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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.


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  1. It never ceases to amaze me that the most viscerally real things are the ones that people don’t believe, yet the same people choose to believe quite fervently in ideas that are the most unreal and absurd.

    Accept reality and deal with it accordingly. You can probably go through an uneventful life living in a fantasy, but in a bad situation, accepting reality may be the only thing that keeps you alive.

    • Heck, accept history. History is reality gone by. If attacks *have* happened, they *will* happen again. If mass shootings have happened, they will happen again. It’s only a matter of when and where.

      Gun control has failed, and it’ll fail again. Conversely, civilians have done better than police in most shootings. That’s a reality that the gun control proponent refuses to accept. Meanwhile, the intelligent thinker will promote the ownership of firearms by civilians in the future.

      I train now to prepare for a dangerous future. Since I’ve had a dangerous past, that makes sense to me. And I don’t want to be one of those cops that shoots at old ladies delivering newspapers.

      • “[W]hat’s past is prologue.”

        — Shakespeare

        Why is it that after almost 450 years, some people still just don’t get that?

        • Ah, one of my favorite saying: “Those who fail to look at the past are doomed to repeat it”.

      • Unfortunately my wife twists that saying and often says it hasn’t happened before (to us) so it won’t happen in the future… 🙁

    • Denial and disbelief is the normal human reaction in an emergency. Part of the factor in reaction time– folks don’t initially want to believe that something bad is happening, especially if it’s way out of the ordinary event. Thats’ true whether it’s a car accident, tsunami wave, plane crash… anything. Heck if there were an attack/shooting at Comic-Con I’m guessing a lot of folks would initially believe/tell themselves it was some kind of publicity stunt/part of the convention etc.

      It’s why pilots train and train in simulators– to make the emergency believeable, expected, almost routine to shorten reaction time.

      • ” Heck if there were an attack/shooting at Comic-Con I’m guessing a lot of folks would initially believe/tell themselves it was some kind of publicity stunt/part of the convention etc.”

        Wasn’t that part of the problem in the Aurora theater shooting? Many people thought it was “part of the show.” At least I seem to recall that being reported.

  2. I believe what we are witnessing in the non-firearm areas is at first what seems a utopian moment, safe, free and easy. In reality it is an insidious build-up of firearms within the criminal element. We see this in our own American cities and we are seeing it in other parts of the world.

  3. Nearly fifty years ago at the age of twelve years old, I was a victim of “machine violence”.
    My left arm was amputated after a severe mauling by a feed transport auger. I do remember somewhat the same feeling. I thought to myself “this what you read about in the newspaper”,
    Meaning, reading about someone else, not you.
    But this time I was there and without really trying, that was a critical training moment where I learned it could be you, it is you, act now or die.
    I often think it is like being handed an emergency in the shape of some strange polygonal shaped peg and all your life experience has only given you round and square holes to put it in. It is best to QUICKLY realize there is no match and don’t waste time searching for one like “that must be fire crackers”.
    Hopefully the same reaction can be conditioned without an actual life threatening event, but since I have one, I have consciously leveraged it.

    • “that must be fire crackers”

      I was at work last Friday, July 3rd, when I heard popping sounds outside. My initial thought was “GUNFIRE!” It was actually several moments later that I remembered the date and relaxed my assessment to “that must be fire crackers.”

  4. most people just freak or run from modt forms of trouble. the rest watch.

    we need people like us that run into the fire, stop traffic to help get a person out of harms way. use a belt or elastic from my undies to to stop a gooshing limb(had to do both once). most ignore a fight instead of stopping it, some of us choose to risk injury or death to save a stranger when others cant even figure out… Dial 911 instead taking a Video. even just pulling over to move a garbage bag off the highway(done it every time without fail).

    i for one made a promise to Never pass anyone in need without providing the best i can. to never pass up an emergency and to take the seconds or minutes to do what needs to be done to save lives. i was 21 when i made that promise and i have never broken it. 43 now and glad to say Dozens have taken that promise/pledge/vow. life goal is to help 10k before i die. i may never hit that goal, but i will die trying.

