Why Do They Want to Help the Predators?

I’m very gratified, and appreciative, to see the spike in traffic to my blog yesterday as a result of the link to the post about my story that Kathy Jackson posted yesterday. Welcome to all my new readers – I hope you find what I have to say valuable, and I look forward to interacting with as many of you as I can in the comments. I always enjoy connecting with those who visit my site, and I do respond to every e-mail I get, and as close to every comment as I can manage.

When I logged on this morning, I saw a pingback from Barron at a blog callled “The Minuteman”, who wrote a post titled “Why I Get Angry“. I’d like to share one part of what Barron wrote, and then reproduce and expand upon a comment I left there. Barron wrote:

So yes, when you go off spouting your mouth about how gun control would help the world, yes I take it personally and yes I will call you on it. Because the day may come where my wife, my daughter, my son, any of my friends, and lastly even myself may have to call upon my firearm to defend ourselves or our families. And no one has any business telling me, my family, or my friends what tools we should or shouldn’t be using to defend ourselves.

[…]

So yes I take it personal, yes I get angry, and yes the mere suggestion is an insult and a disgrace to humanity. Only a cold-blooded animal would wish real victims to continue suffering after an attack. We see how each side of this debate treats victims of violence. One wants to rebuild them, make them stronger, and faster, because we have the technology. The other side would rather bury their heads in the sand and use the force of government to make everyone else do it too.

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Book Review: “The Cornered Cat: A Woman’s Guide to Concealed Carry”

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To say that Kathy Jackson knows her stuff when it comes to firearms and shooting is sort of like allowing thst Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about golf. Kathy is an instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle, teaches workshops for women through her Cornered Cat Training Company, and is the editor of US Concealed Carry magazine. She’s also the maintainer of Cornered Cat, which is perhaps the firearms and concealed carry resource going for women. (The site is a great resource for men who would like to help the women in their lives who want to shoot, too.)

I imagine Kathy probably wrote “The Cornered Cat: Concealed Carry for Women” at least in part because she got tired of people asking her when she’d make a book out of her Web site. The truth is, there are precious few resources out there specifically tailored toward women, and although I’ve been lucky enough to experience fairly little in the way of overt sexism in the gun community, there’s no question that the lion’s share of the material out there is geared toward men. Many gun books and magazines, and no small number of equipment manufacturers, seem to cater to the “tacti-cool” guys who want to play the “bigger, better, latest, greatest” game with their guns and gear. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but for a woman new to shooting, it can be a bit intimidating.

That’s where Kathy’s book comes in.

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Do You Know Your Enemy?

Over at USConcealedCarry.com, there’s a fascinating post today by Greg Ellifritz. Greg is the tactical training officer for a police department in the midwest, and also blogs over at Active Response Training, where he’s the president and primary instructor. (If you aren’t following Greg’s blog yet, add it to your RSS feed now. I’ll wait.)

Greg quoted in his post from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who wrote that “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.” For serious students of self-defense and personal safety, Greg argues convincingly, that means understanding as much as you can about criminal behavior, criminal tactics, and how to respond to those tactics. Are you studying this topic in as much depth as you’re studying to improve your own skills? Military and law enforcement units train extensively on the tactics their opponents use and how to counter them. If you’re serious about safeguarding your own life and the lives of your loved ones, this is critical information.

Anyway, Greg decided, as part of this study, to examine and gather data about the firearms seized by his police department from criminals. He looked at 85 such weapons, and gathered statistics about them. And what he found may surprise you. It surely surprised me, and (since I’m also a mystery writer) I do a lot of reading about criminal behavior.

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R.I.P. Mark Craighead

From Rob Pincus (via Michael Bane’s blog) comes the news that Mark Craighead, who founded and operated Crossbreed Holsters, passed away. Rob writes, in part:

One thing that truly stood out about Mark was his commitment to friends and family. As Crossbreed Holsters grew, he continued to bring more and more of both into the operations to share in his success and in fulfilling his commitment to excellence. I have yet to meet anyone in the industry who had a bad word to speak of him and doubt sincerely that I ever will.

