Your Viewpoint Determines Your Vision

Stephen King asks three questions which provide us with an interesting peek into the mind of an anti-gun activist, (via Kathy Jackson).

“I guess the question is, how paranoid do you want to be? How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren?”

Let’s address those three questions individually.

“How paranoid do you want to be?”
This question assumes that deciding to be your own first responder is a paranoid act, as if having a fire extinguisher means you’re convinced there’s an arsonist on the loose or having a first aid kit means you’re surrounded by clumsy oafs who constantly injure themselves.

Actually, as I have two young sons, that last sentence is, in truth, correct …

I digress.

It’s not a question of being paranoid, because paranoia is by definition based on unreasonable fears, and wanting to defend your loved ones from harm is an entirely reasonable desire that inhabits the entire animal kingdom. Every critter in the forest defends what’s important to them, why should mankind be any different?

It’s important to note here that acknowledging the existence of tigers in the forest does not detract from the beauty of the forest itself. I don’t consider my life as an armed individual to be any less rewarding or fulfilling than my unarmed life. If anything, I feel more empowered because I know for certain I can effectively deal with whatever life can throw at me.

It’s not paranoia that drives me, Mr. King, it’s empowerment.

How many guns does it take to make you feel safe?
That one’s easy: How many guns? However many it takes to stop a threat to myself or my loved ones. The actual number of guns involved will vary from time to time and from person to person. For me, that number is four: A gun on my person, a gun near me when I’m outside of the house that is more powerful than the gun on my person, a gun near me in the home, and a gun in my home that is more powerful than the other home gun.

YMMV.

How do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren?
There are two ways I accomplish the first part of that question. The first way is to keep a gun on my person wherever and whenever I can, including when I’m relaxing around the house. If the safest and quickest way to store a gun when I’m outside the house is on my person, it makes sense that the safest and easiest way to store a gun inside the house is also on my person.

Duh.

Secondly, I am a BIG proponent of the easy-access gun safe for home defense pistols. We did a simple test over at Teamgunblogger that showed that getting a gun out of a safe was just as easy and just as fast as finding one in your sock drawer, so I’m pretty confident in both the security of my guns and the security of my house.

To answer the second part of that question, I deal with the inquisitive nature of children in my life by reducing the allure of guns. If guns are commonplace and a part of your everyday life, they aren’t as a unusual or seen as the “forbidden fruit”. My kids know (and practice) the guidelines laid down in the NRA’s “Eddie The Eagle” program, and I whole-hearted recommend it as a starting point for teaching gun safety to children.

Mr. King’s questions are valid and right, from his point of view. It’s a point of view that is not shared by millions and millions of other people, but it is nevertheless a point of view that is commonplace and, in some ways, informative, because it shows the underlying fears that anti-gun activists have. They KNOW the world is “unsafe”, they just can’t put their finger on “why”, so they blame the instruments of violence rather than the instigators of violence. It’s a beguiling intellectual shortcut to solving the problem of violence, but it’s a shortcut that leads to a dead-end: Even if you reduce the instruments of violence down to man’s most basic tools, the knife and blunt instrument, the violence still remains.

The problem isn’t what’s in a man’s hand, the problem is in his heart. Banning or restricting what  man can use to defend lives will never, ever change his heart.

Here is your future, unarmed America

Let’s count it down, shall we?

Failed attempts at gun control? Check.
Increasing crime rates? Check.
Violent, ruthless street gangs? Check.
Politicization and corruption of law enforcement? Check.

I have seen your future, California, and it looks a lot like Caracas.

Interview With A Professional Kidnapper

Gonzalez began by explaining “the market.” He targeted Venezuela’s middle classes, rather than the rich. Going after the rich invited additional police scrutiny or, worse heavily armed private guards driving armoured vehicles. For the same reasons and because they seldom had Venezuelan bank accounts that could be quickly emptied, it did not make economic sense to kidnap foreigners.

Before deciding whether to kidnap someone, gang members followed their movements closely for about a month to understand how and where they lived, worked and played. This was not only to figure out the best time and place to grab them, but also to find out whether their kin were likely to be able to cough up a ransom of 100,000 to 200,000 bolivars (about US$300 to US$600 on the black market, US$16,000 to $32,000 at the official exchange rate).

And before you think, “Well, that’s just Venezuela. What are the chances this could happen close to the U.S.?”…

… have you seen what is (still) going on in Mexico City?

In Mexico, with its history of drug-war violence and corrupt police, kidnapping is an old story. In the past, the crime tended to target the rich. Now it has become more egalitarian. Victims these days are often shopkeepers, taxi drivers, service employees, parking attendants and taco vendors who often work in cash or in Mexico’s “informal” economy. Targets also tend to be young — students, with parents willing to pay ransoms, are commonly targeted.

How long before MS13, La eMe, etc, figure out there’s as much money to be made from kidnapping middle class citizenry as there is from smuggling in people and/or drugs into the U.S.?

