gila 300

You Must Be Able To Stop

by Gila Hayes

I ran across a news story in June that for me emphasized why we train to deescalate, to scale our response to be appropriate to the offense, and disengage from an argument or confrontation as quickly as possible. We do not fire in anger. You have to be able to shut off the emotion because a heated, angry reaction gets us stuck in the non-rational part of the brain.

The news story caught my interest with this lead: “A man acquitted last month on grounds of self-defense in the shooting death of a University of Toledo football player after a fight at a Toledo pizza restaurant nearly two years ago has been sentenced to nine to 12 years for three extra shots he fired.”

It went on to detail that a 26-year old Toledo, OH man shot and killed a 22-year old after the football player “swung at him several times,” hitting him in the head. “Wait a minute!” I yelled at the screen. “He hit him in the head!” I withdrew my comment after I read that the 26-year old was acquitted of murder charges by reason of self defense, but the three shots he fired toward his departing assailant also endangered several pedestrians, so a jury found him guilty of felonious assault.

The report went on to quote the defendant as claiming the three shots fired toward the escaping assailant were “warning shots,” illlustrating its own special brand of stupidity. Besides, his assailant was running away. The judge took the opportunity to do some anti-gun pandering and politickin’ when he railed against “a horrible proliferation of guns in our community and every community across America,” a screed the news media happily picked up.

If you’re a scrapper, lock up your gun at home when you go out; better yet, grow up and mature before becoming an armed citizen. The whole thing reminded me of one of the few callers I declined to enroll in Network membership, when, after enthusiastically relating accounts of several fights he’d been in, he exclaimed, “I don’t back down–ever!” I responded that the Network was a very poor fit for him and bade him a good day.

Decent, Normal Human Beings

A few years ago, I was privileged to be a student in a Gunsite class taught by Erick Gelhaus ( When talking about tactical responses and appropriate force options, he frequently used the phrase, “decent, normal human beings.”

In an echo of those words, a Network member, Mike from GA, recently commented that he finds this online journal “even keeled,” and he added, “It seems the world is becoming so hyper polarized and so many people are at their wits end...yet when you talk to ‘normal people,’ its like the hysteria is ‘out there’ somewhere, but here amongst us regular Americans, things have not changed...we are all still living our lives, doing our duty and enjoying God’s Grace. Thank you for being ‘Regular Americans’ and continuing such a level headed and circumspect dialogue on essential topics!”

A member from VA with whom I occasionally exchange ideas also emailed his thoughts about how decent, normal human behavior compares to the crudity and rudeness that seems today to be accepted by the general public. My correspondent detailed his experiences leading up to his introduction to responsible use of deadly force. He closed with a clarion call to make gun safety and training more widely available to the public. I was inspired by his letter and I think you will be, too, so asked him if I could share excerpts with you.

Dana writes:

As is frequently the case your “Notebook” thoughts are often the most thought provoking part of the newsletter, particularly the question of lack of required training in those states that now have “constitutional” carry. Growing up in Vermont I didn’t learn about “constitutional” carry until I moved to Virginia in 2003. In the 1950s and 1960s some Vermonters may have carried a good deal of the time, others now and then and many (probably a large majority) never carried at all. I wasn’t really aware of the issue of “carry.” I don’t remember hearing anyone make a big deal of carrying open or concealed. My dad (a GP) didn’t regularly carry, but a loaded revolver hung over his bedpost 24/7.

With respect to firearms I had roughly an 8 year apprenticeship beginning at age 6 with a .22 target rifle. I learned what is commonly referred to as “Cooper’s rules” long before I encountered Jeff Cooper’s writings 40 years later. Dad emphasized marksmanship when it came to hunting. With the exception of rabbits hunted with a shotgun, I learned that you don’t shoot a rifle at running targets (deer), not just because of the reduced chances of a good killing shot, but because you can’t really account for what is behind a moving target at the moment you pull the trigger. Even in my recent coyote hunting, I made sure that there was always dirt behind the critter before I squeezed the trigger.

Thinking back to my growing up years, I don’t remember any emphasis on “rights” or “entitlements.” My parents did focus on responsibilities: from taking out the garbage, splitting kindling for the fireplace, helping care for the animals, helping around the house, helping neighbors, and getting school work done with no excuses, and responsible gun safety. Today, the emphasis seems to be all about “rights” and “entitlements.” Good old Joe Namath hawks supplemental health insurance exhorting us to “get all that we are entitled to” whether or not one really needs it.

Vermont has had “constitutional” carry since the 1777 constitution (VT was an independent country until in joined the Union, as the 14th state). Although not as rural now as the 1950s and 1960s it is still fairly rural. Most of my generation learned gun handling and safety from our parents. What I did NOT learn from my parents that is critical to “carry” in the public is the legal information. I knew how to use a firearm, but relative to self defense, I had no grounding in the relevant details as to “WHEN” it was legally justifiable to use a firearm in self defense. After I moved to Virginia, I attended three different concealed carry classes (each 2-6 hours in length). Each class was mainly concerned with gun safety and handling; only one class had a live fire qualification. Only one class even mentioned “AOJ” and spent perhaps 20 minutes on the subject. The legal knowledge problem was largely solved when I attended Mas Ayoob’s MAG-40 class in 2011. Not having that kind of education/information is in my opinion the greatest deficiency in the “constitutional” carry model.

The gun-owning community needs to shift some of its public emphasis and efforts from “rights” to “responsibilities” including safety, how to carry in a manner least likely to antagonize and/or frighten the public. The gun community needs to pay more attention to our individual and collective attitudes. Individuals, who because they now carry a gun, think that they can now go wherever they want whenever they want and do whatever they feel like, be loud, rude and crude need to be corrected early and often; they need a dose of Farnam’s rules. Turn to page 340 of MacYoung’s book In the Name of Self-Defense and read the reactions he got when he suggested to his class that they just “Be polite” and was made aware of “their right to be verbally and emotionally violent” and likely physically violent, as well.

Everyone makes mistakes now and then; hopefully most of us learn from our mistakes and avoid repetition. Even better is to learn from someone else’s mistakes. However, an individual who as a history of mistakes and/or poor behavior/judgment probably should not be a gun owner, but unfortunately he/she will likely not have the self-awareness of their own problematic behavior, especially if they have a sense of entitlement.

The gun community can foster training. For instance a club could insist that new members take the “club’s basic safety course.” Clubs could offer low cost (or even free) basic safety training to the public, and maybe pick up some new members. If the gun owning community steps up to meet the needs for teaching safety and good responsible behavior then one can argue that the government has less need to get involved.

Thanks for “listening.”

I liked what he had to say. Now, I have a question for our members and I would like you to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. me your response, if you would like to be part of this discussion. Here’s what I’d like you to share with this column’s readers–

Are you a range safety officer at your gun club or for a competitive shooting sport in which you participate? What does that entail?

Are you active in public outreach and safety education sponsored by your local range? Tell me about that program.

How do you and other armed citizens in your community reach out to mentor new gun owners and young people who will become the next generation of armed citizens?

Let’s share what we do and inspire one another to keep fighting the battle against ignorance and irresponsibility.


To read more of this month's journal, please click here.