The Cornered Cat
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Too many funerals

Over on Gun Culture 2.0, social scientist David Yamane had an unpleasant interaction with a colleague on Twitter. That colleague shut down their conversation in an emotional way, saying that he’d been to “too many funerals.” Prof. Yamane asks an important question:

“… people being unwilling and unable to hear in times of distress raises a problem for me as an empirical social scientist. My trained approach to understanding the world is through systematically gathered data. But if you approach the issue from that perspective at a time when people are grieving and aggrieved, you run the risk of being seen as ‘deflecting’ the issue or, worse, as not sympathetic to the victims of the horrific crime.

“So, what is an empirical social scientist to do?”

Go read the whole thing; it’s a good read and there are already some good comments on there.

Here was my response:

Start by getting on the same emotional page as the person you’re talking to. Get in phase with them. Find, and point out, common emotional ground. (This can be incredibly tough when talking with people who think all gun owners are monsters who should be killed. Too many of those this week…)

Point out the most important common ground: we all want safer families and communities. We all care about the security of our nation’s schools. We all care about keeping our children safe from harm.

We only disagree about how to do that most effectively.

Too often the debate has been framed — by all sides of the culture wars — as a fight between “civil liberties” vs “protecting the children.”

But it’s not.

Vandalized billboard in Kentucky, urging people to “Kill the NRA.”

As a gun owner, I am tired of receiving death threats. Really am. During every noisy public news cycle like this, I receive death threats from fanatical anti-gun people. They threaten to come find me and kill my children in front of me. They announce that they hope someone shoots me with my own guns — often in lurid and bloody terms. And they don’t just go after me, personally. They put up billboards that say “Kill the NRA” and they go on national TV to say things like, “Maybe it’s time we pull guns from their cold, dead hands”. They send poison pen letters to my friends and threaten to ‘out’ them so they lose their jobs and their livelihoods. And they react with glee whenever a gun owner accidentally shoots themselves.

Why do I and my friends get death threats from fanatics during every news cycle like this?

It is because of the horrible, horrible lie that people tell each other: gun owners don’t care about dead children. Gun owners don’t understand how we feel, how we’re grieving, how we hurt, how scary this is …

As if we, too, are not human.

As if we, too, do not long for safer communities.

As if we, too, do not hug our children a little harder and hold our loved ones a little tighter when something terrible happens on the news.

Too many people assume that all it would take to get people to agree on stuff like this would be to get everyone feeling the same way about violent child-murder.

As if we don’t already.

So start there. Put the frame on finding ways to protect children and save lives. And keep dragging it back there every time it drifts. That calm and rational approach with all the statistics isn’t at all cold-hearted, and don’t make it so. It is the most warmly human reaction of all: an attempt to understand the problem so that we can find better ways to protect our families and communities.

Because we have all been to too many damn funerals.

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Resources for Conversations with Anti-Gun Friends

As a rule, I don’t particularly enjoy talking about gun politics. It’s one of the (many!) reasons I’ve generally steered away from the subject on this blog. There have been some exceptions, of course, because sometimes it’s just about unavoidable. And as I explained some time ago, during a similar noisy period in American gun political conversations:

“Cornered Cat is about women learning how to defend themselves. Period, full stop.

“Sometimes that means I must mention the political scene, because when a law is passed that makes it harder for women to defend themselves, that hurts all of us. This doesn’t just apply to ‘you can’t own this type of gun anymore’ laws, either. It also applies to laws that affect your legal situation before or after you shoot, and to laws that tell you where you can or can’t carry. All of these laws have a very strong impact on your ability to protect yourself, and that means you need to know about them.”

Not only this, but many of my readers are relatively new gun owners or people who work with new gun owners. And most people new to guns simply don’t realize how often we-in-the-gun-owning-community have had these conversations in the past. Or how very quickly things can change.

Anyway. Resources.

Dealing with Social Bullies. Trying to figure out what to do about a friend or acquaintance saying rude things to you on social media? Read this first.

