A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, May 31, 2010

Please Don't Forget.

Gold Star


Sunday, May 30, 2010

From the Archives ~ Standing on the X

After I encountered the story of Keith Labrozzi, and that of Stephen Swan and Matthew Butler, I felt compelled to share a few of my lessons learned. I don't know it all, I am no self defense guru, but I have been in and out of some damned spooky places and situations both in the States and third world countries of the Orient. I had the advantage of learning to protect myself through avoidance in countries where I did not speak the language very well. Advantage? Yes. I did not respond to the verbal tactics used to bewilder a victim and place them off guard. To remain safe, I had to study the body language and tactics of those who would do me harm. I found that criminals share many commonalities as they go about their business. There is a lot of bad information, assumptions and beliefs out there, only one of which is the gun being a magic talisman. Hopefully, I will address a couple more here.

Sometimes, because of events I have experienced in my life, I have a fatalistic point of view. When your number is up, when you are standing on that X,......Well, everyone has to die sometime.

But then, as a nurse, I know not everyone dies immediately. Some victims of crime are crippled. Some are paralyzed. Some jockey wheelchairs and wear colostomy bags. They develop decubitus ulcers that demand constant care, lest they become infected, creating sepsis and killing the victim, concluding a tragic chain of events years after a victim's bad decision and a criminal's actions set them in motion. Other victims survive on life support, brain dead, unknowingly generating years of agony and turmoil over every medical and nursing decision their loved ones are forced to face. I do not want to do that to my wife and children.

When I worked Home Health, providing specialized wound care in some of the most crime infested areas of a poverty stricken state, I carried redundant guns. One was on my hip under my lab coat, or in a SmartCarry holster if I was wearing scrubs. One was my nursing bag, secured in a middle compartment, velcroed shut. That bag was actually a soft sided briefcase designed to carry a gun. I recommend a similar bag to every nurse or physician I teach. In my pocket I carried a revolver, because I expected the struggle to be in confined spaces, quickly going to the ground, with the firearm jammed in the criminal's ribs. In the back of my Jeep Cherokee, I carried an aluminum baseball bat, my non-lethal weapon.

Twice over a period of eleven years of this type of work, I felt compelled to draw a weapon. Once, I pulled the bat. Each time, the event could have been avoided by better planning on my part. The learning curve was steep, but I was learning.

There are reasons why a grammar school dropout who cannot multiply 26 by 4 is able to outwit and victimize a person who is of demonstrably higher intelligence and social proficiency.

First, the criminal does this for a living. They are not as dumb as many think they are. If you fail to respect their level of skill, you will be unprepared to deal with them. They are not dumb. They just attended a different "school" and studied a different "curriculum". To understand and predict their behavior, you must know a bit of that curriculum as well. Understanding the behaviors and motivations of different types of criminals is the framework with which a wise person protects themselves. Know your enemy. Then practice avoidance if you can. If avoidance is impossible, try evasion. Try both of these tactics prior to defense. You do not have to "win" a dangerous encounter. Nobody wins a gunfight. They simply survive.

The next reason that a criminal can overcome a victim is they have a plan. They are acting offensively, while the victim is reacting defensively. By having a plan in place before contact is made, the criminal has a distinct advantage. They have considered contingencies. They know what they are going to do. They often work in numbers, confusing and surrounding the victim beforehand. They know what's coming. The victim does not. Know how the criminal works. He has a plan, and is looking for a victim to impose the plan on. The criminal has considered, and quite possibly experienced the reactions he will receive from his victim before the fact. Having a plan of action to deal with criminal activities is vital once you have been targeted. There is no one plan to fit every contingency. Having a counter plan is good, but removing yourself from the victim selection process is a far superior tactic.

The active criminal conceals their intent until they have selected a victim, moved in for the attack, and possibly made a couple of probes to assess the victim's responses. Recognizing the criminal's actual intent is vital. That gives you the edge to counter his plan with a plan of your own. The most frequent mistake that a victim makes is the failure to recognize the threat until it is to late. The criminal works with behavioral devices to conceal his actual purpose. The potential victim must see through the veil and recognize the actual intent if they are to counter the criminal. The criminal may be a scruffy crackhead, or they may be an attractive member of the opposite sex. They may be working alone, or in groups, either seen or unseen. They may even be an angry family member.

