Recently, my wife and I took the class to qualify for a handgun concealed carry license in Colorado, and I thought a report might be of interest and lead to valuable discussion. (Neither she or I are interested in carrying, but we wanted to learn more about the subject). The class was given by a company called Ronin International. I felt the class was very good, and the instructor, with years of experience in the military and law enforcement, and in handgun instruction for police officers, was excellent. No test was given -- all who sat through the presentation received a certificate.
Much of the class content was not new to anyone with an interest in the subject, but the discussion of the psychological and physical effects of a self-defense situation, and the legal consequences, were of great interest. More on these below.
So, what are the effects when a person is placed in a life-threatening situation? Typically, the following:
1) Tunnel vision. All attention is concentrated at the center of the field of vision, to the exclusion of the periphery. For this reason, police officers are trained to physically turn the head when checking out a danger area.
2) Far sightedness (inability to focus on nearby objects, such as the front sight of your weapon).
3) Hearing loss.
4) Vasoconstriction (blood leaves the extremities, "pooling" in the torso).
What are the consequences of these changes? First, your marksmanship will be greatly degraded in comparison with the firing range (so, shooting to wound an assailant is not recommended). You may not see or hear what is taking place outside of your focus area (or know who else may be present). You may mishandle your weapon, forgetting such tasks as disengaging the safety or putting a round in the chamber.
Even more interesting, I thought, were the post-shooting effects. These include:
1) Elation (You're alive! The threat is gone!)
3) Memory loss
The instructor had the following advice for after a shooting: Call the police (if you haven't already). Give first aid, if your assailant is still alive. (Even from a selfish point of view, you need to appear as the "good guy" in the investigation). Aside from these steps, touch nothing.
When the police arive, expect to be treated as a criminal, even in your own home. (You may well spend a night or two in jail). Until the investigation is complete, all they know is that you have shot someone. Say NOTHING to the police. See numbers 2 and 3 above, shock and memory loss? You may say things that are untrue or misleading, and have them used against you. Your memory will improve after a couple of sleep periods (which may take many days). These post-shooting effects may last a long time, constituting post-traumatic stress syndrome.
So, what conclusions do I reach from these profound psychological effects? If I were going to carry, if I accepted that responsibility, I would get a lot of weapons practice and training, under conditions as realistic as possible, and get some instruction in first aid for gunshot wounds.
Here's an excellent first-person account by a cop after a shooting: