Tragedies and Verbal Attacks

First of all, yes, I’m still here (if just barely, it feels like!) Things have gotten a bit crazy work-wise, and it doesn’t look like they’ll settle down much until after I move (same city, different house) in July. I also hd a minor motorcycle accident a month ago, and my hands have been in enough pain to make blogging a challenge.

I had a post ready to go on another subject, but then this horrific tragedy happened in Santa Barbara (just about a 90 minute drive away), and…well, it’s been ugly. So the post I had written is being shelved for another day so I can express some of what I’m feeling.

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Survival at What Cost?

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I was reading a blog post recently that talked about the gap between the “feel-good” messages some self-defense instructors teach and the on-the-ground reality of violence. There’s lots of goodness there, but I wanted to pick up on one particular lesson today.

The author writes, in part:

…[Y]ou say…that we can prevail, and you’re teaching us stuff that we ought to be able to work, stuff that some of us can do here and now. And I think that’s great, but here there are no consequences to messing it up. If I fumble my joint lock or don’t punch hard enough it won’t mean a difference between life and death. You are telling us nothing about risk avoidance or damage control. You are telling us nothing about how to pick our battles and when to admit defeat. With you it’s just fighting until victory or death.

There’s more there, and I’ll let you read it, but this is the point I’d like to talk about: You can do everything right, practice situationall awareness and avoid going to “stupid places with stupid people” and deploy your unarmed defensive skills and even your weapon. You might do all that and still lose the fight. And you need to be ready for that eventuality, and you need to have made some decisions about that situation ahead of time.

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The Element of Surprise

470636_85894802If you are ever the victim of a crime, I can make this prediction with some certainty: Whatever happens will catch you off-guard. You will be taken by surprise, and you will have to move through the reaction loop before you can respond to it.

This news is probably not a surprise, but there are implications to this that bear thinking about. But first, we need to talk about why you won’t be ready for the criminal assault.

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Force of Habit

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At first, I didn’t even notice I was doing it.

I was in the restroom, getting ready to do…umm, restroom things. The holster my M&P usually rides in (an appendix carry rig from Crossbreed) rides somewhat high on my waistband and, consequently, has a tendency to flip over my belt when I undo my jeans. So I’ve gotten into the habit of grabbing it with one hand, lest it dump my gun out onto the floor at an inopportune time.

But the other day, while doing the dance of clothing and gun belt, I noticed something interesting. When I’d taken hold of my gun, my right index finger had – without conscious thought – settled on the top of my belt, holster, and jeans, extended straight out just as as it would have lain along the side of the frame were my pistol in my hand. The habit I’d drilled into myself, the one I drill into those I teach, held firm even with a holstered gun. “Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re ready to fire,” the little voice inside my head said, and automatically my muscles moved to obey.

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The Choices We Make

2013-11-26 07.34.18“What about a gym? I’m not sure I’d want people to concealed carry in a gym!”

I looked curiously at my friend. We’d been discussing gun stuff, and he offered the thought that there are some places that should be off-limits for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. When I asked him for an example of such a place, that was the one he came up with.

“Why a gym?” I asked him.

“Maybe this isn’t a problem for women,” he replied, “but I know the testosterone gets pretty thick in a gym, and I’d hate for someone to see a gun under my shirt and make a grab for it. It’s just not worth the risk. I mean, what would you do?”

I thought about it for a second. “If I felt that having someone make a grab for my gun in a gym was a serious risk,” I answered, “I’d probably choose someplace else to work out.”

His next question threw me for a loop. “Don’t you feel like your focus on safety and self-defense is limiting your life too much? Where’s the point at which you say it’s not worth it?”

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Book Review: “The Law of Self Defense”, by Andrew F. Branca

bookindexIf you’ve been in the gun community long, you’ve probably heard the Internet lawyers. They’re the guys who say, “if it’s a righteous shoot, you have nothing to worry about” and “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” They tell you, “shut up and don’t say a darned word to the cops” and, sometimes, even things like “drag his body inside and put a knife in his hand.”

