Take firearms training for the sake of your safety and for your loved ones

The AR-15 and its variants are much in the news again these days, as some call for their sales and ownership to be banned and some seek to defend them.

Whichever side of the divide you are on, here is a provocative and interesting video.

One of the things you should pay attention to is, in my opinion, his call for training.

Training includes both instruction in the use of the weapon (in this case an AR-15, but any other weapon as well) and instruction in situational awareness.

Quite a few of you readers out there are against the ownership of weapons like the AR-15 (and quite a few in that group haven’t the slightest idea what an AR-15 is).  Therefore, if I could make a suggestion, look online or ask around about classes where you live for instruction in the use of a handgun and/or long gun like the AR-15.

My point is this: even if you don’t want to have handgun or a rifle, even if you think no one should, get the instruction anyway!

With that instruction, you will have a deeper understanding of what you are advocating but you will also have gained training in situational awareness – which the armed and especially the unarmed really need – and pointers even about avoiding and deescalating conflicts that could potentially erupt in violence.

You will be safer as a result, and so will be your loved ones when you are out and about.

So, watch the video.  Be provoked, if you choose, but also consider my suggestion. Even if you hate these things, even if you hate the people who like these things, bite the bullet (see what I did there?) and take a couple classes anyway!  Go ahead and hate away on the rifle and those who want them.  Just get the training anyway!  You won’t be wasting your time and, I’ll wager, you’ll find it interesting and helpful no matter what you choose to do about firearms.  And when your kids are old enough, have them get the training too.

It’s a sporty world out there, my friends, and it’s coming your way.

Let me be clear: Before some of you go ballistic – and some of you will go ballistic and make all sorts of stupid assumptions about my motives and you’ll write dopey emails or letters full of accusations – what I am pushing here first and foremost is the training!  The TRAINING.  Got it?  Must I say it again?  Even if you don’t want any gun ever… take the training anyway.

Yes, the moderation queue is ON.  What else?


In contrast to the Navy Seal, here’s a 7 year-old girl with her dad.  She’s shooting an AR-15 for the first time.   I suspect she will never be afraid of or confused about the AR-15 or similar rifles for the rest of her life.

By contrast to the little girl, Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News wrote:

“What is it like to fire an AR-15? It’s horrifying, menacing and very, very loud. It felt to me like a bazooka — and sounded like a cannon. … I’ve shot pistols before, but never something like an AR-15. Squeeze lightly on the trigger and the resulting explosion of firepower is humbling and deafening (even with ear protection). The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary form of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.”

I believe “Gersh” is a male name. Not sure, about that however.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. exNOAAman says:

    Pretty good video. Antigunners, please take note of the advice to “stop talking”, lest you expose “your contempt of the good.”( And conversely, your compliance with evil.)

  2. Monica says:

    I couldn’t agree more on this one. A few months ago I took a basic pistol safety course at the NRA range in Northern VA. I had never handled a firearm before and frankly I was much more nervous than I thought I’d be. The range instructor was fantastic, but besides the basic safety, handling and firing info I did learn that I’m “more hat than cattle” when it comes to the physical part of self-defense.
    But: situational awareness prevents a great many problems, and is a mental discipline everyone can and should develop. Always know the exit locations, always keep your car doors locked, don’t walk/jog/be in any crowd with your eyes glued to an iPhone or your hearing blocked by earbuds. Scan your surroundings- with frequent sweeps of your eyes- whether in a grocery store parking lot, a stadium, a playground, a mall, etc. Avoid parking decks if possible. If the really, really bad happens, never submit to being taken to “the second location.”
    Those are only a few aspects of situational awareness. In my observation, almost no one practices them except military personnel, current/retired law enforcement officers, and whatever others who are as surreptitious about it as (I hope) I am.

  3. rcg says:

    The local paper had an article contrasting positions on guns and invited our range owner to a meeting with an antigun activist. He is a very cool person (police, SWAT, etc.) and instead of rising to the bate he offered that she could take every course on our range as long as she started with the basic intro course. She took him up on it and she came to a greater understanding. She would not change her position but it seemed more out of obstinance than any logic. She became much more genial, too, so the interaction was more tolerable.

  4. benedetta says:

    I know that Hell’s Bible would prefer to scapegoat the average Christian rather than face the facts, however, there are a lot of violent hate groups out there who operate to cause real harm and chaos in many ways. They would distort the origins of a disagreement to animate, yes, still more hate, and there is radicalisation lurking in the fabric of our country in more ways than just jihadism. There are hateful ideologies aimed at women, mothers, disabled kids, prolifers, as well as all the other on the laundry list of victim groups. Why are people attacked? Surely their identities lead people to hate: they hate life, they hate Catholic mothers, they hate…what? Christians at prayer…moviegoers…the list seems endless and it’s distressing to me that our leaders in media and government would focus only on one particular form of violent hatred and discount the hate crimes that continue unabated every day, as if they think that is a just form of extinguishing others whose ideas they disagree. That very notion is so fascistic, so contra liberal democracy, it’s shocking that our major newspaper and leaders would even go there. It’s horrible rhetoric, and we go back to the time when Rep. Giffords was attacked: the civil discourse. If we pretend that hate crimes only happen to certain people, or that there isn’t hate being animated against Christians just as much as others, even more, lately, with a lot of hate, then we are not acknowledging a large part of humanity that is suffering. I just see all the political and media responses to be blame centered and inflammatory in rhetoric and refusing to acknowledge how we all suffer as a society when one lgbtq person, or one mother who stands up for prolife, gets attacked by organized hate. Thus, our leaders’ statements ring hollow. One perceives that they care not for us but only how to make political hay for their establishment cronies and amen corners.

