Being a good retail customer

In a previous blog entry I tackled the expectations a customer should have when visiting a firearms retailer. Today, let’s turn the tables and dissect the topic from the other side of the counter.

Gun shops, just like every other retailer in the country, exist for one purpose — to make a profit. There may be many other, more noble reasons for their existence, but the bottom line is: if a profit isn’t made, nothing else matters. Doors close. Lights go out. Employees are dismissed. So it’s important that shop owners and employees alike remember that the goal is to acquire — and retain — customers. Doing so demands more than good prices or a convenient location; it requires knowledge, patience, and a spirit of service.

BUT — it is equally important for the customer to put some effort into being the kind of patron that makes a salesperson break into a grin. By earning the status of “valued customer” you have also earned a lifelong resource for firearms information, accessories and activities. You’ve earned unbiased opinions and technical advice from folks who live and breathe gun stuff. And, on those rare occasions when something goes wrong with your brand new firearm, you simply have to hand it to your pals behind the counter and let them fight with the manufacturer. You just can’t get that from a mail order company and you often can’t get it from a mega store that just happens to have a gun department! A real “mom and pop” shop staffed by true blue “gun goobers” is always a customer’s best bet.

It’s kinda like dating; you want to be the best possible person so that you attract the best possible person! So what can you do to become the best customer…thus attracting the best retail support?

Recommendation 1:  Know the basic rules of gun handling — or ask the salesperson to instruct you. I used to cringe when I handed a gun across the counter and the customer’s first action was to crook their finger around the trigger and point that muzzle straight at me! Of course, when you work behind a gun counter, you actually get used to having guns pointed at you. It happens all day long, but it’s usually just for an instant, and it’s virtually unavoidable in a busy shop. Still, it is easier to concentrate on providing good service when you are dealing with someone who already understands that fingers stay off triggers and muzzles stay pointed up or down. And no, I don’t necessarily expect a beginner to know these things — but I do expect them to ask.

Recommendation 2: If you are visiting a gun shop to look at guns, please be willing to touch them. Seriously, I’ve had to literally wrap fingers and thumbs around the grip, while the customer holds the gun at arm’s length, visibly repulsed. Most often, it is a female patron with a hubby, boyfriend or dad who is determined to get her interested in shooting. It rarely works. But, every so often, even a female on her own gets skittish about handling a gun. If you are serious enough to be considering a gun purchase, please understand that achieving firearms proficiency requires actually holding the weapon!

So long as you’re shopping at a professional operation, nothing bad is going to happen. The gun will not discharge, explode, or otherwise harm you. Trust your sales person and let him or her walk you through the mechanics of gun handling.

Recommendation 3: Be respectful of the salesperson’s time. Playing a game of 20 questions is fine if the shop isn’t crowded. As I say repeatedly, a gun shop should be an informational resource for new shooters. BUT, if the counter is stacked 5 deep and the sales staff are running around like ants on crack, it might be better to see if you can make an appointment for a one-on-one consultation. Many gun shops will accommodate this, or, at a minimum, ask someone when it might be more convenient to pop in with a list of questions. (Caveat: if they act like you’re crazy for having a list of questions, you are in the wrong shop anyway, so move along!)

Recommendation 4: Don’t dismantle the gun without asking (this doesn’t usually apply to newbies…but often applies to the friends they bring with them). You may know how — and you may want to show your buddies that you know how — but that gun doesn’t belong to you yet. As soon as you sign form 4473 and pass the background check, you can proceed to dismantle your new toy (depending on whether your state allows you to take it home immediately). If you’re not sure how to take it apart, most counter staff will gladly demonstrate the process. But we do get tired of having to pause and reassemble a gun that you “coulda sworn went back together easier than that.”

Recommendation 5: If you are seriously planning to ask questions and gather information, please don’t bring your know-it-all father/brother/boyfriend/husband who wants to show off his knowledge (and who is probably already annoyed that you aren’t relying solely on his advice.) It’s been my experience that your male friend/relative often lacks some of the information you are seeking (and you probably know that, or you wouldn’t be questioning your local gun goober). As your salesperson, I don’t want to have to correct your beloved, but if he is giving you bad information, I kinda have to say something! Like the fellow who insisted to his petite and timid novice shooter girlfriend that an Airweight .357 magnum would be very comfortable for her to shoot (uh…not likely); or the guy who insisted to his wife (and her shooting instructor) that a Ruger single action .22 cowboy revolver was a “great carry gun” (uh…double no); or the fellow who argued that setting the safety on a Sig P238 was “optional” (oh, hell, no). A good salesperson knows when to shut up and not interfere with family dynamics — but when those dynamics involve a potentially bad, or tragic, decision on your part, we HAVE to speak up. If you want to avoid an uncomfortable situation, come to the gun shop solo and ask your questions. Then you can research the information for yourself and have a follow-up discussion with your all-knowing spouse/boyfriend/father.

Recommendation 6: Have a price range in mind. My hubby spends his days asking shoppers what type of gun they are looking for and, most important, how much they want to spend. “Knowing their budget helps me narrow the list to 4 or 5 guns that we can compare and contrast,” he explains. “I hate it when someone says ‘I want the best’ without understanding what that really means.  So I hand them an Ed Brown and they almost faint at the price tag. You have to have some idea of what you can afford to pay. The bottom line is, don’t waste your local Ferrari dealer’s time when all you can afford is a Volkswagen.”

Recommendation 7: Don’t expect a rush job. The process of buying a gun, from start to finish, takes a minimum of roughly 20-30 minutes. Even if you walk in with a specific gun in mind, there’s still paperwork to be done, there’s still a process. “It’s like telling your doctor you want the surgery but you only have 15 minutes to spare,” my hubby grumbles good-naturedly. “And if you’re gun shopping on a day when three-quarters of the country has the same idea — like Black Friday — be prepared to wait even longer!” And he’s right — I’ve seen the national background check service become so overwhelmed that it simply shuts down. Meanwhile, customers are pacing in frustration, sometimes threatening “to go buy my gun somewhere else.” Well good luck with that. If the system is down…it’s down EVERYWHERE!

Recommendation 8: Don’t blame the individual gun shop for following the rules. Yes, you need photo ID with a current address. No, your buddy can’t fill out the form for you. No, you can’t buy that handgun yet, even though you’ll be 21 in four weeks. No, we can’t make an exception for your domestic violence conviction, even though you’re no longer married to that person. And no, the special military pricing for Glock Blue Label products doesn’t apply to you if you’re still in ROTC. Firearms dealers can get in serious trouble if they don’t follow the rules.  If you find one who offers to “cut you a deal,” with a wink and a nod, you should run as fast and as far away from him as you can.

