Tag Archive for Safety

Comforting Lies

I recently read an article, “Running While Female,” and The Comforting Lie of Safety.

From the article…

“But it’s even more misguided to believe that we can create a safe environment for women everywhere.

The fact is, it’s not a safe planet. It’s not safe for rabbits or cows or gazelles, or for women or men. This is a truth that Western societies have beautifully concealed with antibiotics, airbags and security systems, and so it’s always upsetting when a murder or a survey suggests that we’ve been comforting ourselves with a lie.”

“It’s easy to ride around with our Coexist bumper stickers and assume that we ought to be safe, but nature laughs at the concept. A rabbit doesn’t have the “right” to be safe while sitting exposed in a field. Should humans? The inherent brutality of the world, which theologians and philosophers have grappled with for thousands of years, has been papered over so much that we believe safe is the default and become outraged when it becomes clear that it’s not. That’s our bad.

We are not safe, none of us, and we become less safe when we start to believe that we are.”

These concepts go to the heart of what I find problematic with much of the progressive liberal agenda. It seems to be prevalent the thinking that the world owes you everything you need: food, shelter, clothing, tampons, birth control, medical care, smartphones, and so on. All your needs and wants met with little to nothing in return. And anyone who opposes that is racist or classist or full of microaggressions. The very idea that you’re owed something that you didn’t contribute to in any way is basically saying that you have a right to take the fruits of someone else’s labor for nothing in return. That’s slavery. It doesn’t matter what it is, someone had to work to produce it, plant it, take care of it, maintain it, provide the service, etc.

Now none of this is to mean that I think everyone gainfully employed shouldn’t be able to afford the things they need. But I do think that they shouldn’t be able to afford all the things they want. Someone working at McDonald’s cooking fries is not entitled to go to fancy restaurants every night or to get all of the latest and greatest technology gadgets. Of course, I do think that our priorities are screwed up when it comes to compensation. I don’t think an athlete is making a far greater contribution to society than a teacher, for example, to warrant the millions of dollars difference in salaries. But I digress.

Getting back to the topic of safety it also flabbergasts me that it is expected that others are responsible for your safety. So many people respond to stories of criminal attacks with the mindset that you shouldn’t have to worry about how you dress or how you act or where you go. You shouldn’t have to refrain from showing off wads of cash because nobody has a right to attack you. You shouldn’t have to obey a police officer if you don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. You shouldn’t have to worry about getting drunk and passing out at a frat party because nobody has a right to take advantage of you. Some go so far as to believe there shouldn’t be any consequences for their actions. As Marc likes to say (paraphrasing), “should” is a problematic word: try using “should” with the weather and see how that works out.

That goes hand in hand with “deserve”. No, you won’t deserve to get sexually assaulted or robbed or killed. But people take it to far and rely on what they deserve to determine how to live their lives. Or use their concept of fairness and what is deserved to excuse behavior (that unarmed man attacking a cop didn’t deserve to be shot).

The world doesn’t owe you anything. Not a living, Not your health. Not your safety. If you’re not willing to provide for yourself then maybe in this case you really are getting what you deserve.

The mindset of situational awareness

Spend any significant amount of time with self-defense experts and the idea of situational awareness will come up. In its simplest form, situational awareness is nothing more than being aware of your surroundings; but even more than that is being able to correctly interpret what is going on around you to determine what threats might be present.

Many of us who choose to carry a gun for self-defense train regularly to increase our shooting skills. But skill is sometimes not enough. Every year, thousands of highly trained law enforcement officers are assaulted and dozens are killed in the line of duty showing a stark example that training is not always enough to survive. As civilians, we have a luxury they do not: avoiding the confrontation. The best way to avoid the confrontation is to see the threat before it becomes a confrontation. Yet, for all the time we spend training our physical skills with the gun, how much time do we spend training our minds for the mental aspect of situational awareness?

Just like we use repetition to build muscle memory shot shooting skills we can use awareness drills to shift situational awareness from a conscious action to an effortless state of mind. Some examples:

  • Note how many people in sight are wearing the same color shirt. This trains you to look for details and patterns.
  • Count how many rings people are wearing to get you used to watching hands for threats.
  • Watch how many people around you make eye contact with you. Criminals don’t like eye contact because they want their victims to be unaware of their approach.
  • Every time you walk into a room look for things that are different from the last time you were in there. This can help you spot things that are out of place.
  • As you walk up to a store, look through the door or window and try to guess who will be the first person to notice your arrival. This can lead to you identifying a dangerous situation before you enter the building.
  • Observe the faces and demeanor of passersby and try to guess what mood they’re in. This will get you used to reading emotions and can help determine who might be a threat for violent behavior.

These practice sessions will build the “muscle memory” for your brain to continue subconsciously observing your environment and raise your awareness. This projects an air of alertness that most criminals instinctively avoid. A potential victim who is paying attention means a lesser chance of success for an attack. It also helps you to spot potential trouble before it is too late or you are forced to employ deadly force so that you can take steps to avoid the encounter.

