Saturday, August 31, 2013

Trigger Discipline!

There are four fundamental safety rules that we consistently teach in our firearms classes:  1) The gun is always loaded until you have verified otherwise; 2) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; 3) Keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; 4) Know what is behind your target, and between you and the target.  These rules apply to target shooting, and they also equally apply to tactical situations and defensive shooting.  Even if you are clearing your home to look for intruders, for example, you need to ALWAYS be cognizant of these four things while looking for the bad guy.  And if you are in this situation, I hope your gun IS loaded. 

So let's focus on the third safety rule for a moment.  Why is it that we teach keeping the finger off the trigger until sights are on target and you are ready to shoot? 

Two words: Startle response.

When a person is startled, the natural response is to blink, lean the body forward, bend the arms at the elbows, and clench the fists/fingers. When clenching the fists happens, each clenching finger is able to exert about 25 pounds of force. It only takes about 12 pounds of force to pull the trigger of a revolver in double action mode (hammer down).  If your finger is in the trigger and you are startled, you will pull the trigger.  If that happens, think about those other safety rules for a moment.  Where is the gun pointed when the shot goes of?  What is in the line of fire when that happens?

Proper trigger discipline is crucial to ensuring that you will be safe whether at the range or in a defensive situation.  Proper trigger discipline is also a matter of building up muscle memory through practice.  Beginning with the very first movement of the holster draw, the trigger finger should be indexed along the side of the firearm the minute the hand is placed on the grip of the gun.  When at the low ready, the high ready, the retention position, or at the fully extended position, the finger needs to be indexed on the side of the frame.  Only when you have a target in sight and you are ready to shoot does the finger move inside the trigger guard.  Then simply touch and press the trigger.

Defensive shooting is every bit a matter of safety as it is efficient, tactical movement.  Practice, practice, practice.  Practice indexing that finger, and practice moving the finger to the trigger.  Safely done, dry fire is a key training tool in these methods.

Be safe out there!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Get These Guns "Off The Streets!"

Today’s news included a story about presidential executive orders signed to help satisfy calls for gun control.  One of these measures included an order to prevent importing US military weapons back into the country.  The idea for this order is to prevent more of these “military grade” guns from getting onto our streets.  Many of these guns could very well include M-1 Garand semiautomatic rifles that are bought and reconditioned by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), and then sold to people who participate in legitimate marksmanship programs such as the “Appleseed Project” which is put on by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RVWA).  The rifles are also collector’s items owned by legitimate and law abiding gun collectors.

For the purposes of this article, by the way, I am limiting discussion to these and similar rifles.  Any other military grade weapons are probably already restricted from civilian ownership anyway.

Well, you know what?  I am sick and tired of this worn out phrase where the gun grabbing community says they are doing something "to get guns off the streets." Really?  Off the streets?  What do they mean by that?   Are there guns running around on our streets committing crimes?  “Get these guns off the streets” is the cry that I seem to hear all too often, but as I wrote in an earlier blog post about a lack of understanding about gun terminology, I suspect, too, that there is a lack of their own understanding about guns “on the streets.”  To be perfectly blunt, I am relatively certain that the phrase “on (or off) the streets” is a pejorative term meant to indicate anything that relates to common citizens, and those who aren't the “beautiful and politically influential people.”  I think that they consider any gun to be in the hands of law abiding citizens to be included in this “guns on the streets” rhetoric.

But let's say just for a minute (giving them the benefit of the doubt), they mean that “on the streets” refers only to the criminal underworld and the gang element, and they simply want to get the guns out of the hands of these criminals, then they need to try again. There are already laws for that.  What they need to do is start enforcing these laws.  Preventing collectors and the CMP from getting these rifles does not help this situation.  It only penalizes these law abiding folks.  Many of these weapons that come back from overseas are in poor shape.  The CMP buys huge numbers of these things, and cannibalizes them for parts to make enough good rifles to sell to RVWA members, collectors and others.  This is an expensive process, and quite frankly, I don’t think the thug gang members have the skills to do this.

So when I hear a gun control proponent say that they want to get the guns "off the streets" I can only assume that they actually mean that they want to get them out of the hands of EVERYONE!  Sorry – but I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I have seen the gun grabber heart in action too many times.  Gun control efforts are continuously aimed at making it harder for law abiding citizens to acquire that which is already constitutionally protected, and do nothing to prevent criminals from getting them.  When the founders wrote this amendment, it was their intention that common citizens would arm themselves and be able to contribute to the security of the community.  They meant for all citizens to be trained and know how to use those weapons as well.

These people need to spend more time reading their constitutions (I've got a whole box of pocket constitutions if they need any) and enforcing already existing laws, and less time worrying about how to tie the hands of law abiding citizens.