It’s About Love. This might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. It was certainly one of the hardest. And it’s maybe the most important thing to say to an anti-gun friend while emotions are running high after an ugly news story.

The Longest and Most Thorough Pro-Gun Article Ever. This “Opinion on Gun Control, Repost” was written by my friend Larry Correia. Larry has authored many bestselling books. He also happens to be somewhat of an expert on firearms topics. Not only has he been an avid shooter, firearms instructor, and competitor in years past, he also owned a gun store in Utah that was licensed to sell NFA items. What I’m saying is, he knows what he’s talking about. The article is very long and very thorough. It pretty much addresses every one of the objections the anti-rights people have brought up over the years, and discusses them with very calm logic. The post isn’t at all rant-like and there’s nothing in it your maiden aunt couldn’t read. I’d suggest reading it, linking it if you’re so inclined, and keeping it in your bookmarks as reference material — it is that good.

Why You Need to Know How Your Gun Works. This post (another one of my own) explains why and how you need to know how your gun functions mechanically — and how that can help you have usefully productive conversations with your friends about gun laws.

Why Not Renew the Assault Weapons Ban?  This older blog post, written by a political leftist for other leftists, provides a very fair and very clear argument against renewing the expired assault weapons ban. It explains what various gun features are and how they work, and also explains why progressives should not encourage this type of legislation. And it’s relevant again today, because what goes around comes around again.

13 Charts to Put America’s Gun Issues in Perspective. Nicely visual information from 2016. Worth keeping on hand when you need a quick and easy to understand chart.

I Used to Think Gun Control Was the Answer: My Research Told Me Otherwise. This one is a news/opinion piece from a person who thinks of herself as being anti-gun. It’s useful because she suggests some very narrowly-tailored changes that will likely help, and it’s also useful because it’s a quick tour of the things that have been repeatedly proven not to help. Handy information to keep around.

6 Reasons Your Right-Wing Friend Isn’t Coming To Your Side On Gun Control. This one is useful because it’s a good bulleted list of some factors you may need to explain to your friend — or that, if you’re new to the gun-politics conversation, that you may not yet have considered.

Finally, there’s one more resource I’d suggest. This one isn’t about conversations. It’s about doing one practical thing to help protect your ability to use modern tools in self-defense. It’s this:

 SAF (Second Amendment Foundation). SAF does an amazing job fighting for our rights in the courts. They are very strictly non-partisan and non-political. They focus only on protecting 2nd Amendment rights. That means they’re doing work that all gun owners can get behind, no matter what other political beliefs they hold. They don’t endorse political candidates and don’t generally get involved in elections. Instead, they work through the court system to clarify and expand freedom that way.

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A love-filled rant

Yesterday, I came across something Caleb Causey said, and want to share it with you. Please read this heartfelt (and heartbroken) rant, and think about it. Then act.

Caleb’s rant comes from a place of love and care. And to the extent that it sounds angry and frustrated, that’s just how deep the love and care really go.

All of us who have worked in the personal-protection training field have felt this way from time to time. Not because we’re trying to get your hard earned dollars (go train with someone else; I’ve quit, so don’t try that one on me). We get upset because it *HURTS* to watch people who could protect themselves, who could help keep themselves or someone they love alive, who could have the knowledge and skills to deal capably with a terrible event … choose instead to not get that training, not get that knowledge, not seek out those skills. To stay powerless and ineffective.

It *HURTS* to watch people die unnecessarily, when just a little knowledge and skill on scene could maybe have kept them alive. And it hurts even more to watch people feel helpless when they don’t have to be.

So yeah, the words below are a rant. But it tells some deep truths.

Anyway, here’s what Caleb said:

Hey look!!! “Something you can do!”

Going all King Kong here because I’m angry. And before anyone accuses me of “profiteering” during a crisis… I’ve had this course scheduled since the end of November on my website. I’ve been offering these types of classes since 2009.