So there you have it: A few well-intentioned tips for beginners (or those who can’t figure out why the sales staff runs and hides when you walk through the door). Building a solid relationship takes work, and the best customer-merchant connections happen when each party is considerate and appreciative of the other.
In fact, that’s a pretty good recipe for ALL relationships!

All shapes and sizes

There are all kinds of guns out there waiting to be purchased and properly used. The best way to find what you want and need (at a price you’re happy to pay) is by building a long-term relationship with a trustworthy and professional firearms retailer.

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The BEST carry gun?

CourtneyThe popularity of concealed carry permits over the past decade has given rise to a marketplace revolution of light, lean shooting ma­chines. Suddenly, every popular full-sized handgun has a “mini me” version, suitable for easy concealment and swift action.

Experienced shooters may understand that there are trade-offs between your dependable, hefty handgun and its more nimble sports car model, but novices sometimes leap at the first cute little compact that sparkles at them under the counter lights.

When I was in counter sales, I would cringe when a father/son/husband/boyfriend would tap the glass above a Kel-Tec P3AT, Ruger LCP, or Taurus TCP and enthusiastically tell his daughter/sister/wife/girlfriend “this’ll fit you perfectly!”

Yes, fit is a big issue with firearms, and something that must be considered when selecting a gun, but there are many other fac­tors of equal or greater importance, especially when you are dealing with first-time shooters.

You MAY carry a gun… but SHOULD you?

The availability of CCW/CHL (Concealed Carry Weapon/Concealed Handgun License) per­mits has prompted a lot of folks to excitedly put the cart before the horse when it comes to firearms. They take whatever training their state requires to get that prized permit, without giving much thought to what they will carry, if they will actually carry, and whether they have the mental fortitude and physical skill to actually use the weapon if necessary.

A GOOD CHL class will force stu­dents to consider these things – however temporarily – but firearms curriculum varies broadly from state to state. And, even in more stringent states, instructors run the gamut in skill, knowl­edge, and commitment to “doing it right.”

For the men who goad their wives into classes – and the wom­en who agree to do so “only if I can use a cute little gun, because I don’t like those big, loud ones,” – the unfortunate truth is that, when it comes to recoil, accu­racy, overall ergonomic fit, and whatever else you want to throw into the mix, size does matter. But not the way you may think.

You don’t purchase a con­cealed carry weapon for the same reasons you might purchase a full-sized gun. Your .40 cal Glock G35, Springfield XD-M 9 mm, or Sig Sauer 1911 .45 ACP may be the perfect home defense gun and a blast (pun intended) to shoot on the range, but you may quickly devel­op an intimate relationship with your chiropractor if you decide to routinely carry one on your hip or in your purse.

The P3ATs and LCPs, by contrast, are not much heavier than your average wallet. But that doesn’t mean they are neces­sarily well-suited to the needs of a novice shooter. If you plan to carry a concealed firearm, you have one objective and one alone: personal defense. You need to know what your concealed carry weapon is…and what it isn’t.

Mini me pistols have limited value

The “mini me” revolver or pis­tol is a niche weapon designed for a very narrow tactical objective. It requires advanced training and a clear understanding of its inherent weaknesses if you hope to use it effectively for self defense.

For instance, a smooth pro­file, the very design element that makes it easy to slide your CCW gun swiftly from your pocket holster, also makes it harder to aim. The sights on a traditional TCP, LCP, and similar models are virtually non-existent, because their pres­ence would pose snagging issues if you had to yank your gun from your waistband or pocket holster in an adrenaline-stoked panic. More recent LCP models – the LCP Custom in 2015 and, to a lesser extent, the new LCP II, have attempted to improve the sight issue. It’s almost academic, though, because in a personal defense situation, I promise that you won’t have time to carefully line up your attacker in those fancy high viz sights. The whole purpose of those Kel-Tecs and Rugers is to have something that is easily drawn and quickly utilized. That requires practice…but their diminutive size poses other barriers to the casual afternoon range time that would enhance your skill and competence.

Novice shooters make the mistake of believing that a small gun somehow implies a light trig­ger pull and an absence of recoil. If they shot BB guns, CO2 pistols or even cap guns as children they may surmise that any light, small pistol is going to fire with similar ease.

In fact, part of the nature of many concealed carry guns is a heavy trigger pull which makes it much less likely that you will accidentally discharge the gun while fumbling with it. This is a nice safety ele­ment – especially on guns like the traditional LCP that have no manual external safety – but the long trigger pull makes it more physically demanding to shoot for long periods of time. And if you can’t or won’t invest some serious time into training with the pistol, you won’t develop the instinctive proficiency demanded by a high stress situation. The new LCP II MAY be a good solution for you, trigger wise. It boasts a lighter, crisper (but still very safe) trigger pull and easier racking on the slide, among several other much-needed improvements. I’ve not had the opportunity to shoot this model but the reviews I’ve read warn than it has a “snappier” recoil than the original. Yikes. For those of us with old wrists…or those with inexperienced wrists, “snappy” is not a good word.

Newbies pick up these tiny, lightweight firearms with the flawed thinking that small and light means comfortable to shoot. In fact, it is usually just the opposite.

Light does NOT mean mild

Small, light guns – of any caliber — can kick as much or more than their big, heavy counterparts. In fact, when a friend and I needed a couple of spent .50-cal. cartridges to show students in our NRA pistol class, it was with some trepidation that I squeezed the trigger on a Smith & Wesson 500 at a local range. The barrel was so long and the gun so heavy that my “girly side” was convinced the recoil would knock me into next week (plus I had seen that ridiculous internet video where some chick in a bathing suit knocks herself silly by limp-wristing an S&W 500). But common sense told me otherwise – and common sense won out. Indeed, the resulting kick jarred the web of my thumb and rattled my wrist a tad, but much less than I was expecting…and not THAT much more than your average lightweight carry gun in .380 or 9 mm.

Of course no one is advocat­ing concealing a full-sized .50-cal Desert Eagle in your pocket (okay, well someone might love the idea…but not me and not for beginners). The point is simply that many people – especial­ly new shooters – are not prepared for the hand-jarring recoil of a petite pistol.

To make matters worse, those who want to carry must contend with the pervasive and sometimes conde­scending argument that carrying a concealed .22 is less effective than whipping out a slingshot. Indeed, many CHL classes won’t allow students to qualify with a .22. Some purists argue that a .22 won’t dissuade a determined assailant and that rimfire ammu­nition is more unreliable.