    Sadly, I prefer pacifist values as a mother. I would like it if there were less guns and less need for them.

    And yet aside from hate crime, from anarchist/far left to jihad or whatever the strange and mentally ill ideological motivation, there is also skyrocketing crime. People are addicted and desperate to feed those addictions, to the point of drastic consequences. A lot of neighborhoods where people really just already have too many problems and are working to keep a roof over the heads of children needed to be fed and educated, crime isn’t getting better. Again, the rhetoric of a lot of leaders rings hollow. One feels alienated as a voter, as a citizen, and that one’s elected officials are busy decrying ideology and playing establishment politics rather than look at reality and problem solve, getting to the table with those of the other party and finding out what can be done.

    So with great heaviness, I do concur with what a lot have been saying, that if someone had been carrying, with the proper training, in Orlando, they could perhaps have saved a lot of lives. One begins to incessantly worry, daily, that our government can no longer protect us from what this…is. One begins to live every single day to just survive. And I’ll add again, from a pastoral level, I looked around, and those whom I supported, regardless of their personal choices, and never judged, fled rather than help me with a child. Sadly, I cannot continue with a position that would deny trained heroes the possibility to protect others, children, innocent club goers just out for an evening out, by confiscating protection from citizens and denying them the right to defend themselves. If the times were different, I could without anxiety say otherwise. Sadly.

  5. ncstevem says:

    4, 3, 2, 1….countdown to all the girly men ‘scandalized’ that a priest could advocate for the use of firearms training for self defense.

  6. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Saying ” get the instruction anyway!” makes me think that, for quite a long time after WW II many western European countries had compulsory military service for (fit) male citizens – and some still do, as do various (not always savory) countries around the world – which presumably always includes/included a certain level of “instruction in the use of a handgun and/or long gun”. Wikipedia (“Military service”) tells me some let women volunteer as well (Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Turkey – while Israel requires some women to). So, this suggestion is not unlike a voluntary participation in part of such broader training, at your own expense, but a lot more flexibly.

    benedetta saying “I prefer pacifist values as a mother” makes me think how many people – women, children, men – go for instruction in unarmed self-defense training of various sorts, which can also be valuable (if only in impressing upon you how important it is to try to get away from a bad or dodgy-looking situation as quickly and as far as possible before you have to think about ‘breaking away’ from an attacker).

    I read a discussion of the incident at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, on 10 June, in which the commentator suggested with respect to suddenly ending up an unarmed by-stander, “think about the kinds of possible (even improbable) scenarios and develop pre-programmed responses to threats”: to go beyond situational awareness and try to have “have was a pre-existing plan for how to deal with a dangerous incident.” He also suggested, “Get good training” on the assumption that you will respond at your level of training.

  7. RichR says:

    Guns will always be needed because of original sin. There will never be a day when we are free of poverty, mental illness, tyranny, and ambition. To think we can write these things out of existence with some political or military action is the Tower of Babel all over again. We fool ourselves when we choose to look the other way regarding fallen human nature.

    As long as there are bad guys, we will need to defend ourselves and our loved ones from evil. Many times it can be with prayer or reasoned discussion, but there will be times when families must resort to arms. Don’t be a needless victim.

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    No thank you. While some may see it as a matter of prudence to arm themselves and counsel others to, I am with with those who see it a matter of prudence not to, and it’s worth saying that “take firearms training” is not a matter of Christian precept or principle. Knowing about guns is not a need to know sort of thing. I neither know nor care what an “AR-15” is. I only wish I knew so little about other things that I now think it best to avoid undue interest in, such as sexual things.

    In heaven the saints who used weapons and the saints who eschewed them are friends.

    I shot my dad’s rifle a couple times at a shooting range at a camp when I was a child, that is enough training for me. Count me out of any kind of militia.

  9. jltuttle says:

    I’ve never known a person to remain anti-AR-15 once he’d received training, even just the familiarization training. Also, there have been reporters in the news going out to indoor ranges and firing the rifles. They report how loud and powerful the AR-15 is and how scary it was to fire the gun. Well, of course, they are loud and powerful, they are rifles and they shoot bottle-necked rifle cartridges Rifles are rarely if ever shot indoors and few indoor ranges are equipped to support them because they do not have a strong enough backstop to stop a rifle round. (If you see a rifle being shot indoors, it likely uses handgun cartridges.) It’s all propaganda. All of it.

  10. Ed the Roman says:

    I don’t have an AR, but I recently ordered an AR-like item chambered in .300 BLK (commonly known as “three hundred blackout”).
    Ballistics similar to 7.62×39, and it uses AR-15 magazines. Nice.

  11. Glennonite says:

    You’re either a sheep, a wolf, or a sheep-dog. I am an American, law-abiding sheep-dog. I am in charge of my own defense, and I am ready to aid any law officer, law-bidding sheep, or fellow sheep-dog against any wolf.

    I am a trained and responsible human man whom mindless sheep will never thank despite the fact that without the sheep-dogs in society, the shepherds (police) would be hopelessly out-numbered.

