The Cornered Cat
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Always

Tragic and avoidable situation in the news: during a CCW class, a student fired a gun through a classroom wall, killing the gun shop owner on the other side of the wall.

From the 911 transcript: “We were doing malfunction misfires and we have plastic bullets and we just, I just, we just double-checked the bullets and there was a live round in one of the guns and it went through the wall and shot the owner in the neck.”

This week, the instructors in that class were indicted — one of them for Reckless Homicide, and the other for Negligent Homicide.

So here we go again with a huge chorus of instructor voices online, yelling “NO AMMO IN THE CLASSROOM!” as though that would have prevented this tragedy. It would not. Relying on a single point of failure would not, did not, and could not stop this sort of tragedy from happening.

The No-Ammo rule is supposed to be an extra, additional, utterly redundant layer of safety, not a replacement for any one of the core safety rules.

This man could not have died if the core safety rules were being followed. Since these were NRA-certified trainers, here is the first of the safety rules that should have been taught and respected inside that classroom.

NRA rule: “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.”

Not sometimes. Not if it’s not too hard, too inconvenient, too much of a hassle. Always.

Safe gunhandling within the core safety rules includes using a safe direction that definitely will stop a bullet from the most powerful cartridge the firearm is able to launch.

When the No-Ammo rule is treated as a replacement for safe gunhandling procedures, it actually *reduces* overall safety. That’s because it flattens the multi-layered core safety rules down to a single point of potential failure: “Oh, it’s okay, the gun’s not loaded.”

As if no human being has ever made a mistake when they checked the loaded or unloaded status of the gun. Of course people have! That’s been a known, common, utterly predictable point of failure on the safety front for years upon untold years — and it’s exactly why the safety rules overlap, are redundant, and sometimes seem a bit ridiculous. “Why are you being so careful? The gun’s not loaded!”

More people have been killed unintentially and tragically with “unloaded” guns than have ever been unintentionally killed by guns known to be loaded. That’s because all too many people have two different sets of gunhandling procedures in their heads: a careful, rules-following one for “loaded” guns, and a very lazy and laid back one for “unloaded” ones.

Don’t treat “No ammo in the classroom” as a magic incantation that can replace the core safety rules. Don’t use it instead of the core safety rules. Follow the rules even when they seem redundant. Follow them *BECAUSE* they are redundant. That redundancy is our backup for when we turn out to be human after all.

Creating a safe gunhandling environment before anyone touches a gun — inside the classroom or out — is one of the primary responsibilities of the instructor.

Any “instructor” who thinks it’s “too much work” to find or create a truly safe direction for gunhandling in their classes is not doing the job of an instructor, and should be fired.

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Carry where?

Some years ago, before modern concealed carry laws passed in Texas, a young chiropractor named Suzanna Gratia was just finishing up her morning paperwork when her parents stopped by her office. It was a beautiful, sunny day and her mom and dad had been to the golf range together. They were getting ready to run errands down in Killeen, and wondered if she’d be willing to join them for lunch. After some persuading, she agreed — after all, one of her good friends managed the restaurant they suggested, and she hadn’t seen him in a while. So she and her mom got in her car and they followed her dad’s pickup truck to the Luby’s Cafeteria that had long been one of her favorite places to eat.

During their drive to the restaurant, Suzanna and her mother talked about plans for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Certainly, there would be a party. But Suzanna had a secret: she and her brother were saving up money to send their parents on a trip to Hawaii to celebrate the milestone. What a wonderful surprise that would be for her parents, who were still deeply in love after all their years together.

The restaurant was packed, and the group found a table near the right side of the cafeteria. Suzanna took a seat across from her parents, facing the front windows. Her manager friend, Mark, joined them for lunch and sat next to her on her left.

