False Positives

20121129-214128.jpgBy the time my eyes and brain consciously registered his presence, my “Spidey sense” was already on red alert. He’d stepped out from the shadows between two parked cars and headed directly toward where I was standing, in the parking lot next to a grocery store I frequent. He was scruffy-looking, wearing long and slightly dirty khaki shorts, a white T-shirt, and a battered leather jacket with sleeves much too long for his arms.

I turned when I saw him approach, mentally calculating whether I had room to return to my car before he reached me. I didn’t, and so I made a snap decision to stand my ground and let him know, with my body language, that I’d seen him and his approach. Had this proved ineffective, I’d have retreated into the store, but as it turned out that wasn’t necessary. He stared at me as he drew closer, his gaze laser-focused. I met his look with mine, my hands automatically dropping my keys and cell phone into my shoulder bag. I would, I knew, have more options to respond to him if my hands were empty.

I’m not sure which of these actions made the difference, but I could see in his eyes the moment of decision. Muttering a curse under his breath (I couldn’t hear what he said, but have enough deaf friends that I can read lips a little) he veered sharply away from me and back across the parking lot.

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Link Soup: 11/29/2012

I’m up to my eyeballs in work stuff today, so although I’m hoping to get a post out later today, I wanted to share a few small tidbits and links with you all:

  • Kathy Jackson was on the Politics and Guns podcast recently, and she had (as always) some wonderful things to say. It’s a long podcast – her interview is more than an hour – but it’s very much worth a listen. Check it out here.
  • Jay G. has a thought-provoking post about an armed citizen who stopped a robbery at his jewelry business in San Jose, California. Notice that the police’s response was essentially “we encourage you to just comply with the criminal’s demands and not fight back.” Umm, yeah. I thought the 9/11 terrorist attacks taught us the folly of that line of thought. Apparently not. And I recently found out my local county sheriff worked in San Jose before he moved here, which doubtless explains his steadfast opposition to lawfully armed citizens.
  • Speaking of terrorism, here’s an interesting paper (PDF) from college professors John Mueller and Mark C. Stewart analyzing the risk of being a victim of terror. The table on page 16 is especially interesting; it seems you are nearly twice as likely to die in an accident involving a deer than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack in the United States. You’re also twice as likely to die in a household appliance mishap as a plane crash. Who knew?
  • There’s been some buzz in the news lately about whether people with computers and 3-D printers can “print” firearms. Mike over at Stately McDaniel Manor has a good rundown on why he thinks this isn’t worth the fuss anti-gun folks and the media are making about it.

Back to work now, but hopefully I’ll be back with you, and have a new post up, later today. In the meantime, thanks to my new readers and Facebook followers for joining me, and thank you all for your patience.

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, you might want to hop over there and click the little button. Apart from instant notifications of new blog posts, I share useful stuff from the Interwebz and short tidbits that wouldn’t warrant a full blog post.

One more bit of administrivia: A reader recently contacted me about submitting a guest post for this blog. I’ll hopefully be bringing you Lisa’s post soon, but I want to let you all know that I enthusiastically welcome on-topic guest posts. So if you have something you’d like to say, let’s talk!

Studying the Cop Killers

Greg Ellifretz over at Active Response Training had a great post today analyzing the 2011 FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report. The LEOKA report, which I was not previously aware of, compiles stats and case studies of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, as well as stats about assaults on cops.

Greg’s post does a great job of breaking down the statistics, so I strongly encourage you to read his post. I wanted to talk about one specific case study from the piece of the report which summarizes the circumstances of each officer who was killed, and about some lessons we can learn from it.

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For the Good of the Children

20121125-220322.jpgWhen they’re pushed for a justification for the latest proposed restriction on the right to keep and bear arms, gun control advocates often dredge up the rationale that it’s “for the children”. They assume that the public will support any measure that claims to make society safer for our kids, and unfortunately, too often in the past the public’s fallen for it.

