Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reflections on "I Carry A Gun Every Day"

The article I wrote, published last Sunday, is now a week old.   The support from drop in’s at the store, phone calls, and most of all, emails, have moved me.    Emails have come to me from every corner of our country and six others.  The touching stories have made me reflect on why I do what I do.   Some only learn after they have been a victim.  Others learn from the videos and stories of violence happening to those around them.   Be the latter. Being proactive is always better.

The emails I’ve received have confirmed in me the good in people; in every state and in every corner of this world.   I am guilty myself of unconsciously writing off people that live in states with very different laws than those in Iowa.   It’s easy to forget that many laws are fought for at the local level.  The moving stories I’ve been told in the last week have make me reconsider.  Evil is everywhere; it is. 

There are also good people everywhere.    Single moms taking  steps to keep themselves and their families safe. Women whose spouses currently carry, writing me to say they "see the light," joining their spouses in the right to bear arms. Two sets of eyes, two rescue tools and two phones are always better than one.  I am so glad so many of them are empowering themselves. It all starts inside the head. Knowing that your life, and the lives of your loved ones, is precious and it doesn't make you a bad person to decide that you are willing to defend it. 

I've heard from doctors; one in Belgium, one in France.  A story of how you can train to keep yourself safe when law prevents carrying a firearm.   He and his daughters train in hand to hand self-defense and carry knives; also a great tool.    To be told that your words touched someone half a world away and helped reinforce to them why they train with a knife and hand-to-hand combat in a country where terrorists are fought with rifles is inspiring and sad.   Due to the time difference I got his email in the middle of the night; just six hours from catastrophe.     If he had posted my story in his hometown would he have been perceived as paranoid and frenetic?  Many trainers I know would tell you to master your gun skills and then master every other skill you could to try to ensure that you don't ever use that gun unless you have to.   This writer has no other option.

The emails from the East and West Coasts have been inspiring.  Living within the parameters of what is legally allowed is a challenge.   I remember Rob Pincus speaking to class about his experience training people that have different allocations of time, tools, range availability and even desire.  There are many that do not enjoy the freedoms that we have.  Even within our own country our freedoms vary greatly.

I do not have to justify what I do to anyone. I want to be educated and keep educating others on the strategies necessary to keep ourselves safe. The naysayers don't bother me at all. I can only help those who seek help.  It happens in my store, the classroom, and on the range.   And it’s clear that putting my thoughts to words has had a worldwide impact.   Those I know that choose to arm themselves and train don't do so out of bravado or some twisted vision of being a superhero. They simply value their life and the lives of those around them; truly believing they have made a commitment to come home to their family every day.

We see this happen with women's self-defense class.  A woman otherwise reserved would not hesitate to do any of that and more to protect her children. I meet people like this throughout my career. I simply asked them, would your children want to be an orphan? Are you not the keeper of their safety and their only mother?  It's not a guilt trip. It's simply getting them to see the logic that they are irreplaceable.   Getting them to see that their own life is worth defending is the first step.

There have been many events of violence in this country and others since my article was posted.  Some right here in our own state.   I don’t need affirmation to do what I do for a living.  These acts of violence have always happened and will keep happening but it may still not be enough for others to see the light.   That's okay. I'm not reaching out to people trying to change them. I'm reaching out to the people that are ready to make that change. I'm reaching out to the people that need to know that it's okay to value your life enough to defend it.   I don't personally know anyone filled with bravado that carries a gun. I only know people who choose to carry the right tools for bad situations.
It's not my cliché but it has been said many times before. "Good people sometimes have to do bad things to save themselves."  It's a lot easier to justify those bad things in the legal system than it is in your own head sometimes. Both are equally important.   Having a support group around you if you ever have to be that person is very important.   Mas Ayoob has changed the lives of many by speaking of the demons that rear their head after one has had to use deadly force to defend themselves.

This takes me back to all the emails I received from all across this country; states that many of us call "blue states.”  Cities that we consider "lost ". Well I for one am no longer going to think that way. Those very places are also filled with evil. Some I’ve received emails from are some of the most violent cities in this country.   There are many nationwide organizations designed to help those in a time of need; food, shelter, or other basic needs.    Many have reached out to me inquiring about a nationwide movement to communicate better about our choice to train, learn, and reach out to those who need help.  My technological talent is lacking but I’m dedicated to seeing that to fruition.  