Without warning, a pickup truck crashed through one of the front windows. It came completely into the building and when Suzanna looked up, she saw many injured people sprawled on the floor. As a trained medical professional, her first instinct was to go help — but as she rose from her seat, she heard the sound of a gunshot. She and her father dropped to the floor, turning the table on its side in front of them and helping her mother get down on the floor between them.

At this point, Suzanna was still trying to wrap her head around what was happening. At first, she thought the truck had crashed through the window by accident. Then, she thought it was a robbery and expected to hear someone demand that everyone put their wallets on the tables.

Now, as the man who came out of the truck began walking from one person to the next, taking aim, and pulling the trigger, she realized that it was something more sinister. In her own words, “In total, it took me about forty-five seconds to figure out this guy was just going to walk around and execute people. Forty-five seconds is an eternity.” At that time, perhaps eight people had already died. There would be more.

Suzanna expected a police officer to stop the killer. After all, law enforcement officers ate at this popular restaurant all the time. But the assailant seemed to have no opposition at all as he moved from one person to another, executing people as he went.

Here’s what happened next, in her own words:

 


At that point, the gunman was rounding the front of his vehicle, his right shoulder toward me, when it dawned on me, ‘I’ve got him!’ I reached for my purse that lay on the floor next to the chicken tetrazzini. I had a perfect place to prop my hand to help stabilize my little revolver on the upturned table in front of us. Everyone else in the restaurant was down, he was up, perhaps fifteen feet from me, and I have hit much smaller targets at much greater distances.

Then it occurred to me with sudden and utter clarity that, just a few months earlier, I had made the stupidest decision of my life: my gun was not in my purse any longer! I had done what many people do: I had rationalized that the chance of my needing it was slim, and the chance of getting caught with it somewhat higher. I had figured, ‘Oh, what are the odds I’ll need this thing in a  crowded place in the middle of the day? If I ever need it, it’s going to be if my car breaks down on one of these dark Texas roads, out in the middle of nowhere.’ I did not want to risk getting caught with it somewhere and potentially losing my license to practice chiropractic. After all, that was my livelihood we were talking about. 1


 

The killer calmly continued executing people inside the restaurant as the patrons looked for ways to escape. In all, twenty-three people died on the floor of the cafeteria, and twenty-seven more were injured.

Suzanna eventually escaped from the killing field. Her parents did not.

Shot in the chest, Suzanna’s father fell in the aisle of the restaurant. Her mother crawled out of her hiding place to be with her husband of nearly fifty years during his last moments. She died kneeling in the open,  cradling her husband’s head in her lap.

There may be many lessons we could learn from this personal story. Suzanna Gratia (later Suzanna Gratia Hupp) told her story to the national media, testified before Congress and several state legislatures, and served more than ten years in the Texas Legislature. She chose to focus on changing the laws to allow more good people to have the opportunity to fight back against violent attackers. That’s one lesson we could learn here and it’s one she’s given a big part of her life to teaching.

But there’s another lesson here, one that’s not about the law. It’s about the choices we make.

How many times have we — people who already have the legal right to carry — rationalized leaving the gun behind and not carrying it? It’s too heavy, it’s too awkward, it’s too much trouble, it’s going to make me look fat and unfashionable, and nothing bad ever happens around here anyway. I’m only going to eat lunch and run a few errands, maybe get my hair cut or my nails done. Not going anywhere high risk.

Among the lessons Suzanna Gratia Hupp would want us to learn from her experience, this one would be near the top of the list:

Carry your gun. It’s a lighter burden than regret.

Notes:

  1. Quote taken from the book, From Luby’s to the Legislature: One Woman’s Fight Against Gun Control, by Suzanna Gratia Hupp.
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Normalization of Deviance

Here’s something from my current writing project…

Before the students arrive, you will want to walk through the range to be sure it will meet your needs, and then get everything set up to your satisfaction. This includes checking the berms and backstops, and the entire surrounding area, for any safety issues.

It may sound a little strange that I suggest checking a range facility for safety issues. Don’t other people shoot there, and if so, haven’t they already checked it? Would the range still be in business if something about the layout were unsafe?

