Pay Attention to What You’re Paying Attention To

 

shutterstock_216207001There’s been a tremendous increase in firearms ownership in America in the past few years. From concern over the availability of firearms under this political climate to the threat of active shooters, Americans are arming themselves more and more as of late.

Arming yourself with a gun, however, is an optional checkpoint on the road to personal security. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A firearm is not a talisman against evil, it requires a skilled and determined operator to be effective. If you’ve decided that a gun should be a part of your personal security inside and outside the home, get the training you need to safely own and/or carry your gun, and then get some more. After all, no one ever survived a gunfight thinking “Wow, did I ever overtrain for that!”

Before buying a gun, however, consider all the other things in your lifestyle that might be points of vulnerability in your life. Using a firearm to defend your life should be, in the words of Massad Ayoob, only in the gravest extreme*. If it’s possible to avoid a situation where a gun is needed, do so first, last, and foremost.

John Farnam is one of the most-respected trainers in the firearms industry, and he has a simple, easy-to-follow mantra to help keep all of us out of trouble:

Don’t go to stupid places to do stupid things with stupid people. 

Sounds simple, but defining stupidity is never easy. When I lived in Quito, I did a photo shoot in some indoor bazaars that overflowed with great photo opportunities. They also overflowed with pickpockets, muggers, and the dregs of Ecuador’s capital city. I was fortunate that I had a guide who knew his way around the place and I was overly polite to all I met, so even though it was a stupid place to be, I was there with smart people and I wasn’t acting stupidly.

Would I do such things by myself, after dark? Oh, heck no. Let’s break each of those items down, one by one, to help with the process.

Don’t Go to Stupid Places

Knowing where the stupid places are is crucial to keeping safe, and that’s a skill that is fading in today’s GPS-driven world. I live in Southwest Florida, and I recently needed to drive out east to pick up a family member late at night at the Miami airport. Unfortunately, my smartphone wasn’t all that smart, and it gave me directions to the airport that led straight through the heart of one of Miami’s more … exciting neighborhoods. Had I known more about the city and my projected route, I’d have avoided that area or I’d have chosen to stick to the interstate and stayed away from trouble altogether. Lesson learned, and fortunately learned without an unfortunate incident.

Don’t Do Stupid Things

This is a little more hard to define in today’s world of active shooters, but to quote a great line from a great movie, whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. If there’s any question that violence may happen where you are, such as a loud argument which involves large groups of people or activities that tend to attract the criminal element, leave, or better yet, don’t go there in the first place. After all, the easiest way to avoid trouble is to not be where trouble is happening. This also applies to situations where there might be an active shooter. We’re beginning to understand some of the warning signs for a heightened possibility of an active shooter; keep your eyes open if you recognize some of them in your surroundings.

With Stupid People

Defining “stupid people” is both easy and difficult. There are the obviously stupid people who’ve done stupid things in the past which have put them in jail, but there’s the not-so-obvious things as well. Ask any cop, and they’ll tell you that responding to domestic situations is one of the worst things about their jobs. Messy divorces are a fact of life in all levels of society today, and bitter custody battles can turn ugly very quickly. Nothing sucks more than being an innocent bystander who is in the wrong time at the wrong place, so be careful about who’s in your close circle of friends. Also, take care if you have any friends with a hair-trigger temper who tend to “not take guff (or another four-letter word) from anyone”: Those type of people tend to not know how to walk away from a fight that is headed their way.

Being aware of what’s going around you is the foundation of personal safety. You can’t put out a fire you don’t know about, and you can’t defend against an attack you don’t see coming. Knowing what the “stupid” elements of your life might be (and then avoiding them at all costs) is an important first step on the road to safer, happier lifestyle.

* I’ve been a photographer, writer, salesman and a fry cook at Dairy Queen, but one thing I haven’t been is a lawyer. Talk with them about this sort of thing, not me.

Members have made 13 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Spin Inactive

    Kevin Creighton: A firearm is not a talisman against evil

    It is if it’s loaded with a silver bullet…

    • #1
    • March 13, 2016 at 10:04 pm
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  2. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Thanks for writing this post, Kevin. This is something that always needs to be said, even on Ricochet, because often people who aren’t Ricochet members (and thus do not necessarily have good common sense) read posts on the site. Although I haven’t been keeping up with it in recent years, the thing I learned from martial arts, above all, was, “You don’t want ever to be in a position where you have to rely on this.” I’m regularly infuriated by people who advertise “Women’s self-defense weekend workshops” or the like, because there’s an implicit message: It is possible to learn enough in a weekend to defend yourself against a determined attacker, and I’m sure some small percentage of women are just stupid enough to take such a class and then put themselves in a situation they might not have before — which is utter insanity.

    One of the stupider things I regularly see are tourists who make no effort to blend in with their surroundings. Asian tourists are the most obvious targets in this regard, but often American tourists seem to leave their common sense at home, too. (Not all of them, I presume — the ones who haven’t are the ones I didn’t notice, because they blended in with their surroundings.) Dress the way local people dress, ask local people where it’s safe to walk, don’t behave in a way that’s noticeably different from the way people around you behave. Tourists who stand out in a crowd are a pickpocket’s delight, and American tourists are still usually believed to have valuable possessions on their persons. Stay sober, ask the locals what’s safe and what’s not, and if something doesn’t feel right to you — leave.