  12. I can now envision a time when one might not be able to travel safely without being armed or having an armed escort. If the Soviet Union broke apart, so could the United States, and perhaps not very cleanly. I’m not ready to arm myself just yet, but I am steeling myself for a time when it may become a distasteful necessity. I may have some more latitude as a single person, but if a strong, stable government is no longer a reality, heads of families may actually have a duty to make an effort to protect their families. Martyrdom is a decision that arguably is not right to make for others.

    Apart from that, situational awareness can be valuable, and I have often said that the real genius is one who doesn’t let himself get trapped in a locked box with chains wrapped around himself, not the one who can somehow manage to escape from such a predicament. If someone else has a gun and is willing to use it, having one for self-defense simply levels the playing field, so getting away from such a situation or being able to defuse it peacefully if at all possible is a useful skill and worth attending classes to learn.

  13. TheDude05 says:

    Father Z’s last sentence is the part that should hit home. The training will make you more informed and give you an appreciation for those of us who take fire arms seriously as any owner should. Secondly should you be in a situation where there is some sort of Mass shooting going on and a gun is near you that you could pick up and use to stop it, would you want to be stuck not knowing how to chamber a round, take off the safety, and aim properly to put a round down range? The Catechism does say that we have a responsibility to defend others.

  14. jflare says:

    While at a family get-together today, I heard my aunt’s husband comment about how he didn’t think arming people would help; he felt that allowing for more arms would only put people in the middle of a shoot-out. Because this was a quasi-reunion sort of event and I did not wish to create a furious argument, I did not press the matter, but I think his view is…problematic, at best.

    Over the last 30 years, I have heard any number of people say that “there needs to be a better way”, that we need to keep dangerous people off the streets, or whatever. I hear we need to do almost anything except make a firearm easier to acquire.
    Trouble is, none of the “better way” ideas I have heard actually work in real life.
    Not without creating other, equally serious, problems.
    We cannot forbid purchase of a weapon because we cannot adequately define “assault weapon” without resorting to stereotype or forbidding everything. We cannot forbid a potentially mentally ill person from acquiring an assault weapon because we either cannot adequately predict the risk that such a person poses to society, or we cannot adequately impede the person from acquiring a firearm.
    Any occasion that someone would propose a “better way”, such means that one government agency or another needs to accomplish something more than now. Unfortunately, most of our government agencies already (try to) accomplish more than what they feasibly can, so priorities must be set, which means that one need or another will always fall through the cracks.
    Ultimately then, the various efforts to end violent crime do not work without violating some other, equally important, precept.

    I think if we wish to solve problems of violence, we will need to approach the problem differently.
    In my lifetime, I think I have never met anyone who WANTED to be in a shoot-out. Not even while in the military. I have met many who admit to the practical need to be prepared for the unthinkable, nobody who wishes to use the “combat skills” they have learned in real life.

    Ultimately, I come down with this: I need to earn a concealed carry permit within the next year. If the idea of shooting someone scares me, the idea of being shot–potentially killed–scares me more.
    If I have no desire to be involved in a modern-day version of the shoot-out at the OK Corral, I have even less desire to be stuck in a brewing shootout with nothing but a chair or a fist to fight back.

    Being capable of disabling an assailant with a kick or a punch at 3 feet does me no help if the assailant can hit me in the forehead, killing me instantly, from 20 or 30 feet.
    If I wish to survive, I need to force the assailant to think twice by posing an equally serious threat to him from 35 feet.

  15. Maltese says:

    This is a tough topic. We should arm ourselves with the Rosary, first. But God gave us the free-will to do horrific things. The Knights of Malta defending against the Muslim invaders in 1565 comes to mind. If it weren’t for sharp steel, steely resolve, and highly skilled Knights (along with night-long vigils to the Mother of God), the battle would have been lost. In the real, work-a-day world, you have to think realistically about threats, and means to counter those threats. You don’t combat an AK-47 with a Rosary. You have to be willing to fight aggression with a commensurate amount of equal force. Our Founding Fathers didn’t enact the Second Amendment to allow people to hunt ducks–they enacted it as a deterrent to tyranny. If the SHTF, you’re going to need an AR-15 to defend your family.

  16. Maltese says:

    But, still, the best self-defense firearm to have is a Remington 870 shotgun. In a dynamic situation, when you’re shaking like an aspen tree in the wind, a shotgun is the go-to choice of weapon. If an EMP, or Cyber-Attack takes down the grid of this Country, things will go from bad-to-worse in less than a week. If you think about it, people trample each-other on ‘black Friday’ for gadgets. Imagine what they will do if they’re without food. Maria Esperanza, a Seer approved by her local Bishop, said the breakdown of society would start in her home country-Venezuela. Look at what’s happening there: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/world/americas/venezuelans-ransack-stores-as-hunger-stalks-crumbling-nation.html?_r=0

    If you think is can’t happen here, just wait.

  17. Maltese says:

    Whether you hate guns, or love them remember these four universal safety laws:

    The 1st Law: The Gun Is Always Loaded
    The 2nd Law: Never Point The Gun At Something You Are Not Prepared To Destroy
    The 3rd Law: Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It
    The 4th Law: Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your sights are on target.

    The last is actually the most important. I took my ex out to legal BLM-land to do some shooting, and she fired one round, freaked-out, and then swung the weapon around and pointed it right at my stomach, with her finger on the trigger. That was 18 years ago, and I’ve learned my lesson. I would never go shooting with someone who doesn’t know basic safety now. But also, one should remember that a personal firearm can be used against you. Unless you are really proficient, you might want to consider a personal Taser: https://buy.taser.com/pages/taser-c2

  18. John Ed says:

    Living on the other side of the pond I found this call to arms training quite an eye opener. What exactly is ‘coming your way’?