Maybe. Maybe not. Medical and aviation personnel share an important safety concept called the normalization of deviance, and it’s a concept that definitely applies to us in the shooting community too. Here’s how that works.

After the Challenger space shuttle destroyed itself in 1986, analysis showed that faulty O-rings in the Challenger’s solid rocket boosters failed, causing the catastrophic explosion that took seven lives. A few years later, Challenger’s sister ship, Columbia, burned up when returning from a mission in 2003. The Columbia’s heat tiles were damaged when a piece of foam insulation broke off during takeoff and struck the tiles on the wing. The damaged tiles failed during the heat of reentry and the craft burned up with the loss of all aboard.

What you may not know or not remember is this: scientists at NASA had seen both types of damage before these disasters. They had seen similar damage on previous missions that did not end in catastrophes. Earlier shuttles had sometimes had faulty O-rings, and people working at NASA knew that the problem could get worse in cold weather. Shuttles had experienced minor tile damage during take offs before, and the people in charge of the launch were used to seeing it happen. In both cases, management had slowly accepted an increasing amount of damage and risk. With each successful mission, the degree of quality was allowed to deviate downward for the simple reason that nothing terrible had happened when launch managers ignored previous warning signs.

That’s the normalization of deviance at work. Whenever we see something risky that doesn’t lead to a catastrophic result, we become more tolerant of the risk. Each time we lower a standard but nothing bad happens, we become more likely to accept that lowered standard and more open to lowering the standard again. After all, nothing bad happened last time … right? And it doesn’t just apply to NASA and space shuttles. It is a natural human tendency that shows up in nearly every system where people create and follow safety standards.

By now you may be starting to see where this is going. What does the normalization of deviance have to do with firearms instruction and range safety?

Short answer: everything.

Every time we pick up a firearm and every time we walk onto the range, we are building a record of behavioral expectations for ourselves. Every time we deviate from our established standard and nothing bad happens, we become more likely to behave the same way again in the future. “Just this once” is habit-forming. Not only that, but when we relax a safety standard because nothing bad happened last time, we become more willing to relax it even further than that next time.

For example:

  • We might allow students to handle unloaded guns in a classroom that does not have a true safe direction. We might tell ourselves that because the guns are unloaded, we don’t really need a definite backstop that would reliably stop a bullet from going through the wall to hit someone on the other side. When we do that and nothing bad happens, we enjoy the convenience and forget the risk, and become more likely to do the same thing again the next time we teach a class.

“A history of success and positive outcomes does far more to erode our standards than a single negative outcome. The longer our success, the more normalization of deviance comes in to play. Get away with doing something unsafe or substandard enough times and the unsafe and substandard become your standard.” – Steve Whitehead

  • We might not watch carefully to stop students from muzzling themselves while getting guns out of their bags at the beginning of the day. When we let students take care of their own gearing up and nothing bad happens, we’re more likely to be relaxed about how our students gear up in the next class we teach.
  • We might set up our targets in front of a backstop made of materials we aren’t quite sure of. When nothing bad happens, we’re likely to trust that berm and others like it the next time we shoot.
  • The outdoor range we use might have a dirt backstop that has eroded over time to become much lower than the original designers intended. When regular range members shoot on that bay but nothing bad happens, they’re less likely to worry about shooting toward a low backstop. As the backstop erodes, so does their concern with maintaining it.

Every action we take builds a record inside our minds that helps us decide what we will do in the future. This isn’t only true for us, but for everyone we know. And for every organization we work with and for. Like a sand castle on a windy day, human safety standards face a persistent, relentless pressure to erode. We must constantly fight this process, watching for it and rebuilding our safety standards every time we notice them beginning to slip.