You don’t need to be paranoid or constantly on high alert to be safe. In fact, trying to maintain the highest state of awareness at all times can lead to fatigue and burn out which can in turn cause you to miss the threat when the time comes. In contrast, a state of relaxed awareness where your subconscious mind does most of the work is easy to maintain.

It is also important to note that since you are training your subconscious, you might not always realize exactly what the threat it. You’ll just have a feeling that “something’s not right.” Trust your gut and go on conscious alert! You have to discipline yourself to listen to your intuition and not dismiss it as “nothing.” With a little practice, you’ll be much more aware of your surroundings and prepared to avoid threats if possible and less likely to be caught unawares if avoidance is not possible.

Protecting against home invasion

There have been several stories in the news lately regarding home invasions. A home invasion occurs when whether intentionally or unintentionally a criminal enters your home while you are present; as opposed to a burglary where they do so when the house is empty.

Many times during accidental home invasions the criminal is not expecting to encounter anyone and will quickly flee when confronted. Intentional home invasions are much more dangerous as the criminal is expecting to confront someone (or is at least prepared for the possibility should they attempt a theft at night without waking the occupants) and will already have a plan for dealing with the residents. This may be as simple as threatening them with a weapon, restraining them, forcing them to assist with the robbery by leading the criminal to valuables or the confrontation could lead to rape or murder.

One such home invasion occurred in Elyria, Ohio in the morning of Thursday, January 5th. According to her account, she was in bed watching television when she heard a suspicious noise. She armed herself and was creeping down the stairs when a 31 year old drug addict kicked down her door and entered her home. She kept yelling for him to stop and when he succeeded in getting inside she fired three shots at him and he fled before later being arrested.

Since a neighbor reported hearing him yell “Oh My God!” as he ran away, it is likely he expected nobody to be home; or at the least not an armed response. The man was suspected to have broken in several weeks earlier when the woman’s daughter and granddaughter were home but they stayed upstairs and did not encouter the robber.

This is contrasted with another incident in Elyria on the same day. This time, the resident woke up to find a man with a gun in his bedroom. The robber forced the man to help him load up two garbage bags full of loot before escaping. Since this victim was taken by surprise while sleeping, being armed might not have led to a better outcome.

In both of these cases, there would have been warning if the resident had an alarm system. Even if you can’t afford a monitored service, an inexpensive stand-alone system can sound an audio alert to warn you of intrusion and possibly even cause the criminal to flee without a confrontation. At the very least it will give you more warning that awaking to find the intruder already in your bedroom giving you time to arm yourself and possibly lock your bedroom door or get to your children.

A common thing a criminal will try is to see if your doors or windows are unlocked to allow for easy entry. To prevent this, you should keep your doors and windows locked whenever practical, even if you are home.

Another frequent ploy is for the home invader to summon the victim to the door and press an attack when the door is opened. The best defense against this is to not open the door to someone you don’t know to keep a physical barrier between you. A door chain can be of use here if it is of high quality and properly installed so a simple push won’t break it. Likewise a good, solid door can help keep an intruder at bay.

Not only should you have a strong door at all entrances to your home, but having a good door and strong locks on your bedroom can allow you to use it as a safe room. Losing your possessions is much preferable to losing your life or becoming seriously injured.

Arming yourself before answering the door can also be an option, though a sudden rush by the invader can render you unable to bring your weapon into play. If there is more than one person home it might be better to arm the second person instead. If attacked, the first person can create separation either by running, shoving the attacker, or going to the ground allowing the second person to enact an armed response.

In addition to an alarm, there are several other things you can do to make your home a less attractive target. Keeping shrubbery trimmed back can prevent an attacker from hiding himself or an accomplice. A well-lit exterior, particularly with motion activated lights, can help make the criminal less comfortable. Owning a dog, particularly a large one, can be a strong deterrent.

One dangerous situation that can occur is surprising a burglar when you come home. Always be aware of your surroundings so you can take notice if things seem out of place or there are signs of forced entry. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security when you enter your home, either. Glance around for things to be out of place and you also might catch a glimpse of the invader. If you do see someone as you enter, get out immediately. Even if armed you do not want the risk of confronting a possibly armed criminal. Discretion is definitely the better part of valor.

If you do manage to successfully enact an armed response you should attempt to verbally repel the intruder before firing if safe to do so. Most criminals will take an available escape route which is preferable to needing to win a gunfight or risk a round from your gun striking a neighbor or passerby. Attempting to apprehend the intruder can be dangerous as well, giving him opportunity to counter attack or forcing an accomplice to attempt a rescue.

These are just a few suggestions to help protect yourself against a home invasion. There is a lot of good information on the internet, and the NRA offers several good courses covering these topics including Refuse to Be a Victim and Personal Protection in the Home.

