In the book Blink, Malcom Gladwell makes the compelling argument that firing a gun might temporarily cause a mental state not unlike autism. My knowledge of autism at this time is fairly limited but I think specifically he is talking about the Aspergers syndrome side of Autism. He supports this theory with some interviews that have been taken from police officers describing what they experienced during a gun fight. Their descriptions tend to share a few traits in common with one another and those traits involve the removal of context and empathy [among other things]. They describe the incidents very matter-of-factly, entry wounds and exit wounds, coloration, and all sorts of other very non-emotional things. They don’t even describe their target as human in many cases, it sounds like they are shooting a toaster or a couch cushion more than a human being.
One of the things that Gladwell mentions is that when fired upon, many people will evacuate their bowels. The experience of being near a discharging firearm is so extreme and terrifying that our brains shut off all non-necessary functions. They take fight or flight to the same level you might experience if a grizzly bear were trying to gnaw away at your chest. Is it strange to think that we would expect these extreme psychological states to only be found in the one being shot upon and not the shooter?
Apparently one of the ways you can fix this problem, or at least alleviate it, is to put the shooter in a high stimulus environment. Simulate a kidnapping or a terrorist plot and then shoot them with a plastic/rubber round. After a few runs of this and the person will more easily keep their cool in the heat of the moment. I suspect that this would not be true for everyone and that some people, like myself, would find themselves unwilling to be shot a second time once I’ve been shot once. I had blood donated once and my arm was so sore I couldn’t life it for over two weeks without feeling joint paint. The experience was so painful that I won’t risk it again because at both a conscious and subconscious level my body rejects the idea vehemently. I suspect others would be like this if they were capped in the chest.
But it raises a thought for me, should we not require that anyone wishing to own a firearm go through this training? It’s not entirely outside of the realm of reasonable, officers in many places either must be tazed or can volunteer to be tazed before being issued the tazer. Similarly there are options for being maced to understand the incredibly pain that the device causes.
Craig said he does not require officers to be tased during training, but many choose to.
That choice is a wise one and it helps them to better understand the tools they have at their disposal. I’m beginning to think this should be expected of everyone who wants to own these kind of tools. Not because I don’t want people being armed and safe, though I do believe many people vastly overstate the likelihood of their safety being infringed upon, but because I want them to know they are making the right choice.
Would you be willing to mace someone for sneezing too close to you if you knew that it was a lot more than merely uncomfortable? Would you tazer someone before you were certain they are a danger if you knew just how painful it was? The training devices for these two things could even be toned down to make them less than traumatizing (as the plastic rounds are considerably less traumatic than lead). The importance is to give people context for the power they wield.
We expect people to experience so many things in life before we give them the right or license to do those things at their discretion. It is awfully strange to me that we draw the line when it comes to harming another living being. Consistency would be nice, is all I’m thinking.
Something I might talk about in its own post is the ramifications of this temporary autism problem. It seems like the odds of someone gunning down a family member during a home invasion are considerably more likely than the average gun fanatic might proclaim. Given that trained officers, theoretically the best prepared gun owners, in nearly the best of situations, still find themselves killing people because they were not given enough time to think [through their fault or mere misfortune].