More than that, we must fight this process even when others around us don’t seem to be doing the same thing. That isn’t always easy. We may find ourselves struggling to hold a line that others have apparently let go. Worse than that, even when we’ve made a strong internal commitment to resisting the forces of erosion, we may be tempted to keep our mouths shut when we spot a potential problem. When the people around us can’t see what the big deal is because they do this all the time and nobody’s had a problem with it before, it can be hard to explain our reasons for sticking to a high safety standard. That’s a tough decision to make and an uncomfortable place to live.

So why do it? We do it because we understand that not sticking to the standard can end in catastrophic pain, injury, or death. And because we don’t want to contribute to a disaster. And, most of all, we hold the line because we love our students and are committed to keeping them safe.

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For Instructors – a wake up call

A few things to learn from a medical emergency on the range as reported <here>. According to eyewitnesses, at an action pistol match, one person was pasting targets in one bay while another person was shooting a stage in the next bay over. One of the shooter’s rounds apparently ricocheted (or traveled directly through) a crack in the concrete barriers separating the two bays, striking the taper in the chest.

The linked article has more to say, but — in part because of my current writing project which is a book for instructors — I’m thinking about instructors today. What do instructors need to learn from incidents like this?

1) Safety is not “everyone’s job.” It is the job of each one of us, individually. This means sometimes we will need to speak up … individually.

In my travels, I have at (rare) times declined to teach a class on particular ranges or bays when I did not like the setup. In nearly every case, someone said to me, “Kathy, I don’t understand. Why are you making such a big deal out of this? People shoot on this range all the time, and nobody else has had a problem with it.” The implication being that I was being snooty, difficult to work with, arrogant, or a combination of all three. In every case, my answer was the same: I’m not responsible for what other people do on ranges they control, but in my classes, I am responsible, 100%, for what happens on my range and to my students.

That’s not an easy line to hold, but the alternative is to “let” things like this happen on our watch. I’m willing to bet that at least a one or two of the shooters at this match did not much like the stage setup when they first saw it — but then were too shy or too intimidated to speak up. Or didn’t know who to talk to about it. Or talked themselves out of saying anything because nobody else seemed to see anything wrong.

Now one guy has a bullet in his chest. That’s not okay.

We have to be confident and stand up for safety. When we see something that’s not as safe as it reasonably could be, we have to be brave enough to step up and change it. Even if other people have shot in that bay before and “didn’t have a problem with it.”

2) Part of being a good instructor is learning how to ‘read’ a range for safety.

I’m not an architect or a range designer, but part of being a good instructor is learning how to ‘read’ a range. Are the berms high enough for your planned activities? Will they still be high enough when the angles change? Are the berms in good condition? Are there any gaps or low spots? What will you do about them?

It’s not enough to spot trouble. We need to know what to do about when we see it. Usually it’s just a simple matter of moving the shooters around, or changing the angles some other way. Sometimes it will take some serious thinking and maybe it will take a significant change to the planned curriculum. But in no case is it okay to spot a problem and then shrug it off as Too Much Trouble to fix.

3) IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO SIMPLY OWN A MEDKIT.

Sorry for shouting, but this is hugely important. A medical kit is about as useless as tits on a bull unless there’s someone there who knows how to use it. That someone should be you — even if you always poll your students and find out who has appropriate medical training so you can assign the task to the person with the highest level of training, there will be times when you find out that you are that person. That nobody else knows even as much as you do. That you’re the one in the hot seat.

If your medical knowledge was the only medical knowledge immediately available when one of your students got shot in the chest, would you know what to do? Would you be able to do it?

If you have not had recent, relevant, repeated training in what to do for a gunshot wound, get thee to a class!

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Be a bad witness, part 2

There’s something else that I’m seeing on the bystander’s Love Field shooting video that I shared with you yesterday, and on the more graphic one the police released, which is embedded below. There are (at least) four different types of people we can see on both videos.

