The 28-year-old expected to be much more nervous and she expected the handgun to feel much lighter.
Emily Banks wrapped her hands around the Glock .45 and took aim at the target 15 feet in front of her.
She squeezed the trigger.
Banks landed six of the 10 shots in the center — and it was her first time shooting.
She held up her target, beaming at the results.
It was fun, she said, but there was a more serious lesson to be learned.
“You see officers shoot in the movies and it looks so easy,” she said. “But I had to take five to 10 seconds to reset after each shot. They don’t have that time.”
This is exactly the point of the Tustin Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy firearms familiarization course — to give residents some perspective on what officers go through when they must draw, and fire, their weapons.
“I try and teach the citizens so they understand what happens to officers when they get into a shooting — the physical, psychological and emotional side of it,” said Tustin PD Det. Eric Haug.
The firearms class is part of a 16-week course designed to educate residents about the department’s programs, procedures, tactics and role in the community.
Classes cover the many dimensions of the Tustin PD including SWAT, investigations, records, evidence and property and the gang unit, among others.
The first part of the firearms course Sept. 15 was an explanatory class to debunk much of what is seen in movies and on TV, Haug said.
“With every class I always hear, ‘Why can’t you just shoot a gun out of someone’s hand?’” he said. “That’s not reality.”
When an officer draws a firearm, it is a high-stress, adrenaline-producing event.
In high-stress situations your heart rate can get up to 180 and you start losing your fine motor skills, you can get tunnel vision and possibly experience hearing loss, “try putting that all together to shoot a hand,” Haug said.
If this concept doesn’t resonate for some in the class, Haug said he relies on a real-world, relatable example.
“I tell them, ‘Take the most scared time you’ve ever had in your life, now try and thread a needle’,” he said. “There’s no way you could do that, and you can’t expect us to shoot a knife out of someone’s hand.”
The 21 students on Sept. 22 split into two groups and took a field trip to Evan’s Gunsmithing Shooters World in Orange.
Students received one-on-one instruction from members of the Tustin Police Department on how to fire a Glock .45 and a nine-pound Colt AR-15 rifle.
After a safety briefing, the officers helped teach the students stance, how to line up their sights and how to properly hold a firearm.
Mathew Silcock, 26, said he felt comfortable shooting, having been through five other Citizen’s Academy programs in Orange County, some of which included firearms courses.
“I just find it interesting,” he said. “I have fired a gun before, so I learn how to be safe and how to use it.”
For many of the students, this was the first time they held a firearm.
Stella Kotova, 53, of Tustin, credited her ability to easily handle the .45 to her years playing piano, which requires great precision of the fingers, she said.
“It felt very natural to me,” Kotova said. “I loved it. It gave me such a rush.”
Not everyone felt the same way, though.
Camille Seals exited the range after firing off just one round with each weapon.
“I could never be a gangster,” she concluded, her fellow students laughing at the crack. “I didn’t like it at all. It made me anxious.”
Officer George Vallevieni, who runs the Citizen’s Academy, thanked her for being open to the experience.
“You tried it and didn’t like it and that’s OK,” he told her. “All we ask is that you try.”
While the majority in the class came out of the range comparing targets and buzzing about how it felt and how they want to do it again, Haug said the instructors hoped that each student left with a better understanding of law enforcement.
“If you read an article about an officer-involved shooting, stay open-minded, wait for the investigation to be complete and know that it wasn’t a perfect scenario,” he said. “It was fast-moving, it happened in seconds and the officer is being judged off those seconds.
“At the end of this, I want them to realize that we’re human too.”