I’m absolutely disgusted by anyone saying “What could anyone do?” or “Somebody should do something.” or “There was nothing anyone could have done.” BULLSHIT! Stop thinking that it is someone else’s responsibility to do something. Take responsibility for your own life. Take responsibility for your kid’s life. Take responsibility for the children in your classroom or in your school. Obviously expecting someone else to “do something” ain’t working out for anyone during these active killer events. So stop expecting someone else or some law to do something. Take responsibility!

One option is to learn CPR/AED. Learn how to identify and treat immediate life-threatening injuries. Start carrying some real medical equipment on your person, in your purse, at your desk, in your classroom, in your car, at home, at the gym, or anywhere you spend any amount of time. Why? Because it is impossible to determine when, where, or how many injuries will happen. Mindset and education should be a priority so that you know how to use those tools efficiently.
STOP EXPECTING SOMEONE ELSE TO DO SOMETHING!
YOU need to do something!

I don’t care if you take my courses or some of my colleagues’ courses; just get educated in modern trauma management at the basic level.

There is even a nation-wide FREE course coming up at the end of March you could take. There will literally be free classes all across the US that you can sign up for.

Here’s a link to the class from Lone Star Medics that’s coming up in just a couple of weeks: Lone Star Medics class

And here’s the information about the FREE nationwide “Stop the Bleed” events: Stop the Bleed Day

Stay safe. Take care of the people you love.

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Emotion motivation

A lot of people, when they look at a scenario that they see described online, react emotionally to that description. They then announce what they “would have done” if it happened to them. And that response is almost always based on the way they feel at the moment they read or see the scenario. I feel [angry, upset, disgusted] right now as I read this story, therefore I would do X if that were happening to me. Take a look at the comments section of any news story that involves pedophilia, for example, and you’ll see what I mean. The “I would have …” reactions to such stories are not often very realistic. But they do express deep emotional truths.

What people often miss is that inside the criminal event as it is actively unfolding, they won’t feel the same way they feel right now. Right now they feel un-threatened but also angry. Right now they know how the story ends. Right now they are alone, in social isolation. But in the actual moment, they may feel confused, or embarrassed, or uncertain, or frightened. They will certainly feel some type of social pressure, whether to respond more strongly or not to respond at all. Anger leads to one action, fear to a different one, confusion and embarrassment to other actions. And social pressure is both real and powerful.

But even though emotions are powerful motivators to act, they are poor at helping us decide which actions to take. That is a job for the calm, reasoning mind.

And this is why, when a scenario that you see online or read or hear about gets you emotionally stirred up, it is important to take note of how you feel as you think about those events. Then take time to think about what other emotions you might realistically feel in the heat of the moment. Think about the sounds, sights, smells of the event. Think about the confusion at the beginning of the event. Think about the other people who could be around (children, spouse, co-worker, boss, stranger, pastor or mentor, friend who hates guns or fears violence, friend who also carries …). Will other people help you respond appropriately, or push you into an extreme reaction that’s maybe not justified? Will the presence of other people maybe stop you from reacting at all? (What will the neighbors think? What will my my children see me doing here?) Explore all the emotions these questions might stir up. Pay attention to them. Think about the social pressures you might face and think deeply about the effects they might have on your motivation to act.

But then also set those emotions aside and think as calmly and as reasonably as you can about what would be the smart and legal action to take inside that scenario. Given the emotions you yourself are likely to feel in a similar situation to this one, what are you realistically able and willing to do? Does what you reasonably believe you are likely to do match up with what you believe you should do? If not, what would it take to move yourself into a stronger position of response?

Emotions will always be there, and they are an important component of how people respond under pressure, but they are poor guides to good judgment.

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Safe Space

At first glance, this long-ish post will seem to be a little unrelated to my usual topics. But it does apply in many different ways, since self-defense and self-care and conflict resolution are all very closely linked. And since anyone who owns a gun and carries one in public for personal protection might sometimes need to come to grips with the effect our choices have on others. Do the people around us have a “right” to feel comfortable with our choices? Do we have a moral obligation to limit our choices to only those that help others feel comfortable? These are some bedrock issues in many ways.

