On Self Defense and the Cost of Victories

Like half of America and probably nearly all of the shooting world, I’m watching the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case with no small amount of interest. Whatever your take on the story, and whomever you believe is guilty or innocent of what, this much is fairly clearly true: Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had an encounter on an unseasonably cold and rainy right, Trayvon is dead, and life for George and his family will never be the same.

That’s the honest truth, because really there are two possibilities for George Zimmerman: An acquittal and the struggle to return to daily life in a country where a substantial percentage of the population is ready to crucify him, or a guilty verdict and a prison term, followed by the struggle to return to…well, you get the idea.

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Book Review: SHOOT, by Julie Golob

Whether you enjoy shooting rifles, pistols, or shotguns, or even other weapons like black-powder muskets, chances are there’s a competitive shooting event for you. And, chances are that you can find it within the pages of SHOOT, the new book by professional shooter and Team Smith & Wesson captain Julie Golob.

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Gun Safety: You Don’t Get to Have a Bad Day

Imagine this scene, if you will:

A man enters the gun shop. He unlocks a pistol case and removes a handgun. Dropping the magazine and cycling the slide, he sets it down on the counter. “I’d like to sell this gun,” he says. “Don’t worry – it isn’t loaded.” The store clerk picks the gun up and pulls the slide back to lock it. CLINK! A loaded shell tumbles from the ejector port and lands on top of the glass display case.

I’ve heard two versions of this story recently. In one case, the pistol in question turned out to have a broken extractor which failed to engage with the chambered round when the slide was pulled. I didn’t hear an explanation for why the round in the second case failed to eject the first time, but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever the reason, had the triggers been pulled, both guns would have discharged – possibly with tragic results.

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Women in the Gun Industry

Over on her blog, Western Shooting Journal editor Shelley Rae has a terrific post about women in the gun industry. Although I think Shelley is spot on with her post, I think she’s being a bit nicer about it than I would be.

As someone who’s been involved with other male-dominated pursuits, I know well the “oh, gee gosh, a lady ___” phenomenon Shelley speaks of. When women are brand new to any arena, a certain amount of gawking is par for the course. The first female military pilots were the subject of plenty of attention (and not all of it welcome, either.)

The problem is that female gun owners are hardly a rare breed in this day and age. When a recent Gallup poll reports that 23% of women surveyed say they personally own a gun, it’s time for the “aww, isn’t that cute” contingent to get over itself. When folks like Julie Golob and Randi Rogers and the talented Women of USPSA and dozens of others are out there kicking butt and taking names, enough is enough.

That’s not to say all men have this attitude toward women, of course. Some of my best friends and shooting buddies are male. The Match Director of my local IDPA club told me pointedly that women are unequivocally welcome and that anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with him. I’ve never experienced firsthand some of the chauvinistic attitudes I’ve heard other woman describe from gun shop employees. (Helpful tip, though: I can shoot a Glock, a 1911, and the full-sized M&P just fine, so if your store tries to convince me I should buy a .22 because it’s “a woman’s gun”, you’ll have lost a customer.)

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with Shelley’s final statement: “This is our time to shine and it is on us to set our own expectations, to demand that we be taken seriously and to act in a way that supports how we wish to be treated.”

Amen, sister!

Threat Awareness and the Condition Color Code

Last weekend, I had an experience which reminded me of an important lesson: Threats to our safety can come from anywhere, and they don’t usually come when we’re expecting them. This, of course, is why we employ firearms (and other weapons and techniques) to safeguard our safety. But it’s easy, despite our vigilance and training, to let ourselves forget this most important of lessons: Always be aware, always be alert to potential threats, and always have a plan.

In my case, the threat came an a crowded playground at a crowded, idyllic, rustic campground. I was with a friend whose three-year-old daughters were playing on a trampoline-like inflatable “jumping pillow“. A group of teenagers started playing rough, pushing the little girls down, throwing a football at them, and so forth. My friend asked the teens to stop jumping long enough for her to get her kids off the pillow. Words were exchanged between her and them, and before we knew it, a mob of about 30 people – the teens, their parents and friends – had surrounded us, a sea of threatening language and gestures.

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It’s Not Nice!

Isn’t it strange that we live in a culture where, on average, a forcible rape takes place every 6.2 minutes, but women are looked at askance for wanting to protect themselves? On average, a violent crime occurs in the United States every 25.3 seconds. Why should women want to arm themselves? Why shouldn’t they?

One argument I often hear when I bring up the subject of being armed with people is that “it’s not nice” to carry a gun. It’s not considered nice, not considered ladylike, to be armed. Guns are for boys, the conventional wisdom says, tools of aggression and violence. Women, the conventional wisdom counsels, have no need of such things. It’s just not nice.

I see the world through a different lens. I see the world from the vantage-point of a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, with far too much at stake to ever be content with this view of things. More important, though, I see the world through the lens of a survivor of violent crime. For better or worse, I will never again be able to let myself believe it could never happen to me. Of course it could happen to me. It happened once, no reason to believe it couldn’t happen again.

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