I had a couple of teaching and shooting things going on this past weekend, and one of them was a Ladies Night at the range I frequent. I took the almost-16-year-old daughter of a close friend of mine who enjoys shooting (and has quite a bit of natural aptitude), and enjoyed watching her score hits on her target. While we were shooting and afterward, we talked quite a bit, and so I’d like to share a few things that I think are good for our our kids.

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Circle Back to the Basics

20121124-211956.jpgNo matter how many fancy guns we have, no matter how much tacti-cool crap we bolt onto the accessory rails, and no matter how much we spend on trigger work, super-duper Titanium strikers, and “precision” replacement parts for our guns, our skill with a gun ultimately depends on our ability to execute the fundamentals – sight picture, stance, grip, and trigger control – with precision and on demand.

I was reminded of this truism while at the range this evening for a “Ladies Night” event, the tail end of a longer day of shooting and teaching stuff. We had a great turnout, over a dozen women with all manner of pistols, revolvers and a few rifles. I even saw a specialty scoped .22 LR rifle that looked like some sort of weird hybrid between a Ruger 10/22 and a Steyr AUG. Its owner told me it was a custom weapon for steel silhouette shooting.

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The Peril of Task Fixatiom

20121123-162116.jpgSo, You’ve been practicing maintaining a relaxed Code Yellow vigilance at all times, right? Always, every second? What about when you’re trying to get that coffee cup into your car’s cup holder without spilling it all over your upholstery? How about when you’re trying to load a bag into the trunk? Bending over to pick up the newspaper from the porch?

When we’re engaged in a task – especially one that requires physical dexterity or concentration, our attention necessarily locks on to that specific task. This phenomenon, called task fixation, makes sense when you think about how our brains work. But unless we’re aware of task fixation, notice when we’re doing it, and consciously re-acquire our Code Yellow state afterward, we’ve created a leak in our defenses, a place and time where we’re vulnerable. And criminals are very good at noticing and exploiting those leaks. In fact, they depend on them.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

20121122-072747.jpgFor all my American readers: Have a very happy Thanksgiving! I’m spending a quiet, restful day with family, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about task fixation and situational awareness.

See you tomorrow!

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Risk Assessment: Frequency, Stakes & Cost

20121118-175227.jpgI was talking with a family member recently about why I choose to live a lifestyle that includes armed self-defense. “Surely the risk of becoming a murder victim is vanishingly small,” he said, “so why spend all this energy preparing for it?”

In trying to answer his question, I began thinking about how we assess risk in our lives. The way I make these decisions is to consider three aspects of any potential emergency: frequency, jeopardy and cost.

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20121117-212741.jpgI awoke this morning not too long after dawn, to a gray sky and a hammering rain. I packed my range bag, made a mug of coffee, and picked up a friend. Together, we drove for more than an hour to the range we shoot at.

When we arrived, it was still wet and gray and cold. The wind whispered through the trees and licked at the corners of our targets, past the places where the staples held the paper. We trekked downrange through a gloppy, sticky, rock-laden mud to erect those targets. My friend unbagged firearms while I loaded magazines.

We stayed out there and shot for nearly two hours. My friend plinked with his revolvers, while I worked methodically through the skills I’d identified that I wanted to drill during the session. I shivered just a bit beneath my jacket, despite my usual tolerance for cold weather. I had to stop shooting several times, to wipe the film of fog and mist from my glasses so I could see my target.

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The Community of Gun People

20121114-181605.jpgI’ve talked before about how we gun folks are a community, a supportive and nurturing group of people. In my experience gun folks are some of the most genuine, warm, giving people I know, and I’ve developed many friendships in this community. With them, I’ve been encouraged, supported and challenged to grow and evolve, to become more than I thought I could be. I’ve met some amazing people, and feel privileged to be able to call them my brothers and sisters.

Well, today, I had the chance to meet one of my online friends in person. The inimitable Ben Branam, the host of the Modern Self-Protection blog and podcast (and sometimes co-host over at the Handgun World podcast) was in my part of the country for vacation. Luckily, he and his wife had room in their schedule to get together, and we were able to find a good halfway point to meet for lunch.

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