So I’ve been ruminating on this one for awhile. Forgive me, but I’m going to indulge in a somewhat extended analogy as a way of exploring some issues. If you have a hard time transporting a logic chain from one domain to another, you may not enjoy this. Or you may enjoy it, but miss the point. For that you have my sympathy. Nevertheless, here it is.

Some time back, I came across a blog post written by a woman in the early stages of recovery from alcoholism. In that post, she told the story of a planned get-together among a group of casual friends who knew each other primarily through their shared volunteer work. One of the women invited the others to come to her home for a mid-morning, midweek social event that the blogger was really looking forward to attending.

But…

In the midst of the flurry of group emails planning the event, one woman offered to bring Prosecco. Cue angst and a bit of anger from our blogger. She writes, “The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. Day drinking while the kids are at school. I can’t go there. It’s not that I’m nervous I might relapse. I know I won’t. I just can’t go hang out at someone’s house where there is alcohol being consumed at that hour and I won’t be able to enjoy myself … I have made a very conscious decision to limit my exposure to mommy drinking. It’s not that I can’t go; it’s that I don’t want to go. I don’t want to force a smile and fake my way through what will be extreme torture for me.”

In short, this newly-recovered alcoholic wants a safe space, where she can – if only for a short while – enjoy the pleasures of socializing and getting to know new people without the stress of being pressured to drink. Or having to explain why she’s not drinking. (This is, apparently, a non-trivial undertaking in some circles.) She adds: “I feel so defeated. Less than. And, I have never cried so hard or been so physically ill over something that doesn’t involve death or a broken heart.”

Thought Experiment

Now for a thought experiment. Just, you know, to try some ideas on for size.

Let us pretend for a moment that among this same group of friendly acquaintances, there is another woman who sometimes feels panic-sized levels of discomfort during social events. Stipulate that she has had poor luck with most prescribed relaxants, but has discovered that a glass of wine helps her calm down to the point where she no longer has to force a smile and fake her way through a social occasion that would otherwise be extreme torture for her.

She, too, desires a safe space where she can – if only for a short while – enjoy the pleasures of socializing and getting to know people in an environment where she will not feel pressured to be someone she’s not. She, too, feels stressed and unhappy when she thinks about the social pressures others might bring to bear to stop her from doing what she needs to do for her own mental health at that time and in that place. And she, too, feels like weeping – but instead of weeping at the stress of being surrounded by drinkers and feeling pressured to drink, she feels like weeping as she thinks about how hard it would be to be the only one drinking or about having to deal with the group without a glass of wine in hand.

With me so far?

Either one of these women, the real one and the one we just imagined together, might have friends willing and able to accommodate her need for a safe space on this issue. But both of them together… well, let’s just say that it would be difficult for them to share a space without a lot of goodwill and care on both sides, because the conflict is binary: either there is, or is not, drinking at the event. One or the other of them would have to give up her own need in order to accommodate the other’s need.

The space would be “safe” (read: comfortable, with an alternative of truly extreme discomfort) for one of them, but not both of them.

Extend the Idea

We can extend this idea to any number of other conflicts that are binary in nature: one person wants to relax with a cigar, another wants to breathe in a smoke-free environment. One couple wants to teach their children how to dine in an exclusive, fancy restaurant; another wants to enjoy a rare evening blessedly free from the sights, sounds, and smells of small children. One woman wants to relax among her friends without worrying about her choice of words; another finds the sounds of F*** and P**** and D*** and similar words highly offensive and wearying, and wants to enjoy a visit without hearing those words – and without having to explain them to her young child. One person wants to bring his abuela’s favorite recipe to a get-together, and another cannot stand spicy foods or is allergic to a key ingredient.