  19. arcanum_divinae says:

    Us gun nuts know what you’re doing, of course. Carry on, Father.

    To those who are already gun nuts: take your friends shooting. Seriously.

    [What I am doing here is urging my readers to take classes, get training, in the use of firearms and, importantly, situational awareness, how to deescalate conflicts, etc. That’s what I am doing. Whatever people decide about guns after that, that’s their business. But they will, thereafter, at least know more and will be more alert, hopefully safer.]

  20. Clinton R. says:

    We are blessed to have a manly priest in you, Father. A priest who cares about our souls, who defends the timeless teachings of the Church, loves her Mass of All Ages, and is skilled with firearms. A very Happy (belated) Father’s Day to you.

    St. Gabriel Possenti knew the value of being adept at firing a gun. Guns are not bad or evil. They are objects that can be used for good or evil. If we can stop someone from committing acts of terror or violence, then we should all know how to safely use a firearm.

  21. oldconvert says:

    I grew up in 1950s England, where what with conscription for two World Wars, Home Guard, National Service, and Korea and all, nearly every man/youth, and very many women, had received weapons training of some sort and the majority had had to use them. And, the country was awash with guns because on release from the services most people brought one back as a souvenir. (When my father-in-law died in 1996, we found two wartime guns among his belongings).

    The 1950s are now looked back on as one of the most peaceful and law-abiding periods in English domestic history. And gun-crime was almost unheard-of. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I totally agree with gun controls to ensure responsible ownership, but I think Fr Z is right on general weapons training.

    [I think that a little while ago I posted on a study that was perpetrated on some children. They put a bunch of kids into a room full of toys in which there were also a couple real (of course unloaded) guns. They them and… what would one expect in a room full of toys for pity’s sake… played with them by shooting each other, much to the horror of observing moms. The experiment was supposed to prove how dangerous the guns were for children. The problem is that some of the children wanted nothing to do with the guns and they left them alone. As it turned out these children had guns in their homes and their parents had taught them about them and told them that they are not toys, etc. The ones who played with the guns in dangerous ways did not have guns in their homes. Get the idea? Demystify!]

  22. ach7990 says:

    I want to add that the right for a man to protect his family, and his duty to be a warrior, does not come from the 2nd ammendment. It comes from God.

  23. Sonshine135 says:

    Sarcasm on

    But Father…Father….we surely don’t want to start educating people. Why do we want them to know the truth? All this talk about guns must mean you still must hate Vatican II. Vatican II got rid of guns and high altars!!!!

    Sarcasm off

    In all seriousness, I shared this article with friends who span all sides of the divide. This is the type of common sense you never see or hear in journalism. Rampant sensationalism is all they sell with extreme messages that float one way or the other. I’ve turned off their garbage, pray more, and have started talking a lot less. I refuse to feed the beast.

  24. skip67 says:

    As a Vietnam Nam vet, I started teaching my wife and kids about situational awareness, way back in the early 70’s. Both sons learned to shoot in the Boy Scouts, a course that taught both the right way to shoot, and saftey. My youngest son is a decorated combat veteran of Afganistan, and while in the army had the chance to go to a school, in which he learned to teach others how to shoot. We talked my wife, his mother, into going to the range one day, and he taught her to shoot a hand gun. She is good, lol, as he said to me, “old man, you better not tick her off!” One point here I’d like to make, guys if your wife, girlfriend, daughters, want to learn to shoot, a hand gun, make sure they get a gun that fits her hand, not what you like to shoot. Nothing turns a person away from shooting, more then a gun that they can’t hold properly. It took about 10 different hand guns, before my wife found one she was comfortable with. I also have an AR-15, which we taught my wife to fire, she is better with a handgun then me, But I still out shoot her with the AR. When both of my sons are in town, we go as a family to the range, it is my duty to take care of my family, I raised both sons that they always protect their Mom, but if we are not around her, it’s good to know she can protect herself.
    37 Sig Bn, Army, Vietnam, 70-71

    [My experience has been, and I’ve heard others say this, is that women are often better shots than men. Provided they are matched with the right firearm (not too heavy), they can be steadier. It just seems to work out that way. One theory I heard is that they don’t have as much ego wrapped up in it. When I was growing up I remember what a spectacular shot my own mother was. She was a career cop in Minneapolis, the second woman ever on the force, I believe. We would go to the range when there were tournaments and qualifications etc., and the guys were super helpful. I did a bit of shooting in those days. However, as I recall they weren’t always so happy when she would borrow someone else’s revolver with a longer barrel than what she carried, and, without practicing or warming up, simply walk away with trophies.]

  25. Augustine says:

    Why carry a gun? Because one cannot carry a policeman. [They tend to be pretty heavy, anyway.] After all, when seconds matter, the police is just minutes away.

    In all seriousness, I hail from a country where the average person is practically forbidden to own a firearm. Of course, the laws that led to this are not followed by criminals. The result was that criminals often escalate property crime to personal crime. For, since no home has any armed person, weather the targeted one or the neighboring one, crooks have no qualms about committing robbery and raping men, women and children between loading the TV and the stereo. It is the duty of the head of a family to protect it and to rationalize it away as if the laws or the police would stop criminals from harming it is a dereliction of a duty took on before God and men.

