The Cornered Cat

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.



9 Responses to Permission

  1. LilChantilly says:

    What a great post, I remember when the Sarah McKinley story happened. For some reason that one story made me believe it really could happen to me. (Even though I already loved guns, I already practiced, I already planned to shoot to kill if someone entered my home.) Her story really hit me, maybe it is because I had a very young son at the time.

    I remember hearing the 911 call and taking God that the 911 caller “gave her permission”. I hope she would have shot with or without it – but she may have hesitated less with the added encouragement. Thanks for reminding the ladies out there – “You have permission!”


  2. tiny-savage says:

    Thank you people need to hear this now more than ever I know me and my wife have already made that decision. And the Pink color don’t bother me in the least and Thank You for a great site already learned something from your articles. God Bless

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  4. Piperpony says:

    I just watched a Dr Phil YouTube video of the show with this young lady. It was so sad.
    This past Dec 26 I had a situation where I felt threatened and helpless.
    After most of my life fearing guns I had to re-evaluate my irrational fears. Now I am in the process of reading everything I can. Joined AG & AG, signed up for a CC class coming up. Found your site and your fb page. Even entered the A Girl & Her Gun contest. I REALLY hope I win :). I really want to do this but also fight the fear of the, “What if’s”. Having a gun causes someone to get hurt someday. I know that is irrational thinking and know I have to get as must training as I can but I still fight the fear.

  5. piraticalbob says:

    I don’t think it’s permission that they want, per se. I think what they really want is reassurance that they won’t be arrested and prosecuted for self-defense. A 911 dispatcher legally can’t give that sort of reassurance, because its the prerogative of the district attorney. The self-defense laws vary so much these days that it isn’t always clear what’s permissible and what’s not without professional instruction/classes.

    • larryarnold says:

      I have to disagree.

      I just finished a CHL class with several women in it. They included two military veterans, a retired junior high principal, a ranch owner, and a former oilfield worker. Not what I would consider a frilly crowd.

      During class I discussed use of force and “stop or I’ll shoot” situations, including demonstrating loud, clear commands.

      Yet when I set up a scenario where the ranch wife had to confront someone advancing on her with a baseball bat, I got a polite, “Uh, stop. Or I’ll…shoot.”

      “Remember,” I said. “This is not lady time. This is bitch time.”

      She looked at the other women. “Oh, yeah. And we have that in us, don’t we.”

      They all nodded. After that, well Kathy would be proud of them.

      The hesitation is social, not legal.

      • Kathy Jackson says:

        I think you’re both right.

        The post is specifically about social permission, because that’s what was on my mind. But some people do hang up on legal permission, too.

        You can fix the legal problem with education. Here’s one good place to start: What Every Gun Owner Needs to Know About Self Defense Law

        But the social permission thing is a little more tricky, and simple education doesn’t fix it. It helps to know there are others out there, like you, who believe you have the right to defend yourself. It helps to know there are people like me who are cheering you on. But ultimately? You have to give yourself permission. There is no other way.

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