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Ladies Locked and Loaded: Mental impact of using a weapon in self-defense

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

FOX 32 News is exploring the issue of gun ownership in the state of Illinois, as new concealed carry laws take effect in the state. What happens after you use a weapon in self-defense?

One Chicago area victim acted in self-defense when a man who broke into his home armed with a gun. That victim fought back with a knife. Guns are less personal, but just as deadly.

Would you ready to pull out that gun and shoot when the time comes, mentally prepared to pull the trigger? After you do so, how are you going to feel about taking another person's life, if that happens?

Illinois' new concealed carry law means civilians will have to make a split second decision on whether to take the life of another person. Lots of people think they can do it. Police train for it every day. But when it really happens, there is often times remorse.

FOX 32's Anita Padilla took an in-depth look at what you need to know to own a gun in Illinois, what to consider when choosing the right weapon for you and how women would go about concealing their weapons, if they choose to own one for protection. But what about the impact owning a gun has on your psyche?


Whatever the reason for someone to want to carry a loaded gun, the experts say if you are going to do so, be mentally prepared for any degree of fallout when you are put in a situation where you have to use it. While you are protecting your own life, you could be taking the life of another human being who also has a family at home.

At the Article 2 gun range in Lombard, firearms instructor Ken Browne said there is no doubt ladies will be locked and loaded, now that it is legal in the state of Illinois. How does he know? He takes their calls - and they're making a lot of calls.

"I think it's a good idea learn how to conceal," Browne said. "There is a big market for women."

Browne puts his students through a rigorous class, teaching basics, as well as anything else you'd like to know.

FOX 32's Facebook friend Lisa Dattoo is a home health care travel nurse, mother and attack victim, who made the decision to own a weapon for the first time in her life. Dattoo took Browne's class because she plans to fight back with a gun the next time someone attacks her.

When it was time to shoot, Browne has the student start with a Ruger 22 pistol. Dattoo shot first, and then that it was Padilla's turn.

Browne likes to ramp things up to get students' hearts pumping, to simulate a situation where someone would have to make a split-second decision as to whether they'll use their firearm in self-defense.

Alpha Girls instructor and trained officer Karen Bartuche said new gun owners in Illinois may not be trained like the police, but if you carry a loaded gun you will be faced with the decision to shoot or not to shoot, just like an officer. The mental impact would be similar.

One top law enforcement person who the public sees on TV all the time told Padilla off-camera that civilians will now experience what police experience, as concealed carry becomes common practice.

He said even officers who train to stop the threat are very surprised at their emotional response or remorse after they have killed someone. He said it's easy to talk a good game. But the reality is that other person may have a life story as well.

Often in the middle of an investigation, details about the bad guy's life come out. They become more human to you. You realize that could have been your neighbor, your friend or someone you could have liked - if they hadn't been the target of your fear.

Forensic and clinical psychologist Dr. Daniela Schreier joined Good Day Chicago to speak on what goes on in a person's mind as they are faced with the decision to shoot, and what happens after that decision results in injury or death.

Gun owners are almost 4 1/2 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those individuals not in possession of a weapon. This does not include self-inflicted, accidental or police related shootings.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Nancy Zarse joined Good Day Chicago to discuss this statistic, what goes through a criminal's mind when a victim pulls out a gun, the fight or flight instinct and whether offenders are always looking to physically harm.

The Violence Policy Center says more than 1/3 of persons shot and killed in justifiable homicides in 2010 were known to the shooter.

Legal expert Karen Conti will join Good Day Chicago on Friday morning to discuss the civil and criminal ramifications of fatally shooting someone.

FOX 32 News is not telling viewers to go out and purchase a weapon. But the station would like to provide viewers with as much research and background as possible to make an informed decision on the subject.

While the Illinois State Police website will provide gun owners with the facts about the law on conceal carry, it doesn't break down some of the more specific things first-timers need to consider. FOX 32 News hopes to remedy that, and keep you informed.

What questions do you have about gun safety or concealed carry? Are you considering buying a gun or have you purchased one recently?

We want to hear your thoughts. Post your comments on the FOX Chicago News Facebook page and we'll read some of your responses live on Good Day Chicago.

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