    Teaching, helping, donating computers those that need them, even just listening ehen someone needs to talk. anyone can do it, many time just one smile can change a lot of lives.

    the Day i made “The Promise”
    earlier that year i was sitting in ridgewood NJ getting a tea. it is as snooty and high strung as any other “rich” town. lived there sense i was 11, but was always a son of the south and greated everyone with a smile. weird for NJ, but im stubernly Friendly.
    while was i sitting there i saw a man that was really sad walking past, his eyes crossed mine and i smiled, he perked up smiled back and passed on. i thought nothing of it, just another friendly hello.

    later that summer i was across the street about to watch a movie. all of a sudden some rather attractive women gave me a big hug and was crying, her kids hugged me , all of them Crying, but with biggest smiles. then i was that man get out of his car. he to was crying(just a little) he took to my hand and starting telling the story of that day we met.

    you see they had been back every day, same place, same time for weeks waiting to thank me. i had no clue that one moment of kindness had a real effect on him. he was about to kill himself.

    he had lost his job, and he was way over extended. more then wife had known. he was parked only 20yrds away and i was the last person he would have seen before driving off a local cliff. he told me how he felt defeated and lost. everyone for hours saw him and ignored him. not one person acted with any kindness to him all day.
    he said that one moment, the one choice of someone giving a damb, gave him pause. instead of staying pissed off at the world he made left heading home, instead right to his death. he went home, told his wife, hugged his kids, and shared the best evening of Quality time of his life with them.
    the Next Day he got a Call from his “EX” Boss. Accounting made the mistake on the contract, they highed him back with a 10k bonus for their mistake. he settled the debt with IRS (back taxes on an IRA withdrawal) and decided to live a better life. as he saw it…. each day was a gift. he had given up on life and was going toss it all away.

    i learned that day that all actions do matter. that one smile changed his life, that of his kids, family, even his Boss.

    if i ignored him like all the others, their would be shame, fear, sadly, guilt, and what would the wife and kids do. how about the Friends and family. then you think of all those people they will effect with their guilt, and Depression. One Life can effect so many.

    think about it before flipping someone off, they might having a bad day, kids screaming, or just lost their job on the edge of a bad choice.

    its a hard way to live at times, but worth every day i get. ever day is a gift, it could be your last so use it well and God Bless

  5. Optimism + apex predator that no longer predates = “this is not happening”.

    These are top of the food chain problems. Rabbits and people who grew up in war zones do not have this problem. There are two kinds of people who not only believe bad things happen but can “see” them before they happen: wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep are bred for slaughter; they think like sheep and think others think the way they do. Sheep dogs have enough wolf left in them they can imagine all kinds of bad things that can happen to sheep.

    Thinking about and discussing possible negative scenarios before they happen again (like we are doing here) is one GIANT step away from being a slaughtered sheep.

  6. Part of the lack of mental preparedness is our lifestyle. Rarely do we face any kind of danger and if we do [Think traffic accident.] the aftermath is handled by professionals trained to keep you alive.

    We have an over abundance of everything. Our homes have AC, electricity and conveniences only dreamed about a couple decades ago. Forging for food equates to digging through the freezer….

    We watch cinematic ‘tragedies’ and their aftermath while sitting on plush furniture eating popcorn. That’s a near to danger as the average American gets.

    YOU become the sheep!

    Only your training and mind set makes you and I any different.

  7. I grew up seeing a lot of ugliness perpetrated by 2 legged animals… wife used to tell me to “take it down a notch” until 2 thugs tried a home invasion robbery on our house. Now she always gives me a “are you armed hug” several times a day.

    Note-357 magnums are VERY loud in a house…..

  8. Yep. This was me. The Day The Human Predator Tried To Mug Me.

    I was off in la la land, completely in condition White, when a man walking towards me suddenly turns off the path and walks away from me and then walks parallel to me, I go back into condition white, when suddenly I see the man in the corner of my eye, now walking towards me. He came walking up to me with his hand in his hoody pocket. Then, when about six feet away he stops and he says “I got a gun, give me your F—ing money”!. I freeze, I just look at him, one part of me saying, “No!! He’s not serious, No! He’s kidding”! Another part of me, the warrior part, knew he was serious, figured he didn’t have a gun because he would show it to me, saw he was about my size, Hispanic, mid- twenties, seemed athletic, all very cold, analytical- like a computer.