  26. Semper Gumby says:

    Great video Fr. Z. And great comments here. skip67 makes a good point about finding a weapon you’re comfortable with. Maltese provides good safety points. Well said Augustine.

  27. JesusFreak84 says:

    The state of Illinois actually requires training approved by the state police, (which I would prefer to the county sheriff or local police making the call, since Chicago is insane enough as is,) to receive a CCW license. It’s one of the few parts of IL gun law that I actually approve of; I think the training may also help some folks decide for real, “If it’s down to the wire, do I really have it within me to point this weapon at another human being and pull the trigger?”

  28. Gilbert Fritz says:

    How is a rifle a good defense against terrorists? They are hard to carry concealed. I don’t think most people will be carrying rifles around the street, unless things have really collapsed.

    Secondly, can you folks on here tell me; in a mass shooting: how will you know which guy to shoot, avoid shooting a bystander, and avoid getting shot by the police or by another bystander? Or even cracked in the head by another bystander?

    If I was at Church, and suddenly a shooter opened up, and another guy I didn’t know suddenly pulled out a gun next to me, I just might whack him really hard with anything that came to hand. I guess a heavy hardbound hymnal crashing against the back of somebody’s skull might do a bit of damage.

    I’m not in favor of banning guns. But most people I know in gun culture seem unrealistic and naive about what would actually happen in a mass shooting. In the latest shooting, there was an armed security guard on scene, and two police men almost right away, so at least three guns, and they didn’t help. There have been guns in lots of such situations, and many times they don’t help. And I could imagine lots of bumbling civilians doing lots of collateral damage. In fact, such a thing almost did happen, to Joe Zamudio in Tuson. He mistook another civilian responder for the bad guy, and only his fear of getting mistaken for the shooter himself kept his gun in his pocket.

    So I would appreciate some calm, clear answers from the thoughtful people here on this.

    [And I would appreciate it were everyone to remember my main point: people should get training and they should be acutely aware of their surroundings. Whatever else they might decide to do with or about firearms, get the training anyway.]

  29. Gilbert Fritz says:

    As a followup to my last comment, what would be some good non-gun ways to subdue mass shooters? Bear spray? Some sort of marshal arts way of throwing objects? Throwing objects period?

  30. iamlucky13 says:

    In addition to being trained with your firearm, and on situational awareness, it is also prudent…even necessary I’d say…to properly understand the law, which is at least an attempt to formalize the relevant moral principles. Some organizations that offer firearms safety and self-defense training also offer classes on the legal aspects of their use or integrate them into other classes. [CCW classes always go into the relevant law as well as the ramifications of any sort of use of a firearm. This is important stuff.]

    You need to understand when self-defense (or defense of others) applies vs. when you’re unnecessarily escalating a situation and would be more prudent in withdrawing (if possible that is, but being legally justified in standing your ground doesn’t mean it is the right action if withdrawing does not result in harm to you or others), or even when you might not be justified in opening fire and would be committing a criminal act…and potentially mortal sin.

    @ Gilbert Fritz – target identification is one of the four fundamental principles of firearms safety. Drawing and opening fire on the first thing that strikes you as a potential threat is very, very wrong. It is unfortunate that you likely expose yourself to additional risk by waiting until you can clearly identify an attacker, but there is no moral way around this. We can’t afford to be as dangerously out of control as the LA police department (reference the multiple attempted murders on their part during the Chris Dorner manhunt).

    As for non-firearms responses to a deadly threat – there have been a few cases of brave souls taking on a shooter hand-to-hand. One I know of was the Springfield school shooting in 1998. A 17 year old student, who was himself familiar with firearms, recognized when the murderer was reloading, charged, despite having already been injured, and tackled him, getting shot again in the process. His bravery allowed several other students to join in helping disarm the perp.

    I want to say there was another case where bystanders through whatever they could get their hands on at the shooter, causing him to back away and buying others more time, but I can’t think of where that was.

    These are extraordinary acts of heroism, however, not what I’d call a normal response to facing a murderer.

    Other things an unarmed person can do include helping others find safe escape routes or assisting wounded.

  31. MWindsor says:

    “No thank you. While some may see it as a matter of prudence to arm themselves and counsel others to, I am with with those who see it a matter of prudence not to, and it’s worth saying that “take firearms training””

    Elizabeth, might I make a suggestion? I don’t have a problem with someone that isn’t interested in firearms training, and I think Fr. Z is only making a recommendation. But my suggestion is to get training in something else, if not in firearms. In coming years, it might be very handy to you to know first aid – serious first aid, not how to apply a bandaid and spray the Bactine bottle. This would, in a very real way, fulfill the Christian precept of being of service to your fellow man, even if his/her service to you is to carry a firearm to protect you and yours.

    just a suggestion.

    [Serious First Aid training is an excellent idea! I’ve tossed around the idea of actually enrolling in an EMT program. But this isn’t either firearms training OR first aid. I’d say BOTH.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  32. cl00bie says:

    I would like to mention that when someone uses the term “sheep” in this context, it is not an insult. There is nothing wrong with being a peaceful person who doesn’t wish to use firearms. That is, as long as you’re not advocating to take away mine.

  33. TopSully says:

    Take the training before you decide if arming yourself is appropriate. But it isn’t enough to just take the training. You need to practice continually. Marksmanship is a perishable if not practiced regularly. Carrying a concealed firearm is sometimes, or often inconvenient and potentially uncomfortable. So don’t just do it once in a while. Either do it often so it becomes second nature or decide it isn’t right for you.

