The Dark Side

competitive marksmanship

competitive marksmanship

What makes one person law abiding, the next behave illegally? What makes for a few dumb mistakes versus a life time, a life style of purposeful wrong doing? I ponder this as I watch the morning news connected with the very events of the night before which unfolded down the hill from my backyard view. Police blocked off this one street at both its ends, spending hours coaxing a wanted fugitive from his apartment. I tried walking my dogs that evening, but couldn’t proceed due to the blockade. That is how I learned something was going on. I marched back home and could look across my back wall, out over the area, front row seats. I saw the police unit, the light bars strobing through the night darkness. At one point, I heard a female officer’s voice over the bullhorn, “come out with your hands up!”. She repeated herself so many times I wondered what academy she went through. Officer presence, verbal commands, soft techniques, hard techniques, deadly force. She stayed very stuck in the verbal command level of the Use of Force Continuum; no wonder no one listened to her. She had lost her aura of officer command. She should have had her partners go in and retrieve the fugitive while repeating her command only once. I finally went to bed; I got bored. House and grounds locked up, alarm on, firearm at the ready, I slept well. The morning news, then, reported that said fugitive finally presented himself to the police after about 4 hours of holding out. I about fell over. I knew the guy. What makes a man turn? Had he always been on The Dark Side and just gotten away with it until he didn’t? Did he incur a sudden surge of insurmountable obstacles he believed Organized Crime would overcome? He had been my neighbor on the same street as me when I first moved to this town, a presentable professional with the wife and kid and even a little dog. Now, come to find out, he was still my neighbor but at this current locale. So, what is the lesson learned? Something trite like, “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family,” falls short. How about, “ you can’t pick your family or your neighbors,” doesn’t really fit either. Maybe staying observant and vigilant works well. Even better, staying on the law abiding side of citizen conduct works best. We all ponder the Dark Side. It’s human. But to actually follow through relinquishes the rights and delights of adulthood. I’d rather stay grown up, right intact, and out of trouble.

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One Year

competitive marksmanshipThey say it takes a year to properly grieve a loss or life changing event. In that year, every holiday, anniversary, red letter date on your calendar happens once, allowing for living through each of these events in the form of the new person we become at least one time. We become a new person from divorce. We enjoyed marital status, now we are newly single. We were children ever able to turn to parents who now may have passed. Now we are singularly adults. We may have been trained officers, always ready, never fully tested in the field. Now, we count confirmed kills. We transform as a result of these and any other life changing events. To dismiss, demean or degrade the experiences only means our grief process leaks out unexpectedly in awkward and even unacceptable ways.

It has been a year, now, since I had to use my gun and I am unquestioningly a different person. More ME than ever, I discovered facets of myself as of yet unrevealed. Powerful, adept, sharp, top the list of how I see myself. Responds swiftly and appropriately in the face of danger gets added on. Not that I stand without fear, but I prove to myself that in frightening situations I know what to do, I am field tested. Sometimes this means walking away, do not proceed one step further. Sometimes, like this one time, my frightening event meant drawing and firing my weapon.

And sometimes, I feel guilty that I do not feel guilty. Defending one’s own with a firearm renders a quiet confidence. In addition, defending one’s own with a firearm does not lend itself to screaming from any mountain top, “I DID it!” as one might do after completing running a marathon. Both require extensive training, commitment, attention to detail. But, using a firearm renders an opinion of such extreme contrasts wherein keeping quiet becomes most appropriate, making for that quiet confidence. I know what I did. Every person who has confirmed hits knows what I’m talking about. If you have never had to use your gun, God bless you. Keep training. Never stop training. You do not know when your day will come. Hopefully, never.

 

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I Had to Use My Gun Today

competitive marksmanshipAlways at the ready, I never thought I would ever have to actually use my gun. Then came the day, three weeks ago, now, when I called my friends to say, “I had to  use my gun, today.”

The circumstances presented textbook case study. My response left the police reassuring me that I did not do anything wrong. But the aftermath leaves me with a sense that knowing what it feels like to kill will never ever dissipate, will never fade into any background. It now defines me.