My hubby has 28 years in law enforcement (many as a shooting instructor) and over a decade in gun shop management and sales. He argues that a .22 will serve a personal defense purpose quite nicely, especially if it’s the model you are comfortable with. In the end, he says, “it’s all about bullet placement, NOT caliber.”

He further makes the point that, if the individual is comfortable with the gun and enjoys shooting it for practice, they will naturally become more proficient at that all-important factor: bullet placement.

Not so wimpy, afterall

For new shooters, the .22 offers more physical comfort (less jarring to the hands) than larger caliber pocket pistols. It is also quieter (less jarring to the psyche) and cheaper (less jarring to the pock­etbook). These factors conspire to increase the likelihood that a novice will head to the range more often in order to become proficient. And, as we all know, the more fun you have and the better you shoot, the more likely you are to want to expand your horizons and step up to different models and calibers. So today’s timid .22 packin’ mama may be tomorrow’s take-no-pris­oners Glock totin’ diva.

Is a .22 pistol or revolver the be-all and end-all for personal defense? Maybe not (sorry hubby). But if you buy your girlfriend an S&W Airweight .38 Special and it gathers dust on the top shelf of her closet, who are you protecting? The gun you have in your pocket or purse is infinitely more useful than the one tucked into your sock drawer. And this never-ending .22 de­bate dovetails nicely with the final “misconception” of the day: that anyone can tell you what the “best” CHL/CCW gun is. Sooner or later, in every CHL class, someone raises their hand and asks “so, what’s the best gun to conceal and carry?”

What’s the BEST concealed carry gun?

There is an answer to that question. The problem is, that answer is different for everyone. The best gun? The one you like, use, and can actually hit some­thing with. The “best” gun fits your hand, your lifestyle, your physical and mental structure, your wallet, and your needs. It’s that simple. When you buy your first concealed carry gun, do your homework: miscon­ceptions are born of ignorance. Ask questions, study the maga­zines, go to your local range and rent the gun you are interested in buying.

And, please, don’t listen to anyone who says “this is the gun you need…” They may be right – but, in the end, the only person who can make that deci­sion is YOU.

Visiting a gun shop

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As I wrapped up writing “The Handgun Guide for Women” in 2015, I told my husband that I was adding a new chapter titled “How to Visit a Gun Shop.” John chuckled and said “That’ll be a short one. What’ll it say…’drive to the shop. Get out of your car. Go inside.” (He’s quite the humorist. Just ask him.)

My hubby’s levity notwithstanding, that particular chapter proved to be one of the most popular sections of the book. It was singled out by several reviewers, and, when I receive emails from readers, many mention it specifically.

Why? Because, despite our “I am woman; hear me roar” mentality in the 21st Century, there is still something a little intimidating about marching into the testosterone-drenched bastion of manliness that is your average gun shop. AND because, too often, the typically male sales staff either can’t or won’t make the effort to draw out the novice shooter.  If you are female, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that “sexism” is rearing its ugly head but I’ve spent enough time behind the gun counter to know that most guys really wish women were more interested in firearms, not less. It would be a darned sight easier to sneak that new Springfield into the house if sweetie pie was also a shooter!

Of course, there certainly are those men who believe women can’t, or shouldn’t, shoot. But my experience tells me they’re the minority. My hubby (who has worked for or managed four different gun shops since retiring from law enforcement) says that negative gun shop experiences are more often related to wages and training. “Most gun shops do not pay their staff exceedingly well and, except for the big box stores, most don’t offer any kind of comprehensive sales training,” he says. “As a result, you sometimes have less motivated — or generally unskilled — salespeople.”

But for women, who are often new shooters and already feeling awkward about their lack of knowledge, all those stern male faces behind the counter can seem pretty intimidating. More so, if the sales people act disinterested, uninspired, or downright hostile.

Case in point: I received a message last week from Texan Carolyn Tice, who wanted to share two recent (and very different) gun shop experiences.

My first try was at the mom and pop where I often visit the shooting range,” she explained. “I was considering three different Rugers at the time. However, the ‘kid’ behind the counter said he could only pull out one at a time. I spent a good amount of time waiting for him to pull out, then put back, then pull out, then put back, etc. The guns were very disorganized and he had to work the entire counter to find the guns I was looking for!

Well, issue one is how the heck do you compare guns if you can only have one out at a time? I’ve visited gun shops where this is the policy but it makes no sense to me, from a customer service standpoint.

As far as grouping merchandise for display, I’ve seen shops group by brand, by style, or even by price point. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but it really shouldn’t be an issue so long as the salesman (or woman) is allowed to grab several at once to compare for the customer. Limiting your staff to showing one gun at a time conveys a distrust of your customers, your sales staff, or both!

But Carolyn’s experience got worse…

Carolyn reported that her salesman finally “pulled out a SIG P238 and informed me that if I didn’t buy the P238, I wouldn’t be able to kill anyone…” 

Excuse me? Is that the new gun lobby slogan… “guns don’t kill people; Sigs kill people”? I’m a big fan of Sigs, but, last time I checked, they aren’t the only lethal weapon on the market.   

Carolyn’s husband then stepped into the discussion and wisely pointed out that bullet placement, not brand name, determine how much damage you do in a personal defense encounter.

The couple wisely exited that particular shop. 

I was very disappointed, but not ready to give up. Next, we went to Carter’s Country,” Carolyn recalls. “We were also looking for a couple of items…among other things, I needed a new clip for my Bersa Thunder .380. I started looking around and the gentleman helping us (he was 74 years old) started asking me questions about what I was looking for. I told him and he promptly pulled all three Rugers out and laid them side-by-side. He then went on to talk about each one in a language I could understand. I told him my problem with my husband’s Ruger 9 mm – it was just tooooo loud for me and that and the possible recoil scared me. He then pulled out the SIG P238. It was a LOT more than I ever intended to spend, but when he described the gun and pointed out several similarities to the Bersa Thunder I was using, it was a no-brainer for me. The salesman spent a lot of unrushed time with me and made me feel really good and quite comfortable with the P238.

I was relieved to hear that Carolyn’s experience at the second shop was much improved. Sounds like she not only got a great salesman, but also someone whose lifelong love of guns and shooting made him eager to share his expertise. And, the best news of all for that shop, was that he managed to upsell her a more expensive gun (and a very good one) while securing a permanent customer. You can bet that, the next time Carolyn and her husband have firearms needs, they won’t mess around trying out other shops…they’ll go straight to the guy who treated them well.

Carolyn’s story is only one example of why I added that chapter to my book. I wanted to offer some tips on what women might anticipate — and SHOULD demand — from a firearms retailer. And I wanted to make sure lady shooters understood that, no matter how negative their first experience might have been, there ARE shops out there that will value your patronage and work hard to keep it.

