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On the mental side, as you know, we start very early on and place a great emphasis on the development of the proper defensive mindset. The best equipment and a high skill level won’t do a lot of good unless one is aware they have a problem (criminal attack) and are willing to deal with it.

We educate the students on the actual threat level, which is higher than most people realize, and have them understand that personal security is their own responsibility. Police in this country are only allowed to arrest people for what they have done, not what they may do. Thus, the police will not be involved until after the incident. During the incident, you’re on your own.

eJournal: How much of your preparation focuses on shooting skill versus mental preparation?

Givens: That varies according to class type. In our eight hour Tennessee handgun permit course, for instance, one full hour is devoted strictly to developing awareness and cultivating a defensive mindset. In higher level classes, mental preparation is developed through the use of appropriate anecdotes during range training, the use of graphic targets with realistic images of armed human beings as attackers, with man vs. man competition, as well as video clips and discussion of real shooting incidents. The goal is to produce a skilled, confident and self-assured shooter, who is aware of his environment, and is committed to taking action in defense of self or loved ones.

eJournal: In light of that, how can students better prepare to recognize and react to danger?

Givens: First, stop projecting your decent, civilized, normal values and judgments onto other people whom you do not know.

Recognize that there are feral humans, who prey upon others. If it looks like a thug, dresses like a thug, walks like a thug, and acts like a thug, consider that it just might BE a thug, and start formulating a plan. That plan may involve avoidance or escape, or if that is not feasible, a more aggressive response, but any of those options will be a lot easier to pull off if you are already thinking about it when a thug begins an assault.

The most important thing is to put your damn cell phone away and stop texting in public. Get your head up, open your eyes and move them around! After being in law enforcement for only a very short time, I lost count of the victims who told me, “Jeez, it all happened so fast! He materialized out of nowhere! I never saw him.”

eJournal: Back to shooting skills: Do you teach specific shooting skills for specific situations?

Givens: We try to keep things as simple as possible. If we can prune the decision-making tree down to as few branches as possible, we have a better chance of making a valid decision in the time frame available in a violent incident.

A few examples:
At two arm’s lengths or less, shoot from retention. For ALL other distances, get the gun to eye level and visually index it, in two hands if possible, in one if necessary. Simple!

If a flashlight is needed, we generally use the Neck Index Technique or some variation.

Timing is critical. If we are presented with a smaller or more distant target, we must learn to slow down and refine the sight alignment and trigger control (mostly trigger!).