I keep a running list of blog-post titles and ideas. Some of them are long enough they’re practically posts already and just need to be polished and thrown up there when the time is right. Some are brief and cryptic.
Here’s one that’s been on my to-do list for awhile: Permission. Giving yourself the power to act, to defend your life, to do whatever it takes to survive. Sometimes we want this power to come from outside ourselves, but ultimately it’s something that comes from inside. To be fully prepared to protect yourself from violence means that you must be prepared to act — no matter who has or hasn’t spoken to you about it, and no matter who says otherwise.
This idea jumped up and bit me when I listened to a 911 call last year, the call from the Sarah McKinley case. You may remember this event. McKinley is the young mom and widow who used a shotgun to defend herself and her baby when a violent intruder broke into her home. Here’s part of the transcript from her call to the Grady County emergency line.
DISPATCHER: What’s going on?
SARAH MCKINLEY: There’s a guy at my door. I’ve got some dogs that keep coming up missing. This guy’s up to no good. My husband just passed away. I’m here by myself with my infant baby. Can I please get a dispatch out here immediately?
DISPATCHER: Hang with me a second. Are your doors locked?
SARAH MCKINLEY: Yes, I’ve got two guns in my hands. Is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?
DISPATCHER: Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself. I can’t tell you that you can do that, but you do what you have to do to protect your baby.
Did you see what just happened? McKinley asked someone else for permission to defend her life. It’s not uncommon for crime victims to ask for that permission, but it’s somewhat unusual for them to receive it from a 911 dispatcher. More often, the dispatcher tells the frightened victim not to shoot, tells them to put down their firearms, tells them to just be patient because police are on the way.
Even when they aren’t.
There’s another aspect of this, too. When I’m teaching a class for people who are new to defensive firearms, a student will sometimes ask a series of increasingly unlikely scenario-based questions. To an outsider, these questions might seem really contrived and almost bloodthirsty. For a long time I wondered what was up with these weird, unlikely stories people were asking me about. I don’t wonder any more, because I finally figured out that it had very little to do with the specific situations they invented. Instead, at some deep level, these students just needed to hear someone else say, “It’s okay to defend yourself.” They needed permission.
Rory Miller once addressed this issue in a brilliant post on his blog. He wrote:
You have permission to defend yourself.
You have permission to be rude.
You have permission to survive, no matter what it takes.
You have permission to act when the scary man reaches for his belt. You do not need to wait until he draws the weapon or until he points it at you or until he hurts you.
You have permission to act.
You have blanket permission to grow and live and survive and fight and run and scream and talk and play and learn and experiment.
You have permission to win, and you have permission to decide what winning is.
Your life is worth defending, and you have permission to defend it.