Notable Self Defense Court Cases

There are a couple of court cases that everyone needs to be aware of when it comes to our right to self defense.  Many who want gun control keep telling us that the police and the government will protect us.  But by way of a couple of Supreme Court decisions, the police have no obligation to protect us as individuals.  See these two cases below, and you will see that we are the ones who are responsible for our own protection.  Even if the police do eventually show up, it won't be to stop the attack.  It will be to investigate the crime, take statements from witnesses, and unfortunately, call someone to remove the dead victim's bodies.

Castle Rock v. Gonzales:


545 U.S. 748 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled, 7–2, that a town and its police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order, which had led to the murder of a woman's three children by her estranged husband.

Restraining order and police inaction

During divorce proceedings, Jessica Gonzales, a resident of Castle Rock, Colorado, obtained a restraining order against her husband on June 4, 1999, requiring him to remain at least 100 yards from her and their three daughters except during specified visitation time. On June 22, at approximately 5:15 pm, her husband took possession of the three children in violation of the order. Gonzales called the police at approximately 7:30 pm, 8:30 pm, 10:10 pm, and 12:15 am on June 23, and visited the police station in person at 12:40 am on June 23, 1999. However, since Ms. Gonzales, from time to time, did allow her husband to take the children at various hours, the police took no action, despite the husband's having called Gonzales prior to her second call to the police and informing her that he had the children with him at an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. At approximately 3:20 am on June 23, 1999, the husband appeared at the Castle Rock police station and instigated a fatal shoot-out with the police. A search of his vehicle revealed the corpses of the three daughters, whom the husband had killed prior to his arrival, and he died afterwards.

Opinion of the Court

The Supreme Court reversed the Tenth Circuit's decision, reinstating the District Court's order of dismissal. The Court's majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia held that enforcement of the restraining order was not mandatory under Colorado law; were a mandate for enforcement to exist, it would not create an individual right to enforcement that could be considered a protected entitlement under the precedent of Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth; and even if there were a protected individual entitlement to enforcement of a restraining order, such entitlement would have no monetary value and hence would not count as property for the Due Process Clause

Warren v. District of Columbia:

 (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981) is an oft-quoted[2] District of Columbia Court of Appeals (equivalent to a state supreme court) case that held police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals, even if a dispatcher promises help to be on the way, except when police develop a special duty to particular individuals.


In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 16, 1975, Carolyn Warren and Joan Taliaferro who shared a room on the third floor of their rooming house at 1112 Lamont Street Northwest in the District of Columbia, and Miriam Douglas, who shared a room on the second floor with her four-year-old daughter, were asleep. The women were awakened by the sound of the back door being broken down by two men later identified as Marvin Kent and James Morse. The men entered Douglas' second floor room, where Kent forced Douglas to sodomize him and Morse raped her.

Warren and Taliaferro heard Douglas' screams from the floor below. Warren telephoned the police, told the officer on duty that the house was being burglarized, and requested immediate assistance. The department employee told her to remain quiet and assured her that police assistance would be dispatched promptly.

Warren's call was received at Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters at 0623 hours, and was recorded as a burglary-in-progress. At 0626, a call was dispatched to officers on the street as a "Code 2" assignment, although calls of a crime in progress should be given priority and designated as "Code 3." Four police cruisers responded to the broadcast; three to the Lamont Street address and one to another address to investigate a possible suspect.

Meanwhile, Warren and Taliaferro crawled from their window onto an adjoining roof and waited for the police to arrive. While there, they observed one policeman drive through the alley behind their house and proceed to the front of the residence without stopping, leaning out the window, or getting out of the car to check the back entrance of the house. A second officer apparently knocked on the door in front of the residence, but left when he received no answer. The three officers departed the scene at 0633, five minutes after they arrived.

Warren and Taliaferro crawled back inside their room. They again heard Douglas' continuing screams; again called the police; told the officer that the intruders had entered the home, and requested immediate assistance. Once again, a police officer assured them that help was on the way. This second call was received at 0642 and recorded merely as "investigate the trouble;" it was never dispatched to any police officers.

Believing the police might be in the house, Warren and Taliaferro called down to Douglas, thereby alerting Kent to their presence. At knife point, Kent and Morse then forced all three women to accompany them to Kent's apartment. For the next fourteen hours the captive women were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one another, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse.


By a 4–3 decision the court decided that Warren was not entitled to remedy at the bar despite the demonstrable abuse and ineptitude on the part of the police because no special relationship existed. The court stated that official police personnel and the government employing them owe no duty to victims of criminal acts and thus are not liable for a failure to provide adequate police protection unless a special relationship exists. The case was dismissed by the trial court for failure to state a claim and the case never went to trial.