    For those of you who take first timers, or second timers out to shoot, never load more than one round. As Maltese experienced first hand sometimes the loud bang and recoil causes panic in a beginner, and not just for women. Until someone has repeatedly demonstrated, after safety training, proper control of the weapon before, during, and after firing they shouldn’t have more than one round. This is such a simple safety measure.


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  34. Scott W. says:

    Also a few notes since we are getting some obtuse questions which I’m required to take in good faith in spite of my suspicions. The video is not declaring the AR-15 to be a one-size-fits all weapon that is practical in every circumstance. It focuses on the AR-15 because it is maligned by the ignorant. The subtext of the video in case it wasn’t obvious, is that ban on assault rifles is but a minor goal on the way complete citizen disarming.

  35. cortona says:

    Well said

  36. Elizabeth M says:

    The second video reminds me of when I was 8 and my grandfather taught me to shoot his M1 Garand. [Very cool.]
    Boy, that was a kicker! His Lugar was fantastic too. I was drilled over and over again about safety before stepping foot out the door.
    Our family would go to the range every year and I miss it. For me, it was never about blowing things up. It takes skill, practice, and I loved being able to out shoot the older guys. Oh, and heading into the shop being greeted by “Can I help you little lady?” Nope.

    My only regret is not taking the time to learn from him how to clean the guns. I miss that smell of spent casings and cleaner.

    Even if you don’t hunt or enjoy the sport, educate yourself and as Father says take some basic training. You don’t have to like it but second to a crazy person with a gun, is a person with zero training who is scared with a gun.

  37. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    I’ve heard of guys who have had PTSD.

    They got it playing the game “Dodge the suicide bomber” in Fallujah.

  38. exNOAAman says:

    Gilbert Fritz, watch this video, and it will answer your questions about what to do in a shooting as you describe…

  39. MWindsor says:

    As to the update:

    Oh, the drama! Fetch this woman her fainting couch!

    Self-fulfilling prophecy defined.

  40. jflare says:

    “… in a mass shooting: how will you know which guy to shoot…”
    Mr. Fritz,
    In a mass shooting, the guy you need to shoot will be the one who fires without much concern for who will be hit, or who threatens a particular person or group of people.

    “…avoid shooting a bystander,…”
    Every other person will be ducking under something, running away from the danger, or generally trying to avoid coming anywhere near the source of danger. Do not shoot the people who’re hiding under something or running in fear.

    “…and avoid getting shot by the police or by another bystander?”
    Police will generally announce themselves before firing on anyone or anything. I believe such is required by law here in the ‘States. Follow police instructions and you most likely won’t be shot. They DO care about who they shoot at!
    Also, armed people will normally have a good idea of who poses a threat to others and who doesn’t. At bare minimum, do not aim your weapon at anyone you do not intend to fire upon and you most likely will not be shot yourself.

    ” Or even cracked in the head by another bystander?”
    I think most innocent bystanders will recognize who poses a threat and who does not. At minimum, avoid making oneself a target, and most people will realize you are not the “bad guy”.

    Generally speaking, while I understand your point about how being armed does not automatically solve any problem, nor does it make one invulnerable, I might comment that Fr Z’s post aimed most specifically at challenging readers to obtain training for security as best they may.
    Even if one does not carry a firearm, training in self defense can greatly aid in knowing how to engage another person and what to avoid.

    I should mention too: Having a firearm does not mean one may eliminate an active shooter within seconds every time. Rather, it means that one may aid in reducing the degree of catastrophe that may be inflicted by an active shooter.
    If police are minutes away, but one only has seconds, an armed person may use those seconds to find any cover available, remove innocent bystanders from the scene as much as possible, then engage the shooter. This does not mean that no lives besides the shooter’s will be lost, but that the death toll and injury of innocents may be reduced.

  41. HealingRose says:

    First, let me give a little personal background- I grew up on a farm. I have only ever shot a bb gun at the local YMCA Summer Camp as a kid and a few times on the farm with my little brother using my mother’s tulips as target practice. My brother received formal forearm training at a young age. I never had any formal training, but I have considered eventually getting a permit to carry as a way to exercise my freedom before it is taken. Finally, I’m a single mom of three, which brings me to my first point…

    When my oldest children were approximately 5 and 6, my brother asked to take my son out to shoot a gun in the back forty. I agreed. He had talked to both my son and daughter about general gun safety. My brother had the idea to put an empty “rifle” somewhere they would easily notice, within their reach behind a door. (It was just an empty bb gun, but most kids would just see it as a rifle.) It remained in my continual sight, as only a mother can without a child realizing that I am seeing everything. They never even touched it once or showed any interest in it. At the end of the day, I asked them if they knew it was there, and they said they saw it there the whole time.

    Recently, I had a friend who is also a single mom voice concerns about her 13 year old son visiting his father due to guns casually being around. Apparently, the father was of questionable character. I related my experience with my kids and suggested to enroll him in a gun safety class.

    I know that my son will never forget the kickback of the gun the first time he fired one with my brother, his uncle. As much as you can talk about how serious guns are, unless you’ve fired one, you cannot truly understand and respect it for what it is. Today’s society is very desensitized by violence in video games, television, and movies. Guns have been romanticized in some ways. It is especially important for kids to go through gun training so they have a clear understanding between fantasy and reality. These children will one day being voting citizens. It is my job to educate them, especially since gun control is continually a political topic.