Guns are not only a costly investment but they should never be an impulse buy (at least not if you are a first-time buyer)! New shooters, be they male or female, should always feel comfortable asking questions and weighing their options carefully. It behooves gun shop owners to emphasize customer service and to make sure their sales staff has at least a basic understanding of the products they are selling.

For my part, I would like to spotlight the folks who do things RIGHT! I was fortunate to work for Olde English Outfitters in Tipp City, OH for several years — and to experience a shop that genuinely cares about its customers. I know there are others out there and I’d like to develop an evolving list of competent and attentive retailers. Feel free to message me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GunGirlsBook/ or email me at handgunguide@gmail.com with your recommendations. And, if you work for a great gun shop — especially one that specializes in new or female shooters — check in with me. I’d like to  give you a shout-out in my blog and on my FB page. Women are the fastest growing demographic in the firearms industry, and catering to their concerns and questions just seems like a shrewd business move to me.

Cutline # 10

A little time and attention can quickly convert a new shooter (of any gender) into a lifelong customer.

Blue Star Mother

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Almost a decade ago, I gave a speech at an Operation Welcome Home celebration in northern Indiana. The speech was about 20 minutes in length, and nothing very remarkable, but I had sweated over the details because I wanted to send a message to all parents — past, present & future — who had ever watched with a mixture of pride and fear as their son or daughter joined the military. I wanted to make those parents feel proud and I wanted to tell them that their child’s service was appreciated and important (as if they needed to be told?)

At the time, my son Michael was 13, and his fondest wish was to become a military pilot. In my speech that day, I talked about Michael’s dream and about my own blend of swelling heart and nagging apprehension. I wanted the audience to know that, even though I wasn’t exactly in their shoes yet, I “got it.” But I didn’t. Not really.

I wrote that speech with the comforting detachment of a 10-year buffer zone. I knew Michael had all kinds of time to develop new interests, change his mind, chart a new course. Heck, when I was 13, I wanted to be a movie star, a game warden and a talk show host…you see how well that worked out!

So my words that day, however well-intentioned, were delivered from the outside looking in. I didn’t know what those parents were going through and, in my heart of hearts, I could tell myself that I might never know…that there was “still time” for other options.

Perhaps I should have known better. Afterall, Michael’s grandfather on his Dad’s side was a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army, and one of his Uncles had attended the Citadel, while another served as a linguist for the Army. And, although my family didn’t have a lengthy military history, Michael’s formative years were steeped in veteran-related projects and people. He watched me work for several years on a book about a Vietnam veteran, and sometimes he accompanied me to the office and encountered a cadre of irascible old military pilots at the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He forged a lifelong friendship with my then-boss and later business partner, Lt. Col. Mike Jackson, USAF (Ret), and, he watched — even volunteering occasionally — as I organized veterans’ celebrations or assisted vets and their families with VA benefits.

Guilt sometimes gnawed at me…perhaps I was unconsciously pushing him toward the military? We seemed to live, eat and breathe the topic — but, as patriotic as I was, and as proud of our men and women in uniform, I could continue to comfort myself in the dark of night that “he still has time” to choose a new path.

Even as he graduated from high school and started college, joining Air Force ROTC, I reassured myself that there was “still time.”  Even as I watched world events continue to deteriorate, I could breathe a silent sigh of relief that there was “still time.”

But as I struggled with my doubts, Michael grew in his resolve. He switched from Air Force to Army ROTC (the Air Force didn’t let him roll around in the dirt as much as he wanted to). Then he took on the task of resurrecting the Pershing Rifle Society on his college campus. He began attending Army leadership conferences  and coming home with awards and ribbons. The Army gave him a scholarship, and his commanders and peers acknowledged him as a disciplined and solid leader.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that the time I’d been counting on for all those years was finally running out.

Five  weeks from Saturday, that last grain of sand will slip through the hourglass, as Michael graduates college and is commissioned into the United States Army as a 2nd Lt.  My old pal Col. Jackson will commission him and deliver his first “official salute” (apparently the Colonel holds no grudge at Michael’s defection from blue to green.) And, when it’s all said and done, my baby boy will be “Lt. Engel.”

Even typing these words gives me a lump in my throat that is equal parts pride and undefined emotion. How did the time pass so quickly? When did that scrawny tow-headed kid become a muscle-bound GI in camo and boots? And when did I become the very parent I was lecturing to on that sunny afternoon in Indiana so many years ago?

And, although Michael long-ago gave up his pilot dreams (hereditary vision issues nipped that in the bud), he just couldn’t quite manage to choose a military vocation that a mother could fool herself into calling “safe.” No, he had to campaign for — and get — a slot at EOD school…that’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Ever seen “The Hurt Locker“? Well, I haven’t and it will be a cold day in Hell now before I do!

So, what do I do as I spiral — half joyful, half fearful — into this new role as “Blue Star Mother?” Well, I guess I take the only action that has ever really been mine to take — I trust in God and I pray for Michael’s safety, as I’ve always prayed for those who serve. For a control freak like me, putting all my trust 14962730_10208227426871384_5425022146370994237_nin God — and in Michael —  is easy to say and hard to do. And, yet, neither one has ever disappointed me.

Time finally ran out on that 10 year stretch when anything was possible, but, in a few weeks, I get to flip the hourglass back over and watch my son embark on his chosen career with a conviction that inspires and humbles me. And all I have to do is love him, support him, and finally LIVE the words of that speech I wrote so long ago.


“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

 

 

Doctors’ Orders

Well, the doctors have spoken — and their prescription for hearing protection makes perfect sense to me!

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported yesterday that a group called “Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership” released a white paper confirming that suppressors (sometimes referred to as silencers or mufflers) are the BEST way to prevent gunfire-related hearing loss. This supports current legislation known as the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) of 2017 (House Bill 367 and Senate Bill 59), which seeks to eliminate the $200 transfer tax on suppressors and remove them from the 1934 National Firearms Act (where they were inexplicably lumped together with sawed-off shotguns and machine guns).

This white paper flies in the face of a recent tweet from Gabby Giffords’ group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, claiming that foam ear plugs are superior hearing protection for hunters and shooters.

I can say from experience that ARS’s claim is a big old pile of horse hooey. While the high pitched hum that dances around in my head 24/7 may not have been entirely caused by firearms discharge, the aforementioned gun blasts certainly played a contributing role — and the foam ear plugs I have worn for years did little to slow my hearing loss or dull the electrical whine that keeps me company all hours of the day and night.