Once the criminal's plan is set in motion, the victim must seize the initiative. They must place the criminal on the defense. They must force him into the role of the person who is reacting to the unexpected. Your gun may be unexpected, or it may not be. It is your choices, your behavior that must redirect the conflict, not your firearm.

Analyzing when you are most vulnerable is key. Military men know that insertion is not the time of vulnerability. Extraction is. Crimes that occur when a person is entering a building are often crimes of opportunity, the work of amateurs. The criminal is easily disengaged. This is also a time when a more experienced criminal will size you up. They will sometimes make the first contact on your entrance, knowing that an exit is soon to follow. Crimes that occur when a person exits a building are much more likely to be targeted towards the specific individual, and be premeditated. The criminal knows your presence when you are leaving. While you were otherwise engaged, he was formulating his plan, and perhaps gathering allies. He possibly even knows the path you will take, as it is usually the most direct one to your vehicle. These are much more difficult to avoid and disengage from.

I knew that I was most vulnerable when I left an apartment or house in the crime and gang infested areas where I worked. Before I opened the door of an apartment to leave, I would take a look outside the window. The patients understood why, hell they lived there. I always, on the first patient contact, explained that I did not carry drugs, syringes (a lie), money, or valuables. I wore an ugly old Timex. I carried a beat up camera for wound documentation......I actually took sandpaper to it to make it less desirable. I drove a humble Grand Cherokee with a dented fender and ugly rims. I made certain the young men in the home, often involved in illegal if not outright gang activity, knew my purpose. I was there to provide nursing service, not to act as a police informant. I made sure they knew I would pull out and not only let them rot, but impede further care by other agencies if I was threatened. I did not equivocate on these issues. Often, these young men would serve as my protection against the threats as I came and went about my business. I would talk and listen as I worked, gathering information not just on specifics, but on the emotional climate of the area. I made mental notes of who came and went in the homes, the layout of the homes, as well as blankets hung in doorways and doors padlocked shut. One of the odd beliefs in these areas is that law enforcement needed a separate search warrant for padlocked doors inside a home. Thus, a padlocked door indicated illegal activity within the home. All good information to know. Even though young men or women, often seen as criminals, might serve as my protectors in these neighborhoods, I kept my distance and would not allow them to walk me to my vehicle. They knew why.

I would park where I had alternate routes to my vehicle. I would keep open space around me and structures and objects as much as possible. I made myself a difficult target. Still, I had to approach my Jeep. The criminals knew where to lie in wait. Thus, I was careful to park where I would have some room to see my attacker as he approached my vehicle, and where I could observe the vehicle from inside the home. Time and distance were my protection. I had a square convex mirror stuck on the rear glass of the Cherokee's hatch so I could see an approach from behind as I opened it. I had remote controlled door locks, and I disabled the passenger side and rear outside door handles. I kept the batteries changed in the door remote, giving me max power in opening them, and I kept the Cherokee maintained with a full gas tank.

Today, my situation is different, but I still take the time to realistically recognize my vulnerabilities, and to raise my level of awareness when I am most vulnerable. It is the heightened awareness that prevents a person from being victimized, not the gun concealed on their person.

Drawing and using a gun is only a part of one plan. It is a possible counter action, but not the only one. Keeping your back to the wall in a restaurant is only one technique. We plan for crimes that we hear about, the ones that make the 6:00 news. Most crimes do not occur as the spectacular robbery with multiple patrons in a restaurant or bar. They occur when the victim is alone and vulnerable, in a laundromat, walking a dog, or approaching their automobile or front door. These opportunities for criminals to ply their trade must be countered as well. Gunfighting is not about guns, it's about fighting. You must be willing and able to fight, and fighting is about survival. The gun is only a means of increasing your advantage in a struggle for life and survival. The best way to survive is to recognize and avoid or offset the threat altogether. Survive at all costs.