    (I know this is just old-fashioned common sense to everyone here, but in case one of the tourists I’ve recently seen with a “Mug me!” sign on his forehead happens to drop by this site, I wanted to try my best to help.)

    • #2
    • March 13, 2016 at 10:37 pm
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  3. Profile photo of CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I have broken many of your rules in foreign countries, Kevin, especially when I was young and completely invincible stupid, but been very fortunate to have had few bad incidents happen to me.

    I found this video very interesting, a Gracie breakdown (Gracie is a family from Brazil that is very well known in the martial arts/UFC world) of the train attack in August, when a terrorist tried to kill people on a train from Amsterdam to Paris.

    They discuss how to use the skills that a person knows, but most importantly, when not to use those skills.

    • #3
    • March 14, 2016 at 3:17 am
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  4. Profile photo of Rapporteur Member

    Kevin Creighton: Being aware of what’s going around you is the foundation of personal safety. You can’t put out a fire you don’t know about, and you can’t defend against an attack you don’t see coming.

    Further to Kevin’s summary point: attackers are very, very unlikely to send their intended victims a text, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook message notifying of approaching danger — so put the [CoC] phone away and put your head on a swivel!

    • #4
    • March 14, 2016 at 4:59 am
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  5. Profile photo of Doug Watt Member

    Great advice Kevin. This is called street smarts. As a police officer I would sometimes stop for coffee at a convenience store during a tour during the early morning hours, 0230 hours or so.

    If there was car in the parking lot and someone sitting in the drivers seat with the engine running I would look at the front window of the store to see if the clerk was at the register and then scan the rest of the store for a customer. You never know.

    Although I’m off the streets now I avoid large crowds, especially crowds that have been attracted by alcohol. When my wife and I go to a mall I look for the doors that lead to service corridors. I may be carrying but those doors are escape routes for my wife and I. When we head back to the car I look for anyone that might be loitering around the car.

    • #5
    • March 14, 2016 at 6:07 am
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  6. Profile photo of Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Rapporteur: Further to Kevin’s summary point: attackers are very, very unlikely to send their intended victims a text, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook message notifying of approaching danger — so put the [CoC] phone away and put your head on a swivel!

    One thing that annoys me about the vast majority of self-defense videos and training out there is they assume a “black swan” event, where it’s a rapist/mugger jumping out behind a car and yelling “BOOO!”.

    What’s not mentioned is how things can go south in everyday situations, with a fight breaking out in a bar or traffic incident that spirals out of control. Any cop will tell you the #1 thing they hear from some poor slob who’s cuffed, sitting on a curb and facing ten years to life is, “Why didn’t the other guy back down?”.

    • #6
    • March 14, 2016 at 6:15 am
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  7. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    I think finding the balance between vigilance and paranoia is going to be an interesting challenge for me, Kevin. Everything you say makes sense; I’m already alert to some of it. Thanks for the sound and practical advice.

    • #7
    • March 14, 2016 at 6:34 am
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  8. Profile photo of CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    When I was a single girl working in NYC coming home late at night, I would walk down the middle of the street. It meant no one could sneak up on me or jump out from a doorway.

    • #8
    • March 14, 2016 at 9:43 am
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  9. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad:When I was a single girl working in NYC coming home late at night, I would walk down the middle of the street. It meant no one could sneak up on me or jump out from a doorway.

    How’d you avoid getting run over by cars, though? That’d be my concern with the middle of the street, as a safety strategy.

    • #9
    • March 14, 2016 at 9:44 am
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  10. Profile photo of CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad:When I was a single girl working in NYC coming home late at night, I would walk down the middle of the street. It meant no one could sneak up on me or jump out from a doorway.

    How’d you avoid getting run over by cars, though? That’d be my concern with the middle of the street, as a safety strategy.

    As I said, late at night. And I lived in the Bronx. The only thing going by late at night in the Bronx was cop cars, ambulances, and buses. (no, no taxis. This is the Bronx I’m talking about.)

    • #10
    • March 14, 2016 at 9:47 am
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  11. Profile photo of Goldgeller Member

    Good points Kevin. Very nice of you to drive all the way over from Southwest Florida to MIA. Wow. Yeah. Miami is… well… Miami. That’s why I always try to use Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood.

    Susan Quinn:I think finding the balance between vigilance and paranoia is going to be an interesting challenge for me, Kevin. Everything you say makes sense; I’m already alert to some of it. Thanks for the sound and practical advice.

    Yeah. This is true. When I was taking my concealed carry class the guy– ex cop, real nice– was kinda big on the vigilance, but it sounded a little to me like “bad guys around every corner.” I do think you have to balance it, and its hard to know where that balance is.

    • #11
    • March 14, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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  12. Profile photo of Morituri Te Member

    Above all, stay away from events involving Donald Trump. People get hurt at those things!

    • #12
    • March 14, 2016 at 7:27 pm
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  13. Profile photo of Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Goldgeller:

    I do think you have to balance it, and its hard to know where that balance is.

    I try (TRY!) to act the same way when I am not behind the wheel as when I am. If texting while moving and being unaware of your surroundings is dangerous while driving, it stands to reason that it’s dangerous when you’re not behind the wheel as well.

    Duh.

    Practice all the things you do while driving as when you’re not driving, like checking what’s around you, watching where you’re going and keeping the main thing the main thing, and you’ll be fine.

    • #13
    • March 19, 2016 at 11:16 am
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