My friend Mike proudly attributes his “20-20” hearing to foam plugs covered by a noise- attenuating set of muffs. This works pretty well for him, but then he’s a flat-headed guy with Air Force hair. For some reason, those muffs never quite seat themselves properly atop my poofy girl hair and apparently lumpy head. And since I am often trying to teach a class, it is just downright frustrating to be shouting instructions, cramming foam tubes (that never stay put) into my ear canal and constantly readjusting the bulky set of ear muffs squatting atop my lumpy head.

p22_silencer

A couple months ago, I taught a class of seven at a local indoor range. I wanted to make sure my students got plenty of personal instruction, so I qualified them two-by-two, spending about 45 minutes with each group. Of course we weren’t the only folks shooting on the range. We conducted our class over the din of 9 mils, 40s and more than a few .45s. When I finally came off the range and pulled out my ear plugs, I was shocked to discover that my hearing level still registered as if my ears were completely plugged. I yanked and rubbed and poked my ears to no avail, and I spent nearly 24 hours wondering if I was permanently hearing impaired (and my hearing wasn’t that great to begin with — but this was a new level of lousy!)

Thankfully, my ears finally opened up a bit and returned to semi normal. But I’m pretty certain that afternoon of shooting did some permanent damage, even though I was wearing foam plugs and a pair of standard shooting muffs.

Once I could hear again, I immediately invested in some high-end Howard Leight noise cancelling muffs which are better suited to instruction, anyway — you can hear normal conversation but the crack of gunfire is immediately muffled. And they work like a charm, although my poofy hair and lumpy head still interfere with proper fit.

But the idea of being able to shoot or teach with a suppressor sounds ideal to me. I don’t understand why these tools have gotten such a bad rap or how they ended up on such a restrictive list.

My theory is that the anti-suppressor lobby watched a few too many gangster flicks, where Edward G. Robinson pulls out his roscoe (that’s gangster speak for “gun”), screws on a can (again, gangster talk for silencer), plants two (silentegrobinson-end-of-ricoly, of course) in the back of some poor stooge’s head (I hope it wasn’t Curly), then strolls away whistling nonchalantly.  After all, if you see it in the movies, it must be so…right? Just like those cowboys who fly backward through plate glass windows when Black Bart plugs ’em with a couple 45 long colts? Well that’s a debunking for another day.

The NRA reports that a suppressor’s primary function is to “reduce the muzzle report of the firearm, (thus) protecting the hearing of the firearm’s operator and reducing noise and disturbance to those in nearby vicinities.” Unlike their portrayal in movies and TV, these devices “do not render firearms all but soundless. They do, however, make them safer and quieter to operate.”

And, while the anti-gun lobby usually hypes Europe as a shining bastion of gun-free sanity, the crickets are deafening on this topic,  since the UK, Finland, Germany and other European countries have little to no suppressor limitations and, in fact, consider it a courtesy to use one!

But, fear not, all you folks who believe the streets will run red with the blood of innocents if the HPA passes: Suppressor ownership may still be cost-prohibitive for many people. Not only are good suppressors relatively expensive, but if you don’t have a threaded barrel (and most guns don’t) then you either have to have a new barrel made or buy a new gun. Oh, and these handy little devices aren’t exactly tiny, either…which pretty much destroys any hope of  concealability.

So, at least for now, I continue my hunt for the perfect plugs and a pair of muffs that sit more like a tiara than a tool chest atop my poofy, lumpy head.

Common Sense II – A Father’s Love

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A young woman sits in a mental hospital this morning because finally, someone showed some common sense. Her classmates are headed to school, safe and sound, because, finally, someone showed some common sense. No grief counselors, no memorial services, no flowers and teddy bears stacked sky high on an eerily empty sidewalk…because, finally, someone showed some common sense.

In recent years we have been treated to a disturbing parade of school shootings. Young people, feeling empty, hopeless, frustrated, bored or whatever it is young people feel when they are detached from society and suffering emotional turmoil, have too often turned to that one device that contemporary culture tells us will give them power and authority — a firearm.

What had once been a tool of convenience…for hunters, sportsmen, cops, and those who simply wanted to protect hearth and home, has become a symbol of dominance and potency, courtesy of a little industry known as “Hollywood.” Not that our pals in Hollywood ever take responsibility for their role in the growing body count. Nope, they just scream that law-abiding citizens should be separated from their legally acquired firearms — while they go about their business of making films that intentionally promote and glamorize violence.

Not that Hollywood is completely to blame here, but their smug arrogance just chaps my dumplings. A lot has changed since I was in high school and my male classmates pulled into the school parking lot each morning with hunting rifles mounted on the back windows of their pick-up trucks. A lot has changed since the generations before me actually learned gun safety IN school! A lot has changed since families sat down at the dinner table each night and discussed what was happening in each other’s lives. And, yes, a lot has changed since faith, personal responsibility, and discipline spent more time in the home than self-esteem, personal empowerment and parents in search of their bliss. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the latter qualities — except when they are deprived of equalizing values and standards; then they breed selfishness and narcissism, which often leads to detachment, entitlement, and a pervasive feeling of not getting what one is owed by ones peers or society in general.

The common denominator behind most of the mass shootings in recent memory has been one simple (or not-so-simple) issue: mental health. Firearms, courtesy of our friends in Hollywood, have provided a convenient “cure for whatever ails you,” however momentarily. But the root cause — even when abundantly obvious to others — goes unacknowledged. Until last week.

A father in Maryland did the toughest thing a parent could do when, on March 23, he turned his daughter over to the authorities, after discovering disturbing entries in her diary and a plot for an April 5 attack on her school. In her room, police found bomb-making materials, a shotgun and ammo, shrapnel, fuse material and other items uncommon in most teen-aged girls’ bedrooms.

The family was apparently aware that she was struggling with mental health issues — but did not realize how badly her mental state had deteriorated. Perhaps one could argue that her parents might have spoken up a tad sooner, especially as the magnesium tape, flechettes, shotgun rounds, fuses and pipes made their way into her room (I think my folks would have noticed an influx of that nature…) BUT, I am thankful, at least, that her dad was willing to speak up and place his daughter where she would not only be unable to hurt others…but where she can find resources and support to fight her own demons.

This story is tragic enough in its current form, but it would have been far more heart-breaking had her father not shown some long overdue common sense and taken the appropriate action.