While walking my dogs through my highly colorful neighborhood, I always notice my surroundings. Like the big city I come from, I think of myself as remaining nonplussed by the subdivisions which sport different socioeconomic strata every other street. This definitely describes my area. Not that people don’t have money, it is how they choose to spend it. Pride in ownership of one’s home does not top anyone’s list of necessary expenditures. I always walk my dog on a variety of routes through my neighborhood, knowing every house and every dog behind every gate. I say “hello” to all, creating good neighbor relations. I say “hi, pup” to all the dogs, as this might be the only human interaction they get. The dogs show very agitated behavior from behind their gates ranging from anxious and frightened to aggressive and vicious. I always have a plan in case of dogs breaking loose or already being loose. I can say I call Animal Control more times than I can remember. I can lay claim to encountering loose dogs, me and mine have been charged or corralled, and I have even had to physically submit dogs. It is annoying. But, knowing I can handle myself breeds confidence. Knowing I am within my rights to employ deadly force breeds strength of character. All my calls to Animal Control, my Concealed Handgun License classes and federal law enforcement office training confirms this. Three weeks ago, the baby boxers I observed from the past several months became the address in question. Upon first seeing these pups, I thought “devil dogs”. I assessed they were completely without human companionship and, as per this set up, the dogs turn on each other. I wondered why the little devils didn’t just walk right through their gate slats. I planned on stepping on them in such event and bringing them to their front door, hoping someone would answer the door. Over time, I never saw any people at that house, but I did see the meeker baby boxer replaced by an even milder Husky. Did they eat the baby boxer? And, over time, the remaining boxer grew as did his aggression. For awhile, the owners put up a wooden board, as if that would stop the dog from breaking out of their gate. However, on September 24, 2014, I walked down the street, crossed at the end and proceeded up the street, my norm for this dog walk route. Across the street from The House, the boxer growled and barked and snarled. As usual and as a bigger dog than a couple months ago. On his side of the street, in front of his house, the unthinkable unfolded. This baby boxer, now 4-6 months old, maybe 20-25 pounds of filling out aggression, consciously squeezed out from between the slats of his gates (Husky not seen for awhile, he probably got eaten, too?) and makes a beeline for my black lab’s neck. This is fight stance. I knew better than to run as I would incite the boxer’s prey drive. He’s 4WD, I’m disabled and about 1/2 wheel drive. I stood my ground. The boxer went right for my dog’s jugular. Not the nose to nose greet, not the butt sniff, but straight for the kill zone. Shit, the owners were working on building a fight dog. I got angry in my heart: “NO ONE hurts Goofy!” He can do that all by himself, fully living up to his name. I ran through my options in my brain: Grab the dog by his neck, press him into the ground into a submission hold. Wait, boxers don’t have necks. I could grab him… where? And, boxers have no snout. The instant he turns his face, to my body reaching for his, his teeth are on my arm, my face, my neck, my vitals. He growls, snarls, holds his aggressive stance, challenging my dog. My dog looks at me helplessly, not a fighter. Boxer’s hackles stand upright from head to tail. I think of the NRA magazine article I recently read on how a clean shoot can still result in repercussions unforeseen. The court cases, the attorney’s fees, the months and years of drawn out court dates and trials. I thought about seeing Zero Options other than resorting  to deadly force. As I held the dogs’ leashes in my left hand, my little dog standing behind the labrador in question, I did what I trained 20 years for: I kept my eye on the target, accessing the zipper to my pouch I always carry on the dog walks. Keys in front pouch pocket. Pistol and poop scoop bags in back pocket. The accessed pouch, where I practiced a million times how to grip my pistol and only my pistol amongst the poop bags, my right hand gripped the gun, index finger off the trigger, other fingers wrapping around the grip in a most familiar if not comforting feeling. I would be OK. I knew what I was doing. I knew what to do. Drawing, finger now on the trigger,  I double tapped the aggressor, affecting a clean kill. My dogs never moved. My dogs never winced. I trained for this moment of Life or Death for 20 years, but they had not. The boxer fell with a final helpless expression to his no longer angry puppy face. Upon his final exhale, he issued a scream. I will have to live with this memory the rest of my life. I did not stick around to collect cartridges, I did not inspect for bullet holes. I zoned out at this point. In shock, now, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. No one came to help. No one came out of a single house. I stood all along in the world. Like any self respecting woman, I peed my pants. They never tell you this in training. I’ve heard of barfing, but never of the bladder letting loose. All I could think was I needed to get home to shower and change. I marched home 1/2 a mile in record time, my clock reporting the hour of 911, 0911. I will always remember that, too. That sense of Twilight Zone left me wondering who I was supposed to call first. Animal Control,? The Police Department? My agency I retired from? Confounded that all this had to happen, I only could put together needing to call my FFL. Go figure? He set me straight as to calling Animal Control first. From there, they patched me over to 911 where reports of shots fired had been called in. Before the police officers arrived, I showered and changed. I even told them about peeing pants, but they were very kind by not putting that part in the official report. I identified myself on the phone and again in person as being a retired officer, as being disabled, as holding a CHL. I could articulate NOT “I feared for my life”, but the dog charged, the dog went for my dog’s neck, the dog growled and barked viciously AND my ongoing observations including seeing the other dogs at that residence and then not seeing them there. A clean shot can not be validated with “I feared for my life”, but with listed features of the aggressor’s behavior. This can include a person twice your size waving a club screaming, “I’m going to kill you.’ That calls for deadly force. The boxer charging me and mine with articulable behavior as intending to kill constituting a deadly force response. The officers examined my gun and wanted to know if I’d discharged it. The magazine did not contain enough bullets for a double tap from a fully loaded magazine. What was I to tell them? I’m too lazy to fully load? If I need more than 6 rounds in the mag I should not be carrying? But my shocky brain cleared up as I told them I loaded revolver friendly, as a former competitor, we only loaded for six. That fully explained the remaining 4 rounds from my magazine. And that was it. The police left with reassuring me I’d done nothing wrong. I did what I trained for. I shot accurately, cleanly, without question. But now what? The training never goes beyond this moment. So, I went to the range with my friendly neighborhood FFL to make sure I “got back on the horse’ right away. No problems there. I sought counsel with an agency peer counselor. Talking to a fellow office evens out the playing field, we all face on the job dilemmas and traumas. I sought private counseling sessions to make sure I stay grounded. I have to put my dogs in the car, now and walk them elsewhere. I have to change my routines. Instead of being pissed off- my norm- I have to see the gratitude in the moment. I didn’t get arrested, I did not shoot my own dogs, PETA or the SPCA did not picket my front yard or graffiti my garage door. The Devil Dog owners did not retaliate. I must, though, remain vigilant, vengeance can be patient. Oh, and the other baby boxer? It already went to Animal Control. When the police visited my house, they got the radio call saying the owner got notified of my actions and the other boxer was already in Animal Control. Hmmm.

