Ep. 14 Should I Shoot? ‘Gun-Free Zone’ Doesn’t Mean You’re Helpless


Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

The last 13 installments have revolved around the title “Should I Shoot?” Without beating the obvious drum, you have to be armed if you are asking that question. What if you find yourself in a well-regulated “gun-free zone,” and by regulated I mean you have to pass through a metal detector and are subject to search or pat-down before you are permitted to enter? Air travel is the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many more places into which even off-duty police officers are not permitted to enter with a firearm or even a knife. Pro baseball and football games, stadium concerts and supercross races are a few examples. I recently attended the supercross races and I have to say it felt very strange being completely unarmed, especially when I got a look at the event security guards. Some will say, “If I can’t carry my gun, then I’m not going in.” This is your choice, but it limits places you can go.

For the better part of 40 years, personal defense has been a huge part of my life. My journey started at a young age when I got tired of getting bullied and beaten up. What started as “learning to fight” grew into teaching others how to stay safe in an oftentimes not-so-nice world.

Growing up, the phrase I heard the most as it related to defensive skill was something along the lines of, “That guy knows how to take care of himself.” It was a given that the person in question was a good fighter and not to be messed with. During my journey, I’ve trained with some guys and girls who really looked the part of someone who could take care of themselves, and I’ve also been around some who, at first glance, didn’t look like much but that transformed into a very devastating fighter in the ring or on the mats. Don’t judge a book by the cover.

Regardless of your physical prowess, the keys to acquiring defensive skills are the dedication to train realistically and to do so in the mindset of a warrior. One without the other won’t be enough. History tells us that we will fight as we have trained, and this applies to unarmed as well as armed combat. No new skills will be acquired in the middle of a fight for your life. You have to have already thought about the “what if?” questions and made the decision you will fight for your life.

If you are going to be in an unarmed zone alone or with your family, you have to stay just as aware and frosty as you would if you were armed. The chief difference is that if it hits the fan, what you can do to defend yourself and loved ones will be limited to the empty-hand skills you possess and your ability to find and employ improvised weapons. The most heavily publicized improvised weapon is the “tactical pen.” Don’t get wrapped up in the name; it’s a regular, functioning pen but built out of stronger materials. This means that it can be used to strike soft targets on the body and can also be used to facilitate some control techniques. I have a few, but I’ve found that a simple Sharpie permanent marker works pretty well in a pinch (and costs a lot less).

I’ll never forget the beating I took in training from an “old man” who was probably my current age when I was about 16. I was armed with two 26-inch Escrima sticks — long rattan straight batons used in martial arts training — and he was using a rolled-up magazine. Despite the differences in our weapons, it felt like he was hitting me with a baseball bat. Improvised weapons are only limited by our imagination. Look around the room you are in and see how many items could be used as a weapon if you needed one.

I’ve talked a lot about software (our brains and training) and hardware (mostly firearms or some defensive skill) as well. We, as individuals, have to make the choice to do everything we possibly can to ensure our personal safety and that of our loved ones. It’s never too late to work on learning that next save-your-life skill.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Mort Leith September 4, 2016, 9:25 pm

    First of all, about 2 years ago Georgia passed laws that almost eliminated all liberal killing zones (aka Gun-Free Zones).
    Now we can legally carry in Bars, Churches, etc
    I also ALWAYS carry in Movie Theaters, whether they have a posted sign against it or not..

  • Ron Stidham August 5, 2016, 3:46 pm

    As a former Marine, I have learned a thing or two. While in the Marines, my skills were drilled into my core. Now I’m a lot older, have a lot of bad body parts/don’t get around like I used to. That being said, you never give up the fight/NEVER. The best weapon you have is the one in your hand, no matter what it is. Don’t go the way of, now what am I going to do. Ash tray, pencil, pen, shoe, ect. Be vigil, you may be over powered, but you can save you life, as long as you don’t give up the fight, Knees, nuts, and throat. Don’t go quietly into the night!!!

    • Mongo August 5, 2016, 7:11 pm

      That is by far the best comment I’ve seen in a while. I get another year older, and a whole lot slower. Ron is right: your mind is your best weapon, keep everything an option and not quitting; my familys safety is my responsibility. A sharpie and a magazine, so simple.

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