Historically, summer is the slow time in the gun store & gun range business. This summer has been no different, cyclically speaking. However, as I look back at the foot traffic in the doors of SharpShooters this summer, we can see the regular expected summer slowdown start in mid July. It continued through August, right up until last weekend, when all hell broke loose in Afghanistan. That day, and everyday since, foot traffic in our doors has been up 70% from where it was the previous 8 weeks. Why? Because the world is a less safe place than it was just over a week ago. Here’s what’s just happened, and where it seems to be headed.
Afghanistan Is Not Safe
Lots of different emotions on this subject, and everybody’s got something to say. I’ll say two things. First, to everyone who served in Afghanistan in the last 20 years: we salute you. Thank you for your service. You gave hope to a people who live in terror. Second, our government walked away from 600,000 Military weapons systems, 75,000 Military Vehicles, and 200 Military Aircraft. Our government left BILLIONS of dollars of military-grade weapons in the hands of the Taliban.
If you’ll recall, our mission in 2002 when we entered Afghanistan with our military was to remove the Taliban. Last week, the Biden administration’s Press Secretary recognized the Taliban on the world’s stage, saying, “The Taliban must consider their role in the international community.” In less than 20 years, we’ve moved from the destruction of a terrorist group to recognizing them and handing them the best weapons systems in the world.
And today, just a week later, the headlines tell us that ISIS is back in Afghanistan. Let’s not be fooled. They never left. They simply went silent until we left.
How do these events, 7500 miles away, impact the foot traffic here in Atlanta? Because people feel less safe than they did before these events took place. It really is that simple.
Atlanta Is Not Safe
Afghanistan has never been an overly safe place, at least not in my lifetime. Atlanta, however, used to be safe. But let’s consider just this summer how many gruesome murders – random murders – have occurred in the city. They all made the headlines, from Piedmont Park dog walker to the “Bartender with a Huge Heart” last week. Add to that the recent and continuing morale issues between the City of Atlanta Police and Atlanta’s Mayor, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Metro Atlanta is less safe than it was a year ago. The “community” of Buckhead is very seriously trying to leave the city of Atlanta, incorporate, and provide its own Police force. I stand with that movement 100%.
Is the world less safe than it was 2 weeks ago? Yes, I believe it is. We just handed a very large terrorist organization a very large and very mineral rich country and billions of dollars in military grade weaponry. If someone does not consider the chance of some of those military grade weapons making their way to the western hemisphere in a terrorist attack, that person is being naive.
So what should you do? The simple answer is “get a gun”, but I’m here to tell you that getting a gun will not make you safe. In order to actually BE safe with a gun, you must know how to use that gun, how to maintain the gun, when to use the gun, when NOT to use that gun, and what to do (with or without a gun) in a dangerous situation. Those things do not come overnight. They only come with training and repetition. Training and repetition. Training and repetition.
Add Stress to Shooting
One of the most common mistakes that anyone makes is thinking that, because they have or carry a gun, they will be able to fend off any attacker. That is simply not true. One easy way to demonstrate this bad thinking is to add stress to your shooting practice routine. When I say “stress”, I mean just about any physical activity or even just an unknown variable. Here are two simple examples.
- Do as many pushups as you can – to exhaustion – and then stand up, take your weapon, and fire 5 shots at a target 10 feet away in under 5 seconds.
- Have a training partner set up two targets: one to shoot, one NOT to shoot. You turn your back to the targets. When your training partner says “GO”, you turn around, pick up your gun, and shoot the correct target within 2 seconds of “GO”.
These are very simplistic examples, and both should be done in a very safe environment with a professional trainer. Both will demonstrate that casually pushing a target out to 10 yards, taking careful aim, and producing a nice grouping of hits is fun and good practice, but it is not reality.
Reality is hyper stressed situations, complete unknowns, the element of surprise, variables, and the average shooting event lasts less than 3 seconds.
Get Proper Self Defense Training
What will you do in that hyper stressed situation? The problem is, you do not know what you will do until that situation occurs. However – and this is a big, big deal – you can predict your reaction very accurately long before anything like that ever occurs. Here’s how you’ll know exactly what you will do in a highly stressed, fast moving, dangerous situation, from Archilochus, a Greek Poet.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
Have you had any training? If your answer is “no”, then you can be expected to do absolutely nothing. Let’s take the horrible murder of the bartender just last week. Her boyfriend witnessed her kidnapping. He literally watched it happen. What did he do? He called 911, because that’s what he was trained to do. That’s what most people are trained to do: call the police. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the average response time for police to arrive at a crime scene is over 4 minutes. The bartender was gone in less than 30 seconds.
Her boyfriend did what he was trained to do. What will you do? You will not rise to the level of your expectations. You will fall to the level of your training. You’ll call 911.
Stay Safe: Avoidance and Situational Awareness
Even if you never own a gun and never get any defensive training, two things can keep you safer than 99% of the population: avoidance and situational awareness. If you’re walking down the street and you see a dark alley, cross to the other side of the street. Don’t walk your dog at night by yourself. When you come home from work at 5AM, make sure someone is outside to meet you. That’s avoidance.
Situational Awareness is both big and small. Big situational awareness is acknowledging that the city of Atlanta is not a safe place to walk around at night by yourself. Small situational awareness could be things such as not wearing Air Pods in your ears when you’re walking alone, especially at night; keeping your head on a swivel and seeing what’s around you at ALL TIMES; or making sure you never walk the streets of Atlanta – or any big city – alone at night. Never!
Learn and practice these two very simple concepts of avoidance and situational awareness, and you’ve upped your training already. Next, learn how to use your hands, legs, and body to fend off an attacker. Here again, the goal is not to John Wick this perp, but just to get away. You and I are NOT the heroes we think we want to be. We just want to survive, and help others survive.
Learn First, THEN Get a Gun
Once you understand fully the concepts of avoidance and situational awareness, and then become confident that you can fend off a surprise attacker, then you’re ready to purchase a weapon that works for you. Maybe it’s a gun, maybe a knife, maybe something else. I learned this past week of a simple “weapon” that you can take through an airport and onto a plane. It’s a padlock and a length of steel cable. Apart, they are just those things, but fasten that cable through the lock, and you’ve got a very effective blunt instrument. In close quarters, that’s all you may need, if you’re prepared to use it, rather than just calling 911.
When you do decide to get a gun, please do not just go out and buy the coolest thing on the shelf. Yes, this is the owner of a gun store pleading with you not to buy the coolest guns we sell. Make sense? No, don’t do it. Instead of paying $700+ for a sweet pistol, go to the range rental counter first, pay the $20 and shoot as many different guns as you like. Then go home, and come back a few days later and do the same thing again. Find the gun that feels comfortable in your hands, that you can operate easily. THAT gun is the one you’ll be confident with, comfortable practicing with, and enjoy the sport of shooting.
Just getting a gun will not make you safe. That 4″ between your ears needs to learn how to be safe first, and then you can be confident that you’ll be able to do more than call 911 if you are the only witness to a crime about to occur.