Minimum standards – functional vs. legal

John “Hsoi” Daub’s series on minimum handgun proficiency standards was featured in the July 25, 2017 edition of The Tactical Wire.  The series discusses, among other things, the process we used to create the Three Seconds or Less shooting test.

Functional standards

A well designed training class has learning objectives. They are often defined by “Bloom’s verbs“.

The typical firearms course is heavy on Bloom’s level 3 objectives: execute and implement, for example, because the class teaches hands on skills that are evaluated with targets and timers. Even gun safety is typically assessed at the level 3 (execution) level.

In order to evaluate whether a student has achieved the learning objective or not, standards are needed.  The derivation of those standards comes from the primary learning objective for the course, and the amount of time available to teach the topic.

Here are some plain language primary learning objectives for our lower level classes:

Basic Pistol 1 – Graduates are competent enough to target shoot without supervision. (They are measured against the performance checklist from the NRA Basic Pistol course.)

Gun Selection Clinic – Graduates understand enough about gun selection to select a handgun appropriate for their needs and physical characteristics.

Basic Pistol 2 – Graduates are capable of passing the Texas License To Carry shooting test with 90% or greater score.

Defensive Pistol Skills 1 –  Graduates are capable of safety drawing a pistol from concealment and shooting a 70% score (from open carry) on the Three Seconds or Less shooting test.

Nothing in our curriculum or standards development process addresses the question of “what minimum skills should be a legal requirement to own or carry a firearm.”

A few recent readers of our blog postings (or of articles referencing our work) have misinterpreted our writing to claim that we advocate these standards as any type of legal standard related to a fundamental Constitutional right.

That assumption is completely incorrect.

Legal standards

No license is required to use the right of free speech, at home or in public.   Similarly, no license should be required for the right to keep and bear arms. When public speech is abused, and harm is caused, the speaker may be found guilty of libel, slander or defamation. There are legal consequences for harmful speech.  There are many legal consequences for harmful misuse of firearms.

According to polls, public speaking is the most common fear. A person seeking to reduce their fear of public speaking might seek out instruction in public speaking, and that instructor might offer different levels of training on any of these topics:

  • give the prayer at a family dinner or at church
  • speak at a city council meeting
  • giving a sales presentation
  • small group instructing
  • instructor training
  • leadership level public speaking
  • radio/TV presentation skills

Being afraid to carry, or afraid to act in a self-defense situation, out of lack of understanding of how the gun operates, proper carry methods, technique for drawing, or fear of making an incorrect use of deadly force decision that could have life-changing consequences are all very reasonable fears — and training, supplemented by practice, is the best way to address those fears.

The Dunning-Kruger effect causes each of us to believe that we are better than we are at many tasks and skills. Being evaluated against formal metrics by a qualified assessor is the best way to get an honest appraisal of your actual abilities.  Particularly when the alternative – not discovering that you aren’t good enough in your gun-handling, shooting or use of deadly force decision making – could be a fatal error.

The reason to attend training should never be “because the state is making me”. The standards to which someone trains should be based on functional requirements, because the student expects to benefit from the training, whether it is in reduction of negative outcomes or improved odds of survival.

Those that choose not to seek out training, or work to attain functional standards, are free to make their own choices, and equally free to face the consequences of their errors.