Shooting, Empowerment and Inner Strength

Over on Gun Nuts Media today, the inimitable Shelley Rae has a thought-provoking discussion of why women in the shooting industry use the word “empowerment” so often, and what it really means. Shelley writes:

The empowerment behind shooting is not the sport in itself. Empowerment comes from inside the person, from their self esteem and their inner strength. What makes shooting empowering could be identified as a gun being “the great equalizer,” but there’s more to it than that. Shooting is a step outside of comfort boundaries for many, and trying new things, excellling at new things, enjoying new things is a level of empowerment all on its own.

I think this is exactly right, and I’d like to talk a bit about why.

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Give Yourself Permission to be Not Nice

As anyone who follows my Facebook feed knows, I’ve been reading “Meditations on Violence” by Rory Miller this week. I’ll post a review when I’m done, but today I wanted to call attention to something I was reminded of while reading. It’s an important lesson, especially for women, so I wanted to take a moment to talk about it.

One of the things Rory talks about in the context of self-defense is around giving yourself permission to act in the face of a threat. Rory mentions an article by a woman named Debra Anne Davis, who wrote poignantly and with insight about the circumstances of her rape. The article is available online here, but be warned – Debra doesn’t pull any punches.

Reading Debra’s essay, I was struck by how the decisions she made during the attack were driven by a lifetime of cultural conditioning to be nice. In moments when decisive resistance might have ended the attack, she was instead flattering her rapist, even (in her words) flirting with him. ” I’ve learned about flirting and how it works and what it can do,” she writes. “(It can get people to like you, to do things for you, to treat you well.) It’s a skill I have honed. And I’m using it now. To save my life. (And, hey, it worked! Unless of course he hadn’t planned on killing me in the first place.)”

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All Guns are Always Loaded

If you’ve been shooting for any length of time at all, you’ve doubtless had the Four Safety Rules drummed into your head over and over. And rule number one is simple: All guns are always loaded.

By which we mean, of course, that we should always treat all guns as though they’re loaded until we personally have verified that they aren’t, and that we should check them again if they’re out of our direct control and observation for even a second.

I’ve noticed a trend that some people seem to think their level of experience with guns exempts them from these safety rules. I’ve come across two examples in the past day of why this is not so, and I’d like to look at them from the standpoint of how we can be safer with our guns and prevent needless, stupid tragedies.

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Steps Forward, and a Request for Book Suggestions

As I mentioned on the weekend, I’m involved with a series of women’s shooting clinics hosted by a local range. I was able to connect with the coordinator of the program today, and found out that, unfortunately, their upcoming NRA Instructor course is beyond full. We talked at some length about my goals, interests and experience, and we now have a plan. I’m going to take an NRA Range Safety Officer class that they’re putting on sometime soon (probably late October) and I’ll be at the top of the list for the next Instructor class, which will likely take place in the spring.

I’m excited to be a part of this program – which they hope to eventually grow into a monthly offering on a larger scale than they currently can staff – and looking forward to the RSO course as a step down the road for me personally.

With that said, I’ve a request of my readers who also teach shooting: Are there any good books you’d recommend? I have plenty of stuff in the “how to shoot” category in my library already, so I’m really looking for “how to teach shooting” type of books. If it’s available on Kindle, so much the better. Suggestions are most welcome…and I’ll continue to update you as this journey progresses.

The Limits of Unarmed Combat

20120924-221150.jpgI was having a conversation with a family member the other day, and she said something that got me thinking.

“I don’t need to carry a weapon”, she basically said, “because martial art X was developed by Israeli commandos and is designed to use against a stronger attacker, so it’ll keep me safe. And anyway, weapons are yucky and evil.” Those weren’t her exact words, but you get the drift. I won’t name the martial art she mentioned because it really isn’t important – my response to her comment applies equally well to just about any system of combat.

There are three huge problems I see with my family member’s viewpoint, and I’d like to talk about them. Not in the spirit of criticizing her decision – to the contrary, I told her that I was glad she was thinking about her personal safety and I hoped that the choices she’d made about what she was and wasn’t willing to do to safeguard it would work out for her. Rather, I’d like to talk about them because I think they offer some good reasons to have other tools besides unarmed hand-to-hand marital arts in your tool belt.

