Book Review: “Personal Defense for Women”, by Gila Hayes

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and one of the books I just finished is “Personal Defense for Women” by Gila Hayes. Gila is an amazingly talented and knowledgeable woman: An instructor with the Firearms Academy of Seattle, an accomplished author and journalist, and now the Operations Manager of the (fabulous) Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.

With all this knowledge and experience behind her, it should come as little surprise that Gila was able to pack the book chock full of terrific information. What may be surprising, given Gila’s credentials in the firearms world, is that the focus of the book doesn’t shift to firearms until almost halfway through. But you won’t be sorry about that; the first half of the book is just as rich and in some ways even more important.

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Gun Control vs. Risk Assessment

Over on the Gun Values Board, Ruth has an excellent post about the inevitable flurry of anti-gun legislative effort following the Aurora shooting.

Ruth writes:

One of the bills proposed is against the sales of ammunition online. You would need to have a license to be able to purchase ammunition online, and the dealer would be obligated to report purchases of large amounts of ammo (I think over 1000 rounds).

The architects of this bill, McCarthy and Lautenberg, think that if someone wants to purchase ammunition they should have to present a picture ID, and do it face to face.

I’d like to talk about this a bit, because it points to a flaw many people seem to share in how we think about risk assessment.

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A Teachable Moment

I’m going to be shooting an IDPA match this weekend, and my teenage daughter (whom I’ll refer to here as Nutmeg, one of her nicknames) will be attending with me. For a variety of reasons, this will be her first trip to the range, so we spent some time last night talking about safety. We talked about the four basic rules of gun safety, and I added a fifth. “When we’re handling guns, if an adult tells you to STOP, it means you’re doing – or about to do – something unsafe. If that happens, you need to freeze right where you are, and wait for the adult to tell you what’s happening that’s dangerous.”

After we talked safety, she wanted to learn a bit about gun handling. It happened I had a Glock Blue gun nearby, so I grabbed that and we did a brief lesson on the basics of gun handling – stance, grip, sights, trigger. While Nutmeg was practicing aiming, I noticed her finger drifting to the trigger. “STOP!” I told her.

She obediently froze. “Where’s your finger right now?” I asked her.

“On the trigger.”

“And is your gun pointing at your target right now?” The target was a 1/3 scale IDPA target I’d cut out of a cardboard box for practice.

“No…” She paused for a moment. “I know the safety rule says keep your finger off the trigger until your gun’s pointed at the target…but that’s silly, because this isn’t a real gun. It’s just a piece of plastic!”

Inwardly, I smiled. Nutmeg was about to experience what they call “a teachable moment”.

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Tactical Tip: The Weapons Check

Alex Haddox from Palladium Education produces a terrific podcast called Practical Defense (link, iTunes) that’s chock full of information and quick tips. Most of these podcasts are just 5 or 10 minutes long, and I always learn something from them.

The most recent episode (MP3) of the podcast dealt with a common “pre-assault indicator” which Alex calls the “weapons check”. What are pre-assault indicators, and what is this telltale sign of trouble?

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Comments Working Again

Apologies to anyone who tried to leave a comment in the last few hours. An “upgrade” broke the comment system, but everything’s okay now. Sorry about that.

You ARE Worth Fighting For!

While enjoying some much-needed vacation time, I had the opportunity to partake an a rare indulgence this weekend: I was treated to an absolutely delightful hour of work by a massage therapist. While she worked, she asked me what I do, and – boom! – even though I hadn’t intended to, we were off to the races, talking about my writing and teaching about self-defense, shooting and safety.

Of course, the topic closest to the front of her mind, as with most Americans these days, was the shooting in Colorado. (In keeping with my practice to date, I’ll refrain from using either the perpetrator’s name or the catchy alliterative name the media’s come up with for the crime). We talked some about armed self-defense and the decision to be armed. She asked me whether I thought I really could pull the trigger and shoot a bad guy.

“If my life was in danger? You bet,” I told her.

Her reply was one I’ve come to expect, and it’s a distressingly common one when I talk to other women.