Unfortunately for you, the Internet lawyers are not going to be there to pay your legal bills if you’re involved in a deadly force encounter, and they’re not going to be sitting in the jail cell next to you if you follow their dubious advice. It is absolutely true that surviving the encounter is the first problem you have to solve, but if you make it through alive, it isn’t the only problem. And, if I may say so myself, surviving a deadly force encounter only to lose my freedom and bankrupt my family is a decidedly hollow victory.

For that reason, if you’re a law abiding armed citizen,The Law of Self Defense, by Massachusetts lawyer Andrew F. Branca, might just be the most important book you can read this year.

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A Hard-Won Victory

ccwWell, it’s official – today, I finally joined the ranks of lawfully armed citizens. Which is to say, today I pulled off what is a minor miracle in my area (coastal California). I’ve been carrying firearms in places where carry without a permit was permitted, of course – at home, when camping, at friends’ houses, and so forth. But today, I went over to my local sheriff’s department and picked up a small white piece of paper, across the top of which is printed these words: License to Carry Concealed Pistol, Revolver or Other Firearm Within the State of California.

Today’s almost anti-climactic moment came at the end of a long and difficult journey, and it’s a journey I’d like to talk about briefly to harvest a few lessons from. Some are lessons we all, as lawfully armed citizens, should know. Some are observations on the maze of California gun laws which, if given their way, the anti-gun folks would love to export to your state. Here’s what I learned along my journey.

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Lessons From CCW Class

Shooting Qual XD9 (100 pct)I had occasion to take a CCW training class recently from a local instructor. It was an interesting and, in some ways, eye-opening experience.

The classroom portion of the course was about 6 hours, and the instructor did a good job of covering the basics you’d expect: Gun safety, the laws regarding the justifiable use of deadly force, and a very bare-bones overview of some tactics (like the difference between cover and concealment). Honestly, the only part of the classroom program that was new to me was a great DVD the instructor showed during lunch about first aid for gunshot wounds.

After we got done in the the classroom, we moved to the range qualification. And it was here that I harvested some lessons for those of you planning to seek CCW permits.

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Altered Perceptions

It wasn’t until much later that I had time to reflect on the tricks my brain had played. Later, after I’d picked myself up from the ground. After I’d dusted myself off and bandaged the scrape in my elbow. After I’d picked the bits of gravel from the bleeding spot on my left knee. After I’d ascertained that the crying toddler was, in fact, crying from fear and surprise, rather than from injury.

I’d been holding my friend’s daughter while her parents hitched up a travel trailer. It was hot, and she was getting fidgety and restless, and I was concentrating too much on keeping her from wriggling out of my arms and not enough on where I was stepping. And then I put my foot down into a loose patch of sand, and it was all over.

Though I doubt it could have been more than a second or two between when I lost my footing and when we both hit the ground, I remember how slowly it seemed that time was moving. I remember making a conscious decision to tighten my hold on the little girl. I remember making a conscious decision to twist my body around, remember clearly thinking, “you CANNOT land on top of her”. I remember the half-roll I did in the air, a maneuver I could never have normally managed. I remember, just before my left shoulderblade hit the ground, the thought flashed through my head: This is going to hurt, but if you don’t drop Sarah, she’ll be all right.

That curious slowing of time, that stretching of the briefest instant out into what seemed like a much longer interval, is called tachypsychia. If you’re ever in a self-defense situation or other traumatic incident, odds are you’ll experience it too.

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Pardon the Dust…

After battling a number of technical issues lately, I’m now in the process of moving the blog to a new Web server. I’ve got a number of posts in the pipeline, but both Mama Liberty and I will be back with you in a couple days once the move is completed. Thank you for your patience while I work to get Mom With a Gun onto solid technical ground for the new year!

Oh, and Happy Holidays!

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