The War-Gaming Sheepdog

 It’s a normal sunny day.  You and your spouse decide to go shopping.  You pull into the parking lot at the local “Wally World” and experience the normal amount of bad driving and rude motorists that occurs in a shopping center parking lot.  The store is bustling today with all the shoppers picking up school supplies for the fast approaching school year.  You go in, grab a shopping cart, and wander around the store.  You’re trying to remember what it is that you needed to get from the gardening section before they close out all the gardening supplies for the year.  Nothing unusual really seems to be going on today.  It is just a lazy day of browsing and trying to figure out what to pick up to make for dinner.  

Then, all of a sudden:  “What’s that noise?”  “Is someone lighting off fire crackers in the store?”  You hear screams.  You see people running in every direction.  Then it dawns on you – there is an active shooter in the store.  It could be someone robbing the place, or perhaps just some poor misunderstood lunatic who came in to cause some random chaos.  You just see the confusion in their eyes, overwhelming the people around you.  “Where do I go?  What do I do?”

Same “Wally World,” but this time it’s a bit overcast outside.  The clouds are building, and the wind is picking up.  You heard there might be rain in the forecast, but that is really nothing out of the ordinary for a late summer day.  You are in the store when all of a sudden the lights go out and you hear severe shaking and loud snapping coming from the rafters above.  People are running looking for cover from the falling light fixtures and ceiling pieces that are raining down.  The tornado sirens are going off.  Once again, confusion sets in.  “Where do I go?  What do I do?”

In this day and age, even going to the store is a risky undertaking.  Albeit that the risks are usually small, there is still a certain amount of anticipation that goes into our everyday lives.  Whether we know it or not, risk analysis is something that even everyday citizens do naturally in order to make decisions about where to go, what to do, and when to do it.  If I don’t go to the store right now, my risk is that I won’t have anything for dinner.  But if I do go to the store right now, the place might get robbed while I am there.  If I don’t go to work promptly at 6:30am on Monday, the risk is that I’ll get fired from my job.  But if I do go to work on time, one risk is that a disgruntled employee will go ballistic and tear the place up.  If I walk down that dark alley to get to my car more quickly, the risk is that I’ll be robbed and hurt.  

Shopping centers, schools, and places of worship are all prime targets for acts of intentional violence.  Natural disasters can happen anywhere and at any time.  But what separates total chaos and disaster from survival is your ability as a sheepdog to know what to do in those situations to get people to safety and minimize casualties.  This is where proactive risk analysis and purposeful awareness really play a part in your ability to survive and get others to safety.  I’d like to take you through a journey in this article to show you a technique known as “war-gaming,” which is really just a partnership between proactive risk analysis and purposeful awareness.  War-gaming has been used in many different situations to play through some potential crisis scenarios, and to help responders figure out what to do in response, and help predict possible outcomes.  As a sheepdog, you too can take advantage of war-gaming as a method to add to your preparedness toolkit and be the difference between chaos and comfort.

Proactive Risk Analysis and Purposeful Awareness:

Part of having a normal risk analysis mindset is asking the “what-if” questions.  And it’s this risk analysis mindset and asking the “what-if” questions that can be a huge asset in surviving an unexpected crisis situation.  Proactive risk analysis, then, simply means that you are asking these “what-if” questions well in advance of a possible event, and beginning to formulate in your mind some possible reactions to those events.  Proactive risk analysis also means that not only are you thinking about the most likely risks, but that you are thinking of a few “off the wall” risks as well.  

Awareness is also an important aspect of being able to anticipate and quickly react to an emergency situation when it happens.  You have to be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you at all times, and be able to focus that knowledge in order to take the proper action.  This is something I like to refer to as having a “purposeful sense of awareness.”  Having a purposeful sense of awareness does not mean that you are living in the land of paranoia, nor does it mean that you have to make the act of shopping into a well-planned combat mission.  So while having an elevated sense of awareness just means that you have to keep your mind out of your SmartPhone while you are walking around, purposeful awareness means that you know what is going on around you AND you are using this awareness to recall what you mapped out during your proactive risk analysis processes. 

The Sheepdog and the “War-Gaming” Mindset:

If we couple proactive risk analysis with an improved and purposeful sense of awareness, we then have the ingredient’s for what I refer to here as the “war-gaming mindset.” And it is this mindset which is a vital tool in the sheepdog’s toolbox, and necessary in order to anticipate solutions to a problem.  In proactive risk analysis, you are thinking of some likely things, and possibly some not so likely things, that may happen in a given environment.  In war-gaming, you are taking what you thought of during those possible risk scenarios, and now thinking about what you would do if they happened. And just as with risk analysis, where you were thinking of different possible scenarios, you are now also thinking of different possible solutions and outcomes. With purposeful awareness, you are completing the war-gaming mindset by actually putting yourself in the particular location or environment that you had envisioned, and injecting real-time observations to narrow down the likely risks.  In other words, you are using what you see NOW to inject information into those “what if” questions to narrow down possible reactions.  This is also a way to keep your risk analysis and response information top of mind so that you already have a plan even before the chaos happens.