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After Action Reviews

One habit I’ve been developing lately is to conduct what the military calls an “after action review“. The goal is simple: To analyze a self-defense situation or encounter, and to identify what worked well, what could have worked better, and what lessons to carry forward into the future. If we fail to do this, we miss an important opportunity to identify places where we need to adjust tactics, acquire more training, change out equipment, and so forth. It’s through this process of honest reflection that we grow in our skills, confidence, and abilities, and where we harvest the lessons we can learn that will help keep us safe in the future.

In order to show you what I’m talking about, I’m going to illustrate a brief after action review of a recent incident I experienced, which I talked about here. You can follow the link to get the whole story, but basically, I was at a campground with some friends and an altercation about the behavior of some teenagers on a trampoline which endangered the safety of my friend’s small children came frighteningly close to exploding.

So, let’s take an honest look at how things went down, and what lessons I learned for the future.

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Humbled and Blessed

I just returned from a lunch meeting to two fantastic discoveries: I am now a proud member of the  Gun Blog Black List and my new friend, AGirl from A Girl and Her Gun, mentioned me on her blog.

I am humbled, touched, and blessed.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to both of you. Truly, I have met so many amazing, wonderful, generous, genuine people in the gun community, and it means so much to be to be able to contribute, in my own small way, to that community.

Thank you so much – and thanks to all of you who visit my blog, who read my posts and who leave comments. I appreciate you more than I can express, each of you, and I hope you’ll continue to find value in what I have to say.

“Think where one’s glory most begins and ends, and say, ‘my glory was I had such friends.'” ~ William Butler Yeats

Being Embarrassed Is Worth Being Safe

Recently, I was in a gas station filling up my car when my internal radar went “ping”! I wasn’t sure right away what had tickled my senses, but I’ve learned the hard way to ignore those feelings at my peril, so I immediately took two actions. I stepped to my right, to a place where I had some cover from the concrete pillar at the station but where I was not stuck between it and my car and had a bit more room to maneuver. At the same time, I did a slow scan all around me to figure out what had triggered my intuition.

It only took me a second to notice the man. He was riding a bicycle toward the gas station, but the way he moved was oddly jerky and unstable, and his eyes were fixing on people, staring for a few seconds, then moving to the next person, as though he was looking for something. I took another step back to cover, made eye contact – my expression was neutral, but my eyes said “I see you, and I’m watching you.” In Colonel Cooper’s color code, I was definitely in Condition Orange.

I watched him like this as he peddled, ever so slowly, through the middle of the gas station. None of the other customers seemed at all aware of him (or of their surroundings at all), but he definitely had my attention. He tried for the intimidating look as he approached, that “what the hell are you looking at?” stare. But if there’s one lesson I’ve learned by now, it’s to trust my intuition, and my intuition was saying “be careful!” His expression changed, then, and he sharply turned his bike and rode away, muttering something that might have been “crazy bitch” as he passed me.

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Feeling Safe vs. Being Safe

Mike over at Stately McDaniel Manor had a post this morning about an interaction he had with the owner of a local movie theater who’d chosen to post a “no guns” sign. For those who don’t know him, Mike is retired military and a retired cop whose duties included SWAT operations – in other words, precisely the kind of guy you’d think citizens would want to have their back. And when Mike wrote his letter to the theater owner, that’s essentially what he said. The theater owner’s response was less than enthusiastic, as Mike reports:

His return letter was less civil and kind and all but accused me of being the problem because obviously, I was one of those gun nuts who endanger the pubic and whose very existence causes violence. The only rational and moral stance against such maniacs was the establishment of gun free zones so theater patrons could feel safe. My presence, you see would actually endanger everyone.

This seems to be a surprisingly common attitude among those opposed to an armed citizenry, and while I’d encourage you to read Mike’s comments, I wanted to add in my own thoughts.

As the mother of a teenager who’s about to become a young adult and go off into the world on her own, it would be lovely to delude myself into feeling safe. I’d surely sleep better at night if I could believe that there are no monsters in the world, that she’ll never have to face danger firsthand, and that posting signs banning weapons everywhere would keep her safe. An imaginary utopia is a lot more mentally comforting than the reality that we live in a world populated by predators, and that we are their prey. The delusion of safety, the feeling that banning the lawful carry of weapons makes us safer, is surely a comforting one, and this is why some cling so strongly to it.
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