I teach students to hear the words "your brain will keep you alive.”  Chris, who guides students in hands-on defensive techniques, has been training civilians and law enforcement for over 30 years.  His motto is “the will to survive is instinctive....the ability to survive is learned.”  Keep learning. Keep training.  And consider those that although they may live worlds apart, both literally and figuratively, that share the same mind set.   Sometimes those great divides are caused my laws... laws and borders is all.  And as for me?  I’m right here, ready to guide you an any way you need.

Ernie Traugh.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Carry Every Day

Every day I get up and put on a gun. It’s part of my normal life. It’s part of my daily routine. No different than making coffee or feeding the dogs before I leave for work. These days there is so much misinformation on who that makes “me.” I’m a “gun nut.” I’m one of “those right wing 2nd Amendment people.” I’m the scourge of the earth to some. Funny how that works. “They” don’t even know me but... “they” are worried that I’m what’s wrong with this country, this state, and this city I call home. I walk among them and they don’t even know it. I’m the guy in the jeans and Under Armour shirt, the guy in the $200 sport coat and $125 shoes, the guy in Nike pants and a hoodie, and some days I’m the guy with dirty hands from working in the yard, but most of all I’m the guy they never “see.” 

Oh, they acknowledge me sometimes. When I hold the door for them because my parents raised me that way. When I let them go ahead of me in line at the gas station because they seem to be in a hurry. When I pick up their baby’s pacifier in the aisle at the grocery store and hand it back to them because it fell out and they didn’t notice. 

But they don’t “see” me. I’m just another guy in the store with things in my hand. But only my left hand. I don’t carry things in my right hand. Not at the store. Not in public. Why? Because I’m “that guy.” I know that bad things happen. Every day. Every where. So I try to be aware. I try to study my surroundings. I expect to not see it coming every time. I expect that evil may show up while I’m shopping or walking through the mall or eating at a restaurant.

It doesn’t make me crazy. It doesn’t make me paranoid. It simply makes me aware.  Unlike a lot of people that walk by me every day. Looking at their phones, their notes, their purse or any of the other distractions that plague us. I get it.

I also get that there are wolves. Hungry. Lean. Skilled at their trade. Studying you. Studying me. They like you. They don’t like me. I see it all the time. I see them at the mall. I see them at the gas station. I see them right here in this town. They don’t like me at all. Do they know I’m armed? No, no they don’t. They know that I’m aware. I look at them. Kill them with kindness. I see them looking around and they see me looking around. It’s a like a mutual agreement. I see you; you see me. Let’s not kid each other. It’s weird in a way. The man and his friend in the store that looked all around and even glanced at the camera above us...those guys “see” me. But “they” don’t. I’m aware that the door is over there. I’m aware that the coffee pot is within reach and full. He urges me to go first to the counter. “Oh no, you go please. I have all day,” I reply. Now he has to make a purchase. Now he knows I’m polite….I’m polite and I do want them behind me in line. The lady with her kid? She doesn’t even “see” me. 

But I’m there. I have a phone. I have a flashlight. I have two knives. I have a firearm. And I have a plan. If this doesn’t go well I want to get her and that little one out of here. Chances are nothing is going to happen until they’re gone anyway. I’d like to leave too. One asks the other a question. He hands the guy a few extra bucks to make the purchase of an item at the counter. They leave. I make my purchase. I call the employee by name and tell them to have a good night. I walk to the door and hold it open for the woman approaching. She says, “Thanks”. I say, “Yes ma’am.”.

Then, poof. I'm gone. Just another uneventful trip to the store. The best kind ever. It’s funny those men truly saw me but other customers didn’t. Why? Maybe too busy. Maybe too much on their mind. Maybe because they didn’t worry for one second about those two men or me.

When I get home I don’t tell my wife about the two men who lingered. The two men who entered together but stood so far apart. The two men that seemed to have no sense of purpose or desired item they were in search of. No need to talk of them because nothing happened. This happens daily. Sometimes once. Sometimes multiple times. I like uneventful days.


