Defense Machine Guns and Lifeboats Steve Tarani March 4, 2016 Join the Conversation The very best defense against any violent physical attack, aside from calling in an airstrike, is to respond with a really big gun and plenty of ammo. If you knew you were going to be in a gunfight wouldn’t you already have a belt-fed machine gun in hand, replete with a few dozen ammo cans? The reality newsflash, however, is that nobody is going to send you an engraved invitation to your next gunfight. It’s practical to have your long gun and ammo stashed neatly at home, in your vehicle or at the office. Problems arise when you decide to sling your carbine, and 8 extra 30-round mags, through a shopping mall, supermarket or a convenience store. In most states it would raise more than eyebrows, and in others it’s a felony. So the very best next option we have available for personal defense against unexpected life-threatening violence is a handgun. Upside is that handguns are concealable, easily transportable, and immediately accessible. The downside is handgun ammo is inferior to long gun ammo both in effectiveness and range. The old adage “use a pistol to fight your way to your rifle” holds as true today as it did in the 19th century. However, even a handgun has its limitations. How many government buildings, schools, airports, medical facilities, restaurants, movie theaters and posted businesses permit a handgun – even with your concealed carry permit? What if you were carrying concealed and something happened at a crowded mall and because of your backstop you can’t take the shot? What if you’re with your family and find yourself in an active shooter situation? Depending on the circumstances, your best option may be rapid movement to get them and you out of harms’ way, versus risking life and limb with feet planted and exchanging lead. The key to winning any battle is not trying to come up with the best tactical solution when you find yourself eyes-popped-open in the middle of an attack. It is, instead, to widen your scope of awareness prior to the attack. The mere fact that you would even consider going to guns means that you’re pushed back on your heels reacting to the situation. Being reactive means you’re already behind the action-reaction power curve and are forced to take immediate physical action to regain the initiative. Think of a violent physical attack as a freight train coming straight at you and you’re standing on the train tracks. First off, realizing you’re on the railroad tracks long before you even hear, see or smell a freight train, should be enough to motivate you to step off the tracks to someplace less hazardous to your health. Let’s call this being proactive, that is avoiding the threat altogether, before it even manifests. Second, if you didn’t realize you were standing on a set of railroad tracks, you at least had enough situational awareness to feel the rumble beneath your feet, hear the whistle blowing and see the red lights flashing – all pretty darn good indicators that you’re about to get smashed like a bug. Observing these threat indicators allows you to remain active in mitigating the threat, and its impact, as opposed to reacting to it. If you fail to realize you’re standing on the tracks, then you’ve denied yourself the opportunity to be proactive. If you fail to see the oncoming threat indicators, then you’ve denied yourself the opportunity to be active. If you didn’t hear it, see it, feel it or smell it coming then you are completely taken by surprise and have no other choice but to react to the situation. The best of these three doesn’t take a degree in rocket surgery. To avoid a threat altogether is the very best. If you don’t show up to a mugging then you can’t possibly get mugged. Failing avoidance, the very best next option is to actively use your situational awareness in knowing what to look for – see the threat indicators and step away from the inbound freight train. Going to guns is the worst of your three options. It means you are reactive, forced into a corner and can only hope to gain control by shooting your way out of the situation, at high risk to yourself and those around you. Back in the days when I was in protective services, we had a team leader who was a respected, seasoned old dog. In the field for several decades and on the verge of retirement, at a briefing he once said to us “As protective agents, if you boys go to guns you failed.” We were dumfounded by his words as firearms training was paramount to deployment. In fact our hard skills maintenance was such a high priority that if you didn’t pass the firearms qualification you would be ineligible for deployment. Machine guns and lifeboats. How could he get away with saying something like that? It’s because he considered firearms “lifeboats on the Titanic” – the ship is going down due to negligence and your guns are a last ditch effort, placing everyone at higher risk. The point he was trying to get us thick-skulled gorillas to realize was that if you rely on only one tool, the lifeboat, then you have failed miserably in your job responsibilities to protect those in your charge. Sure you’re issued a lifeboat, and of course need to know how to operate it, but how about steering the ship clear of icebergs, remaining proactive in avoiding the threat altogether by increasing your observation skills and situational awareness? Hmmm, what a concept – not relying on the lifeboat – the critical importance of soft skills over hard skills; a lesson well learned. About the Author: Steve Tarani is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who served in Protective Programs and formerly on staff at the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Security Institute (Security Force Training Dept.) at Kirtland Air Force Base (NM) where he worked for the US State Department Anti-terrorist assistance program (ATAP). Tarani has served the U.S. Defense, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence communities for over 25 years as a respected Protective Programs subject matter expert and service provider to numerous high/ low-profile US federal agencies. 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