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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Defensive Shooting & Handicaps

H/T: USCCA email, Fri 5/29/2009 10:12 AM

Knowing a little bit about this subject, I recommend it to my readers. Cody is right on.

"Defensive Shooting & Handicaps"

"...Can a man with only one hand with only two fingers and a thumb
on that hand be able to use a handgun for self-defense?..."


by Cody S. Alderson

At a combat shooting course I participated in many years ago, there was an attorney that was in charge of the qualifying test at the indoor range. Part of the qualifying at that time was to kneel and put hits on target. Some of the guys put a hand on the floor to help themselves up after firing from a kneeling position which upset the attorney to the point where he started yelling.

He was ranting about how much time would be lost in using a hand to help yourself up, and how it shouldn't be necessary for anyone to do that. I was a young fellow at the time, but not everyone there was. I understand the position that the attorney was taking as the instructor who would passing or failing the students, but it got me thinking about defensive shooters with handicaps.

That attorney all those years ago is correct in that we should all do our best to be physically fit, but in the real world we human beings come in all sizes and shapes with varying levels of physical abilities. I've heard well respected instructors who teach defensive shooting actually make remarks that could easily be interpreted as rude and disrespectful, especially to fat guys like me.

I certainly hope that the comments were made out of a desire to motivate me toward more exercise and healthier living, but I must also say that such an approach just doesn't work with civilians. Maybe it works in the military where the recruit is Government Issue, and is at the mercy of his or her superiors, but I don't see it having much of a positive effect on the office worker who might enjoy M&M's for a snack instead of carrot sticks.

Does that mean that fat folks or people with handicaps shouldn't be allowed to have a gun for self-defense? I don't think anyone in the gun community would even entertain such a thought. All citizens are under the guarantee of non-infringement that the Second Amendment promises. Criminals and the mentally incompetent don't count under that guarantee because we, as a society, have adjudicated them to have restricted rights to protect themselves and/or other members of society.

I meet all kinds of people who ask me about owning a gun and learning how to use it. I never pass judgment on an adult person's physical ability to use a gun for self-defense, and will try to work out a way for the person to become competent with a gun no matter what the physical handicap is. Admittedly there are some handicaps that make me currently incapable of offering any advice or instruction on how to competently use a gun, but there are many handicaps that are easy to work around.

An old man with a cane who can only get back up after falling by using something to grab onto is still a very viable candidate to be a competent civilian defensive operator. He just needs to train harder to stay upright while under attack and train to be able to fight with the gun while on the ground. If a thug whacks the old man with a bat and is preparing to wield a killing blow after the old man is on the ground, then grandpa needs to be able to get his gun out while on the ground and put holes in his attacker while on his back. If he stops his attacker with a couple of well-placed rounds from a .380 or a .45, then the police can help him up when they get there.

Okay, so that scenario could obviously go many different ways. Don't be over thinking the specific scenario right now. Rather, think of what even a severely handicapped person CAN DO instead of what he CAN'T DO. I've worked for several years with the developmentally disabled. I try to get them to DO things instead of DOING things for them. Of course they will not ever be gun owners because of the mental incompetency factor, but the ideology translates well over into the world of physical handicaps and defensive shooting.

If I saw a highly trained S.W.A.T officer having to use a hand on the ground just to be able to get up from being on his knees, I might think that he needs to either see a doctor about the knees or back issue, or maybe spend some time in the gym doing squats. If I see a fat guy like me at the gun range wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shooting from a kneeling position, and needing to use his hand for a bit of oomph to get up, it isn't a big deal at all.

Of course, both I and the dude in the Hawaiian shirt would be better at defending ourselves if we got in better shape. I'd be better at a lot of different things if I took more time with the subjects or issues. We read about incidents of crime every single day in the newspapers, and we hear about them constantly on TV. Still, I may live out my whole life and never need to draw my gun.

That being said, I want to promote a teaching ideology to all instructors. Don't scare away good citizens who need some encouragement as well as fundamentals to become competent concealed carry permit holders because you want all of your students to be trained like they are Special Forces Operatives. Instead, tailor the instruction to the student and encourage those who want to progress more by taking them to each successive level at their own pace.