Contemporary society seems to find it easier to blame an inanimate object (especially a scary one like a gun) than to take responsibility as individuals and as a nation.  Like frantic, aging hippies, we encourage everyone to “do their own thing” while we pay as little attention as possible to whatever that “thing” is, lest anybody think we are judging them. We’ve fought hard to detach the stigma from mental illness even though that stigma often allowed people to get the help they needed. We’ve deliberately diverted our eyes from our neighbor’s activities (heaven forbid we be accused of being a “busybody”), even if it means that they gather under cover of darkness with like-minded thugs bent on terror, and we’ve virtually walked out of our children’s lives and sacrificed them on the altar of independence, self-esteem and personal freedom. The problem is, before we left, we forgot to teach them the simple truth that “S#*t Happens” in life and you’d better be prepared for it with mental, emotional and spiritual tools that will not only allow you to weather said S#*t, but to grow and learn from it, as well.

Perhaps this young woman in Maryland now has a chance to find peace, to undo the knots in her head, and to lead a productive life. I pray that is so — and I offer a prayer of gratitude to the courageous father who not only gave his daughter the chance for a normal life, but a lot of other kids, as well.

A ‘Brit’mas tradition

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I was a junior in high school the year my mother announced that we would try our hand at making “homemade mincemeat.”

I had only the vaguest idea what mincemeat was. I knew I kind of liked mincemeat pie (not as much as blueberry, but way more than rhubarb!) but I had no idea what the gooey substance inside the crust actually consisted of.

Imagine my surprise to discover that mincemeat — AUTHENTIC mincemeat, not the canned, bland store version — actually contained real meat! And… (and this is the part that disgusted my sensitive teenage palate) that, properly made, this meat concoction must sit around the house for a several weeks … unrefrigerated.

Uh … What, mom?

One of my best friends in high school was British and she not only endorsed my mother’s cockamamie plan to allow meat to ferment on the kitchen counter, she also provided her mother’s time-honored olde English recipe.

“It’s a tradition in our family. You’ll love it,” she assured me.

I still remember slicing up large chunks of beef and beef fat (suet) and dumping them into one of my mother’s brightly colored Pyrex mixing bowls. The meat was carefully folded into a sea of brightly colored fruit peels and chunks, then generously doused with brandy (which did make the mess smell a darned sight better!)

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Still puzzling was the requirement to LET IT SIT for several weeks before using. My mother explained that we needed to stir it every day, periodically adding more brandy, rum or sherry. We weren’t much of a drinking family but, man, I loved the rich, boozy smell that wafted up from the bowl every time we lifted the spoon! Mom further cautioned that the marinating meat must be stirred clockwise in order to ensure good luck for the coming year (counter-clockwise would have the opposite effect, so my sister and I were very careful to stir wisely).

Additionally, she explained, we should make a wish each time we stirred. I can’t remember if my wishes came true (I was probably wishing that no one got salmonella from eating 3-week-old unrefrigerated meat!) but I vividly remember stirring that strange mixture every evening before dinner.

Then, just before Christmas, mom announced that it was time to begin baking!  We made mincemeat pies, and tarts, and cookies, and my mouth still waters when I think of that rich, hot, citrusy and, yes, deliciously alcoholic blend of pure holiday ecstasy.

It tasted far better than I could have imagined and, most of all, we had started a very memorable family tradition! It has been many years since I made or tasted real, homemade mincemeat. Mom discontinued the labor-intensive project after my sister and I left home. I tried it once in my mid-20s then chickened out on eating the fermented meat (I was a less hearty soul back then.)  But running across this recipe recently inspires me to possibly try again for the 2017 holidays…or maybe sooner. A good mincemeat pie knows no season!

I’ve included my high school pal’s family recipe below. Let me know what you think if you decide to make this! And if you are squeamish about letting it sit out for several weeks, I would recommend refrigerating it. Don’t know how, or if, that will change its consistency but it still has to be better than the stuff in jars or cans off the store shelf!

Mrs. Keen’s Traditional Mincemeat Recipe
1/2 lb beef
1/2 lb suet
1/4 lb citron
3/4 lb candied peel
1 lb apples
1 lemon
1 orange
1/2 lb sugar
1/2 lb currants
1 lb raisins
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brandy
1 cup dry sherry additional brandy or sherry wine
(optional) or rum (optional)
Directions:
1. Put meat, suet, citron, peel, peeled and cored apples,
lemon and orange through the meat grinder.
2. Mix thoroughly with sugar, currants. raisins, spices,
salt, brandy and sherry. Let sit. Stir daily for about
two weeks … then prepare tarts, pies, and more!

Seniority

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The petite, silver-haired lady stood at the gun counter shaking her head reflexively as she eyed the guns I’d placed in front of her.

“I just don’t know,” she mused. “I’m 82 years old. I live alone and I suffer from bad arthritis and even worse reflexes. Am I crazy to even consider owning a gun?”

“Ma’am,” I smiled. “With all due respect, if you are 82 and live alone, I think you would be crazy not to own one.”

It’s a conversation taking place at gun counters across America. Depression-era babies range from 75-85, as the oldest Baby Boomer turned 70 in 2016.  While there are numerous lessons to be learned by gun owners of any age, the senior shooter faces special challenges that instructors and gun salespeople would do well to address. Indeed, with some “personal defense experts” advising seniors to steer clear of firearms (seriously — a well-known gun mag ran an article on this), this is a conversation that needs to happen.

Assuming that she required an “easy” weapon, a previous salesman had sold my aging customer a .38 special Smith & Wesson Airweight. The customer had explained to him that she did not intend to carry but was looking for a home defense firearm. She said this was the first gun she’d ever purchased and that she had fired a revolver only once, many years prior. She had also showed him her hands, their joints thick with the tell-tale knots of arthritis. He, in turn, handed her the easy and efficient Smith & Wesson. She took it home, fired it once at a local range, and realized that she lacked the finger strength to pull the trigger. In fact, even though the gun boasted an exposed hammer, she could not even cock the hammer with her thumb to lighten the trigger pull. She was also intimidated by the recoil, which violently wrenched her wrist. Bottom line: she was a victim in the making.

“Everyone has to adapt to a new firearm, but seniors have more factors to consider,” explains John Falldorf, retired Sheriff’s Deputy of 28 years, law enforcement firearms instructor, former gun store manager, current LEO firearms salesman, and my hubby of the past five years. “Revolvers are very easy to load but most modern double-action revolvers have a heavy trigger pull. Arthritis and muscle atrophy make heavy triggers a challenge for many seniors. If you are shopping for a firearm and the person behind the gun counter won’t let you test the trigger pull, move on to another shop.”

He also notes that cycling, or “racking,” the slide is another important exercise if you are considering a semi-automatic, versus a revolver.

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“Many seniors opt for a revolver, believing they are too weak to cycle a semi-automatic,” he says. “That’s simply not true. A Walther PK380 is one option because the slide cycles easily and the size of the gun keeps recoil manageable. If you are planning to carry, something like a Sig Sauer P238 or a Kimber Micro Carry are also easy to rack and comfortable to shoot, as long as you understand the importance of the safety on these particular models.”

