Some of you may recognize the saying, ‘The body follows the head’. Generally intended to teach people new to physical confrontation how to prioritize their efforts in gaining a dominant position, I believe I’ll be stealing it for a few minutes to illustrate another extremely valid point.
You may recall an article I wrote back in October, You Mind Over Matters! It was about attaining and maintaining the proper mindset. I will continue here with that same topic.
Currently, I am blessed to be working in a smaller group than is typical in my field, and the company I find myself in is comprised of some of the finest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of serving with. We are generally likeminded, but fortunately there’s just enough disagreement to keep each other sharp and remain civil at the same time. Recently one of those gents brought to our Discussion Table (we were standing ankle-deep in water in the middle of the woods) one of the juiciest pieces of food for thought we’d talked over in a while. His question, asked without betraying his stance on the issue, was whether or not any of us processed information or acted differently when we were armed as opposed to unarmed.
My initial response was almost an attempt to discredit the question. After all, when am I not armed? There are places around my local area that do not permit concealed weapons, but my response is to simply avoid those areas when possible. A somewhat recent change to local laws recalled the previous restriction of firearms carried into places that serve alcohol, like Outback, and places where admission is charged, like the movie theater. By now it is force of habit to generally avoid those areas, but it’s nice to know that small victory was won. After I got a handle on my know-it-all nature, I allowed myself to honestly critique my own various mindsets, and I began to enjoy hearing what the others had to say. I was able to retain some of the finer points from that discussion and will now pass them on to you.
The finale of our woodland debate provided us with the generally agreed upon statement of, “If carrying a gun does change your mindset, it shouldn’t”. The only faction of this statement that may require clarification is that there is an acknowledged addition of responsibility placed upon one’s shoulders when armed. A carried firearm should not, however, cause you to become more alert, simply because being in ‘the yellow’ is a condition that accounts for potentially high risk encounters. A carried firearm should not make you feel bulletproof, it should not make you feel tough, and it should not even make you feel safe. A carried firearm may allow you to come to a different decision in a given situation, but it should not alter your level of alertness.
Think about it. A common military phrase frequently offered to the troops is ‘fight or flight’, referring to the issue of what response takes over when a life or death situation presents itself. While this rhetorical jargon does find valid application clearing enemy trenches, anytime you find yourself in a dangerous situation as a private citizen any opening for creating distance from the threat should be seized, regardless of your level of preparedness. It doesn’t matter if the threat is a bad guy with a box cutter, if you and your Desert Eagle 50 can safely put space in between you and said nefarious villain, that’s what you should do. Having that hand cannon readily available should not remove the option of retreat; it should give you the chance to meet force with force when you have no out.
For instance, in my eyes that same baddie with a box cutter moves up multiple threat levels if I am with my family. No matter what kind of mind-altering substances the degenerate may have ingested earlier in the day, chances are good he can outrun my three year old. My actions performed in response to his advances will be very different than if unarmed, but the goal of safety will remain the same. If I am forced to use my firearm while my family moves to safety, I will be ready and able. The safety of my family will not shift from being my number one priority, and if I am able to maintain their safety and contribute to the sequestration of the bad guy while disallowing him from harming others then I probably will.
It seems as though this topic is very similar to a spider’s web. It is almost impossible to address this issue without mentioning that a gun should never be drawn unless it’s intended to be used. I am not a fan of openly carrying a handgun largely due to the fact of me not wanting to be singled out as the opposition by someone up to no good. I’d rather be able to respond unexpectedly to their shenanigans. Similarly, using a firearm as a prop is dangerous. Those who carry firearms empty are only asking for trouble. The tool itself has one function, and that is placing fair sized pieces of fast moving metal where the sights are indicating. But let’s get back on point.
Unfortunately, the possibility of danger does not lessen if you are tired or sick or have allowed yourself to become distracted. According to Murphy’s Law, that’s when trouble is most likely to rear its ugly head. If you understand the importance of carrying a firearm, yet opt out of doing so in certain circumstances because it seems like too much hassle or you feel you are too tired to do so, what have you really discovered? Does having that handgun remove any danger? No. Is it going to clear your head and allow you to process information like you can when you’re fresh? Nope. So what’s the answer? The answer is that you have discovered things you should not do! If carrying a firearm is serious, and we know it is, then how is having a friend or family member stop to pick up milk and medicine because you’re too groggy to be safely armed any less serious?
The gun does not alter your mindset. A successful offshore fisherman does not just grab a few reels and head out to sea. He talks other fishermen into giving up some GPS points for underwater shelves where the fish hang out, he figures out what the best bait will be, he loads enough ice on the boat to keep the fish fresh, he charts his course and performs fuel consumption calculations. The reels are literally the last things he concerns himself with onboard once he has ensured that they are present and in good working order. Similarly, planning your day and preparing for the unplanned begin well before you do your mirror check to make sure you’re not printing too badly.
If you find yourself drifting out of ‘the yellow’ and aren’t sure how to get yourself back in there, I recommend exercising your “What If” muscles. Read up on your local area’s recent criminal activity. What if you’re the next unknowing participant in a short round of the Knock Out Game? If it’s not apparent, and maybe even if you think it is, ask around about places to avoid. That type of question will probably spark some good conversation. We don’t want to bait a criminal in, so how do we repulse them? Being and appearing alert may be the best deterrents. With convenience being the most produced item in the world today, it’s easy to take many life-sustaining objects and activities for granted. It’s hard to not simply assume we’ll go on living no matter what. Tucking a gun into your waistband won’t make you a survival expert, and it won’t magically make you a master of self-defense. If you find that you assume a different attitude when armed, ask yourself why that is, then see what you can do to break the habit. Like I said, the additional responsibility is there, but that’s a small price to pay for an even chance at protecting you and yours. Think about it, pray about it.