In 2006, my family and I lived in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Our first child was just three years old at the time, and my wife and I looked forward to raising him and his younger brother in the peaceful quiet of our suburban, middle-class neighborhood.
Later that year, there was a violent home invasion in another suburban Phoenix neighborhood, and the home invaders kidnapped a three-year-old boy out of the house. The boy was found safely a few hours later, but this incident affected my wife and I very deeply, because both of us were familiar with the neighborhood where that crime occurred, and we knew it wasn't a bad neighborhood. If it could happen there, we thought, it could happen in our neighborhood as well. We bought an alarm system, and we also bought a pistol for self-protection. I started practicing and training to be better with it and be able to defend my family if need be.
Very soon, though, I noticed there was something missing from all the training classes I was taking and all the drills I was practicing: Everything I was learning was built around me protecting just myself against the threat of lethal force. While that’s important, nothing I was being taught acknowledged the fact that as a family man I would be likely to have my wife and kids around me on a regular basis. All the classes I was taking treated the appropriate response to a violent encounter as a series of skills to master, but they placed no context on what we were being taught. It’s as if we were at a driving school and being taught how to make a left-hand turn, but were never told how to make a left-hand turn in traffic.
At about the same time, far away from Phoenix in a quiet town in Iowa, Melody Lauer was raising her children and running into the same problem I was: She wanted to keep her kids safe in an ever-dangerous world, but the firearms training she was receiving was not giving any context as to how to apply what she learned to how she lived her life with her family. Melody’s background includes classes from some of the best firearms schools in the country, and her desire was to create a firearms training program that was built around how she lived her life, not what she learned on the range. Melody’s work drew the attention of John Johnston, and together they created Citizen’s Defense Research, and began to teach The Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian class all across the nation.
What the class is about is listed in the description: It’s about placing the handgun in the context of our lives as parents and guardians, but it goes far beyond just that because it also deals with defending our lives in the presence of spouses, teens and adult children, and that’s something almost everyone might need to know.
The class was two days long, and began with a safety briefing and a half day in the classroom covering real-world examples of what threats exist out there to ourselves and our children. One thing in particular I liked about this portion of the class was how Melody and John quoted their sources for what they were teaching, and included a slide in their presentation for further learning afterwards. I like instructors who do that because it shows they acknowledge the debt that all of us owe to the great firearms trainers of the past.
Range time started after lunch the first day and continued on through the entirety of the second day. We began with some simple dry-fire drills to establish the habits of a good grip, smooth trigger press and a safe draw from the holster, and then we transitioned into shooting a series of 2-inch dots from both a two-handed and one-handed shooting position. We then moved to more familiar targets shot from varying distances, and then wrapped up the day by shooting the FBI Pistol Qualification Course.
Which seems very much like every other pistol class out there, and in a sense, it was...we were learning the skill of using a pistol. It was on the second day that we learned how to use it when our loved ones are nearby. John and Melody had an interesting view on what our tactics should be if we must defend our families. In the past, I studied the methods used by bodyguards and armed security personnel, thinking that because their job was protecting their principal by the use of force, I should be using those methods. However, as I learned in this class, the purpose of someone who attacks a person with a bodyguard is to press the attack against the principal at all costs, and not be concerned with the armed personnel trying to stop him. However, in our everyday lives, we don’t face that type of attacker, and once we display the ability to use lethal force, we instantly become the focus of the person attacking us or our loved ones.
That concept drove the tactics we learned on the second day of class. Rather than shield and cover our loved ones, the focus was placed on stopping the threat to their lives (and our lives as well) as quickly as possible. We learned how draw and shoot one-handed while controlling someone tugging on our off-hand, how to get them out of the line of fire as quickly as possible, and how to move and shoot quickly and accurately. While there was some drills with weighted sacks that represented small children held in our arms, the fact is, what we learned could be used by just about anyone who carries a pistol on a day-in, day-out basis.
This was reflected in the makeup of our class. There were people like me who had children in the house, but there were also grandparents and single guys as well. The class didn’t just teach us how to be an armed parent, it taught us how to be a responsible armed member of society. In two days of classes, I learned more about how to deal with the reality of everyday concealed carry than in the hundreds of hours of other classes I’ve taken. If you have a chance to take The Armed Parent/Guardian class, do so. It will change how you think and act while carrying your gun.