We are all a product of our respective environments. Much of what we know and believe today, is a result of what we saw and experienced in our childhood and as young adults. I am no exception to that rule – what I learned back then, shaped who I am today. A large part of what I do today is to train women in things they can do to be aware and alert to their surroundings – avoiding bad situations – but if that fails, I also teach what they can do to defend themselves against those who may harm them. I’d like to explain why this is so important to me.
I was raised by a single mother. She was smart, strong, tough, and a capable woman. She had to overcome a lot of challenges as she took care of my younger brother and me. Although she typically worked two, and sometimes three jobs, she could only afford for us to live in the “less affluent” areas of the community. We also moved around a lot, over eight years, I attended ten different schools in Reno/Sparks and three other cities. While we didn’t have much of our own, because of where we lived, what we did have was subject to being stolen, typically during the day when we were at school and my mother was working.
When I was about 10 or 11, we moved into a house that was about to be condemned. My younger brother and I had spent the previous night sleeping in the car after the three of us had been kicked out of our “home.” The house where we had lived was owned by my mother’s boyfriend, who had been abusive to us, but especially so to my mother. Within a few hours of being kicked out, my mother had gotten a new job as a waitress. Her tip money bought us some food, and we slept in the car under the clothes we had grabbed as we had headed out the door.
After she finished that first shift, she was looking for someplace to spend the night other than the casino parking lot. We drove past a house that was abandoned, she saw telephone number on a sign in front. In the morning, she called the number and made the owner a deal – if he would let her move in and stay there rent-free for a month, she would clean, repair and improve the condition of the house. At the end of the month she would have fixed the house to the point it was livable – and at that point, she would begin to pay rent. The deal was accepted.
The first night in our “new house” was spent sleeping on the bare wood floor in the living room. We huddled around an open oil burning heater, covered in a blanket and what clothing we had. Once again, the tip money she earned as a waitress bought tape and plastic to cover the broken windows, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for dinner, and a couple of gallons of heating oil to keep the metal heater going for a night or two. Although she tried to make us enjoy the experience as if we were camping indoors, I knew better, as she feared the abusive boyfriend could show up at any moment – and threaten the safety of all of us.
Over the next few weeks, tip money bought soap, bleach, cleaning supplies, paint, mattresses, and she was able to retrieve the rest of our clothes and essentials. Electricity and running water were soon available, and after a while, the cinderblocks we had stacked up against the broken back door to keep thieves, abusive boyfriends, and others out – were replaced by an actual functioning door and lockable handle. It took a while, but we were able to get back to a “normal” lifestyle. Years later, through her hard work, she was able to buy a small house (for the price of $15,000.00), where our nomadic lifestyle finally came to an end.
Self-sufficient and full of desire to experience everything life had to offer, my mother was always up for an adventure. Many years after the event described above, she was planning a trip to the Southwest, driving alone, and to help keep the cost manageable, she intended to sleep in her car instead of spending money on hotels. She was wise enough to know that as a single woman traveling alone, and sleeping in areas not well traveled, she was at increased risk of being victimized or attacked. Afraid of what could happen, she asked to borrow a gun from me.
I collected some of my guns and we drove to the hills outside of town, to an area safe for shooting. She was able to shoot several of the guns, choosing a .22 semi-auto that she felt comfortable in operating. We spend some additional time shooting that one, and I made sure it was cleaned and loaded with good quality ammunition – just in case. The relief she felt in having that gun available was palpable, for a time, she had considered not going on the trip, but having the ability to protect herself affirmed her decision to go. While she didn’t need to use it, the gun was available and gave her assurance she would be safe if she were to have been threatened.
As a police officer, one of the hardest things I had to do was to respond and take reports from those who had been victimized. Unlike what you see on the “cop shows” on TV, I sometimes, but rarely, got to get in car chases, foot pursuits, and catch bad guys in the act of committing a crime. Other than documenting what had happened in my report, I could only offer empathy to the victims – because it was too late for me to do anything else. While crime can be directed toward people of all shapes and sizes, for whatever reason, in my experience, women seem to be disproportionally victimized.