Mark’s family has stated that Crossbreed Holsters will continue to operate.

Please keep Mark’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers today.

Of Storm Clouds, Paranoia and Awareness

This afternoon, my spouse (“A.”) and I went for a long walk around our neighborhood. As usual for me, I was in a relaxed Condition Yellow state of alertness. At one point in our walk, I noticed a teenaged, or perhaps early 20’s, male standing along the wall which encircled a back yard. There are lots of kids in our area and seeing teens out and about isn’t unusual, but something about this one pinged my radar, so I stopped to watch him for a few moments and see if I could figure out what I’d alerted on.

By the way, this is a good exercise and one I highly recommend for those working to develop their situational awareness. As Gavin de Becker writes in The Gift of Fear, our intuition doesn’t always respond to the right triggers, and it doesn’t always respond in the right way to a trigger. But, he says, it always has our best interests at heart and, when our “spidey sense” gets triggered, our intuition is always responding to something. So, when I get that prickle, I always try to stop and figure out where it’s coming from.

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Excellent Advice About Home Invasions

Brigid over at Home on the Range has a great post today about home safety and protecting yourself from home invasions,

This bit of her post was a real wake-up call for me:

You’ve all probably saw those old ads on TV showing the guy in the hooded sweatshirt stalking some woman coming home from the store and trying to get into the house. The alarm goes off. The security company is on the phone with her in about one nano-second, assuring her the police are on the way as the would be-rapist runs away like a little girl. Thank you Acme Security Company!

Another one, some young babe wearing small bits of spandex is exercising on her treadmill which is set up in her living room, next to the front door, in front of the open window (sure, that’s how I exercise). Shifty looking guys dressed all in black, including the” Spenser for Hire” dark colored watch caps, scurry in front of the window, leering at her. Then, the front door is kicked in. With one kick, no less, instantly setting off the alarm, out they run.. Thank you Acme Security! It’s a nice idea, but no security device is going to work well if it doesn’t have brain-equipped users linked to it and police VERY close by to respond to the call. It can be a deterrent but not a guarantee. For folks with no other methods of protection, it can be a false sense of security.

Even if the alarm company immediately alerts the police (one time a dog walker sent mine off by accident, they never did show up, probably never called), it could be 15-30 minutes or more before they are there. In that time the criminals could have cleared out any jewelry and electronics I had, stolen all my Terry Pratchett books, raped the yard gnomes and drank milk directly out of the container in the fridge.

The commercials make me laugh. But not at the home invasion scenario. It’s very real. According to a Department of Justice report, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. According to that same report, 1 of every 5 homes will experience a break-in or home invasion. That’s over 2,000,000 homes.

You owe it to yourself to go and read Brigid’s post. Go do it now.

Teaching Our Children

My daughter, “Nutmeg”, started school yesterday, and the new school year has brought her a new challenge – and new stress.

“Can I talk to you?” Nutmeg asked, while we were cooking tortellini and Italian sausage for dinner tonight,

I finished turning the sausages and set the tongs down before turning to her. “What’s up?” I asked her.

“I’m scared in my new class,” she said. “All I hear guys talk about is who got shot last week, and I’m scared that I’m going to get shot.”

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Safety on Bikes, and the Choice of Denial

Photo Credit: Capgros / stock.xchg

Over at A Girl and Her Gun, there’s an interesting post today about bike riding and safety. AGirl links to this discussion on a woman’s bicycling forum about safety when riding alone. Many of the women who posted there expressed the view that carrying guns is an overreaction, dangerous, even paranoid, and certainly not a viable thing to do when one is biking. The few who posted in support of being armed while riding were pretty much jumped all over by the others.