Firearms Fundamentals: gun safety rules – Part 2

Yesterday, we talked about the three primary rules of gun safety. As pointed out in the comments section, safe gun handling goes far beyond just those three.

Of utmost importance when shooting, whether target practicing or hunting, is to know your target and what is beyond. Most targets don’t stop bullets, so you need a solid backstop large enough to account for misses. A short backstop can be a problem because a poorly aimed shot could miss it entirely. Misses must be taken into consideration while hunting as well. If you shoot uphill at a deer and miss, where is that bullet going to go? Shooters are responsible for every bullet that leaves the barrel.

I also mentioned yesterday at one of the biggest causes of accidents is ignorance, or a lack of knowledge of safe gun handling. In keeping with that, it is very important to know how your particular firearm operates. How to load it, how to unload it, and how to handle it in a safe manner. When buying a gun, be sure to always ask the seller to show you how it works and read the manual. If one is not provided by the seller (for a used gun, for example) you can often contact the manufacturer or search for one on the internet.

When you target practice, you should always wear ear and eye protection. Hearing can easily be damaged by repeated gunfire, and there are a myriad of ways your eyes can be injured: spent casings (brass) hitting you, bullet fragments ricocheting back from the target, etc. It is also a good idea to wear a hat, long pants, and long sleeved shirts to guard against being struck by brass or fragments. When shooting, you must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes any legal medications that warn against handling automobiles or machinery. Anything that can impair your judgment or abilities must be avoided while shooting.

You also need to be sure that your gun is in safe operating condition (have it checked by a gunsmith if something doesn’t seem right) and that you only shoot the proper ammunition in it. Accidentally loading it with the wrong size ammunition can cause the firearm to malfunction and result in injury. Sometimes the type of ammunition can cause problems. For example, with 9mm ammunition there are cartridges loaded with additional powder which creates higher gas pressures when it is fired. This is referred to as +P or +P+ when even more is added. A handgun that is not rated for those higher pressures can fail if loaded with that ammunition.

Even when storing firearms, there are important factors to consider. Guns and ammunition should be stored so they cannot be accessed by unauthorized persons and should be stored separately so that if one is accessed the other is not. Trigger locks can be a great form of secondary protection, but a gun with a trigger lock can still be stolen if it is not in a safe or locked storage cabinet. Never put a trigger lock on a loaded gun as you would then be manipulating the trigger on a loaded gun!

I highly recommend that anyone who owns a firearm take at least one gun safety class. Yesterday, I mentioned the NRA Basic Pistol program, which is a great beginner class for learning gun safety. Many gun ranges and gun shops offer training as well, and the cost is very reasonable considering that such training could very well save your life or the life of someone you love.

Owning a firearm is a serious responsibility, but with proper training and observance of some basic rules is a very safe activity.

Stay safe out there!

Firearms Fundamentals: gun safety rules – Part 1

The topic for this week is the most important: gun safety.

A firearm is a tool designed to propel a projectile (the bullet) at a high rate of speed. Where that bullet goes is up to the person pulling the trigger. A gun by itself is neither good nor evil, it is the person handling it that makes that determination.

One of the things you lean in an NRA Basic Pistol course is that there are two main causes of firearms accidents, ignorance and carelessness. Ignorance is not stupidity, it is a lack of knowledge. If you don’t know how to safely handle a firearm you will make mistakes. Carelessness is knowing those rules, yet failing to apply them. The three basic rules are the most important:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until it is ready to use

If these rules are known and always followed, injuries due to gun accidents are much less likely to occur. If the gun is pointed in a safe direction yet fires, nobody will be injured. If your finger is not on the trigger (the most common mistake I see), the gun will most likely not fire, even if dropped. And if the gun is unloaded, it can’t fire.

Keep in mind for that last rule that “unloaded” means verified unloaded. Every gun is to be considered loaded until you prove otherwise. It doesn’t matter if the Pope himself tells you a gun is unloaded, you always verify for yourself. Open the cylinder, rack the slide, and physically check the chamber to be sure no ammunition is present. We’ve all heard about accidents occurring when somebody “thought it wasn’t loaded.” Trust, but verify. If you ever watch someone experienced with gun safety handle a firearm, you’ll see them check to see if a gun is unloaded every time they touch one, even if passing it from one person to another. Each one will check.

Sometimes I get asked, well, if you are supposed to keep a gun unloaded until it is ready to use, how does that apply to a gun for self-defense? Are you supposed to load it while someone is breaking in to your house? The answer is simple, a gun being relied upon for self-defense is currently in use for that purpose.

The last thing I want to say about keeping a gun unloaded until ready to use is that it is especially important while cleaning a gun. Anytime a gun is being cleaned it should be triple checked to be sure it is unloaded and no ammunition should be present anywhere in the room.

Gun safety is an important topic with a lot to cover, so we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow in Part 2.