The War-Gaming Toolkit:

Know Location Layouts and Features:   Be familiar with the places you frequent in order to think through your risk analysis and response for a crisis situation.  Do you know where the emergency exits and storm shelters are in that “Wally World” store?  How about store rooms and other secure areas to which you can direct people and keep them safe in your favorite grocery store?  Have you become familiar with all the exits, hiding places, and even the severe weather shelters in your church?  Do you know where the most likely place is where the emergency first responders will arrive, and can you safely get someone reliable to that location to direct them and describe the emergency?  Knowing all these things can help you to more effectively and more purposefully direct others to safety and minimize casualties.  Explore and take note of emergency exits, safe areas, storm shelters, and other egress routes in the places that you frequent most.

Training in Emergency Best Practices:  Before you can effectively war game responses for many of the scenarios for which you are trying to prepare, you must first have some idea of what are considered to be “best practices” for dealing with an emergency situation.  This is no time to “wing it” and hope your ideas are going to work.  Your responses need to be based in sound principles and tactics.  It’s important to realize that not only are you trying to help the people who are in immediate danger, but you are trying to assist law enforcement and emergency responders by doing the things that they would ideally expect you to do to prevent further casualties, and to prevent endangering them also.  And we’re not talking about lengthy, or even expensive advanced emergency responder training here.  Much of what you can learn that will help you a great deal can be done by taking short online or live instruction courses.  Many of these courses are low cost or even free.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for example, has developed a number of very good online training courses through their Independent Study Institute, and these courses are all available for free to the general public.  Below are some links to these courses that you may find valuable in helping you to learn some of the fundamental concepts of emergency response:

  • IS-22, Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness
  • IS-360, Preparing for Mass Casualty Incidents: A Guide for Schools, Higher Education, and Houses of Worship
  • IS-906, Basic Workplace Security Awareness
  • IS-907, Active Shooter: What You Can Do
  • IS-915, Protecting Critical Infrastructure Against Insider Threats

Scenario Based Training: This will help a great deal with needed skill development, and then helping you to visually see some things in 3-D action so that you can more effectively visualize and think through what skills will be useful in which environments and in which scenarios.  Much of this type of training would ideally be live, instructor based training, in which you would actually role-play various scenarios.  In many cases, live fire and what we refer to as “force on force” training is appropriate to the scenarios for which you are trying to prepare.  Standing in front of paper targets just doesn’t prepare you the way that actual live scenarios will prepare you.  Many firearms instruction organizations (including Northern Colorado Firearms Safety Training) have training to help you meet this need.  Don’t stop at the basic training.  Seek out the training that will help you to practice actual scenarios.

Keep Studying, Keep War-Gaming:  Every trip to the store can be a “lessons learned” experience.  In all of your proactive risk analysis, you may not have thought of some things that finally dawned on you this last time at “Wally World.”  Add those new ideas to your war-gaming scenarios, and ask yourself what you would to if that thing happened.  Keep a journal, if that helps you retain information.  Look at your notes from time to time and revisit those thought processes.  Keep up on current events, and use those “lessons learned” that you are able to infer from the incident descriptions.  Many publications, such as those from NRA and USCCA, present reports from various incidents, and give information as to where the events occurred, and what was done in response.  Use that to help with your own war-gaming efforts.

Wrapping It All Up:

Being a sheepdog is a lot of work, if you expect to be able to make a difference.  You are most likely not law enforcement or emergency medical personnel.  Most sheepdogs are just average people, with average lives, but some not so average skills.  You may be the first one on scene in an emergency, and you have no idea how long it will be before emergency services arrive to help.  In the meantime, you need to be able to get others to safety and prevent further casualties.  It may be a violent attack.  It may be a natural disaster.  But either way, if you want to be effective at helping others, you need to have some ideas about what could possibly happen and how to respond BEFORE those things happen.  Proactive risk analysis and purposeful awareness combine to help you “war-game” these potential scenarios so that you are already armed with knowledge and a plan when the time comes.  Additional training is a plus, and applying critical thinking to your environment is a must.  Knowing some best practices in dealing with these types of situations is vital.  And practice, practice, practice. 

Be safe out there, be proactive, and be purposeful.  You may be the sheepdog who is called upon to save others someday.