    Don’t just educate yourself about guns, EDUCATE YOUR KIDS.

  42. Kerry says:

    Mr. Fritz, if you take some firearm training, you will be able to ask better questions.

  43. tcreek says:

    Luke 22 verse 36
    He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. ”
    If they had ARs back then …?

  44. PNeri says:

    Fire arms are the ideal personal defense weapon for a constitutional republic. In the days of swords years of training and physical prowess were necessary to fight off an attacker effectively. With a comparatively modest amount of training anyone can effectively defend themselves. I love reading the stories in the”armed citizens” column in the NRA magazine in which some elderly person has defended themself with a firearm.

    Is there an argument from the natural law for firearm ownership…?

  45. Gilbert Fritz says:

    To those who responded; thanks.

    My biggest worry is other untrained gun owners in the area; they could quite easily target me.

    jflare, I wonder if it would be as easy to tell as you think. A crowd of people don’t tend to react to these things in rational ways, police would be under a lot of stress, etc.

    And the point about the armed security guard in the last event still stands.

    Kerry, does standard gun training included running simulations of active shooter events?

  46. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    Here is an excellent article… definitely worth the read
    (Looks like they may finally be getting it?)

    Harvard University Study Reveals Astonishing Link Between Firearms, Crime and Gun Control

  47. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    Any tool can be dangerous without a rational and sober understanding of its proper use and maintenance. (You wouldn’t drive a car with bald tires… especially going down a mountain road… in the rain. At least I wouldn’t.)

    Take a look at Switzerland which issues every adult a gun and trains them how to use it: Switzerland has lowest gun-related crime rate in the civilized world.

    There was a time, in the not too distant past, when gun safety was taught in our schools.
    Sadly, for a number of reasons (insurance, misunderstandings and misconceptions of the proper role of firearms, an increasingly emasculated society, an all volunteer military) this is no longer so.

    If someone has any inclination about purchasing their first firearm, ESPECIALLY if there are children in the house, then they should receive proper training on its use, maintenance, AND storage. Children must not be able to get their hands on these items.

    If someone has any inclination about purchasing additional firearms, then they should receive proper training on their use and maintenance as every gun is different.

    Parents should also instruct children (who have reached an age enabling a mature understanding of the subject) how to handle firearms responsibly – and only with adult supervision.

    If you don’t like guns – don’t purchase one. Nobody is going to force you to purchase a firearm.
    Just don’t try and tell me that I shouldn’t (or can’t) because you (really) don’t like it. Also, don’t make up nonsensical stats to justify your position as it makes you look more foolish than you already are.

  48. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Gilbert Fritz asks, “Kerry, does standard gun training included running simulations of active shooter events?”

    If you and Kerry will excuse by butting in, I don’t know about standard gun training, but I ran into something interesting online not so long ago which suggests such things are available: namely, reference to Melody Lauer and John Johnston and the Defensive Training Solutions website. I am not in a position to evaluate it, though I met it via a positive review, and it certainly looks interesting. But perhaps Fr. Z or others can make specific recommendations?

  49. Kerry says:

    Mr Fritz, instead of “better” questions, I ought to have said, “very different” questions. And regarding realistic “active shooter” scenario training, of that I have no personal knowledge. Perhaps that man in the video could answer that question. There are ‘three gun’ events, timed. Ian at Forgotten Weapons participates in these and posts the videos. (Once in WWI garb, using a 1903 Springfield.)
    From the four rules, “Be sure of your target and what’s behind it” refutes “easily target me”. From what you have posted here, I am certain you do not look like a target. Heh.

  50. FrankWalshingham says:

    If they had an AR 15 back then, Christ may have used it against the moneychangers who desecrated his father’ house instead of a whip. And I shudder to think what he would he would have used against the abortionists of the time.

  51. Ben Kenobi says:

    Same, grew up on a farm. Hunted Geese. I had plenty of fun in college with the usual college ladies who’d never seen a gun let along the countryside. I was trained when I was 15, and it’s paid off and continues to pay off. Women really need to step back and ask the question, if you’re unwilling to take the steps to protect yourself, what are you hoping happens? That someone steps in and does it for you? Perhaps for some that will work, but I know plenty of cases where that would be inadvisable or impossible. If I can do it, so can you. It’s not as hard as some folks make it out to be, one class for a couple of months. You might surprise yourself and actually enjoy the feeling.

  52. KT127 says:

    Mr. Fritz,

    Your safety concerns are understandable. But it is worth pointing out many of those safety concerns still exist even if you do not pull a carry weapon during an active shooter event. The police may still mistake you and shoot you, the bystanders may still tackle/trample/harm you, the other gun owners may panic and shoot you. Being in that situation is inherently dangerous.

    Yes, you do increase the risk to yourself when you pull a carry weapon. That’s a risk you have to decide if you can accept. It is part of carrying the weapon.

    But please keep in mind most people don’t carry firearms expecting to find themselves in an active shooter situation. Most of us carry as personal defense against more likely crimes of robbery, car jackings, and assault. Those are completely different situations and Father Z is right the more training you have the better off you will be.

    So I would love to take some more advance first aid training but I’m not sure where to look. Everything I can find is for CPR which I already know. Any suggestions?

