Although the eyes of the nation during the past week have been focused on Florida and the final outcome of the presidential race, criminals have focused on finding victims to rob, assault, or victimize. During the past week I found several news stories about ordinary people who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones because they owned a firearm.
On Nov. 11, according to the Winston-Salem North Carolina Journal, a knife-wielding robber tried to intimidate the owner of a convenience store. The would-be robber began by putting a six-pack of beer on the counter and demanded credit. When the store owner, Hyeon Sun Jung, refused, the man then started stuffing the candy and cigars displayed on the counter into his pockets, pulled out a large knife and ordered Jung to give him the money in the cash register. Jung pulled a gun from behind the counter and told the man to drop the knife and the other items. The man ran out of the store leaving the knife and items behind. A police officer seeing a man fleeing from the vicinity of the store was able to arrest him.
That very same day in Brooklyn, N.Y., two very brazen robbers knocked on Ed Sloly’s door demanding, "Give us all your stuff or we'll cap you." But the assailants chose the wrong apartment — their intended victim was a corrections officer at Rikers Island Prison. When they tried to reach into his pocket, he pulled out his service revolver and shot one robber dead and wounded the other one.
While clear across the country in Granada Hills, Calif., at 4:50 a.m. on Nov. 11 an unknown intruder entered the home of an elderly couple. According to the Los Angeles Police Department the intended victims were a 77-year-old man and his 74-year-old disabled wife. The man awoke to hearing noise and seeing light outside his upstairs bedroom door. Being concerned for the safety of his wife,who was sleeping on the ground floor, he took his pistol and began checking his home. The prowler and the homeowner confronted each other, shots were exchanged and the prowler was hit. The prowler escaped and is being sought by police.Both the homeowner and his wife were not injured.
In these three incidents the criminal was clearly intent upon robbing and harming his prey. Each of the victims was inside his home or workplace and was not a threat to anyone else — clearly a matter of self-defense.
In my book, "Safe, not Sorry," I tell the stories of four women, who would be dead today if they had not had a firearm and used it for self-defense. It is interesting to note that only one victim had training in the proper use of a firearm, the others just happened to have a gun in their home or car.
Being interested in women’s self-defense, I was interested in the stories of the three women who were in the Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course that I attended recently at Front Sight Training Institute. I wanted to understand their motivation for spending four long days in the Nevada desert taking handgun training.
The common denominator among the women was that they were all from California and this was not their first course at Front Sight. Beve Mills lived the furthest away. She came from Redding, a long day’s drive. It was her second time taking this course and she came with her husband, Mike, who was also retaking the course. Since her husband and children had taken her shooting with them on Bureau of Land Management land, she decided she wanted to get professional instruction in the safe and proper handling of firearms. She acknowledged that, "the first time I came to the handgun class I didn't know what to expect." Yet much to her surprise she found out that" the instructors are awesome and very supportive of women." It was obvious watching her handle a semi-automatic pistol that she had learned the fundamentals not only of safety, but also of efficient gun handling.
Alona Canfield from San Clemente was attending the course for the second time, as well. Her husband and their son accompanied her. Alona told me she was "coerced" into learning about firearms when she had been married to a police officer. When she got into shooting, however, she found out she really liked it. The first time she took the defensive handgun course she said she was overwhelmed with all the information and she couldn't retain it all. "This time I am absorbing it better," she said. "If you don't practice, you will lose your edge." One of the features of the course that she thought was exceptional was the emphasis on how to avoid a gunfight. She said, "The course has made me more aware of my surroundings, and I think of ways to avoid encounters. It also has given me abetter chance of surviving. I feel much more secure knowing I can use it and defend my family and myself. After all, a gun is like anything else: it is as safe as you are."
The third woman in the class kept telling me, "I am not very representative of the people attending this course." Peiying Moo of Menlo Park was at Front sight accompanying a friend who had loaned her all the necessary equipment. It was her third class at the facility. She had attended the free submachine gun class, the two-day defensive handgun class and was now taking the four-day handgun class. She, like the other two women, was able to demonstrate from the first day that she had already learned about safe and proper gun handling in her previous courses. She summarized her experience by saying, "Whether you own a firearm or not, it’s a skill that can't hurt to learn." In fact, she believes that "for those who own guns, this training should be mandatory."
These three women, who took time out from their busy lives to go to Front Sight and learn safe and effective firearms handling, believed that taking the course was similar to buying an insurance policy. Besides safe gun handling and marksmanship skills we were taught the proper way to "clear" our homes, if we should be in a similar predicament to the77-year-old man in Granada Hills. We also learned the many possible consequences of resolving such a confrontation violently.
After all, in the end it’s about avoiding being a victim. It’s about protecting oneself from the violent predators. According to the Department of Justice statistics in 56 percent of the violent crimes that occur no arrests are ever made. The criminal doesn't care about who becomes president or when, all he cares about is his needs, his wants, and destroying anything that stands in his way. Too many women have learned the hard way that ultimately they are responsible for their own safety. The women who attended the Front Sight course with me were taking that responsibility to a higher level.
Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of
Safe, Not Sorry, a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as
This Week with David Brinkley and the
McNeil-Lehrer Hour, among others.