I would like to see a few courses being promoted as specifically for those with health issues, and those with physical issues that need instruction adapted to their needs. Grandma with arthritis might not be able to handle the 1911, but she may be able to work a 20 Gauge with a vertical foregrip. Just an example to get the creative juices flowing.

Instructors should take a course at a community college about being an educator to students with physical handicaps. Or one could volunteer some time to assist those with handicaps to learn how they adapt products and methods to suit their own needs. So much insight could be gained by just observation.

Can a man with only one hand with only two fingers and a thumb on that hand be able to use a handgun for self-defense? If you are an instructor, then work out the answer in your head and with an unloaded gun. You might be surprised at the answer. What about a man who is blind in one eye? I have a friend who is blind in one eye. He drives and really likes to shoot Glocks.

I actually though[t] that driving would be way more difficult than shooting, due to depth perception issues. He has been blind in the one eye since birth so his brain wired itself a bit differently to compensate for the missing visual input. Someone that would suddenly lose sight in one eye as an adult would have a more difficult time learning to adapt, but it is by no means impossible.

Carrying a gun for self-defense need not be a tedious thing that we dread doing. Some instructors teach defensive shooting like it is a religion, and only their faithful end up sticking around to learn more. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, where training is too casual without any emphasis being put on the need for the student to take the instruction seriously to become competent. As it is in most things, there is a balance that can be reached.

I'm not a member of any S.W.A.T. Team. I'm just a guy who carries a permit and a gun in case someone is trying to maim or kill me. With it, I can at least have a hope of fighting back to save my life. I like potato chips, pasta, and fresh baked bread, but I can still run up a flight of stairs without dropping over dead. Now I'm not fit to take on Tito Ortiz or Mike Tyson with my bare hands and hope to win, but if a sociopath built like Tito or Mike suddenly wants to kill me, I bet my competency with my handgun would do okay at stopping him. And I'm glad I pursued becoming competent with a gun even though the attorney from that course so long ago made me wonder if I had what it takes to even begin to think I could defend myself.

It's ALL about using what you have, right now, right here! Your 600 Double Nitro in the trunk is useless if you're away from it. In my case, it's all about using the fingers God gave and not worrying about the thumbs he didn't! hehe

For those of you who have actually met me, you have my condolences! Othterwise, you may not know that I am a "disabled", or handicapped, man with asymmetrical deformities of both forearms, wrists and hands. That includes no thumbs. I never missed what I never really knew that I had.

The fact that I'm bald, overweight and an Aggie is also a cause for panic. ;>)

My point is this: As Cody Alderson points out, disability is mostly in the eye of the beholder, not necessarily the doer.

I've been blessed to meet severely handicapped people with the attitude that "there are a hundred things I can't do out of the ten thousand things a 'normal' human can do. Get outa my way so I can do what I can do." They've made me more "normal". More than a couple of them are/were ham radio operators I've been blessed to know. One, CharlieK, used to live in Shiner, Texas. I talked with him via radio for quite a while without knowing of his condition. Only when I arranged to go visit him did the subject come up. Another ham, MarkK (different family name) has kept me rooted in the "possible" instead of what I "can't" do. Then there was BuddyB, from Conroe, Texas, that stopped me from EVER wanting to whine about what I did, or didn't have, in the way of abilities. Then there's a friend of a ham friend whom we have had the pleaure of sharing meals together. Patricia probably could not physically handle a firearm, but her attitude suggests you'd better not get in her way! ;>)

Next time you meet a shooter, or potential shooter, with "disabilities", try standing to one side. Out of their line of fire.

A Personal Story:

After shooting with the Tactical Shooters, a competitive IDPA bunch, for two years or so, I had to leave the group for our own personal reasons unrelated to the group. On my last night, after the last shot of the last scenario was fired, I and VinneZ happened to be the last of the shooters to exit the range. Vinnie had been a friend and a mentor to me for most of the time I was with them. We stood around the parking lot cussin' and discussin' our good times together.

We somehow got around to reminiscing about my first visit with the Tactical Shooters and the guys true thoughts as to my potential.

VinnieZ related that as I came up to shoot my first scenario, some of the guys (there were no gals there that night) eased toward the exit. They weren't too sure whether I might drop the darn gun or "present it" for a negligent discharge - in their direction! Most were torn between staying around to watch what happened or finding bullet-stopping cover!

We all survived that night. And the nights together that followed.

God Bless Ya'll !

III
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