John says seniors must also accommodate deteriorating eyesight. “The three white dots or the target style sights may not work well for aging eyes. Look for high definition night sights that will be clearly visible in low light. Seniors often think they need a laser, but if you’re just learning to shoot, a laser will interfere with proper form. You’ll find yourself looking beyond the gun at the target, when you should be focusing on the front sight. Best to start with high def sights and then perhaps add a laser later.”

John also urges seniors to budget for training and regular range time with their new firearm. Back when we were doing regular firearms training in Ohio, roughly 60% of our classes were folks over 70. They each brought a blend of experience and challenges that their younger counterparts lacked.

“Even if you were an avid shooter 30 or 40 years ago, these are perishable skills. If you are on a fixed income, you’d be better off to buy a less expensive – but still dependable – gun and set aside money for training and practice time,” John explains, adding that seniors should look for a trainer who offers one-on-one sessions. “Your situation may prompt unusual questions and you may need to modify your form slightly to accommodate physical limitations.  A good instructor can help you address those challenges.”

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My friend Dian has some serious shoulder issues and cannot lift a gun for very long, so we practiced sitting and kneeling shots, with elbows supported…then discussed locations in her home where such shots could be made effectively and with a reasonable amount of cover.

Now that we’re in Florida (senior capital of the world!), we notice that aging customers sometimes get poor advice from loved ones when it comes to choosing a gun. Seniors need to understand that a firearm that works great for your 25-year-old nephew may not be the best choice for you.

For instance, you may want to consider buying a larger gun, especially if you aren’t planning to carry. New shooters tend to gravitate toward small guns (thinking, I suppose, that small guns equal small recoil and small bang. Au contraire.)  And small is fine for concealability but a small gun can be more difficult to manage, especially in arthritic hands…and it will pack a greater punch, recoil-wise than a larger gun of the same caliber.”

Seniors should consider taking a class that emphasizes a variety of shooting positions. As a senior, it doesn’t matter as much whether you live in a ‘stand your ground’ state (like Florida) or a ‘duty to retreat’ state (like Ohio), you potentially lack the speed or dexterity to evade an attacker. You may have no choice but to stand your ground and you’ll need to know how best to do that.

Another consideration for seniors is how they secure their firearms in the home. You don’t want to have them so secure that it takes forever to retrieve them, but if you have grandchildren, you must keep your guns hidden. Kids find everything and you don’t want them finding a loaded firearm. If you’re at home and there are no grandchildren or visitors around, the more accessible your gun is, the better off you are in the event of a home invasion.

And John always tells students that what you point at an intruder makes a big difference. You can read all the articles you want about the efficiency of various guns and ammo, and how deep into the ballistic gel a particular bullet penetrated. Great stats, but when it comes to effective home defense, nothing beats a shotgun (and not a double-barreled one like our former Vice President famously advocated for the ladies…)

But trying to maneuver a full-sized shotgun in a narrow hallway or while concealed behind furniture is nearly impossible. John suggests trying our some of the tactical shotguns (yes, those scary black ones that the media says are “assault weapons.”) so popular today or the compact 13-round Kel-Tec KSG. But, again, if you have shoulder issues, a traditional shotgun could be a challenge to both lift and to fire.

Several pistol models have incorporated shotgun shells into their design. These include the Smith & Wesson Governor, a large revolver that can carry a .45 ACP, a .45 long colt round and/or a .410 shotgun shell.

“With a shotgun load, you don’t have to aim as precisely and the Governor is a large enough gun that the recoil isn’t as pronounced,” John explains, adding that seniors should still test the trigger pull and make certain it is manageable for them. The Governor also features an exposed hammer, making it possible to manually cock the gun and minimize the weight of the trigger pull.

This is by no means a complete discussion of the challenges faced by seniors who shoot. It is a topic you should explore for yourself (or for an older family member who is considering buying a firearm.)

Bottom line, seniors: Whether you lean toward a revolver or a semi-automatic, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your physical limitations prevent you from using your preferred style. New techniques can be taught, triggers can modified, different models offer different advantages. And don’t settle for the gun someone tells you is the right choice; go with the gun that fits your needs, lifestyle and limitations. In the end, you are better served by a .22 magnum revolver or a full-sized .380 semi-automatic that you can cycle and shoot with ease than you are by a featherweight .38 revolver or shiny .45 ACP 1911 model that looks great on the shelf but will require more strength, dexterity or skill than you can muster.

As with all gun-related decisions…ASK QUESTIONS!

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Many thanks to my dear friends Dian and Skeeter Helgerude for agreeing to be my senior guinea pigs for several photo shoots! They are “seniors” in numbers only, and put John and I to shame when it comes to experiencing and enjoying life!! — Tara

Common Sense

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One of the strangest statements I hear from women on the subject of firearms is, “oh, I don’t think I would trust myself to have a gun in the house.”

The first time I heard this was from a student sitting in one of my Introduction to Handgun classes. I chuckled when she said it but she stared at me, stone-faced. “No, I’m serious. I’m not sure I should learn how to shoot a gun.”

Trying to hide my growing alarm, I walked her through some gently probing questions.

“Then why are you here?”

“My husband wanted me to learn how to shoot since he has several guns in the house and he worries about what would happen if someone broke in and he wasn’t home.”

“How long have you and your husband been together?”

“Oh, 35 very happy years,” she beamed.

Okay…no immediate evidence of domestic violence. So how to approach the next topic?

“Uh…and you’re afraid that you might, uh, hurt yourself if you have a gun?”

She shrugged, not really getting the gist of the question. “Oh, not really, I’m  a pretty careful person.”

“No, I mean…intentionally…” I tried to be delicate but I just wasn’t sure where this conversation was headed.

She look appalled. “Suicide? Oh no! That never even crossed my mind!”

Okay, okay…that was two concerns abated. But what, exactly, was her fear?

“I guess I don’t understand. Why are you concerned about learning to shoot?” I bluntly asked.

“Well, I’m afraid I’ll use it in a fit of anger or frustration,” she blurted, shaking her head with vague embarrassment.

“Do you…do you have a problem with anger, or a history of violence,” I took the gloves off completely. No point dancing around this subject any further. If there was something in her history that made gun ownership questionable I would not hesitate to refund her money and recommend some other form of personal protection.

“Oh my no!” Once again, her shock and horror told me that she wasn’t headed where I thought she was headed.

I shook my head and executed a mental face palm before deciding to take another tack.

“Do you own carving knives?” I asked.

She knodded, looking at me like I’d lost my mind.