1) The people who see the danger, realize it’s a danger, and leave immediately without being told. The lady with the big orange purse in the center of the screen at the beginning of the video is one of those. So is the woman in the bright turquoise shirt who abandoned the black&white flower suitcase near the kiosk. I suspect there were more of these people who left when the dude first started yelling and throwing things, but of course they weren’t caught on video.

2) The people who plainly realize that danger exists — that they, personally, can get hurt or killed here — but who are still driven to watch and/or record what’s happening. The saddest example of these would be the guy cowering in the corner saying, “Oh my God oh my God” over and over again — who *still* has to keep poking his head around the corner to see what’s going on. He can’t quite bring himself to leave the area because he wants to know what’s happening, but he clearly knows it’s dangerous to stay where he is. (I think the guy who recorded this video is one of those; that’s why we see the camera jolt when the first shots are fired, but he goes back anyway.)

3) The people who don’t even realize that they, personally, could get hurt, and who have no place in their heads for danger or violence that could happen to them. Some of these people were holding cameras, but more of them were just … walking. Casually. Curiously. to find out what the noise is all about. Whatever they were feeling, it wasn’t fear of being injured or killed (though some of them glance around like they’re worried that someone else will tell them to stop). The guy wearing the blue shirt and blue jeans, and the guy in the yellow shirt with the papers in his hand, are clear examples of this.

4) The people who clearly see that the situation is dangerous to them personally, but who are “trapped” into staying there and don’t know how to effectively take cover. The guy by the left rear corner of the car bumper would be one example of this; he knows to put a car between himself and danger, but doesn’t know enough to duck. Or, on the police video, the woman inside the dark car on the right — it took her a _very_ long time to decide that she was in danger, and then all she could think to do was close the door to her car while she remained in the line of fire.

There were also a lot of people who were “trapped” into staying because of their belongings — like the guy you see in the doorway on the right, with his suitcase in the middle of the walkway. He “can’t” leave, because his suitcase is there. When the cop finally gets to him and tells him to get out of there, he steps into the maximum danger zone to retrieve his suitcase before he finally leaves.

Lots of different ways people can fail to protect themselves. So … here’s what I suggest for the take aways here.

1) Accept that danger can happen. To you. Today. Before the sun goes down, you might need to protect yourself from a violent crime.

2) Accept that you won’t necessarily ever know the end of the story. Decide now that it’s okay if you mistakenly leave a situation that you feel is escalating toward danger, but that it *isn’t* okay if you mistakenly stay.

3) Accept that you may have to abandon belongings in order to get yourself to safety, and

4) Learn how to effectively get behind cover in situations where you truly cannot leave.

 

 

Stay safe!

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Be a bad witness, or Curiosity killed the cat

Many years ago, my husband and I were at a mall when something happened. As we walked along the upper level, we heard shouting from down below. Looking over the railing, we saw two mall security guards and five or six law enforcement officers with rifles running, flat out, toward the other end of the mall on the lower level.

Bob and I looked at each other and without a word, we turned around and started moving — rapidly —  toward the exit, which was the opposite direction from the way the men with guns were moving.

When we turned around to head toward the exit, we saw something fascinating: there was a huge crowd of people following those guys who were clearly headed toward danger. The crowd was happy, enthralled, even enthusiastic. More than a few of them were towing their children along, “Hurry up, kids…”

People wanted to know what was going on. They wanted to know what was about to happen. They wanted to SEE WHAT WAS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

To this day, I have no idea what happened in that mall. Whatever it was, it either never made the paper or we just missed seeing the report when we looked for it later.

But I know what didn’t happen: we did not get shot. We did not distract the people trying to solve the problem. We did not add to the chaos and confusion.

We simply left … efficiently.

Something I saw today brought that memory back to my mind with sharp focus. Watch, and you’ll see what I mean.

 

So, lessons from the headlines in the form of some questions.

1) How many people thought it was more important to capture the event on video than it was to get to safety?

2) How many people moved toward danger rather than away from it, without being fully committed to solving (or helping solve) the problem when they got there?