A little help for the analogy-impaired: sometimes, people get really wrapped around the axle about whether a firearm is – or is not – present in any given place. Shall we allow firearms here, or forbid them there? Sometimes this gets tangled up with “open carry” vs “concealed carry” vs who owns the property vs human rights that apply everywhere a person goes vs all sorts of other things. In every case, when you think about it, one person’s comfort often comes at the cost of another person’s freedom.

Do you find your sympathies naturally shifting alignment as the subject shifts? It would be unusual if you didn’t. Human nature at work there.

The way it used to be

I can vaguely remember this, from early childhood …

it used to be…

… that in cases where the wishes (or outright needs) of one person in a social group seemed to conflict with the wishes (or outright needs) of another, the people around both of them would voluntarily work to reduce the binary nature of the conflict – making it less either/or wherever possible. And this was normal, not forced by law.

For instance, a business owner might offer separate seating arrangements for people who did, and did not, wish to smoke. Or, even even more commonly, the smoker might say to the people around him, “Do you mind if I smoke?” and (here’s the kicker) it would be an actual question. Maybe a restaurant owner would invite families with young children to dine earlier in the evening, reserving the later hours for couples who wished to dine in an environment that did not include sobbing toddlers. People with different dietary tastes and needs created the idea of a group potluck, which often included an elaborate system of etiquette wherein everyone in the group pretended not to notice that the only person who ate Aunt Jane’s fruitcake was Jane’s husband (who under that same system of etiquette, didn’t dare not). Even the woman with the potty mouth would restrain herself in certain environments, and among certain people.

This didn’t always work as perfectly as everyone might wish. But as long as there was some effort on all sides, and some goodwill, that ad hoc system of gentle accommodation worked well enough for most people, most of the time.

But now?

Now we want a huge number of things to be regulated by force of law. And by golly, if there’s not a LAW forcing us to do (or not do) a thing, well, screw you for asking us to voluntarily restrain ourselves in any way. How DARE you?!

So there’s that.

Social Pressure and Law

Now let’s add another layer of complexity. Back to our first two women, the blogger who wants to enjoy an alcohol-free social event at 9:30 in the morning on a weekday, and our imaginary sociophobe who needs a glass of wine to counter her social anxiety in the same setting.

What shall we do about them, when they show up in our own social circles?

Shall we go on social media, and shame the alcoholic for being an uptight, controlling prude?

Or shame the sociophobe for her self-medication with an intoxicant?

Shall we lobby for, and pass, a law that forbids any social daytime gathering that includes alcohol?

Or should we pass a law that forbids any gathering that fails to allow alcohol?

Either of these social media interactions, and either of these laws, could be presented to others as a way to be caring and inclusive and socially just. Either of them could be considered a way to help an oppressed segment of the population.

And either of them would be equally oppressive to a different segment of the population.

Totalitarianism is comfortable … for someone.

Time to wrap this thing up. The only conclusion that I have here is that a free society includes some discomfort with the choices others make. Sometimes this discomfort will become quite severe, even disabling. And sometimes this will include choices others make that actually do affect your life in some way. It’s all very flattering for us to think of ourselves that we are super-tolerant of other people, but most of us are only tolerant as long as others’ needs do not conflict in any way with our own. As discomfort rises, tolerance declines.

We can opt to live in a totalitarian society. In a totalitarian society, everything not commanded is forbidden and everything not forbidden is commanded. The laws either forbid the things that make us uncomfortable, or require the things that we think will help us feel better. We can even choose to live in a totalitarian society without that type of law, because with cooperation from people around us, we can force our personal preferences on others just by social pressure alone.

Or we can opt to live in a free society. In a free society, people make choices and sometimes those choices cause discomfort in other people. In a free society, we will sometimes be on one end of that previous sentence, and sometimes on the other end. In a free society, we can voluntarily choose to make room for other people’s needs, but there’s no law forcing us to do that. There’s also no law forcing us not to do that. We then need to figure out our own ways through social muddles, and sometimes that’s going to be messy. Worse, in a free society, some  people will choose to be jerks about things and that means that other people will be left crying. In a free society, we can personalize how we deal with people who do that. And in a free society, we are never forced to do things we ourselves find distasteful – although we might voluntarily do just that in order to take care of those around us.