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Should You Resist a Violent Attack?

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Greg Ellifretz over at Active Response Training has a fascinating post today about the topic of resistance by victims of violent crimes. Greg takes a good look at the available research and concludes that, while each person must make their own decisions about whether, and how, to resist in any given assault, the standard advice that “the criminal won’t hurt you if you do what he says” is almost certainly wrong.

I’d like to quote part of Greg’s post, and then I’d like to talk about something he doesn’t discuss in detail: The empowerment that comes from fighting back, whether or not it increases the physical injury.

Greg writes:

Almost all studies show that resistance is successful in preventing the completion of a personal crime. This holds true in rape, robbery, and assault. Resistance is an especially effective tactic in preventing most rapes. A woman who physically resists a rapist doubles her chance of escaping rape.

Another study asked resisting victims of violent crimes whether their resistance helped or hurt their situations. The responding victims overwhelmingly stated that resistance helped them in the majority (63%) of cases. This statistic holds true for all of the crimes examined (rape, robbery, and assault). Resistance only hurt their situations about 9% of the time.

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Preparing For Trouble: Probable vs. Possible

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I was listening to the latest episode of Bob Mayne‘s “Handgun World” podcast this morning on my way to the range. In this podcast, Bob talked to Jon Hodoway of Nighthawk Custom Training Academy about vehicle carry and every-day preparedness. Jon brought up a subject which I think bears talking about: What sorts of threats we prepare for.

In his talk with Bob, Jon drew a distinction between preparing for what’s possible and preparing for what’s probable. There are people who feel they need to carry six AR-15 rifles, a dozen handguns and enough food and water to resupply a small garrison in their vehicles because, hey, space aliens, zombies, and al Qaeda terrorists could attack simultaneously while a hurricane, tornado and earthquake are all happening. Could this happen? Anything’s possible, I suppose, but Jon made a good point: Lots of things that are technically possible aren’t likely, and so tailoring our tools, training and gear to these improbable events means two things.

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Enthusiasm, Empowerment, and My First Teaching Experience

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As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room at the end of a 16-hour day, muscles aching, feeling at the same time physically weary and absolutely exhilarated and galvanized. Today, I was part of a group that taught a basic firearms safety and shooting workshop for women. The course, hosted by one of our local ranges and sponsored by a grant from the NRA, attracted close to 25 women, and it was a wonderful experience.

The class gave participants – about half of whom, I would guess, had never shot a firearm before – exposure to both .22 rifles and pistols, as well as a few larger-caliber handguns and revolvers in .38, 9mm, and even one 1911-pattern .45 ACP. Students got to shoot at Shoot-N-C paper targets, cardboard and steel, and even had a chance to try a mini-Steel Challenge stage.

I’m still processing the day’s experience, since this was my first time teaching, but I have a few experiences and observations to share.

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A Gentle Reminder

This is just a brief post to offer a public service announcement: Hug your loved ones and tell them what they mean to you. Do it now, and do it often. Don’t trust that you can do it later. Then, go look in the mirror and give yourself some love too.

I found out yesterday that an acquaintance of my sister’s, and the son of one of my mom’s good friends, passed away suddenly and tragically on Tuesday. He was younger than me, and I’m not yet 40. We never know how many tomorrows we’ll have until it’s too late, and neither will our loved ones. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether it is an act of violence, an illness or accident, or another kind of tragedy that ends our lives.

So, go hug your spouse, your children, your parents. Call a friend and tell her what she means to you. Write a letter, a card, an e-mail. Reach out and connect with your loved ones, and do it often.

Don’t Be An Accomplice to Evil

Once again, my friend AGirl over at A Girl and Her Gun has hit the ball out of the ballpark. She posted yesterday in response to a bunch of comments she’s received on her story. The commenter’s thrust was, in essence, was that it is morally wrong to use a weapon to defend ourselves because violence is, in his view, “short-sighted, counter productive and only serves in the long run to hugely worsen a bad situation of a violent and dangerous society where fear carries more weight than respect.”

I encourage you to read AGirl’s eloquent and powerful response in its entirety. I’ll only quote two little pieces here, and then I’ll add my comment afterward.

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