AGirl correctly points out that:

The tendency for some will be to read the comments left by these women and then say they are stupid or they deserve to get mugged, raped, killed because they are sheep. I don’t think anyone, no matter how clueless, naive, or thickheaded deserves any of those things. My main goal, now, in writing this blog is to find ways to relate to those people and help them understand the flaws in their thinking.

I totally agree with her, insofar as the truth is that connecting with anti-gun folks, really understanding their viewpoint, and encouraging them to do some “reality testing” of that viewpoint is the only way to make any inroads of understanding. The truth is, most anti-gun folks hold their views just as sincerely as we hold pro-gun ones, and the only way those views will evolve is when those people themselves realize the flaws in their thinking. Sometimes we can help them do it, but too often it takes a life-changing tragedy to cause people to re-examine deeply held beliefs.

What I wanted to talk about, though, is an attitude I saw in that discussion. It’s sort of saying, “facing the reality that bad things could happen to me and I’m unprepared is too scary, so I’ll just pretend they can’t happen.” And this is an attitude that a lot of those who are opposed to guns and self-defense seem to have. I wonder, sometimes, if the reason they’re opposed to us arming ourselves is that if we can do things to make ourselves safe, then they can’t cling to that “bad stuff happens and I can’t change it so I might as well bury my head in the sand” idea. After all, if we can keep ourselves safe from bad things, so could they. But if there’s nothing anyone can do (so they think), then one could be forgiven for doing nothing. Right?

I think this is where a lot of the “blame the victim” thinking comes from. People don’t like to admit that trouble can find anyone – including them – and so they look for something, anything the victim “did wrong”. Because then they can tell themselves, “oh, I’d never do <whatever it is they decided the victim ‘did wrong’>, so I’ll be safe.” Which works just fine, right up until the moment that it doesn’t. Denial is powerful and seductive because denial lets us pretend the world is all unicorns and puppy dogs. Denial lets us pretend that the hunters aren’t out there. Denial lets us delude ourselves into thinking it couldn’t happen to us.

Sobering statistic of the day: According to the last time I looked at the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the annual per capita risk of being a violent crime victim (that is, the risk that any given person will be a victim in any given year) is only slightly smaller than the annual per capita risk of suffering a house fire. So, why don’t we tell people that having smoke alarms and homeowner’s insurance is paranoid and reactionary? Why don’t we tell schools not to bother with fire drills. After all, “it’s so unlikely to happen.” Except that the fact the risk is small doesn’t mean it’s zero. And we humans are, cognitively, not the best at evaluating relative risks anyway.

So I totally agree with AGirl about  the importance of reaching out to inform and educate and build bridges of understanding with people. But I also recognize that moving people from denial to action and from passivity to self-reliance can be a challenge. We can try, but in the end all we can ultimately control is our own preparation and our own self-reliance.

Query: How Does One Learn About Hunting?

So, I admit it: I’m interested in learning more about hunting. Actually, I’ll go further: I’m interested in trying the sport.

There are a number of reasons why I’m interested in this. Part of it is that I enjoy being outdoors and outdoor sports, and hunting is certainly one of those sports. Some of it is that after my recent “first time with a rifle” (the M-1 Garand) I’m interested in learning longer-distance rifle marksmanship. Some of it is that hunting seems to me an important survival skill – after all, there are few things more valuable to survival than being able to put food on the table.

And some of it is the recommendation I’ve heard, from Massad Ayoob, Alex Haddox, and others that if one can’t shoot an animal for food, it doesn’t bode well for our ability to shoot another human being in self-defense. I don’t totally buy this, but on one level the theory makes sense. Part of using deadly force in self-defense is being able to overcome our society’s taboos about taking of life. If you can’t do it when there’s nothing on the line, how will you do it when EVERYTHING’s riding on it? Experience shows we don’t rise to the occasion in a crisis, but we fall back to the level of our conditioning, so I’d rather my conditioning include that experience.

