5 Things I learned from firearms training
For four years of Writers' Police Academy, I've heard writer-recruits gush about the firearms training simulation, FATS. From their adrenaline-fueled talk about shooting bad guys and trying not to shoot bystanders, I pictured video targets popping up a la Men in Black ("Little Tiffany" scene).
This year, I experienced the simulator first hand. Being a nice little Quaker girl without small arms experience, I wasn't so sure I wanted to shoot a gun. (All you peeps from my first career — stop laughing! Notice I said "small arms.") I'd never shot a pistol before, and hadn't fired a rifle in years.
The instructors briefed us on how to hold our guns, aim, and reload. My Glock 19 was easy to handle; not so easy to aim. (I did have new monovision contacts in and consistently missed to the right. That's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it.)
The scenarios were eye-opening.
I'd always imagined good guys vs. bad guys, a view reinforced by the thrillers we read and watch (and write). Most of the scenes start with a traffic stop or emergency call, and the officer has no idea what he's walking into; ie. whether these folks, these human beings (not black-and-white targets) are good, bad, or somewhere in between. The violence escalates so fast, there's no time to react.
Here are five things I learned:
1. People with empty hands can quickly pick up or pull out a weapon.
2. Weapons can be hard to identify. Did you know there's a cell-phone gun?
3. Upset bystanders can quickly turn into threats.
4. Things happen too fast for really accurate aiming. Even practiced law enforcement shooters lose accuracy because of the adrenaline-filled, split-second timing of an armed encounter.
Anybody who owns a gun needs to practice, practice, practice. Since there's no time to think, only those who've turned their skill into instinct have a chance.
5. I like the Glock 19. I don't want one. I'm so afraid of hurting the wrong person out of fear or bad aim, or that my own gun could be used against me in a surprise attack.
That's the implication in this News 2 story on concealed weapons, cautioning civilians about using their own guns. The video includes a clip from the simulator and features one of WPA's instructors.
I have even more respect for our law enforcement and emergency services folks. If they get a little tense in certain situations, like traffic stops, they have good reason! Thus the intense felony traffic stop in Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 1.
Training opportunities like FATS not only make us better writers, but also better able to cope with life situations (like in WPA's past self defense classes). Guilford County Sheriff's Office just started a Citizens' Academy, which will include FATS as part of a weeks-long training program.