Monday, January 16, 2012

The Myth of Control

We all know them.  People with CCW permits who only carry when they think there might be trouble.  Deluded individuals who somehow feel they can control when and if trouble finds them.

Let me tell you about a friend who doesn’t have CCW.  The tale is real.  I’ve just erased the identifying marks.

Winter arrived in northeast Ohio on 13 January 2012 with blowing snow and razor-like winds.  Norma and her dog were shoveling the drifts from the secluded patio behind her house.  In the summer it’s an island of tranquility from the daily rat race.  Her neighbors aren’t close and the patio, shielded on three sides by the house and attached garage, can’t be seen from the driveway or street.  The perfect spot to hide out with a good book and a beverage while the world runs its race.

In the winter the patio traps snow that melts next to the concrete block foundation creating damp spots in the finished basement.  The snow needed to be shoveled off the patio before the next warming spell.

It was late afternoon and she had just finished shoveling when her dog started barking.  She turned to find a man standing with empty hands in the opening formed by the gap between the walls.

“Do you want some help with that?” he asked gesturing at the snow shovel in her hands.  It was a strange question to ask; the shoveling was already finished.

“No thank you, I’m done for the day.’  Norma said.  She didn’t tell her dog to be quiet.  “Do I know you?”

“I helped install your hot water tank.”  

That was several months ago.   

“The plumbing company just laid me off.  Could you give me $25?”

Norma made right decisions.  She still had the shovel in her hands.  The dog was still at her feet yapping at the intruder.

“No.”  She said forcefully.  “I can’t help you.”

It was enough.  The man stood there for a second and left. 

Norma went inside and called the plumbing company.   The company knew who he was.  “No, we didn’t fire him.  He just stopped showing up for work.  He’s a little strange.  You should call the police.”

The police came and took her story, looked at the patio, and said they’ll keep an eye open in the neighborhood.  They advised her to make sure all the doors were locked at night and to leave a few room lights on.  They got back in the cruiser and left.

To me this was an pre-crime interview conducted by a potential criminal.  Norma was lucky, but I wonder how many things needed to change before she would have become a crime statistic. 

What if the dog wasn’t there?
What if he had gotten two steps closer before the dog barked?
What if she didn’t have the snow shovel in her hands?
What if she said she could give him 25 bucks and had to go in the house for the money?
What if he had been a little more desperate?

What if, what if, what if…………………………

Norma could still be laying there behind her house.

This shouldn’t convince you that a gun is the answer to everything.  It’s just an answer to some things.  This true story should convince you we have no control when trouble arrives, and when it does we have to deal with it with what we have.  

So, what do you have?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

18 Year Old Survivor

We often read of the deaths of innocent people from some criminal act and the firearms community wonders, “What if a trained, armed person was there?”  
published Jan 4, 2012.  My comments are in brackets and italics with a follow-up at the end of the article.  These are just my thoughts on the article.

Okla. Woman Shoots, Kills Intruder: 911 Operators Say It's OK to Shoot

(Strictly speaking, the 911 dispatcher never said it was okay to shoot, but it makes a better headline even if inaccurate.)
A young Oklahoma mother shot and killed an intruder to protect her 3-month-old baby on New Year's Eve, less than a week after the baby's father died of cancer.
Sarah McKinley says that a week earlier a man named Justin Martin dropped by on the day of her husband's funeral, claiming that he was a neighbor who wanted to say hello. The 18-year-old Oklahoma City area woman did not let him into her home that day.
(Another article claimed it was after dark when he first showed up.)
On New Year's Eve Martin returned with another man, Dustin Stewart, and this time was armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. The two soon began trying to break into McKinley's home.
As one of the men was going from door to door outside her home trying to gain entry, McKinley called 911 and grabbed her 12-gauge shotgun.
McKinley told ABC News Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO that she quickly got her 12 gauge, went into her bedroom and got a pistol, put the bottle in the baby's mouth and called 911.
"I've got two guns in my hand -- is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?" the young mother asked the 911 dispatcher. "I'm here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?"
The 911 dispatcher confirmed with McKinley that the doors to her home were locked as she asked again if it was okay to shoot the intruder if he were to come through her door.
(One of the effects of training is to eliminate the need to ask for permission to defend yourself.  Based on the course material you should be able to make that decision in advance and understand why it is the correct decision.)
"I can't tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby," the dispatcher told her. McKinley was on the phone with 911 for a total of 21 minutes.
When Martin kicked in the door and came after her with the knife, the teen mom shot and killed the 24-year-old. Police are calling the shooting justified.
(Professionally know as a failure of the victim selection process.)
"You're allowed to shoot an unauthorized person that is in your home. The law provides you the remedy, and sanctions the use of deadly force," Det. Dan Huff of the Blanchard police said.
Stewart soon turned himself in to police.
McKinley said that she was at home alone with her newborn that night because her husband just died of cancer on Christmas Day.
"I wouldn't have done it, but it was my son," McKinley told ABC News Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO. "It's not an easy decision to make, but it was either going to be him or my son. And it wasn't going to be my son. There's nothing more dangerous than a woman with a child."
(It’s an old formula.   Want to turn a Molly Milktoast into a curly-haired she-wolf?  Threaten her kids or grandchildren.)

Here’s my slant on the article.

Sarah did a lot of things right and we need to remember them for our protection.  She listened to her gut when Martin first showed up and she said “No”.  It’s rare in my opinion for an 18 year old woman to listen to her gut.  We are socialized to be polite and helpful. 

When he came back later with an accomplice Sarah barricaded herself and child, got a weapon and called the police.  She stayed on the phone as long it she could and then responded appropriately to lethal, imminent threat.  

Sarah had access to the tools she needed and it appears she had some level of skill with them. 

One more thing:
She was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher for 21 minutes. 

Yikes! 21 minutes!  If anyone tells you the police will protect you, remember that 21 minute response time.  It’s not that the police are at fault.  They can’t be everywhere and honestly, do you want them everywhere?