If you’re new to the world of shooting tools, there are probably some fundamentally true yet annoying witticisms that you continually find yourself running across. As you dig deeper you’ll soon find out that a disparagingly large percentage of such modern sagacity is in fact either a rough rewording of centuries old philosophy or a poorly disguised attempt at subliminal messaging.
Generally, these little quips are either mildly helpful anecdotes or harmless hot air. Unfortunately, there is also a significant drawback when one such expression is mentioned around someone new to firearms and the idea of self-defense. The phrases I’m specifically talking about are the well-known variations on “ If you can’t use your weapon to apply deadly force, you shouldn’t be carrying a weapon at all.”
Here’s why this is such a charged and dangerous expression; it’s fundamentally true. Most folks realize that attitude plays a massive role in everything we do. From t-ball on, the desire to do what you have to do to win is a crucial part of your game plan. It’s important to understand the difference between recreational shooting and a life and death situation, but many of the same skillsets do cross over. The fundamentals of marksmanship, good situational awareness, observing big to small, each of these traits aid in both arenas.
The problem I have with the aforementioned expression is that it lets us, as an ultra-aware community, be very lazy. While that t-ball coach may stack his batters in a certain order to help win a game, Little Timmy Cant-hit-a-lick won’t be able to avoid the tee forever. There will come a time when he has to square up to the plate and swing. Imagine how that would look if, because he didn’t think he was any good, he teed up without bothering to bring a bat. Just because Timmy doesn’t want to hit the ball doesn’t mean the ball will cease to exist or fly over the fence. Timmy’s father may be cheering as hard as he can, but it’s Little Timmy’s at-bat and his dad can’t go out and swing for him.
Just because (insert name of person you’re thinking of here) doesn’t feel comfortable around firearms doesn’t give you the right to throw in the towel. The fact that Individual X doesn’t think he/she has the ability to apply deadly force doesn’t give you license to take your experiences, knowledge, and developed opinions and draw them back into your shell as you throw out the “Well, you shouldn’t if you aren’t comfortable with it” white flag. When we do that, we’re focusing on the wrong point! To start with, a severe case of queasiness about taking a human life is a good thing. If you come across someone who seems to be not just prepared but exited for a chance to use their SELF-DEFENSE equipment, they’re what we call, in layman’s terms, an idiot.
It’s not just self-defense and gunfights that require an iron will to win, so why do we feel the need to almost encourage those who are initially apprehensive to just call it quits? I’d say that deciding whether or not you will be prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones against the threat of evil is pretty high up there on the list of important life choices. We know that forcing someone to do something they really have no desire to do will produce subpar results. In a circumstance like the one we’re talking about, subpar results equal errant shots, wounded bystanders, now-armed bad guys, and death. All of those reasons are why responsible firearms advocates do their best not to force concealed carry down someone’s throat. The issue is, not having a firearm doesn’t make the threat disappear.
The biggest shortfall is that firearms owners and advocates seem to be a somewhat opinionated bunch, and a loud and forceful debate is probably not going to help things here. Expressing severe concern for the safety and well being of a loved one is guaranteed to net you better results. With that being said, my humble recommendations, derived from probing the minds of smarter folks, are as follows.
The first step is to know your audience, and once that’s been accomplished you’ve got to figure out what motivates them to win. A competitive nature aids greatly in shooting activities, but nurturing a more relaxed personality can be done with the right approach. This step should normally be taken before trying the shock and awe tactic of “LIFE OR DEATH LIFE OR DEATH LIFE OR DEATH!!!” It obviously is that serious, but some people deal with a situation of that magnitude by tuning it out as best they can.
Next, you’ve got to encourage professional training. Another one of those old and frequently copied adages is something similar to “You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to the level of your training.” This statement is charged with more than what you see at face value. It doesn’t imply that some people don’t operate better under pressure, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to surprise yourself with what you can do. This statement is really focused on actual mechanics, meaning if you’ve never done a speed reload with an AR15 you won’t be able to do one for the first time in the middle of a gunfight (well) simply because of adrenaline. Start off with addressing the training from its fun perspective for more reluctant people.
The final point I’ll recommend adjusting strategy on is how to explain and address ‘fight or flight.’ For those out there that haven’t heard this expression used before, it’s a generalization of what a person’s immediate reaction to a dangerous situation is. You can train to help quell the flight instinct, but in its purest form that type of training is geared more toward a military type professional, not a privately armed citizen. Being both, it’s my opinion that civilian training should be more of a ‘fight TO flight’ focus. Normally when discussing fight or flight, having an initial reaction of flight is viewed solely in a negative way. Instead of berating someone and treating a flight instinct with distain, explain that, for them, that instinct is a good thing! They’ve already won half the battle; all that’s left is mixing in a firearm to allow them to create enough initial distance to get outta Dodge!
If you know someone, and it seems like we all do, who you’re concerned about but haven’t been able to get packin’ (you know who you are), think about it and pray about it, then give this strategy a try.