Bottom line

The cost of freedom is discomfort.

And the cost of comfort is freedom.

Choose wisely.

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“Slap his face and walk away”

Q:

“I have often wondered why the old advice of ‘Slap his face and walk away’ is no longer taught in response to an insult or a sexual slur.”

A: 

Because it’s a terribly bad idea to turn a verbal conflict into a physical one, unless you have the tools, skills, and abilities to win a physical fight.

Further, whether or not you have those skills, if you you were the one who turned it into a physical fight, then you become the initial aggressor. Which means that you will not do well in court, as the other person can then quite effectively and justifiably claim that they acted in self defense when they punched you (or worse) in response to your aggression, and the court will very likely agree with them.

 

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Blog spotlight: .357 Magnum

If you look to the right of your screen, you should see my blogroll. Lots of interesting things in there (though, sadly, I do need to update again, as all too many previously-active good bloggers have moved on to other things).

One of my faves: .357 Magnum blog.

The reason I love it: Zendo Deb, the blog’s owner, often posts short and very memorable stories from the news. Some of these are people who successfully defended themselves, while others are people who learned a hard lesson — or who can teach us one.

Recommended!

 

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A slight setback

Came home from a long day, getting ready for bed. Pulled my holstered gun off my belt and locked it into the quick-access bedside safe — yep, still in its holster. Still loaded. It’s secure, and also ready to go should I need it.

I’m not a big fan of unnecessarily unloading and reloading my carry gun.

Why not?  Because I don’t want my ammunition to suffer from setback. And because I do not want to risk killing the primer without knowing I’ve done it.

 

The round of ammunition on the left is healthy and the length it should be. The one on the right has suffered a slight setback.

The round of ammunition on the left is healthy and it is exactly the length it should be. The one on the right has suffered from setback, making it significantly shorter.

 

As you load a round of ammunition into a semi-automatic gun and then remove it from the chamber without firing, the bullet naturally tends to get pushed back slightly into its case. When this happens, the compressed powder can 1 create much higher pressures inside the chamber than the gun is designed to handle. The result can be a bit … messy. Also expensive and painful.

Loading, unloading, and reloading the same round can also cause the primer mix inside the case to get knocked out of place, a problem you won’t be able to see by looking. But the missing primer mix means the round simply will not fire when you need it.

When a self-defense gun fails to fire, the results can be catastrophic for the person who was relying on it to save their life.

What to do about this? I love this advice from Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting.

“If you simply must unload/reload daily … I strongly urge you to not re-chamber the same round more than 2-3 times, and to keep track of this to mark the round coming out of the chamber with a Sharpie so that you know how many times it’s been chambered. A tic mark on the rim of the case is easy to do, and easy to see.”

This seems to be an easy solution. Avoid unloading and reloading your gun whenever possible. But when you must, keep track of how many times you’ve done it. Simple.

Summing up:

  • Avoid loading, unloading, and reloading the same round multiple times.
  • Keep track of the number of times one round has been through the process by putting a small mark on the side of the case each time it comes out of the chamber.
  • When one round has been loaded and unloaded more than a handful of times, take it to the range and shoot it during practice. Do not continue to load and unload that round for self defense.

One round of ammunition costs around 50 cents. One new handgun costs around $500. And one life is priceless.

Stay safe.

Notes:

  1. Note the word can. This is not to say it necessarily does, in every case. There are informal but popular “research” papers that say this isn’t a big deal, on the basis of one backyard test with a hammer and no way to measure the pressure inside the round. But on the other hand there are also many, many first-hand reports of setback being a factor in exploded guns, including several that come from law enforcement agencies that investigated multiple incidents. And there are even graphs and things that explain the science behind this. (Also see: Normalization of Deviance.) A single exemplar of a gun that failed to explode as expected does not overcome the weight of experience and the science that says setback-induced overpressure can indeed be a factor to respect.
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