    Then he steps closer to me, now with in arms length, He says, “I got a gun, give me your F—-king money!!” louder, more insistent. I still just look at him, “No, he’s kidding, people don’t do this”. Then he starts reaching towards me with his free hand, while his other hand is still in his pocket. Like watching a movie, I take his wrist in one hand and his elbow in the other and I started to sweep his arm and body towards the ground, in a move I had learned in Aikido. But he pulls out of it, steps back and then then steps forward and kicks up into my crotch with the force and energy like he was going for a game winning field goal. So I twist my hips to the side and his foot goes sweeping past.

    Boom! That’s when it became real, Nothing like your b–lls in danger to make it real!! So we start punching, kicking, rolling on the ground, all lightening fast, but everything in slow motion. I almost get him into an arm lock two times, but he pulls out of each time, he creases, almost breaks my nose, I get various hits on his face and body.

    In all of this, I seem to have plenty of time to think about how we are almost perfectly matched, that I might not be able to beat him physically before he does some disabling blow on me first, so I figure I’ll need to beat him mentally.

    So as we both get up off the ground I go all Mad Man. I start walking towards him screaming at the top of my lungs, “Come on M-F–er!, is that the best you got!! Come on!!” His eyes go wide and he starts backing up! “Cool I say to myself, it’s working” But I make sure not to walk towards him faster than he’s backing up. Then, as he goes around of a building, he points at me and says “Your dead, M-F–er!!” Then he turns tail and runs.

    I do couple of Tarzan yells, then I go to my car and call the police to make a report. I had won, but what was left shattered on the ground was my unconscious Liberal/progressive paradigm that had been indoctrinated from birth to believe that if I think “good thoughts” and don’t carry a gun, I would be protected from becoming a target by a human predator.

    I didn’t even realize I believed this until I was confronted with the reality of another human being threatening my life for the paper in my wallet.

    I thought about getting a gun for self-defense, but then, I was confronted with the other belief of a Liberal/progressive paradigm. That if I started carrying a gun I would become more homicidal and shoot someone for cutting me off in traffic. The other thing that would happen, because I was being “paranoid and fearful” for carrying a gun, I would attract a confrontation to me, you know, it’s a law of the universe, “Like attracts like”.

    But after asking the universe if it was appropriate to carry a weapon, I got the go ahead, I bought a Ruger P101, .357 magnum revolver and started carrying a self-defense firearm, a couple of days later. But for the first year, I was being very careful in being self-aware to see if I became more homicidal, which, of course, didn’t happen. and of course, being more self-aware and being ready to defend myself with lethal force, any predator that looked at me as possible prey, didn’t make a move. After all, predators look for the weak, the helpless, the unaware, since I was now, none of those things, they never again targeted me. As has been the case for the last eighteen years.

    But if this life and death event hadn’t happened, the liberal/progresssive brainwashing might still have a hold on my mind and spirit, a prison with no physical bars, but just as much a cage. A prison of lies, denial and delusion, bordering on madness.

    • Nice diatribe…..but I’m NEVER in “LaLa Land”??

      Where were you when the altercation took place? Situational awareness…

      You got lucky…? There is always someone better, luckier or smarter than you. NEVER get into a situation that physical ‘prowess’ is your only defense!

      Your choice of weapon is among the lowest 10% of what I’d chose to carry….

      GLAD you survived!….become more aware of a situation BEFORE it becomes an ALTERCATION!

  9. For a subset of carriers, “Yes! It’s FINALLY happening!” is a corollary to “I wish a MF’er would.”

  10. Oh contra ire mofo!… you can sort it out after you neutralize the threat.. that is..,if you paid attention during training…

  11. I did not see any ISLAM in Charleston, Virginia Tech, Luby’s Cafe, The Navy Yard, Newtown, and the list continues. My policy is to develop a mindset and skillset to deal with evil in all of its many forms. I don’t care what ideology supposedly fuels it. Southern white men don’t have to appologize for the actions of that lunatic in Charleston despite what many left-wingers would have you beleive, nor do muslims have to appologize for the actions of terrorists despite what SOL would have you beleive. I beleive in blaming the individual for their actions, not society in general. Not the Rebel Flag. Not Islam. The individual who perpetraits the crime. And the best way to deal with any such individual is to put an end to their actions right on the scene.


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