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Don’t Bring A Knife To A Gunfight

competitive marksmanshipI recently spoke with a man from England. An avid arms collector, hunter, marksman, he had served for over 15 years in what is their country’s National Guard. It is called something else in the United Kingdom, but is would be akin to America’s National Guard. He maintained the family’s heirlooms of firearms, adding to the impressive collection, competing with rifle as his personal passion. It was his life, as competition once was mine. Each having our own stories, it all fell apart for both of us. For me, I suffered multiple work injuries causing  me to retire from competition and, ultimately from my job on a  medical disability retirement. For him, the law of the land impinged upon his private affairs.

 

I always knew England maintained strict firearm bands, but to hear the personal story of this man made me cringe. I think every news headline affects us mildly until we get personal affirmation of a circumstance. To hear from this man about the government of England holding the right to knock on your door and demand to inspect your firearms and paperwork and registration and then confiscate at will sounded horrifying. It actually sounded like a gestapo move of the Nazi’s knocking on doors demanding to search for and seize Jews. I was told, that in England, the authorities informed the gun toting populace that homes would be searched and firearms seized for the safety of the people, option being to voluntarily turn over all guns to said authorities for a bit of cash in hand. And so this man I spoke to owns not a single firearm not round of ammo any more.

 

This all happened before the turn of the 21st Century and it is still as blood curdling today as if it happened last weekend. I went through my Customs Firearms Instructor Certification School in Ft. Benning, GA in 2001. Part of our curriculum included Edged Weapons Training- knives. The example at hand was Brittain and how only the bad guys had guns! Law abiding citizens and even the Bobbies did not legally carry firearms. So, expert training of knives needed delivery so that the officers could try and defend themselves with a knife. Or, if the bad guy had not yet acquired a gun but brandished an edged weapon, the officer knew how to maneuver the bad guy with that weapon. As firearms instructors in the U.S. we underwent this same training which is good to know, important to master. But, please, never bring a knife to a gunfight.