Most of the crimes that I dealt with were “property crimes” – theft of books, computers, money, personal electronics, etc. However, too often, I had to take reports from women who had been physically attacked or sexually assaulted. These situations were always heart wrenching, and emotionally draining for me. In addition to not being able to do much for them, I also understood that if these victims had some of the knowledge I had, if they had learned some of the things I knew, they likely could or would have been able to avoid being a victim.
It wasn’t just the women I would deal with directly as part of my job. As a police officer I would attend training and keep apprised of what was going on elsewhere in the community, and the trends in criminal activity nationally. I learned of the crimes that were occurring all over the country. I also had co-workers, friends, my wife, her relatives, and later, as she grew older, my own daughter – all of who’s safety I would worry about.
Working long hours, mainly in the late night and early morning hours, I often had to leave my wife alone with our small children. The fact we lived a long distance from densely populated areas, added additional anxiety. My wife would sometimes call me at work after being awoken by a noise – either outside, or sometimes inside the house. Depending on what was happening at my job, I might be able to leave right away, and if so, I could arrive home in about twenty minutes. Otherwise, it could be several hours before I would get home. For each time she called, there were dozens of other times that she didn’t, she just tried to suppress the fear, and hoped nothing bad would happen. A few years ago, when she got her CCW permit and a pistol of her own, she had the option of carrying that pistol, or at least having a firearm she knew she could use to protect herself if I were not there.
As my career progressed, I was lucky to change direction and got the opportunity to get involved in more crime prevention activities. I was able to develop lesson plans and conduct training for our students and young professional staff members. As I did more presentations, and instructed more topics, I got better, and my skills improved. At one point, and for several years, I was able to teach several classes at the community college, including a one semester, 45-hour long, concealed carry class.
This was another turning point, instead of teaching police officers who might not want to be there, those who took the semester long CCW class had paid money out of their own pocket – and were very motivated to learn how they could use a firearm to protect themselves and those they cared about. Several women who took the class had absolutely no experience with a firearm, most were very afraid of guns, but they were a lot more afraid of the bad things out there that could hurt them, and they understood that once they learned how to use it, a gun would be a very good tool to use for their protection.
Today, a majority of the training I do is with women. Be they mothers and daughters, wives with their husbands, a group of several women taking an “all girl” class together, or quite often – individual women who want the extra time and consideration that is included with a personal one-on-one training class. The lessons taught to me by my mother and other strong women in my life, was that women are capable and powerful, they can rise to conquer many challenges, and accomplish many things.
That being said, the lessons I learned as a police officer also showed me men are generally larger and physically stronger than women, and in a violent confrontation – to be able to defend themselves effectively – women may need to have some tool or a skill set that will help them to bridge that gap, to equalize that disparity of force between them and a male threat. While it could be martial arts or other fighting skills, more often for the women I have been training, a firearm is their best choice. Small, easy to carry, and a powerful tool to protect themselves. My daughter, who recently moved out of our house and into an apartment, is not yet old enough to get a CCW permit, but when she is, that will be something I will encourage her to seriously consider.
For my mother, my wife and my daughter, as well as many friends, firearms are empowering for women. I had an experience a year or two ago that reminded me how quite often things come full circle. A woman I had known contacted me wanting to take a firearms class. Just as my mother had done some 30+ years earlier, she was taking a road trip through the southwest by herself, and wanted a firearm as an option should she need something to protect herself. We did the training, and she went on her trip – just as with my mother, everything went fine, and there were no problems. Were some threat to have presented itself, I have no doubt she would have been able to defend herself effectively.
The tag line of my company: “Training to bring you through the storm…”is a reflection of the journey I have traveled over the past thirty-plus years of my law-enforcement, safety, and security experience. I am extremely grateful that I can offer training to people who are concerned about their safety. Mostly, I provide instruction in the use and manipulation of a firearm, but in my classes, I also have a strong component that addresses being aware, alert, and avoiding trouble if at all possible.
More than just firearms skills, I believe what I offer is a way for people to feel empowered. With a gun that they know how to use, they can take care of themselves, and don’t have to depend on someone else to protect them, or rely on the response of those who might not get there quickly, and almost assuredly won’t arrive until after the problem is resolved.
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