Related: When Being a Good Guy Isn't Enough
A Tactical Analysis of the Tyler Courthouse Shooting and the Tacoma Mall Shooting
By Syd

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Monday, May 17, 2010

From the Archives ~ Recognizing Threats

A couple of weeks years ago I wrote a post on the realities of surviving a gunfight. Much of my writing focused on the need to avoid the conflict. Many believe that they can avoid conflict by avoiding particular areas. This is not always the case. A person must go about one's life, and the criminal element does the same. A person may be more likely to be attacked in certain areas, but they can be victimized virtually anywhere. Indeed, they are often less prepared in their own element. Conflict avoidance requires threat recognition.

To recognize threats, one has to understand how the criminal mind works. The criminal is a predator. He (or she) sees the world as having two types of people.....Other predators and prey. Many honest gun owners like to think of themselves as "sheepdogs" but to the criminal, the sheepdog is simply another brand of predator. Like other beasts, it is a matter of survival for the criminal to prey on those weaker than themselves. To select the wrong victim is to become prey. If you want to survive in the criminal's world, you must be seen as a superior predator. Once you understand the criminal's thought processes, most attacks can be avoided simply by removing oneself from the victim selection process. There are several steps to victimization.

This is when the criminal decides to commit a crime. He likely has not selected a victim yet. Internally, however, the criminal has made the decision that he must fill a need, whether it be money to pay off his grandma's medicine bill, or cash to buy a bit of crack. He has decided to go to work. He may work alone, or with others, but like anyone else who goes to work, the working criminal's body language and demeanor changes. The criminal must disguise his intent, however, lest he be snared by the ultimate predator, the police. Thus, the working criminal lies in wait, like a lion in the grass, waiting for suitable prey. He is observant, and he will toss out bait to potential prey to see if he gets a nibble. Often, a criminal team will place the least threatening member in view to test potential prey while the others on the team remain hidden. He is not a fisherman, however, he does not require a nibble. The criminal is a predator. Failure to nibble at the bait is also a sign of potential prey. Remember, the only way to be left alone by this predator, or team of predators, is to be seen as a superior predator.
A superior predator may not attack, but they will always recognize other predators. If the criminal is recognized by someone he sees as an equal or superior predator, he will stay in the shadows as long as he or his territory is not threatened. If the recognition comes from someone he sees as prey, however, he begins to work in earnest.

The criminal, once he has observed a potential victim, will send out some test runs to determine if the person is indeed prey, or predator. These tests may be asking for a match, the time, or change. The initial tests all have one thing in common. They violate boundaries, and determine if the selected person will allow their space and generosity to be violated. The predator is mimicking a common panhandler to get in close, test the waters and position himself for attack. All of these persons are easily recognized by their inappropriate behavior and boundary violations. Like the fish who fails to recognize the moray eel on the reef, the person who fumbles for change with a predator has sealed their fate. The ruses are many and varied. I have seen crackheads target tourists and ask to get their pictures taken. I have seen balloon ladies that had accomplices working in the shadows. I have seen young women toss out lewd comments as their male accomplices tried to blend into the landscape. I have seen kids sitting on trash cans in housing projects while older gang members waited around the corner. I have even seen one teen lay on the side of the road in the projects waiting for a good Samaritan as his accomplices hid behind a dumpster. Like the anglerfish, these predators actively dangle lures to allow them to catch prey. To be seen as a potentially superior predator, one must simply recognize the threat, refuse to engage, and continue without alarm.

If the predator is engaged, a request for change quickly becomes a demand for a dollar, then a twenty, then a blow to the head as soon as the victim refuses. This kind of escalation is common with young gangs who quickly befuddle their prey with unrelated questions and demands from all directions. As the victim struggles with the insistent demands and questions, the gang will begin positioning itself for attack. These criminals work like sharks, first brushing their victim, then bumping it, and finally going after the victim is a swirl of blood and gore as others also jump in.