The only two things that are holding back this nightmare scenario from happening that I can see are the (mostly) honest police forces in the U.S. and the presence of a well-armed middle class.

When those two things go away, what hope is there for the citizenry?

Being your own first responder by arming yourself is a very good thing indeed, but it’s even better if it is also backed up by the fair and firm rule of law. When the rule of law becomes politicized, the criminals will realize that politics is the way to power.

Update: A little cheerful reading for you on a Tuesday morning – When the Music Stops. I’d like to believe that such a scenario is unlikely (even improbable), but given the reality of today’s political situation, I can’t.

Amateurs, Dilletantes and Professionals

“Amateurs discuss tactics, dilettantes discuss strategy, professionals discuss logistics”.

– Anon

Thinking more about this throwaway line from my photography post last week

… gaffer’s tape, foam core and a-clamps, because let’s face it, when you get right down to it, those are more important than the camera.

… got me thinking. I assisted for a good number of photographers in my youth, both local and national, and while all of them shot with the same brands of cameras you could find in a decently good pro shop, the difference in their photos was in what else they brought to the shoot besides their camera.

For instance, for a typical on-location corporate or editorial shoot, we’d pack up the van with a big case of lights (3’x2’x4′), 2-3 strobe power packs, a stand bag as big as a big golf bag, a tripod, a grip case the size of a medium suitcase stuffed with cords, clamps and whatnot, a cooler for film (kids, ask your parents), and another case for the cameras.

Out of the seven or eight cases on the shoot, only one held the items to actually take the shot, the rest of the equipment was about getting the environment prepared to take the shot.

Even fashion shooters, who usually eschew artificial lighting, bring along an assortment of reflectors, scrims and umbrellas designed to produce the soft, open light they need for a shot. A pro knows it’s not about the camera in your hands, it’s about controlling the light and the composition. The actual tripping of the shutter is just the last step.

So what does this have to do with guns?

Think about how many wannabes out there are CONVINCED that all they for better pictures is a new camera or a new lens, when really, all they need to do is see the light and know how to turn it into something useful.

How many wannabees out there are CONVINCED that all they need to make GM is a new magwell and more grip tape and new sights and a new holster, when all they need to do is recognize how they shoot a stage and what they need to change in themselves?

How many wannabes out there are CONVINCED that all they need to secure their family’s safety is the latest Blastomatic3000 heater, when really, all they need to do is pay attention to their surroundings, don’t do dumb things with dumb people and carry their gun in a safe, secure holster on a good gun belt?

It’s not your gear that’s the limitation, it’s what you do with it and what you see that is holding you back.

As Dave Barry Might Say…

Florida Man“.

A Land O’ Lakes man faces a manslaughter charge after he allegedly tried to shoot a bucket from a man’s head — but missed, killing him.

According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the whole thing started Sunday evening outside the Rock Harley Saloon in Land O’ Lakes. They say Billy Lee McDaniel was undergoing an initiation into the Southern Sons Motorcycle Club — an act that apparently involved holding a plastic bucket above his head while club members threw cups and bottles into it.

That’s when, deputies say, Jeffrey Camarda tried to shoot the bucket from McDaniel’s head, but missed and hit him in the head instead.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

I should have read this four years ago, but I couldn’t.

Because, sadly, the tactical training community doesn’t think like this.

When I was just beginning this blog (and my journey towards the firearms industry, I noticed that there was a gap between what I was being taught and what I needed. In all my tactical classes, in all my competitions, in everything I could find about personal defense (unarmed or not), it was about me dealing with a threat, or me dealing with the after effects of dealing with a threat, or me doing something else.

It was all about me. The fact is, however, as a married man with a family, it’s not about me, it’s about my family. I have a blowout kit nearby not only for myself, but also because I want my family to survive the use of deadly force if (God forbid) I need to use it. I’m not doing this just because I want to live (I do), I’m doing this because this I want me AND my loved ones to live.

And I know I’m not alone in this. You’d think that tactical instructors would realize that their ideal target market (middle-aged professionals) are concerned about protecting all they hold dear and stress training that covers not just the person in the classroom, but the people they know as well.

And you’d be wrong. Finally, though, that’s starting to change.

Defensive training and practice typically involve one person alone against single or multiple assailants. But most of our lives, we are with other people. The difference between training/practicing alone and working with others leaves a significant hole in our capabilities until we practice to fill that void.

Critically look at how having a partner would alter your response to a defensive incident. “Partner” can mean any number of different people: spouse or significant other, a small child, or an elderly parent. Each type of partner can impose different considerations on your tactics, techniques and procedures.

Read the whole thing because it is, quite frankly, the first thing I’ve found that lays out the steps a family needs to stay safe, beyond just recommending both parents get a gun and train as a team. Arming my wife is just not an option for me right now, but now I have a path I can follow to help my family stay safe. It may have taken four years to get here, but at least I’ve arrived.