 

Every right carries an inherent responsibility. America maintains the right to carry and bears arms. This great and fortunate right can best be maintained through knowing and upholding the law: buy and own and carry firearms legally. If we don’t use our rights we stand to lose them. Go buy a gun!!

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While Traveling One Day

Competitive MarksmanshipI go to the airport to check in and meet up with friends somewhere else. How exciting, a vacation. How perplexing, the airport emptiness inspires inquiry. I walk right up to the check in counter and check my bags. I breeze through TSA who now sports Border Patrol Officers questioning travelers like they are Customs Inspectors. This must be degrading to the BP guys. Anyway, about three seconds later, I consult my airline counter and, yes, my plane schedule remains the same. Well, now, what to do? Starbucks, of course. I ask the gal there what gives with the ghost town of an airport. Apparently, this day of the week always operates this way. Note to Self as to best day to navigate this airport. As usual, I find an errant newspaper and hope to tackle the crossword puzzle. Not there. However, a WSJ beckons as something to read. I have to read. Or write. For the first time I can remember, I read a paper, this paper, and understood the articles. Papers, to me, pose some mysterious and intimidating code I can never break. I do not understand the lingo or the colloquialisms or the trendy phrases. But this, I did. Amongst the fall of nations and the fall of economies, there posted an article on politics about a Dr. Wehby from Oregon who is running for an official seat with the Senate. A professional, polishes, accomplished, experienced, bright, educated FEMALE the opposing side reviles her. Sounds just like the job I left. To make matters worse, this capable woman is winning. Sounds even more familiar. The more I won in local, state and national police pistol competitions, the more my home port of Los Angeles tried to punish me. Only the boys should be good with guns. Well, why in the world did both male and female get hired for the job and both male and female wear the same uniform and sport the same sidearm. And, why did both male and female qualify at the same range at the same time to the same course of fire? Because, job duty and job performance wise, we are equally capable?? I never gave up, I stood up for what I believed: do what you are best at and take your skills to their fullest levels of excellence. I set records and I set national level records. I have a history I can be proud of. I hope the same for this woman, this professional, polished, accomplished, experienced, bright, educated FEMALE.

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It’s the Law

Four letter word ending in “s”, clue states: holster fillers. NO brainer. Before I look at the puzzle to see how many letters or how many letters are already filled in, I guess guns, pistols, revolvers. THIS I can do. The word “guns” works. Next, I read the clue “spring”. This is not so easily discerned. Do we mean a season? a water way bubbling up from the bowels of the earth? the coil of metal, say in the guns, pistols, revolvers? do we mean to jump? I looked at the puzzle and my eyeballs swim a little at the letters and blanks before me. Eventually, I surmise LEAP answers the clue. I go on to complete the entire crossword puzzle effortlessly, never doing this before. If I get even one word, I feel so smart. But, today, I completed the entire puzzle. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex the crossword, I finished it! This brings to mind my most recent completion of another puzzle. I called Animal Control, I called the City Parks and Recreation Department. I needed to follow through on the laws, rules, regulations regarding our local dog park labelings. Large Dog and Small Dog labeled each gated area. But, like my clue for “spring”, what exactly defined the stated word? I had to investigate. I admit, I did not like the ruling. But, the law is the law and I will follow it. I learned that, although no weight per dog is mentioned in so identifying one’s Fido, although no inches in height at the shoulder is specified in so identifying Fluffy, the dog’s breed identifies which park the dog can play in off leash. Labrador Retrievers, as all dog owners know, falls into the Large Dog breed category. My terrier/ dashchund mix aligns with the Small Dog breed category. I am not allowed to bring my Big Friendly into the Small Dog park side even though he is a registered working dog, even though he plays independently, even though, even though. Rules are rules. I am, however, allowed to take both dogs into the Large Dog side, but the 100 pound Rottweiler puppies and 100 pound Shepard puppies maul her as if she posed tasty prey. So, where does this leave me, a tax paying citizen? I could fight City Hall. I could make a mission out of this. I could change the law. The beauty of this country is that we CAN. I could fight to get a third park opened for the Mid Sized Breeds. However, not today. I did my due diligence. I think I’ll just go to the range and fire a few hundred rounds and then take my Large and my Small dog on a long walk on their leashes. It’s the law.

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