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SELF-DEFENSE CLASS? NAH, I’M GOOD … GOT MY GUN

Weapons. They sound like a sure fire (pun intended) way to protect yourself, right? Short answer, for you headline-scanning bullet point (yep, another pun) readers: “No.”

The real answer, requiring further reading: “It depends.”

First, the decision to own, carry and use guns is a very personal one, shaped by your background, experiences, values, life style and life view. Since no two people share all of those, and this literally is a life-or-death issue, we should expect emotional and conflicting approaches. I have no opinion as to whether you, or (most) anyone else, “should” own a gun. I really don’t. There are responsible ways and reasons to own guns; and there are as many irresponsible ones. You can wrestle with those - as well as the legal requirements, consequences, etc. - on your own.

Statistically, guns are seldom used in self-defense situations. While it is not possible to know the actual number of crimes deterred by victims brandishing weapons, the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (ongoing since 1973), looked at the total number of self-protective behaviors undertaken by victims of both attempted and completed violent crime for the five-year period between 2007 and 2011. They found that the intended victim “threatened or attacked with a firearm” in resistance to a criminal in only 0.8 percent of these instances.

Nonetheless, we want to add every possible layer of protection to increase our odds of staying safe. For that reason, women regularly ask me if it’s a “good idea” to carry a gun as a self-defense tool. So let’s start this discussion from the assumption that you are considering, or already own, a personal firearm. How does this play out on the personal protection front? Here is a list of considerations that you MUST address before handling a gun.

1) You absolutely, positively, unequivocally must be trained. And not just by a buddy that took you shooting a couple times, but by an experienced, reputable, certified instructor. And you must continue this training as long as you carry a gun. Refresh your skills periodically. Keep abreast of changes in relevant laws, stay up to date on safety techniques, and practice good gun maintenance. Gun ownership carries ongoing responsibilities and requirements. The consequences for failing to meet these are very serious.

2) Will the gun be accessible when you need it?  A self-defense tool is useless if it’s not available and accessible when you need it. Are you willing to have your gun on you 24/7? And if you have it with you, is it in your hand, ready to fire at a moment’s notice? If not, you are fooling yourself thinking it will be any help in an attack situation. In a sudden attack, the attacker has the benefit of planning and preparation. You do not. He is unlikely to give you time to find and draw your weapon. If you are determined to carry a gun as protection, there are products that enable you to have it in your hand, ready to fire. There are clothing lines and purses that allow constant contact and accessibility. Otherwise, your chances of using the gun when you need it are slim to none.

3) Will you be willing to use it?  This one sounds easy. We tend to breeze right past it. We think, this guy wants to hurt me, of course I’d shoot him. But stop for a second. Close your eyes. Think through the scenario. Really think it through. Could you take a life – without hesitation? Because even the slightest hesitation means you’re putting your life in jeopardy. He won’t hesitate. He’s already shown that by choosing to terrorize and violate you. Remember: A gun cannot be used as a threat. Ever. If you pull a gun, do so intending to use it.

4) Will you be likely to hit your target?  If you have passed the initial stages of considering gun use, and have spent time learning to shoot, you’ll understand the challenges I’m addressing here. Your practice time will likely be spent in a tightly controlled environment, on a range of some sort, with an instructor nearby, partitioned alleys, and a set unmoving target. You probably will have ear muffs for the noise. Even under these conditions, it’s not easy to hit the target every time, is it? Think about an attack situation: Surprise, adrenaline, possibly dark and loud, moving target, moving gun, life-threatening stress … You see what I’m getting at. These are not ideal target shooting conditions. It’s impossible to practice under realistic conditions, but if you decide to carry a gun, try to make hitting a target as “instinctive” as possible. How? Repetition, repetition, repetition.

5) There is a very real risk of having your gun used against you. When you introduce a deadly weapon into an already violent and aggressive situation, be prepared to have it escalate. Quickly. Your attacker chose you because he is confident that his brute strength outmatches yours. He is not a courageous or fair man. In his mind, you are a “sure bet”.  If you are not able to quickly and competently draw and fire, and hit your target, he will do whatever he can to take control of your weapon. Count on it. So the answer, again: Practice. Repetition. There is no substitute.

If you are still feeling confident and determined, as a final and very important caveat, view a gun as but one of your self-protection tools -- always always always secondary to your most important weapon: YOUR MIND. The key to staying safe is avoiding attack situations. By listening to your instincts, exercising basic awareness and applying boundary-setting techniques, you can reduce you risk of attack by up to 90%.

So what do I recommend? Train in awareness and avoidance for the most reliable protection against attack. Once you have a solid base of knowledge and skills, and have carefully considered all requirements and responsibilities, by all means, build your self-defense arsenal (had to sneak in one more) however you see fit.

And as always, you can contact us for comprehensive self-defense training and consultation. We are available for business, school, community or private groups.

Stay safe.

"Because I am worth defending."

© 2014 STRONG & SAFE