Bringing A Knife To A Gunfight

We’ve all heard that joke about bringing a knife to a gunfight…a universal metaphor for making a really big mistake.  It doesn’t have to be a top knife 🙂 But the murderers of a British soldier earlier this week did not need to fear to make such a mistake.  Indeed, they seemed to fear nothing at all from the toothless citizens of London, who had little option but to watch helplessly as the wolf came to town and butchered one of their fellow sheep.

British woman simply walks past London murderer Photo by ITV News

Would a gun have saved that soldier?  Perhaps, though it is impossible to know with absolute certainty.  I will be the first to admit that carrying a gun, or any other defensive tool, will not guarantee your safety.  The world is a chaotic place, and outcomes in violent confrontations are never certain.  In fact, we cannot say with absolute certainty that

Would a gun have saved that soldier?  Perhaps, though it is impossible to know with absolute certainty.  I will be the first to admit that carrying a gun, or any other defensive tool, will not guarantee your safety.  The world is a chaotic place, and outcomes in violent confrontations are never certain.  In fact, we cannot say with absolute certainty that British soldier would have been saved if there had been a fully armed detachment of Navy SEALs standing there with him.

But effective personal defensive tools can at least give one a fighting chance.  It can tip the scales in our favor, and maybe help us get home at the end of the day.  What IS certain, however, is what happens when a law-abiding citizen is deprived of personal arms, and forced to face savagery empty-handed.  We witnessed it on a bloody London street.

Why I Carry, Why I Fight

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”  — G.K. Chesterton

I am a former Army officer.  I am a former police officer, SWAT officer, and police firearms, instructor.  I have been a recreational shooter so far back that I have no memory of the first time I shot a gun.  I say this so that you understand that guns have always been a part of my life, as both vocation and avocation.

But it has only been in the last 10 years that I came to embrace concealed carry as a way of life.  Even when I was a police officer, I rarely carried off-duty; it was not required or even encouraged in my department.  I even knew other officers who ridiculed those who did carry off-duty as paranoid, and the more religious someone was about off-duty carry, the more disdain they tended to receive.  I

ended up leaving that organization after a few years, and it was for the best.

Still, I credit my education as a cop for eventually waking me up:  As a police officer, I learned that there are truly bad people in the world, and they do bad things to good people, every day, everywhere.  Living in a good neighborhood is no insurance.  The bad people are more than happy to come to you, and denial of this fact provides no protection from it.

With that in mind, I was forced to look at my life.  While I have no children of my own, my sister is a single mother, whose ex-has basically fled the area and left her to raise two daughters on her own.  As I live very close by, I took up a very active role in helping her out and found myself with two young girls in my care on a pretty regular basis.

I asked myself, “If something bad were to happen while these two children were in my care, am I prepared to protect them?”  At that time, I did not carry, and realized that the honest answer was, “No.”  The obvious follow-up question was, “Could you live with yourself if you were unprepared, and one of these children were hurt, or worse?”  The even more obvious response to that question was an unequivocal, “No.”  I knew that in such an eventuality, where my nieces were harmed while my gun was sitting at home, I would also be destroyed.  Denial was no longer an option.  I made a decision to change.

I got my concealed carry permit and started carrying.  I didn’t carry all the time at first, but eventually my education as a street cop resurfaced.  I knew that violence could happen anywhere, anytime…and thus I knew I had to commit fully and carry at all times.  I made that commitment, and I honor it every day.

My nieces are older now, but we still spend time together.  They know I carry, and they know why.  As teenagers, they might think I’m a little weird, but I think they understand down deep inside that they are just a little bit safer when I’m around.

You probably have a similar story.  You probably carry to protect those you love or to protect yourself so that you can be there for the ones you love.  We have all chosen to make the gun a part of our lives out of love, not hate.  The anti-gun forces don’t understand this, and I’m not sure I have the words to convince anyone who cannot grasp this simple truth.  What I do know is that because of my love for my family, I place the highest value on the right and the freedom to arm myself as I see fit to ensure their safety.  No police officer, no member of Congress, no president or sawed-off tyrant of a mayor will take responsibility for them…but I will.  So as I see it, when you try to strip that right from me, you diminish my ability to protect those I love.  You are threatening them…and my response will be just what you would expect.  That is why I carry.  That is why I fight.

86,227…

…Plus me makes for 86,228 friends hanging out at the record-breaking 142nd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Houston, Texas.  This was my fourth “NRA Show,” as it is often referred to, and it could not have been better.  I almost didn’t go, but I could not fight off the feeling that this one was going to be special, and I decided that I needed to be there.

I was not disappointed.  This one was different, and not just because of the numbers.  There was a new energy, a new enthusiasm.  I also figured something out, and while perhaps not exactly an epiphany, it was at least a revelation…of something that I really already knew.  This event is not special because of the hardware on display, it is special because of the people.


A crowded show floor

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a gun guy.  There are some vendors from the show who are dedicating their post-show cleanup to wiping my drool off of their guns and gear.  But at the end of a long day on the show floor, I am always taken back to my encounters with the people of the National Rifle Association.