3) How many people were willing to abandon their luggage in order to get to safety?

4) How many people put themselves in danger or otherwise demanded the attention of the people working to solve the problem?

“Be a good witness” is lousy advice. We should instead be telling people to pay attention to what’s around them as they leave the area and head for safety.

We have to be okay, not knowing the end of the story. Sometimes, that’s what it takes to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe.

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Lessons from the Headlines: Abduction Attempt

In Florida a few days ago, a young teenager was shopping at a dollar store with her mom when this happened.

 

 

That’s an abduction attempt. Broad daylight, as far as I can tell. Not an empty back alleyway in the middle of the night. Just inside a dollar store in Florida, with other people around.

Stranger tries to grab a 13 year old and drag her out of the store. The girl’s mom reacts quickly and fights back, eventually throwing her own body on top of her daughter to thwart the assailant, who fled for the exit.

The fleeing criminal was stopped by a good guy with a gun. An off duty cop happened to be pulling up outside the store. He blocked the assailant’s car in the parking lot and held the assailant at gun point until law enforcement arrived to arrest the guy and take him into custody.

Several people have asked me what I thought the mother “should have” done. My answer: exactly what she did! She used the tools and skills she had available to her, without any hesitation at all. Her immediate and full commitment to action almost certainly saved her daughter’s life.

Legal questions

Others have asked a different question: if one of us were in the same situation, would it be legal to shoot the attacker? Is it legal to shoot an assailant who’s trying to kidnap your child, and who appears to be succeeding? Let’s look at that.

In this case, I think we could easily articulate ability, opportunity, jeopardy — which are three elements that must be present for a use of deadly force to be legally justified throughout the United States. (Various courts use different words to approach the same concepts; however, the concepts themselves are a constant.)

Quick overview:

1 – ABILITY. Ability answers the question, “Does the attacker have the power to kill or cripple the person he/she is attacking?” In this case, the answer would be a definite *YES*, because an adult male has the power to kill or cripple a young teenage girl, whether or not he has a weapon in his hand. He could (and does) easily overpower her.

2 – OPPORTUNITY. Opportunity answers the question, “Do the circumstances allow the attacker to use his/her ability against the intended victim?” In this case, again, that’s a definite *YES,* because he is physically close enough to overpower her and has already done so. As he drags her out of the store, she has no way to save herself from what’s happening to her.

3 – JEOPARDY. Jeopardy answers the question, “Would a reasonable person look at the complete situation and conclude that the attacker intended to use his/her ability and take the opportunity to kill or cripple the person being attacked?” Again, that’s a *YES,* because nobody in their right mind can watch this video without having chills run up and down their spine for what was clearly about to happen. Anyone think he was just grabbing the girl so he could take her to an ice cream store and make her happy?

At this point, it’s likely that some folks reading this are thinking, “Wait… those are the answers from the 13-year-old girl’s perspective. But would the mom (or other bystanders) be legally  justified in shooting the assailant?”

That’s almost certainly a *YES*, too. That’s because the person being attacked would easily be justified in using deadly force to save her own life, which means in most (not all) US jurisdictions, every bystander who saw what was happening would -also- be justified in using deadly force to save the little girl’s life. There are potential nuances we could discuss, but I can’t see any of those nuances making a problem here.

Practical questions

Note that none of this talks about the physical difficulty of accessing your gun and using it while you are on the ground, fighting with an assailant and trying hard to hang onto your child at the same time.

  • If you carry in your purse: would you be able to get your gun out of your purse in this situation? Probably not. Especially not if you make a habit of setting it in the cart as you shop. Even if you had the purse attached to your body, that’s a very complex situation and it’s very likely everything would be too tangled for accessing the gun.
  • If you carry on-body: would you be able to get your gun out of the holster during this violent and chaotic situation? Maybe not. Especially if you prefer to carry in a soft, squishy holster under several layers of clothes, or if you use one that has a complex retention strap.

