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Editor’s Notebook

by Gila Hayes

“Remove the word ‘if’ from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘when,’ ” John Farnam (Defense Training International) urged students in a recent handgun class I was privileged to attend. Instead of saying, “If my gun malfunctions…” we must plan, “When my gun malfunctions, I perform the immediate action clearance drill,” he illustrated, injecting the trademark Farnam humor by mocking the oft-heard phrase, “If I die...” He snorts, “We’re all going to die!” The class laughs and the point is cemented.

When self defense gun use is acknowledged as only an indefinite possibility, motivation suffers, training and practice are postponed and an excuse is made to leave the gun at home when carrying it is burdensome. To say, “I’ll carry a handgun for defense if I need it,” lacks both urgency and commitment. To positively state, instead, “I carry a handgun so when danger threatens, I have reasonable defense options,” invalidates the many excuses armed citizens make for not being prepared all the time. The latter statement expresses why we consistently carry guns. Farnam has little patience with casual gun hobbyists, reserving his time and energy for committed armed citizens.

If you do not know John Farnam, you owe it to yourself to correct that deficit in your self-defense training! John’s instruction has honed thousands of armed citizens’ self-defense abilities, both the physical skills and of equal or greater import, mental attitudes about personal safety. John’s perspective, having seen technique fads come and go over three decades, vigorously demands self-defense applicability and an affirmative answer to, “Will this work in a fight?” Moving off the line of force while drawing, full 360-degree danger scans after shooting, non-dominant hand and single hand shooting and gun manipulations, gunshot wound treatment and staying in the fight until it is over are all hallmarks of a Farnam defensive firearms class.

Does that sound like a course of study for soldiers and police?

No. John has always emphasized that when danger threatens, you are on your own. Help may arrive eventually, but probably not in time to save your life. You have to be your own rescuer. This principle applies equally to men and women, and I was delighted to look around John’s class last weekend and observe that fully one-third of the participants were women, four of whom participated in the advanced range sessions and three going to the beginner’s range to get a great start on their defensive mind set and skills building.

John emphasized several times how much he values the participation of women in his classes, noting that the message of the importance of guns for survival and self defense will be carried to the nation far more effectively by women and by minorities who are not traditionally considered gun enthusiasts. “Us old white guys will not be heard,” John said bluntly. While I missed sharing the weekend with John’s wife, Vicki Farnam, who was teaching at Hillsdale College, it is worth noting that she often co-teaches in these courses, providing valuable woman-to-woman advice for the female students.

Headed back to the range from the bathroom line on the first day of class, I shared an amusing exchange with one of the new female armed citizens in attendance. Fingering the grips of her new pistol in its belt holster, she looked anxiously at the Porta-Potty from which I’d just exited. “How am I supposed to deal with this gun in there?” she asked. I quietly shared a few suggestions and wished I’d brought along a copy of my new book, Concealed Carry for Women in which I wrote about some of these puzzling problems. I would have given it to her to reward her courage in facing these and all the other day-to-day problems people new to carrying guns have to solve!

Before moving on to the final topic I need to address this month, I want to make a serious comment. There’s no way to say this delicately, so I’ll just blurt it out. John’s been teaching for a long, long time. He is one of a small number of senior statesmen in our discipline. How much longer will he travel the nation, offering class schedules as full as the one at I do not know, but I strongly recommend that you take steps now to get some training with him and Defense Training International.