Moral Duty to Train. We’ve given a lot of thought to this subject now that we are much more involved in the training of good citizens, rather than just police.
In the field of law enforcement, the legal “duty to train” is well established in case law, as directed in long standing examples such as City of Canton v Harris, Popow v City of Margate, Zuchel v Denver and others. The courts have long recognized that police agencies and the jurisdictions they serve have a duty to train their officers for the myriad of complex decisions officers will face in the performance of their duties.
However, the moral obligation to prepare the police for their duties is even more important, in our opinion, and it’s time to apply that same imperative to the training of citizens who elect to take personal responsibility for their safety, the safety of their families and communities.
Some states require training before issuing a Concealed Carry Permit, others do not require it but encourage responsible citizens to seek out competent instructors well versed in not only the technical use of firearms, but who are also well versed in the ramifications of the use of deadly force by a civilian defending themselves or their families in a lawful context.
Citizens should seek experienced and credible trainers with the above holistic attitude who teach with integrity.
The role of the Citizen in defense of self and community was a part of our social and cultural fabric. The concept of the Militia encompassed these responsibilities, and young people of previous generations absorbed these responsibilities and were trained in the technical skills to play their part by the adult men and women of their cities, towns and villages.
However, our culture is changed and in many parts of the country that concept of personal responsibility is not passed on or is even discouraged. Thankfully in many cases that sense of responsibility is re-acquired as a natural consequence of life changes, such as taking a spouse or the birth of a child. These changes result in men and women seeking professional instruction in the defensive use of firearms.
In addition, a complex and sometimes violent world causes individuals, as a result of a real and immediate fear triggered by a specific incident, or a reaction to high-profile acts of violence, to focus on personal responsibility for their safety and seek integrity-based training in the use of firearms, a skill that is not being passed on as it was earlier in our history.
The men and women who ponder these decisions, and then seek experienced mentors and trainers are, in our opinion, owed the best and most relevant training an instructor can provide, and they are owed it now.
Just like in law enforcement, where officers need relevant and realistic training as soon as they are able to absorb it, so do good men and women with real fears and circumstances need realistic training, relevant information and context as soon as they are able to absorb it. And that training must address the spoken and unspoken reasons they have decided to own and possibly have to use a firearm.
These good and responsible people, fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, are all adults who have expectations when they seek and select instructors/mentors, and they should not be condescended to. Men and women, all of whom have lead professional lives or raised families, or have made a mark in the world in any number of ways, can and do rise to the occasion. Cookie cutter instruction, analogous to teaching a child to draw block letters, does not serve them well.
Rather, trainers have a moral obligation to provide contextual technical training, the “why’s” that specific grips, stances, attitudes, and standards of accuracy matter. Holistic training that includes legal principles of the use of deadly force, such as how to interact with police in the aftermath, is critical. There is also a responsibility to warn students of the physiological effects the kind of extreme stress a defensive shooting engenders, the strong emotional lows that inevitably follow the extreme fear that caused them to pull the trigger on another human being.
Just as important, perhaps more so, instructors must address the necessary skills of situational awareness, the concept of conflict avoidance, and reducing the likelihood they will ever be perceived as an “easy victim.” Doing so will properly identify the defensive use of a firearm as a last resort.
Fortunately, the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction necessary to achieve realistic, contextual and relevant training in the use of firearms by responsible civilians. Organizations such as the USCCA, the NRA’s Carry Guard, and others are slowly getting the important information out there, and the counter-insurgency conflicts we’ve been involved in since 9/11/2001 have resulted in a lot of highly skilled, experienced instructors hanging out their shingles and training their fellow citizens. There are also a great number of experienced law enforcement trainers who have the total package of technical ability and contextual experience in the use of deadly force in our cultural and demographic context.
The key is to seek to instruction from a variety of sources, looking for the trainers who provide you real answers, have realistic and articulate responses to the “why” questions, and conduct themselves with a commitment to integrity. Experience in the relevant fields is a must, and an unselfish willingness to share with students all they can absorb, as well as making students aware of other, like minded instructors who also have integrity, are all characteristics of the kind of instructors’ responsible civilians should seek.
The moral duty to train good people to the most realistic level as possible is matched by the obligation responsible civilians have to seek out committed and professional men and women who can provide them what they need.
by Ron Flowers
Ron is a formerly Commissioned veteran of the US Navy (Reserves), the US Merchant Marine, and is a retired lieutenant of the Allentown (Pa) Police and former LEP (Law Enforcement Professional) contractor in Operation Enduring Freedom. Ron began training police in 1994 and owns Citizens Defense Training LLC (www.citizensdt.com) training vetted civilians, as well as providing training to small police departments with municipal police state training commission approved classes. He also serves the NRA Law Enforcement Division as an Adjunct Instructor for Police Firearms Instructor Development classes and can be reached at [email protected]. Both he and his wife have a combined 2500 hours of training from some of America’s finest, and commit to being “students first” at several training events each year.