that “well-regulated” referred to a state of proficiency and readiness during the time the 2nd Amendment was written. Synonyms of well-regulated at the time of our founding could be well-trained, well-prepared, well-armed, or well-practiced. It did not mean regulated by government. This means within the actual text of this sacred right, there is a directive to be fit, trained, and prepared.
Do not let my challenge to the gun owning community be perceived as an endorsement of government regulation or decree related to licensing or training schemes. Quite the opposite in fact. I believe one of the best strategies to combating future government regulation is to forge a corps of such highly skilled and competent gun owners as to reduce crime, death, and “gun deaths” through the elimination of accidental gun deaths and reduction in criminal murders. Of course, if my plan is to come to fruition, in the short-term we may have to accept more gun deaths overall with the potential for justified homicides to soar before criminals realize the general population is armed, trained, and prepared.
Nonetheless, to treat each gun death as morally equivalent is a disingenuous attempt at inflating gun murders, an attempt the modern media and many politicians already engage in. If 10,000 criminals died each year because they were killed attempting to hurt or kill someone instead of the current 10,000 murders that occur with a firearm each year, corporate media and gun control groups would still lump these numbers in with the ambiguous term “gun deaths” to discuss the *emergency* of private gun ownership and espouse the need for greater infringement. However, raw reduction in overall numbers is an unambiguous benefit we should all recognize, and I believe a well-regulated gun owning population would do this.
As we look at gun ownership in the modern era, we see that the individual definitions of “fit,” “trained,” “prepared,” etc. are vast. Similarly, we see many gun owners who do not take such obligations seriously at all. How many of those who profess to own guns for protection do we see are unable to engage in basic unarmed fighting techniques? Likewise if we paraphrase Sun Tzu and agree that the best fight is the one we avoid, then seeing such self-defense aficionados who are unable to run for more than a few seconds calls their dedication into question, as they cannot effectively retreat. If we accept that all rights come predisposed with responsibilities, and that the 2nd Amendment itself refers to proficiency and skill, surely we should all agree that there is a standard to be kept for keeping and bearing arms.
Now then, what might that standard be? It seems axiomatic if these standards are born out of a responsibility which itself is born out of a right, the standard must be self-determined. I generally agree with this analysis, insofar as it excludes the role of a governmental body in setting standards. Of course, it is the nature of free people to debate and cooperate in setting such standards. It is beyond the scope of this article to attempt to define a specific standard for all, but I will attempt to layout the steps to create one’s own standards and a frame to progress towards those standards to ultimately meet them. It starts with a deceptively simple statement; train regularly. This means a training plan with specific, measurable goals set within a reasonable time frame. This also means if you do not know how to make a detailed plan, just do something.
In my experience, a successful training plan incorporates a few key elements, no matter the skill level of the trainee. Use of a shot timer, dry-fire in between live-fire sessions, and benchmark drills performed at regular intervals are all required tools in a training program. The shot-timer is a tool to collect objective data which, in conjunction with target analysis, measures your performance and allows you to track your progress. Dry-fire is a form of homework that allows you to make consistent progress in between live-fire range trips, especially if your range trips are a less frequent occurrence. Finally benchmark drills such as the FAST Test, Bill Drill, Failure-to-Stop Drill, El Presidente, and Dot Torture are methods to practice skillsets and track your performance over time. Putting these drills on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly cycle for evaluation is a way to regularly test your performance without getting bored of or discouraged by specific drills. This technique is akin to regularly testing personal records in a weightlifting program or regularly running a specific distance for time in a distance running or sprinting program.
What about how to balance the real-world restrictions such as budget and availability? To incorporate these very real difficulties, training regularly might mean live-fire range time on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. I argue a quarterly range trip is the bare minimum needed to continue to progress in skill. Regardless of live-fire range time, dry-fire practice should occur multiple times per week. Dry-fire practice is a no-cost, low-time commitment activity. 10 minutes per day can show tangible progress for someone who currently does not dry-fire at all. Dry-fire schedules can be modified to fit almost any schedule or gear setup.
Throughout this discussion, I have discussed what is required of us as gun owners. I have made these claims and challenges mostly separate of the real-world considerations to employ them in an effort to increase awareness of what we all should be doing, regardless of what we are doing or are theoretically capable of doing at any given time. Throughout my life as a gun owner and regular conceal-carrier I have met my own goals and standards with mixed success. This not justify my inadequacy and it turns out criminals do not care at all how much dry-fire practice I planned to do, but skipped. So, in the interest of increasing the amount of training the Libertarian community does, start with something. Whatever you currently do, add one more thing or 10 more minutes per day or per week. You do not have to make a full training plan before you start dry-firing. You don’t have to have a monthly progress chart made in Excel before you start using a shot-timer or shooting specific drills. Just add something that you’re not currently doing to your training. Get up and do 10 perfect trigger pulls of dry-fire in the morning (or right now). Before you leave your house for the day with your gun concealed on you, do 10 draws with full presentations and good sight pictures (with an unloaded gun).
Then, put those on a clock and start trying to get faster every day. For those who do not currently train at all, if you start doing any of these things you will see huge improvements in your skill levels related to the employment of a firearm in a real-life situation. It could be draw speeds, sight tracking, first shot accuracy or speed, or any of a number of improved skills. Perhaps most importantly you will see your deficiencies and want to improve them so you have a better chance of living and winning in a life-or-death encounter.
This is the ultimate goal, greater survivability in deadly encounters. We should all be prepared to defend ourselves at a moments notice. Unfortunately, the time to make yourself prepared exists only in the months and years before your deadly encounter. In the moment when need arises to employ your gun, all you have is the training you actually did, the progress you actually made, the rounds you actually fired. So, start training now so that one day you might save your own life.