By Salvatore DeGennaro
Another mass shooting, this time on foreign soil. Apparently this sort of thing does happen in other places, despite what our current President would have you believe. The beach attack that occurred in Tunisia, in which 38 people were killed, happened in a country with some of the strictest gun control on earth. However, gun control isn’t the issue here. There’s a trend that is consistent in the wake of all such attacks . . .
Several survivors from the beach that day, as interviewed by the mainstream media, expressed an entirely predictable theme that goes something like this: “I could not believe it was happening.” The lone survivor of the recent church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina also said approximately the same thing.
As a part-time instructor myself I do what I can to train citizens in the skills of self-defense with a firearm. I also do what I can to broach those ever-elusive principles of mindset with my students. I have found that getting most individuals to pursue serious firearms training is very difficult. I have also found that encouraging the appropriate mindset is even harder.
Human beings are certainly interesting creatures. We can convince ourselves of almost anything. It appears that most humans, at least in western societies, have convinced themselves that violence will not happen to them personally. This is interesting behavior considering the fact that, unless an individual lives under a rock, they are inundated with daily reports of violence and human malice. Yet, in the wake of all such episodes, the survivors react the same way: “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
As a life-long practitioner of shooting and self-defense, I have always studied what I consider the most important element of preparedness: mindset. I have come to the conclusion that the true turning point for an individual in adopting the correct mindset is the acceptance that “it” can actually happen to “them.” A revolutionary notion, I know.
The first time this phenomena made an impression on me was in the wake of a particular horror show that was the Luby’s Cafeteria shooing in Killeen, Texas in 1991. A lunatic drove his pickup truck through the wall of the establishment, jumped out and opened fire with a handgun, killing over twenty people before offing himself. This incident was actually a turning point in Texas gun laws as it turns out, but what I remember most is reading several interviews with survivors. One person said that he recalled all of the patrons in the restaurant hiding under the tables on the ground face down as this wacko calmly walked around executing people. You can probably guess what he had to say: “I couldn’t believe it was happening.” That has always stuck with me.
I find that most people are absolutely unwilling to confront the scary possibility of actually, one day, facing human violence. It seems that most individuals will view other forms of crisis – car accidents, train derailments, house fires – with far more acceptance than human violence. This, despite the fact that being a victim of violent crime is statistically more likely than many these other disasters.
Because of this lack of acceptance most individuals get caught in a paralyzing train of thought when the worst comes to pass. Rather than taking action, they get stuck like a deer in headlights thinking, “This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening to me!” Obviously, the acceptance that it can happen at any time and in any place is the first step in getting our mindset right.
Even those of us who carry a handgun on a daily basis should have this internal conversation with ourselves. As we all know, the gun is not a magic talisman that will protect us. The weapon is of no value if it’s tucked in the waistband of an individual who will freeze when things go bad. Be sure to remind yourself often that it can happen to you personally, it can happen right here, and it can happen right now.
For those of you who teach others how to defend themselves, remind them of the same thing. Oh, and good luck with that.