They don’t see me. They don’t know me. But man, they sure do judge me. If I use a gun to defend myself they will read about it. They will hear about it. They will weigh in on what should have happened. I have seen bad people. I have seen bad people do bad things. I have seen good people dumfounded and in shock because they couldn’t comprehend what was happening in front of them or worse yet to them. They can't wrap their minds around it. It's not fun or pretty to think about. So they don't. They don't stay awake late at night watching videos from self-defense experts. They don't go to the "schools" I go to. They don't read the articles. They don't look at unedited news on the Internet. They don't search out the videos of people fighting for their lives and losing. A man stabbed outside a bar. A couple hijacked and killed in front of the store. A clerk shot on video after being compliant. A video from inside the grocery store of a mad man with a gun shooting people while looking  for his ex. Dashboard cameras of an officer involved in a shooting. It's an ugly world so they choose not to see it. As I've said before, I've never felt the need to train for the warm fuzzy days where everyone gets along. I train for the other days. I try to round out my skill sets. I look at what others have done to succeed. I watch videos of those who haven't. Some refer to it as making something good out of something bad. Like watching videos of officers being killed as every person that's gone through any type of law enforcement academy has had to do. Learn from others' experiences. We try. But we did not live those experiences. We can only watch in horror knowing how it's going to end. This is where "they "come in. They judge others actions when they did not live through the experience. One only needs to turn on the TV to see it nationwide. There is talk about it at almost everyone's workplace. When the crazy ex shows up to kill his spouse at the grocery store what will their plan be? Call 911. Pray for the police to get there quickly. Hope the man shooting people doesn't come down their Aisle ? They're  frozen with fear. Experiencing things that they have never thought about. They can't run because their baby is in the shopping cart. All they have in their hand  is a shopping list and a pacifier. Handed to them by some guy that picked it up off the floor and pointed out their baby dropped it. That man is no longer in the aisle. He moved away with his phone to his ear and he's hiding behind the island of fresh packaged meat crouched down on the floor. He yells something and next he is shooting what's seems like so many rounds towards the bakery. He gets up and cautiously moves out of sight. Screaming commands. Screaming, “Call 911!” Do you "see" that man now? You will read about him tomorrow. In the paper. Front page. You read it as you walk out of the gas station unaware of the two men lingering and a young lady holds the door for you. You say, "Thanks," and she says, "Yes ma'am" as she walks into the store with her coffee cup in her left hand. See. She's right handed. She keeps that hand free. Free to draw her gun. Free to grab her keys if need be. Free to reach her knife. She is trained and she is  aware. People from all walks of life legally carry guns. Some are men and some are women. Some are old and some are young. The ones I know train. The ones I know are aware. Aware of their surroundings. And aware of all the armchair quarterbacking that will be done if they ever have to use that tool of last resort on their belt.  So why did they do it anyway? Because they value their life and the lives of others. Simple. My so-called "gun nut "friends and customers are some of the most congenial trustworthy people I know. I only wish everyone had such friends. I wish everyone understood them like I do.

I’ll “see” you around.


Postscript... For those of you that truly know me you know I am passionate about people learning to protect themselves. You are responsible for your safety. No one else. Sometimes people confuse arrogance with my passion for you to learn how to be safer. That's okay. I'll never quit being passionate. This story is really about all of you who train and understand the responsibility. That's the point. I'm merely one of thousands. Nothing special. That's why I'm proud to be part of this group. I want you to consider some irony attention....

I wrote this last night. I was laying in bed and couldn't sleep. Watching the news and all the armchair quarterbacking about what this officer should or shouldn't have done. Before the Florida shooting. Before ten other bad things in the news today. Because evil does and has always existed. I sent my words to a friend. Heather. She make a living helping educate police officers. She makes a living making sure things are spelled right....corrects Ernie's long rambling sentences. When she did not have my " words" corrected and back to me by 10am.... I texted her. She wasn't done yet because her building had been evacuated....for an unknown reason. As everyone followed the plan and went to the " safe area" and bunched up like sheep Heather did her own thing. She went to her safe place of choice. See....if you don't know why your building is being cleared then I also wouldn't stack up ten people deep where the disgruntled employee knows you will be. Sound funny? It's not. Heather isn't paranoid. Heather is smart. See in March of 1998 a couple middle school kids pulled the fire alarm and then shot the kids as they exited the building as planned. It's not rocket science. Its easy to predict the actions of those who expect all to be okay. So good on Heather. Think for yourself if you know your plan is safer. Thank you know you're out there. Reading. Following. Learning. Training. Taking responsibility for your safety.