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Moms & Armed Self-Defense

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Article first appeared at Shooting Illustrated.

The firearm, the safe, the training—it’s the holy trinity of gun ownership. Across our Second Amendment-loving community, there exists a general consensus that these three elements shall not be separated. I learned this the day I was given my first gun, and have abided by it ever since. And like many single women, back then I obtained my concealed-carry permit, was diligent about my own safety and maintained my gun training religiously. Situational awareness was always paramount in my thinking, as my trainers, colleagues and family had preached. But those were the days before I became a mom.

Yes, I’ve still got the guns and the safes, but my training needs an update. Sure, many of the basic skills I’ve learned over a few years of training still apply, but when I’ve got my son with me, the rules change altogether—and not in my favor.

For example, when you’re alone, getting into the car in a parking lot is simple. You’ve got your situational awareness radar up and keys in hand long before you approach the vehicle. You walk quickly and confidently toward the car, press the unlock button on approach, open the door, sit down and lock it. You’ve moved safely from parking lot to secured vehicle in a matter of seconds.

Now add a kid. The task list becomes much longer: Lock stroller wheels, place child in car seat, buckle car seat, throw diaper bag in the floorboard, open trunk, fold stroller, heave stroller into trunk, close trunk, rummage inside diaper bag for the snack you swear you packed, hand child the snack, grab bottle (is the temperature ok?), hand cold bottle to the child, close all open car doors, walk around the car, open driver door (shoot, where are the keys?), find the keys, seatbelt, lock door. Whew.

Nothing about that routine feels secure. Even making it as efficient as possible, you’re leaving your back vulnerable with plenty of time for a bad actor to strike. Factor in a crying kid, a disability, or more than one child, and you can multiply the time logged by at least two. Families are more vulnerable to becoming victims of crime, and the bad guys know it. So how do we change the game?

The park nearest our home is beautiful, but it is surrounded by homeless people, some of whom are erratic and potentially violent. At least a few of them are convicted criminals. My 14-month-old son and I were recently accosted by one of them on our way to play in this park. He was clearly under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance, causing him to scream and lunge at us. Nothing terrible happened, but this minor incident served as my wake-up call. I began to wonder, “What happens if someone opens fire or begins stabbing people at that park?” The trash cans are made of concrete, and all I’ve come up with is to put my son in the trash can because bullets would not penetrate the metal-lined concrete. That’s the best plan I’ve got so far based on my single-girl training, and I admit it’s a terrible one. Also, it only works under very specific circumstances. What if I have to move away from the concrete trash can? Do I leave him there because it is somewhat safe? Do I grab the stroller because I could flee faster with it? Or do I grab my 30-pound child and just run?

These are the questions I and so many parents need answers to. I am not willing to be a victim as a lone female, but you can be sure that if a bad guy threatened me and my child, he would swiftly meet an epic, rage-induced, adrenaline-fueled cross between a mama Godzilla and The Hulk. I know every parent can identify with that sentiment.

But the adrenaline-fueled mama bear needs to assess, think logically and react swiftly if she wants her kids to be safe.

Becoming a parent is the most wonderful and terrifying adventure I’ve ever embarked upon. But it has caught me, and apparently much of the gun community, completely off guard. Precious little defense training tailored to parents seems to exist, and in an age of terrorism, that fact is deeply concerning. Some groups, like the Austin Sure Shots, have included child protection in some of their training for a few years. Hats off to Melody Lauer, who braved the anti-gun crowd on an episode of the nationally syndicated show “The Doctors” to demonstrate the tricky combination of wearing your baby and safely carrying concealed. They are doing yeoman’s work, and we need more trainers like them.

I implore you, the gun community of America, to assist moms and dads. This is my request and challenge to you: Follow the tradition of so many great American tactical trainers and create programs specifically for parents. From where I sit, training for moms and dads, grandparents and extended family is the next wave of firearm ownership and self-defense. Please lead the charge.

Natalie Foster is the host of “Love At First Shot” on NRATV and the creator of Girl’s Guide to Guns.

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