What can Swedish target shooter learn from American firearms training? Our collaborator Roman Knoll investigated this by taking one of the courses at Front Sight
November last year I was invited by Front Sight to participate in Four-Day Defense Pistol Course. Some of our readers may wonder what skills can Swedish target shooter gain through a training of this kind. After all one doesn't go armed in the streets of Stockholm - it is thankfully not yet needed and besides illegal.
So the danger to be involved in a gunfight is rather small. But this fact by no means diminishes importance of that training for my personal development as a pistol shooter. To learn defense shooting with a pistol is a challenge. For any one deeply interested in handguns would such course be an intensive and exciting experience. Besides, the program included lot of elements of general shooting techniques. No one conducts formalized training in pistol shooting in Sweden and I was very interested in Front Sight approach to teach basic skills.
So called "American gun culture" is quite often misunderstood in our part of the world. That’s why it was interesting for me to meet American shooters and to find out what motivated them to participate in such training. It is simply impossible to understand the Front Sight concept while it is viewed from our European perspective only.
Hence it had been especially enlightening to participate in lectures held during the course. Decision to carry a gun to defend oneself against violent attack has enormous psychological and legal significance. The full knowledge about possible consequences of such decision is in a way more important then pure shooting skill.
For me coming from other reality, some of these questions were quite academic. Nevertheless both lectures and discussions with co-participants illustrated basic differences in American and European view on private gun ownership and armed self-defense.
It is not easy for an outsider to decide whether Americans who carry weapons every dat are paranoid or is it really necessary for their personal safety. According to American Council on Personal Safety "with violent crime every 2.2 seconds, rape every 5.4 seconds and murder every 34 minutes, we live in most violent period in our history".
How accurate the above assessment is I don't know. I have many times traveled through USA by different means of transport, stayed at hotels, camped and even slept under open sky. I was lucky I guess never to encounter any real threat. Neither Front Sight lectures confirmed impression (quite often expressed in our country) that USA is a land that one shoots first and asks later. My colleagues — those who weren't policemen — told me that they never actually were in situations calling for armed defense. Most of them didn't estimate the probability to use in real life scenario the skills acquired at Front Sight as very high. Nevertheless they saw it necessary to participate in the course and learn more. The outlook of those among us who were policemen was of course quite different — for them the training at Front Sight was a very serious matter.
The idea of armed self defense is for many Europeans a repulsive one. We are brought up in the tradition that it is obligation of the state to protect us against violent crime. Generally, only state controlled security powers have the right to use force or violence in defense of citizens. Our laws where private gun ownership for self-defense is seldom allowed reflect it very distinctly. On the other hand, self-defense is what gun ownership is all about in USA,
Among 80 millions American gun owners only limited group are hunters and target shooters. Most people buy guns to defend themselves and their loved ones.
Huge part of population in USA considers having full rights to defend their lives and property by using violence against perpetrators. This attitude - seen from our European perspective - is quite often understood as willingness to take the law in one’s hands. None of my colleagues saw anything wrong with that. They consider this approach to be absolutely in agreement with American individualistic tradition that anyone should solve his problems by himself - no matter of what nature they may be.
If state is unable to protect an individual citizen then he or she should have the right - according to American point view — for armed self-defense.
This right for armed self defense calls for general rights to own and carry firearms. The fact that Constitution of United States confirms these rights has in Europe created a myth about lenient gun laws.
Varity of gun laws
In reality, the gun ownership in USA is not that unrestricted, as we may believe. Firstly, the legislation regulating possession of firearms is not uniform throughout the country and varies a lot.
It is for example forbidden to own handguns in DC while local laws in little town of Kensaw in Georgia demand from its inhabitants to be armed for self-defense. Neither it is easy to get handgun license in New York. State government in California threatens with high taxes on ammunition and reloading components.
Gun ownership in USA has a political dimension. I our part of the world, handguns are owned by relatively few and the rest of the society doesn't care much one way or another. Militant America gun owners organizations led by NRA act powerfully against all restrictions proposed by equally persistent anti gun groups.
During Clinton’s time at the White House many federal rules concerning gun ownership and gun sales had been imposed. Gun shops have to perform instant check on all prospective buyers and report persons found in crime register to the authorities. Two-week waiting period has been imposed to prevent spontaneous gun purchases. Federal ban on magazines with capacity exceeding ten rounds is still in power.
No OK Corral
At the same some more and more states issue so called Concealed Weapon Carry Permits" — licenses to carry handguns for self-defense. Applicants must prove that they are law-abiding citizens and that they have taken some kind of firearms handling classes, which sometimes are organized by local law enforcement agencies.
This situation creates enormous market for all sorts of private firearms training institutions. Florida was the first state to issue CCW permits to its citizens at the beginning of 1990s. Anti gun organizations strongly opposed this legislation and predicted that the whole state would turn into one huge OK Corral. It has been proved though that very few (.01 percent according to available statistics) abused their CCW permits. Besides, significant decrease of violent crimes committed against state citizens has been recorded. Instead, the criminals select their victims among unarmed out of state visitors.
Front Sight lectures stressed the enormous responsibility resting on people who decide to carry firearms. It was repeated over and over again, that use of violence is justified as the last resort only and that the best way to win a gunfight is to avoid it if possible.