File under Zanshin, Moment Of.

Zanshin: A zen state when the mind is fully vigilant and aware of its surroundings; when the mind remains still without being attached to anything and is totally present during every moment and action in the here and now. In Budo, Zanshin means being aware of one’s surroundings and enemies, while being prepared to react and being unaffected by pain. It is a state of mind that takes years of training to develop. Through the practice of Zazen and Budo, little by little, this kind of alertness can expand to every action of one’s daily life, and in the end, one realizes that there are no ordinary moments.

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Nova Scotia Nazis. I hate Nova Scotia Nazis.

Chances of this kind of attack being successful in Canada? Pretty good. Chances of it being successful in Dallas, Tampa Bay or Phoenix? Substantially less so.

Nova Scotia RCMP Commanding Officer Brian Brennan says a 19-year-old man and a 23-year-old American woman from Geneva, Ill., had planned to go to a public venue in the Halifax region today “with a goal of opening fire to kill citizens, and then themselves.”

In a refreshing change from similar incidents, it wasn’t Islamic terrorists who were behind this, but plain ol’ Nazis, albeit Canadian Nazis.

The 23-year-old American woman who allegedly plotted to carry out a massacre at a Canadian mall on Valentine’s Day posted harrowing messages online for years before the plan was foiled.
Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, from Geneva, Illinois, posted about her admiration of Hitler, the Columbine killers and other murderers on her Facebook page, Tumblr site and forums, and even hinted at the deadly plan, writing last Wednesday: ‘Valentine’s Day. It’s going down.’
Two days after the post, she was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder after police received a tip. Randall Shepherd, 20, of Nova Scotia was arrested on the same charges.
A third suspect, James Gamble, 19 killed himself as police moved to arrest him at his home in Nova Scotia, and a fourth – a 17-year-old boy – has been released from custody.

They planned to shoot up a shopping mall in (largely disarmed) Atlantic Canada for a reason, and part of that reason was they could get away with it without be shot.

Carry your frickin’ guns, people, and stay awake when do.

Learning for a lifetime

Thinking more about yesterday’s post, what’s more important: Teaching techniques, or instilling the passion to learn how to stay safe?

It seems to me that tactical trainers get caught up in the superiority of the gun-fu they’re teaching and then forget that what they’re actually doing is *teaching* first, perfecting gun-fu second.

An example:

There’s a small husband and wife firearms training team here in Naples that could teach the big boys a thing or two about customer service and creating repeat business. They both have great training creds (Givens, Farnham, Suarez and others), and work well together. They have a weekly demonstration/lecture class at a local church and then host a “range day” on the weekend where people can practice what they learned earlier. Their clientele is both single men and woman, and more couples than I’m used to seeing in a firearms training class. They also have a lot of older, retired people in their classes, but you know what? That’s the market here in “Heaven’s Waiting Room”.

In other words, they create loyal customers by knowing their market and teaching to their market. They don’t teach advanced-level gun-fu, but they get people used to using their guns and stay aware of their surroundings. I’ve seen how they train people, and I know they’ve made an impact on the lives of the people they’ve taught.

And unsurprisingly, one of them is also a middle-school math teacher.

So it turns out that people who are good at teaching also make good firearms teachers.

Who knew?

A Lifetime Of Learning

Tam links to an interesting question posed to a group of seasoned professional firearms trainers: If you knew that your one-day class was going to be the only firearms training your students received, what would you teach them, and why?

A long (and frankly boring) discussion of sighted fire versus point shooting promptly broke out, and while I’m not anywhere near the level of competency of most of the people who chimed in, here’s my thoughts on how I would train a random schmo from the street, knowing it was going to be the only class he/she would have, ever.

  1. Mindset / Situational Awareness. Simply put, pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. The punch buggy / slug bug game is a great way to learn to watch your surroundings, and all that’s at stake is a sore arm.
  2. Safety. Not just the four rules, but get them used to touching and safely handling their gun. I’d make sure they knew how to load and unload their gun and get them used to the idea that guns are to used, not just owned.
  3. Draw. Not just a standard four-step draw, but (after much practice) close retention as well, with shooting from retention as part of that drill.
  4. Front sight / trigger press. We know how to point to something from six months on, but pressing a trigger properly is something most people have to learn. Better to put the bug in their ear sooner rather than later.
  5. Realistic target placement. 7 yards, max, with an emphasis on 10 feet right on up to bad breath distance. No 25 yard mini-poppers, ever.
  6. Cover. Cover = time, and getting the idea that getting things in the way of your attacker that reduce his/her chances of getting to you is a good thing because it reinforces item #1 up there.
  7. Moving targets. People tend to not like to get shot, and the tend to run away while returning fire at the people who are shooting at them. Something (maybe a target mounted on top of an R/C truck) that re-creates a person running away from his/her failure to properly select a defenseless victim would be a good graduation exercise.