The most feared predator is the one who uses the silent selection process. This criminal watches the parade of people passing by, while trying to blend into the scenery. He wants to be neither seen or remembered. Once he recognizes and selects a victim, he knows he needs the right time and place to launch his attack. He may follow his selected victim to a more promising location. If he follows his victim, he knows that he must go unrecognized as a predator. He is the tiger in the jungle, relying on stealth to get close enough to quickly subdue his prey. Like the tiger, he leaves his lair to hunt. He may stalk his victim for long periods of time. He may lose interest in a selected victim that never knew he was there. He may follow the victim until the victim enters an area where an attack can be successful. If the time and place are already in his favor when the victim is selected, however, the victim will be like the fly who fails to recognize the chameleon among the leaves. Thankfully, these predators who use the silent selection process are not as common as other predators. They are, however, highly effective, giving the victim very little warning. The key to recognizing them is the last chance of conflict avoidance.

The final indicator of an impending attack is positioning. Once positioning commences, the victim has been selected, and an attack is imminent unless immediate action is taken. Positioning is recognizable by escape routes being cut off if the attacker is alone. In the case of multiple predators, attackers will both surround and approach from vulnerable angles. This is the jackal approach to the hunt. Once it occurs, the only choice the victim has is to either fight for their life or pray for the predator's generosity. If the predator moves into position, he has already decided that his victim is prey. He will attack. The only thing that will stop the attack is the sudden realization he has made a fatal error and chosen a superior predator. Proof of this mentality is the many incarcerated criminals who believe their last victim somehow victimized them instead.

And this, finally, is where citizens arming themselves against criminals need to focus. Armed citizens like to think of themselves as sheepdogs. However, inside every sheepdog is a lineage that can be tracked back to the wolf. The sheepdog understands the wolf because he is a wolf with another purpose. He is a predator as well.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Pawn Shop Circuit: If the Price is not Right.......

I strolled into Neil's pawn shop today, and I found the usual firearms underneath the glass. Nothing special. We talked a bit about concealed carry classes. Neil was up for a renewal, and he wanted to go to a class that had a more authorative legal session. I recommended a local class that the DA assists with on Saturdays. It's hard to get much more authorative than that.

I looked over the jewelry for Mother's Day and we talked some more. Finally, we drifted back to the guns and I noticed that what I thought was the same old Charter Arms Undercover was not. In Neil's case was a Smith & Wesson Model 30, with a pinned barrel and a battered finish. I asked to see it.

The little 32 Long revolver locked up nicely, and appeared to have been a purse gun or a pocket gun for a long time. Whoever owned it did not believe in holsters though. The finish was comprised more of bare metal and rust than blue. Neil had it priced at $219.

"How much?" I asked.

"For you, $200." Neil started, as he shifted his cigar to the other side of his mouth.

"I don't know," I said. "It's a 32, and I don't shoot that. Plus, I pretty much quit buying guns."

"You have been pretty much a stranger," Neil responded. "How about $175?"

"Let me think about it." I countered, and Neil placed the revolver back in the case.

"I think I got into that one for too much," said Neil.

"Yeah, probably so. I don't have that luxury though," I countered.

"Hey, let my show you this one from the back," said Neil, and he disappeared behind the office door. When he returned he had a familiar blue box in his hands. He opened it to reveal a pinned Model 15 with diamond grips. "What year do you think this is?"

"Probably right at 1957-58," I replied. "Is it coming out?" The box matched the gun, but somebody had written 1973 inside the lid.

"Not yet. Want me to call you when it does?"

I looked the gun over. It was laying on a rag in the box without the tools. It was a four screw gun. It had just enough wear at the muzzle and yoke to take it out of collector status for most people, but not enough on the cylinder to put it firmly into the shooter category for me. "Sure, dial me up when it's available," I replied. "I'll be interested for the right price."

"I think I might be able to do that on this one," said Neil.

"Good deal." We shook hands, and I left for home with a four screw Combat Masterpiece on my mind.