A veteran trainer for law-enforcement marksmanship says one of the most important things a gun user learns is — when not to shoot. Jim Saunders, spokesman for Iowa’s Department of Public Safety, has trained police, deputies and other public-safety professionals in the use of firearms. As a firearms instructor, the goals are to train officers to be proficient with a weapon, but also to teach them to use firearms in safe and effective ways. He says while there’s still plenty of time “on the range” practicing, some new high-tech systems help give that training safely and effectively. Iowa uses the “FATS machine,” a Firearms Training System that’s a computer setup to let them simulate situations in which officers may be faced with the choice to use deadly force. Saunders says officers have to be prepared for anything. The best way to do that is making their training as close to reality as possible — and that includes the training in how to defuse a deadly-force situation before they ever have to use deadly force. That includes training in giving clear, concise commands to someone wielding a knife or firearm or posing some other kind of threat. The training’s in giving commands to an individual they’ve confronted so they can defuse the situation before deadly force has to be used. Some use their own gun, or a service weapon like the one they’ll carry on duty, so the scenario’s like what the officer will face in real life. But it’s part of a digital setup that only mimics a deadly-force situation.For a training session, the officer and the trainer are in the room, with the firearms trainer at a computer controlling the video on a big-screen. It’s all life-size and while officer observes how the officer responds, they can also control the scenario. There are no bullets, and the training scenarios can be replayed over and over by the computer, to help bring home the lessons. From police officers to troopers and special agents alike, Saunders says they go through this training every year, just another tool to help train them in making good decisions on the street. Saunders says such computer-video training systems are growing in popularity because they’re safe and give effective and thorough training in firearms use as well as techniques to avoid having to shoot.
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