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Concealed carry and your brain

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You’re legally carrying a concealed handgun and confronted with a situation whereas you decide to use it. What happens next? The hope is that no shots are fired and the situation somehow ends without tragic consequences. The reality is that your stress response has been triggered and your brain goes into overdrive all within a few seconds. Stress responses include fighting, fleeing or freezing. The good old fight, flight or freeze principle. The way you respond, in large part, depends on your life experiences and, in this case, the firearms training you have successfully completed.

All 50 states have concealed carry laws. In Washington, D.C., in order to carry concealed firearms, you must be an active or retired law enforcement officer. In Maryland the required course to apply for a concealed carry license is 16-hours long, costs $250.00 and must be renewed every three years. The renewal does not require firearm re-qualification. Some states have reciprocity laws meaning that you can carry your concealed firearm in their state coming from your home state. The reciprocity laws vary from state to state. For example, North Carolina honors Maryland’s concealed carry law but Maryland does not honor North Carolina’s law.

Firearms training programs for concealed carry certification teach firing the weapon, usually a handgun, from stationary positions at stationary targets and obviously not returning fire. If a concealed carrier decides to engage an active shooter the scenario most likely will develop into what is called tactical shooting known as close quarter combat in the military. Tactical shooting includes moving while firing the weapon and firing on moving targets that usually have the means to return fire. Tactical shooting requires ongoing practice, which includes live-fire exercises in the military, to become an efficient, effective and safe shooter. The military has specialized units who train in close quarter combat. In the civilian world, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams and other teams requiring tactical shooting train regularly to acquire these skills. These shooters train rigorously and frequently to train their brains in the art and science of shooting. Their shooting reflexes are, in large part, imbedded in their brain mapping. They are trained to manage their stress responses.

The point is, if a concealed carrier, who most times is a novice shooter, decides to draw their handgun it is the brain’s response to stress that will largely determine what happens next. As discussed, the brain’s response to stress is based on experience and training. Learning to shoot while standing still or kneeling and shooting at a non-moving target and doing so during one 16-hour class does not train the brain.

For many, legally carrying a concealed handgun provides a false sense of security when you consider real-world scenarios. Training your brain to respond appropriately and safely is critical. A 16-hour course in handgun safety and shooting is not enough to train your brain for most real world scenarios. Keep this perspective in mind if you decide to draw your handgun. Your life and the lives of others may depend on it.

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