President’s Column | The Life-Saver: Vigilance

posted on March 22, 2022
Charles L. Cotton

Last month here, I wrote about the dangers of complacency facing gun owners. This month, I want to look at the other side of the coin: vigilance.

There are many reasons to own a firearm, from target shooting and competition, to gun collecting, hunting and more. But the highest and most vital use of a firearm is in preserving innocent life. This is our first, most fundamental freedom. But it’s only as strong as our vigilance to defend it and deploy it effectively.

I was a police officer for 10 years and I’ve been an attorney for almost 35 years. I’ve also been a firearms instructor and a legislative activist, and over the years, in all these roles, I’ve seen far too many lives and families torn apart by violent criminals. What’s so troubling to me, as a Second Amendment advocate, is that so many of those tragedies could have been prevented if the victims had been able and prepared to defend themselves. That requires vigilance.

Being vigilant means maintaining a state of readiness. If you own a firearm for self-defense, it needs to be readily available to you. Everyone’s situation is different, of course, so everyone has to strike their own balance between quick access and secure storage. But for many of us, vigilance means keeping a self-defense firearm at our side in a holster. Because, in many cases, this offers the best balance of both keeping the firearm secure and keeping it available.

If a home invader bursts through your front door while you and your family are gathered in your family room, that attacker can be upon you in seconds. And if the quick-access strongbox in which you store your self-defense firearm is on the top shelf of your bedroom closet and must be unlocked before you can retrieve your firearm and return to the family room—that’s not likely to save you when split-seconds count. Far too often, just a few seconds can make a life-or-death difference. This is one of the topics I talk about in my firearms-training courses.

Armed, trained, diligent, peaceable people keep violent, dangerous people deterred.

In 1983, a sergeant with the Salt Lake City Police Department named Dennis Tueller wanted to know how long it would take an attacker to cover seven yards, so he timed volunteers and found that they could cover that distance in less than two seconds. Today, Tueller’s findings are incorporated into so-called “Tueller Drills” used to train police and the public in effective self-defense firearm deployment.

These principles are just as important on the street as in the home. Many of the women I train in my courses choose to carry a firearm in their purse, but their purse is often the first thing an attacker will snatch. What’s more, even if an attacker doesn’t grab their purse, they’ll find—as the Tueller Drill demonstrates—that drawing and deploying a firearm effectively from a purse can take longer than they thought, far longer than the 1.5 seconds it takes for an attacker to cover seven yards.

Again, so much of this revolves around time. Hardening your home against intruders—whether it’s with an alarm system or with something as simple as extra-long screws through your door’s strike plate—buys you time. A dog that barks at strangers buys you time. If you’re out in public, avoiding dangerous places or situations, and paying attention to your surroundings, instead of burying your nose in your cell phone, buys you time. These are all forms of vigilance—or what we in the legal profession refer to as due diligence—and they can all make all the difference.

You can learn these principles and more by taking one of the NRA’s Basic Personal Protection in the Home or Basics of Personal Protection Outside the Home courses, or attending one of our Refuse To Be Victim® seminars. Every year, NRA-certified firearms instructors teach more than a million Americans these kinds of life-saving techniques and more.

In fact, no public or private group in the world does more to ensure Americans have the right, the ability and the skills they need to defend life and limb, than your NRA. That’s vigilance. And whether or not they choose to own a firearm for self-defense, Americans everywhere benefit from it—because armed, trained, diligent, peaceable people keep violent, dangerous people deterred. Your NRA membership is what makes it all possible. And for that you deserve to be proud.


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