Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Defensive Use Of A Handgun - The Wife's Perspective

By Wendy Jeansonne

My husband, Dave, wrote an entry a couple of days ago titled, "It Happened To Me Today - Defensive Use Of A Handgun." Dave, our niece and I thought we were just relaxing over a nice post-Mardi-Gras-parade BBQ lunch that day. If you've read Dave's entry, you have the context for what I'd like to add below.

In our Condition Ready training classes, we talk about the importance of being alert, prepared and committed to taking appropriate action in potentially dangerous/threatening situations. We also talk about the importance of awareness and age-appropriate training for all members of the family. Have you discussed what to do in case of a house fire, for example? When you read/hear in the news about some dangerous situation that has occurred, do you bury it, hoping not to frighten family members or do you use it as an opportunity to discuss, in an age-appropriate manner, what-if scenarios in order to add some problem-solving tools to the family toolbox?

Saturday, as the situation unfolded at the eatery, these were my observations and thoughts:

Before the driver exited the vehicle, the way the car jumped the curb, at a high rate of speed, so close to the outdoor tables where people were dining, it was clear to me that something was amiss (yellow-to-orange alert level escalation for me). When the car screeched to a halt, just missing parked cars and a utility pole, I was certain something was wrong and I gave the situation my undivided attention.

When the driver exited his vehicle, everything in his posturing, gestures and verbalizations made clear to me that he was very angry and was behaving in an erratic, unpredictable manner. He walked around to the passenger side of the car but, because of obstructions, I could not see that side of the vehicle or what was transpiring there. However, I did notice that Dave had leapt from the picnic table to obtain clear line-of-sight to the entire vehicle and whatever was unfolding there.

When I next saw the man, reappearing from the passenger side of the vehicle, he was charging aggressively toward Dave, yelling angrily and threatening Dave. I saw Dave, to my left, take steps backwards and I heard him repeatedly give the loud, assertive, firm command to the man to "Back off!!"

This is where it became very interesting to me in a surreal way. In that instant, looking at Dave, hearing him, watching his actions unfold slowly, confidently and methodically, I knew that Dave had made his plan and was in plan-execution mode. From that point on, I never looked at Dave again because I knew what I needed to do also. I kept my eyes on the angry man as he continued to approach threateningly and I knew that my focus had to be on the safety of bystanders. My decision tree was also in plan-execution mode:
  • If he displays a weapon or charges forward further, I will yell, "Everyone get down, NOW!" I will yell for my niece, "Behind the black car, NOW!" I will grab and pull her, if necessary.
The overriding, baseline thoughts going through my head were:
  • "Dave is executing his plan. I am confident in his mindset, training, ability and decision process."
  • "To the extent that I can, I need to clear the path for Dave so that others are safe and do not interfere with what I am confident is Dave's rational, justifiable, optimal plan to resolve the situation."
When it was all over, I was actually a bit surprised at how calm I felt through the whole situation, though, I probably should not have been surprised; that is EXACTLY how Dave and I were trained, together, at Gunsite ("250 Pistol" course and "Team Tactics for Two" course) and EXACTLY what we teach at Condition Ready -- be alert, be prepared, develop a plan, commit to the plan, execute the plan focusing on one's own area of responsibility.

Dave and I share our observations of our surroundings all the time -- stopped at a gas station, walking out of a restaurant, traveling across country by car, in rest stops....everywhere. We don't live in a state of fear or paranoia; we observe, we discuss, we share ideas and what-ifs. It is a low-key, purposeful education process about how to manage situations, as a TEAM. A gentle, "Honey, do you see that person hanging back in the recessed shadow of that building?" "Heads-up on the person approaching cars stopped at the light ahead." "Something about the trio hanging out at the ATM doesn't look quite right."

One thing I noticed at the BBQ place was that none of the diners seated at the other picnic table seemed ready to take any action to respond to the situation - either to diffuse it or to protect themselves or others. Was it that they were all in that lowest level of awareness where they were not observing their surrounding or analyzing what was unfolding around them? Was the leap from "totally unaware" to "Oh, my gosh, WHAT IS HAPPENING? What do I do?" a deer-in-the-headlights moment that left them paralyzed?

This is precisely why situational awareness, preparation, mindset and training are so important. Did anyone expect this kind of craziness to erupt table-side at an outdoor BBQ stand after a Norman Rockwellian parade? Would you expect a threatening situation to happen while you are stopped in traffic? Would you expect it to come to your front door during a quiet family dinner? No, you probably don't EXPECT it any more than you EXPECT a fire in your car or kitchen...but you probably have a fire extinguisher there just in case, don't you?

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