The trouble is this: I have no idea how to get started. Ideally, I’d love to find someone who could teach me about hunting, show me the gear I’d need, and actually take me out and coach/mentor me through my first time. Even better would be someone willing to let me try their gear so I could see what I like before plonking down money on stuff. After all, guns and gear are expensive. And, I have no idea how to find that.

Is there some organization that could provide the experience I’m looking for? I don’t even know where to start, and am feeling a bit lost on the topic. Pointers and suggestions are welcomed in the comments.

Shooting Safety: The “Hot Brass Dance”

If you’ve been shooting long at all, chances are this has happened to you: You carefully align the sights on the target, squeeze the trigger. The gun goes “BANG!” and a shell casing is ejected from then gun. You start to bring the gun back on target, and then…YOW! The (hot) spent shell casing has landed not on the ground, but on some part of your body. And those little buggers sting!

The burning pain might come from your neck, as happened to my friend Ben Branam during a CHL class today. You may catch the projectile with your arm or in the bend of your elbow. If you’re female and unlucky enough to be wearing a top with a low or loose enough neckline, it might be coming from somewhere more…sensitive. (See the photo; although this is a re-creation, I have had both pistol and rifle brass land there even when wearing high-necked T-shirts.)

If you’re even more unlucky, and/or not wearing enough safety gear, a spent casing could land between your safety glasses and your face, a truly unfortunate and potentially dangerous occurrence.

When this happens, it’s not unusual, especially for new shooters, to jump around, scream, flail about, and the like. This is okay, except for when the hand that’s flailing around is still holding a loaded gun. That’s how safety rules get broken. That’s how accidents happen. That’s how people get hurt.

Now, if you’ve been shooting for any length of time, you’ve probably had this experience at least a few times, and you can deal with the situation without freaking out. You know that, although uncomfortable, it’s unlikely the hot brass will be dangerous. And you know that panicking, when holding a loaded weapon, surely will be dangerous. In fact, the last time this happened to me, I calmly engaged the safety on the Beretta I was shooting, set it down on the bench, reached inside my shirt and fished the 9mm casing out from inside my bra while my (male) shooting companions looked on and gaped. But for new shooters, who may not be able to muster up the composure to respond calmly, hot brass can indeed be scary.

Here are some tips to help new shooters with the “hot brass dance”:

  • Check clothing before going to the range. A low-cut top like the one in the photo above is probably not a good choice for a new shooter on her way to the range. High-necked, long-sleeved tops, shooting glasses, and baseball caps can all help keep errant brass out of sensitive spots.
  • Check the new shooter’s choice of firearms, especially if they’re shooting one of your guns. An M1911 is a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, but the ones I’ve fired all scattered brass every which way over a wide distance. In fact, at a recent IDPA match where I was scorekeeping, I was standing about 15 feet to the right of and about 10 feet behind the shooter…and I still managed to catch a .45 casing in my jeans pocket! Although flying brass is something of an occupational hazard (unless you’re a revolver shooter), selecting a weapon that tends to eject brass along a predictable trajectory is a help for newbies.
  • Explain the problem to new shooters, and remind them of what to do. I usually say something like, “Sometimes, when the gun ejects the spent shell casing, it’ll land on or in your clothing. This can be uncomfortable but not dangerous. If it happens, set the gun down on the bench without pointing the barrel at anyone, and then you can retrieve the brass.” When we get to actually shooting, this is one of the things I watch for. Knowing what to expect, and knowing that hot brass isn’t dangerous, seems to help.

And if you DO end up with a burn, like Ben did, remember that it’s just the gun’s way of giving you a little kiss to tell you it loves you. No? Not buying that? Well, it was worth a try. But anyway, remember that a hot shell casing is much less dangerous than an armed, panicking woman (or man). Stay calm, safe the gun, and then retrieve the brass. A burn might hurt a bit, but I guarantee it won’t hurt nearly as much as a bullet wound.