  53. Andy Lucy says:


    Not sure where you are situated, but here in the States, the American Red Cross teaches first aid, as do the Red Cross organisations in Canada and Britain, as well as la Croix-Rouge française. Another option might come from your employer, as many companies want employees trained in both first aid and CPR. You might also check out local vocational schools, community colleges, and universities (continuing education department) for first aid courses, as well as EMT courses, from EMT-First Responder to EMT-Paramedic. Being a certified EMT really doesn’t get you very much, unless you happen to roll with the gear usually found in an EMS unit or on an EMS engine/truck company. However, the extra training, especially in trauma management and vehicle extrication, comes in handy on a regular basis for me, as I drive many miles per week, and average on a wreck about once every 2-3 weeks.

    People….. train, train, train, and when you think that you might have trained enough…. train some more. Strive to develop realistic scenarios for training scenarios, not just going through the motions, but engage your brain as well as your body. It never fails, when you find yourself in a highly stressful situation, you will default to the level of your training. If you have piddled around and not taken your training seriously, you could get dead, and what’s worse, you could end up getting some poor schlob killed whose only offense was to have been next to you when you spazzed out. However, if you have drilled both your body and your mind, developing muscle memory as well as having thought, worried, evaluated, and assessed your emotional/psychological reaction to differing situations, you have a much better chance of being part of the solution, not compounding the problem. Develop an every day carry IFAK (individual first aid kit) and train with the contents. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, nor must it be expensive… mine is pretty simple: 4×4 gauze pads, a couple of military trauma bandages, a tourniquet, a couple of Celox envelopes, a nasopharyngeal airway, nitrile gloves, and a CPR mask. I also keep a pair of EMS shears in my EDC bag, along with my trusty pocket knife.

    Work on developing your situational awareness. Have an idea of what is going on around you at all times. Know your possible routes out of any given room. Keep in mind the entrances, as well. Is this paranoia? No. It is how you stay alive…. and it is not simply for active shooter scenarios. Ever gone to the movies, and wondered how you would get out if a flash fire and rolling smoke made it nigh on impossible to see your route?

  54. KateD says:

    I will happily beat my guns into plows shares when Jesus returns. Until then, evil people will continue to roam the earth, and so I may have need of them.

    The girl quoted above needs to find a priest to confess to for fibbing. Firing an AR-15 nothing like firing a bazooka at all. Besides, it’s a semi-automatic. If she’s getting disoriented she should just stop pulling the trigger.

  55. un-ionized says:

    why would it smell like sulfur? there’s no sulfur in smokeless powder. I have to admit I hate being next to a rifle with a flash hider at the range, it puts the blast out sideways towards me. ow. stop that. but they think it looks cool.

  56. KateD says:

    In a class I took recently the instructor told a story about a seasoned officer who trained frequently getting into a shootout with a seasoned criminal. They had been talking at close proximity with 4 feet distance between them. They both unloaded their guns at each other, intent on putting the other guy down. Not a single bullet from either gun (ten rounds each) found its target. The adrenaline gets pumping and it becomes difficult to calm the monkey mind and aim.

    Morals of the story: A) if someone points a gun at you, RUN AWAY. If they are going to shoot, it’s more difficult to hit a moving target; and B) there’s no such thing as too much or enough training and practice.

    An AR-15 would be useful in a number of situations. Look at the rise of ISIS and the Islamic Caliphate. What would’ve happened if the Yazidi had been armed and trained with M16s? Certainly the Yazidi women would not be enslaved, etc. I have a friend who is preparing for this eventuality in the States by purging her heart of hatred and building up her bond with Christ in love. She wants to set the example for her children and is prepared to suffer martyrdom for her faith. I respect her and admire her making this decision as I think it is conforming to the highest ideals of Christianity as Jesus intended. I on the other hand have taken my children to hunter safety, hand gun training, etc. Because her family is dear to me, should the SHTF, we will be going over to their house, if at all possible, to ensure that their spiritual training may be shared with the Church Militant for a longer period of time :) I feel confident that I can lovingly defend my family and friends, without ill will towards those attempting to harm us. It’s when the harm happens that my ire will become spiritually problematic.

    One common argument is that guns would not provide an effective defense against an actual military. First, I don’t think civilians will be alone in pushing back an attack on our soil and secondly, have these people never seen the movie Michael Collins? If a handful of oppressed Irish Catholics could defeat the English Empire, then surely freedom loving Americans can defend their country against hostile invasion.

    **Warning: the Irish use of profanity is not intended to offend, but is used to emphasize an important point and/or as a superlative.


  57. Gilbert Fritz says:

    I’ve heard that even with a lot of training, in an actual situation, police only hit the target 18% of the time. In a mass shooting, where will the other 82% (or 92%) of one’s shots end up?

    I’m really with Fr. Z in saying that training is important. However, I am also really worried about a certain mindset which occurs in the right wing gun owners in these United States.

    As far as the “resist the government” stuff; that is a classic example of a self fulfilling prophecy. And has anyone here read “Lord of the World?” Do you remember what was the trigger for the final slaughter of the Christians?

    If somebody ever asked me to join a Catholic militia, I would tell them to go away; there would be no better way to end up spending my life in jail. [Which has nothing to do with the topic at hand.]

  58. dh233 says:

    I thought this was such a great video
    …Watch as female champion shoots and A.R. 15 amongst other rifles and handguns. Me and my sister went and got our “license to carry” this year along with my daughters and had my sons get there F.I.D cards. I’m not ready to carry on a daily basis but I definitely feel it is good to have that knowledge and want my kids to have it also.
    Watch and learn:

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