You should also understand that I am not naturally an extrovert.  I have always been the quiet guy, not normally very comfortable in a large public gathering, surrounded by strangers.  But at this event, I always feel different, and I think I know why.  There are no strangers here.  I feel completely at ease.  These are my people, and I want to talk to them.

And I did talk to them and gathered more stories and experiences that I can relate here.  I met those who make and sell the product.  I met professional shooting celebrities and media personalities.  I met a retired Navy veteran from Knoxville, Tennessee…and a young couple from Plano, Texas.  I talked pistol selection with a middle-aged housewife at the Ruger booth.  All of them were just friends I hadn’t yet met.

So let’s take a lesson here.  There were people from just about any demographic you can imagine, and we were all of one family in that building.  There is strength in that family, and we must sustain it now that the 142nd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits have concluded.  All of our differences are insignificant when compared to the things we have in common, an enjoyment of firearms and the shooting sports…and an unashamed love of freedom.

I had the chance to speak briefly with NRA News commentator Dom Raso, and asked him why he chose to speak out and become an advocate for the 2nd Amendment.  His answer was simple:  “It isn’t just about guns.  It’s about freedom.”  And no matter who else I talked to over the weekend, freedom was a consistent theme.

We broke attendance records in Houston, and the National Rifle Association family is now over 5 million and growing.  And you know what?  We’re good people!  Let’s keep the family strong and keep up the good fight, because those who hate us are not done.

Then I’ll look for you at the next reunion…the 143rd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis next year…and we’ll talk.

Preparation – A Biblical Concept

Preparation

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells us to be ready for His second coming.  In this parable, Jesus tells us that 10 virgins took lamps to meet the bridegroom and celebrate his wedding feast.  Five smart virgins took extra oil for their lamps, and five silly ones didn’t take any extra oil.  When the bridegroom delayed, the oil burned down.  By the time his arrival was announced, the silly five had no more oil in their lamps while the wise five could refill theirs.  Panicked, the silly virgins ran off to find an all-night olive oil store.  By the time they got back, the party was in full swing, and it was too late to get in.  Jesus concludes by saying, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

Parables are often defined as “a heavenly story with an earthly meaning.”  If this parable tells us anything, it says we must be ready for the unexpected.  “Be prepared” is the Boy Scout motto.  As a person who has accepted responsibility for the defense of myself and others, I need to think about what emergencies might be likely and get ready for them.  I cannot depend that today will be as uneventful as yesterday.  For instance, I never carried a fire extinguisher in my car until it caught on fire.  A car fire.  Unlikely?  Yes, if I only consider it happening to me.  But someone else’s car on fire as I pass? Much more likely.

The conclusion?

Don’t go out unprepared for self-defense.  In Chapter 5 of my book, A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, I talk about the Luby’s Cafeteria massacre in 1991 that teaches us many lessons about preparation. For instance, your family needs code words to be used if a deadly or dangerous event starts in a store or restaurant.  These are words that tell your family you are about to act explosively, and they need to use cover and concealment to gain an exit while you head toward the danger.

Next, the adults in your family must be sufficiently trained to implement the family’s self-defense plans.  Each adult should be competent to pull the kids out of the situation if the other adult is neutralized or to outflank the bad guy to put him in a crossfire.  The kids must be trained to obey commands instantly and to remain calm when they hear gunshots and the panicked screams of others.  Like the smart virgins who brought extra oil, you must have spare ammo or a backup gun in case your primary gun runs out or malfunctions.

The adults in the family need to be trained to use their weapons accurately and legally.  Their level of training and preparation cannot consist of buying a gun, firing a few rounds, and watching TV cop shows!  In a chaotic situation, laser sights would be a good addition to your gun to assure you keep your sights ONLY on the bad guy.

All responsible members of the family (any one if driving age) should have pepper spray or some other intermediate-force weapon in case the situation doesn’t call for deadly force.   To paraphrase, Jeff Cooper, “It’s much easier to argue to a jury that you didn’t pepper spray the bad guy too much rather than you didn’t shoot him too much.”

Teach yourself and your kids to spot everyday items that can be used as alternative weapons, such as dinner plates used as Frisbees. Take a Red Cross lifesaving and first-aid course and teach your kids basic first aid. For arterial bleeding, use what police have carried in cruisers for decades:  sanitary napkins. Dehydrated mashed potato mix works just like military grade fast-clot products and can be flushed away by water at the ER.

Finally, take the time and spend the money to get professional training and legal advice.  Make sure you know an attorney who can answer your self-defense questions and provide legal advice in the event you are involved in a deadly encounter.

Do not walk around with a gun on your hip if you have not received the basic training and made these basic preparations listed here.  Understand the definition of the word “emergency.”  If you knew when and where you would need your gun, you wouldn’t be there in the first place, and you certainly would not have your family along.  Remember, “you don’t know the day or the hour” so start getting ready for it now.