This is one reason I strongly recommend learning to draw the gun under the watchful eye of a good instructor. More than that, I also recommend taking the kind of classes where you can learn how to draw the gun when everything isn’t calm and squared away in advance. That’s also why I offer the Against the Odds class, where people can learn to get to their guns under adverse conditions, and begin to understand different ways they can protect themselves when they aren’t standing calmly 7 yards away from a target that doesn’t move.

Regardless of how you carry: have you practiced any kind of close quarters engagement, either with empty hands or with dummy guns? Even though there are many opportunities we can spot on the video where one of us might have been able to shoot if we were the mom in this situation, seeing those opportunities from the outside is a different thing than feeling or seeing them from the inside.

Not only that, but it wouldn’t be an easy shot even though it’s so close that we’re tempted to think marksmanship wouldn’t be an issue. Because everything happens so fast and everyone is moving so much, there’s a strong possibility that a gunshot would hit either the daughter or one of the other customers.

Best bet would probably be to jam the gun into the assailant for a contact shot, though even with that there’s still a significant danger of the round going through the assailant to hit the daughter or someone else. So you’d still need to be very aware of your angles and everything else. And many people who haven’t practiced this type of skill will unintentionally create a malfunction by shoving the gun too aggressively into the assailant. (This can knock the slide out of battery and stop the gun from firing.) It’s doable, but again, it’s a skill that must be taught and practiced.

Taken away and used against you? That’s one of my least-favorite phrases, but I think here it could be a valid concern. Would you, with the skills you have right now, really be able to hold onto your gun in this situation if you couldn’t shoot immediately, while being in close contact with a determined assailant? What have you done to acquire or test those skills?

Bottom line

The mom in this case did the right thing and saved her daughter’s life with the tools she had — her own empty hands.

The assailant was stopped and eventually arrested because a bystander had a gun and was willing to act in defense of others.

We can use incidents like these that are caught on video, not to second-guess the people who were there, but to prepare our own minds to do what it takes to protect ourselves and the people we love. As always, there are many lessons we can learn from incidents that happen to others — once we know how to watch a crime video.

Stay safe.

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Designations

Q: How many legs would this kitty cat have if we called the tail a leg?

How many legs would this cat have if we called his tail a leg?

 A: Four. Calling the tail a leg does not make it a leg.

What does this have to do with Cornered Cat’s usual subjects, you ask? Simple — I keep running across instructors and would-be instructors who think calling a classroom wall a “safe direction” will actually make it a safe direction.

ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” — NRA training materials.

A “safe direction” is one that will reliably stop a bullet from the most powerful cartridge that will feed into the gun you’re handling.

Most interior and exterior walls in modern buildings won’t do that. This means they are not safe directions for purposes of dry fire or gun handling.

Does this mean guns should never be handled inside a classroom? Not at all! Any teaching environment can be made safe with some forethought. A big cardboard box full of books and papers makes a fine backstop and costs almost nothing, for example. It just takes some creativity — and a stubborn commitment to keeping students safe — to figure out how to make safety protocols work in different settings.

Unfortunately, too many people are not willing to do that work. They get complacent, or handle the problem with a shrug: “Well, it’s difficult to find a true safe direction, so we’ll just pretend that wall will be okay. That’s good enough for me. No ammo in the classroom anyway, so…”
 
This tears down the safety rules at the very place where we should be most careful about instilling them. It breeds complacency where we should be building caution and respect. It stops people from thinking clearly at the level where people actually live with the gun, and it wordlessly tells them they should only follow good gun handling rules as long as it’s easy to do so. It models the kind of thinking that says it’s too hard to find practical ways to stay safe in everyday settings. It leads people to only pretend to follow critical safety protocols that are intended to stop them from unintentionally killing other people.

Stay safe. Keep your people safe. Never ‘designate’ a safe direction in a firearms classroom. Find a true safe direction or make one.

Don’t call that tail a leg.  😉

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