“Well, have you ever chopped up a family member in the middle of a dispute?”

“Of course not!” she affirmed, sounding more than a little incensed.

“Ever run over anyone with the family car because they weren’t listening to you? Ever feel the urge to grab the hubby’s chain saw and cut him in half,” I continued. “You probably have hammers in the house…ever whacked one of the kids up side the noggin with a claw foot?”

She was shaking her head vigorously now and I thought I saw just the hint of a smile.

“No, no, of course not. I get your point. I guess I just wonder if…knowing how to use a gun will make me more careless…more likely to use it in a situation where it really isn’t necessary,” she explained. “I don’t want to regret taking this class…bringing a lethal weapon into my house. I mean my husband has guns but as long as only one of us knows how they work, it just seems safer, you know?”

I wasn’t sure how to tell her that the opposite was true. Having no gun in the house offered no protection in the event a bad guy decided to let himself in (and, as the wife of a LEO, I can tell you that the old adage is true…”when seconds count, cops are minutes away“) but having guns in the house and not knowing how to use them seemed like the most potentially heart breaking scenario of all.

Still, I finally understood her fear — in fact, I could even relate to it. And it wasn’t without a small measure of merit.

Gun ownership carries with it a specific level of accountability and responsibility. Just because you CAN use a gun doesn’t always mean you should. That’s where training and practice kick in. That’s why I always advise people not to invest in a gun unless they are also ready to invest ample time in proficiency shooting. Yes, of course you must be careful if you own a gun — but the same is true of many other household tools that no one seems to think twice about owning. The CDC reported in 2013 that there were 35,365 deaths from automobile accidents. Wow! Over 35,000 Americans lost their lives to the misuse of a car. Meanwhile, that same year, there were only 505 accidental discharge firearms deaths (I say “only” with the full knowledge that even one is one too many). But if you continue on a google search from the same year, you will see that almost 12,000 Americans lost their lives to intentional gun violence (and that figure is from the Huffington Post…not a publication likely to minimize the impact of gun violence). That’s a lot, but it doesn’t come close to the number of people killed in car wrecks. In fact, if you factor in firearms suicides from that same year…you STILL don’t reach the number of people killed by a “tool” that is not only common but almost mandatory in today’s society. Yet no one seems agitated by the fact that two or more “lethal weapons” sit within arms reach of every family member of almost every household in America.

I reassured my anxious student that, by understanding firearms and how they work, she would be less likely to misuse them — or to have them used against her. I told her I had once shared her fears; that I, too, bought into the media malarkey promoting the belief that owning a gun somehow changes you…makes you more prone to savagery, more immune to the fear of consequences, or more vulnerable to violence in general.

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I also challenged her to be the best kind of gun owner — one that practices safe gun handling, one that studies new trends and laws, one that visits the range often enough to be instinctively proficient, and one that understands that guns are not toys, but they are also not animate objects with motivations or intentions. They are tools, and, just like cars, knives, chainsaws or hammers, they are capable of only as much as the user is determined to allow, or is careless enough to permit.

She was far from the last woman to make that puzzling statement to me. And, interestingly, I have never had a male student say anything even remotely similar — even those who were unfamiliar with firearms. I’m not prepared to say it’s a gender thing but it may be a cultural one — maybe men still  work with tools more frequently and, thus, have a better understanding of their uses and limitations.

Still, her fears, however inflated, are somewhat borne out by automobile statistics. We are complacent when it comes to the use of our cars — and some 35,000 pay with their lives each year. While I am not a fan of government regulations, I am a huge fan of common sense and we could all use a little more of it, whether we are practicing our constitutional right to protect hearth and home — or whether we are heading out with our peeps for a drive in the country.

The thyme of our lives

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Welcome to Thyme.

On the surface, it may appear to be a blog about cooking — and, in fact, it may be from time to time. Or perhaps the care and preservation of herbs? Yeah, maybe (if you ignore the trail of gasping, withering plants that have haunted me through the years). Indeed this blog could, at times, wander into a broad range of topics — and yet there is a purpose to it that, in my heart of hearts, overshadows the vanity of committing words to paper (or, in this case, symbols to screen.)

Truthfully, my original intent was to start a blog about women and firearms. I am a gun owner, an NRA certified trainer in basic pistol, rifle, shotgun, home defense and a certified range officer. I am also the author of the popular “Handgun Guide for Women” (Zenith Press 2015). I love to talk guns with experts and enthusiasts and I love to share my passion with those who are, perhaps, a tad skittish about the whole “gun culture” (the media’s word for it…not mine.) I have evolved from a “fighting young liberal” stance on guns — “they’re all horrible and so is everyone who owns one” — to an enlightened, empowered woman’s stance — “it’s a tool, and, used properly, it’s a damned important tool!” You don’t have to adopt my perspective, but I hope you will be open enough to ask questions and seek truths, versus embracing the media’s often hysterical perspective on…well, everything! (I can say that, by the way, because I spent many years as a card carrying member of the media!)

But, as with most folks, I am not “about” just one thing. My passion for guns relates directly to my passion for freedom, which ties to my commitment to my faith, which relates to my love of family, which leads me directly into my fiercely protective stance on hearth and home.

So, in its purest sense, this blog is about “preserving and protecting.” Preserving traditions, memories, environments, and relationships — and protecting faith, family, friends,  freedom, and, yes, firearms!

In developing a “blog name” I toyed with a number of clever phrases or titles. But nothing covered all the areas into which this blog might delve. I came up with “thyme” because I love its rich, earthy scent and flavor, and because thyme (according to those who track such minutiae) represents “strength, courage, and action.” I decided that those are exactly the kind of women (and men) I gravitate toward: people for whom strength, courage and action are a way of life, and, who, hopefully, blend those qualities with faith, hope, and charity!

Under the Thyme theme, you may find articles about matching the right handgun to your individual needs and personality, preparing an amazing wild game feast, finding a church that matches the stirrings of your spirit, deciding how and when to “carry.” Or you may discover a personality profile that hearkens back to “the good ol’ days,” a photo essay on the beauty of our natural world, a piece that honors our military or supports our thin blue line, or maybe a series about creating an eclectic and fun home environment through junk store and garage sale diving. Occasionally we’ll chat about raising well-adjusted, kind and giving children…even in homes with firearms!

I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these things — but I have lived them all, and I have benefited from watching and absorbing the lessons of those I do consider experts.

In the end, Thyme is simply about standing tall in a world that often searches for the easy way, standing up for values, meaning and freedom at a time when they seem to be anachronistic, and standing firm in embracing (with strength, courage and action) faith, family, freedom and, of course, firearms!