What are the options?

How do you react when you hear about a horrible violent crime, or a school shooting, or a terrorist attack such as the one in Paris or in San Bernardino? Do you think to yourself, “they should have put up a ‘No Guns’ sign” or “we need more gun control laws and the terrorists sure will obey”? Seriously?

My first thought is, “if only the victims were armed!”

No signs or laws will ever stop a determined criminal or a terrorist fanatic. The police usually come a bit too late (and they are not obligated to protect anyone). Counting on the criminal’s mercy is, to put it mildly, unreliable. So, what are our options? When there is no way to hide or escape or when a family member is taken hostage, armed self-defense can be the only remaining choice. No one is guaranteed safety, but, statistically, active resistance improves chances of surviving violence, under the following conditions:

You are mentally prepared and you remember that your life, the lives of your loved ones, and the lives of other innocent victims are worthy of protection, and that the criminal must be stopped at all costs. No training will help you if you don’t have such resolve.

This is not self-evident. I’ve heard from my self-defense instructor that many people are reluctant to actively defend themselves because they are conditioned not to harm another human being, even if that person threatens their own life and safety.

If you are concerned about using lethal force, please know that guns are not as lethal as they are commonly believed to be. Despite what they show in the movies, guns very rarely kill with one shot, and most people are unlikely to shoot with enough precision when they are under stress. Besides, often it’s enough to demonstrate your weapon and your resolve to defend yourself to scare away the criminals. There are many cases when criminals flee when the victim draws a gun. So, carrying a gun may be a sufficient deterrent, and firing a gun does not always lead to murder. Remember: the main objective of armed self-defense is not to kill, but to stop the attack and retreat to safety.

You need to take some classes and practice at your local gun range at least once in awhile. In addition to our basic certification class which was a requirement to get the firearms license, Kon and I took two more classes with Aware: Responsible Use of Lethal Force and Defensive Hangun. For the Boston-area locals, classes at Aware are a good choice because they are very educational, fun, and affordable, and you get lots of outdoor practice. There is also Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire which offers a wider selection of courses.

Training and target practice will help you become a confident self-defender. You will learn how to try to escape a violent situation without having to resort to shooting, how to handle your gun so it’s not taken away and used against you, and how to avoid harming an innocent bystander should you be forced to fire. Besides, taking a shooting class or visiting a range can be a fun way to spend a day getting some fresh air and improving your precision skills. This is what Kon and I did on our dates!

Your carry gun has a sufficient capacity. Only one or two shots, especially if the caliber is small, are unlikely to stop a determined attacker. And as mentioned, most people cannot fire accurately under stress. Therefore, the gun you carry should have a sufficient caliber (at least 9mm) and a sufficient magazine capacity to give you enough firepower to stop the attack.

On the other hand, your gun should be small enough, so you can carry it comfortably. For women, I highly recommend taking a concealed carry class, such as Concealed Carry for Women taught at Aware. There’s often a trade-off between gun size and capacity, though there are quite a few pistol models that manage to combine both. Eventually, the best gun is the one you have with you at the time when, G-d forbid, you happen to need it.

Carrying arms is an ancient and precious human right, and I will not vote for any politician who wants to take that right away. Gun ownership by responsible people is essential to the preservation of life. There will always be lunatics who want to murder other people and who will not be stopped by signs and laws. If we are not armed, there may be no one else available to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s hope that we will never face the need to defend ourselves, but it’s always good to be prepared.