''I Thought This Would Never Happen to Me''

Real-life lessons from real-life threats to a retired man’s life

By Bob Harsanje

I liked Skip from the first time we shook hands. He’s a not so very tall man, but sports a physique a 40 year old would pretend to not envy. There’s a friendly but knowing twinkle in his eye that tips you off he’s experienced life from many perspectives. You’re not going to fool Skip. He’s been around. He’s tough. He’s gentle. He’s locked on principles proven and true.

He can be dead serious or make your belly shake with his unpretentious, “Here’s how I see it” sense of humor.

Skip has been retired for years but keeps an active schedule that betrays his 60-something, silver-haired persona. “Elderly” – huh uh. “Seasoned” – you bet.

The strength of his commitment to our Second Amendment rights placed him among the first wave of citizens to enroll in a CHL class and obtain his license -- immediately after the State of Ohio slipped and slid its way into last place on a roster of 40+ states that “got it” before this state did.

He has never taken this solemn privilege lightly and has backed up his commitment by spending countless hours on the range with like-minded friends honing skills that most all CHL holders dearly hope will never have to be used. Bully for him.

Skip has computer problems

Who hasn’t? Who doesn’t? It’s only a matter of time before a computer’s planned obsolescence kicks in and it becomes more trouble than it’s worth and demands replacement. He grumbled about the “doggone thing being out of date before it was paid for.” I hear that.

After making frugal price comparisons, he decided to purchase a certain PC at a certain large electronics retailer and made his way there last month to strike up his best bargain. Deal done, he declined assistance from a “young buck” and grasped the bulky box between his arms and wove his way through the aisles to the checkout, then through the front doors of the store. You see, Skip isn’t all that tall and I could picture him comically straining to see around this big cardboard impediment to locate his vehicle. He stopped at the curb.

Skip has a bigger problem – sort of

He did not anticipate what happened next – this stuff happens to other people. He’d no sooner reached the curb when he was startled by an older van that screeched to a jolting stop directly in front of him. Two “sloppily-dressed young fellas” (says Skip) leaped from the vehicle and menacingly flanked him in mere seconds.

“Give me your money NOW, old man, or I’ll cut you to pieces, you [expletive deleted]!” threatened the closest perp.

Skip doesn’t rattle easily, it took only a couple of seconds to make an accurate assessment and react. He calmly bent from his knees and waist, and lowered the computer box to the curb and in a very controlled, very non-challant tone replied, “Ok.” But it didn’t sound like a “normal” OK.

You have to know Skip. Try to envision his body language and hear the dynamics of his voice. Visualize his shoulders squeezing into an ironic shrug, arms with upturned palms extended, eyebrows and forehead-wrinkles casually scrunch above wide-open but focused eyes, and out comes “OH-kay.” The “-kay” part drops off about a disinterested-octave. It’s an almost-tired intonation that is intended to signal, “Well, OK – but you don’t know what you’re getting into…” Yes, he’s that collected. But calculating.

“Hurry up!! Give me your [expletive deleted] money or I’ll slice you UP!!” screamed the wild-eyed perp closest to him.

He slowly rose up. As he did, his left hand pulled back his trademark plaid flannel shirt revealing his cross-holstered firearm. His right hand slowly reached toward the handgrips, his eyes remained riveted on the perp’s.

“At that point,” he explained to me, “the fine, young citizen who did all the screaming had not shown me a knife. He just had his hand jammed in his pocket acting like he really had one, but I didn’t actually see it. So, there was no way I was going to draw. Not unless I was absolutely FORCED to…”

He wasn’t.

“That kid’s eyes opened like saucers when he saw the gun,” he continued. “He let out with a bunch of profanity, and he and his partner took off as fast as they came at me. All I saw was the soles of their Nikes beatin’ blacktop. Then they were in the van smoking tires faster than I could read their plate.” That part struck me funny in an “Oh yeah, the good guy won this time” sort of way. The mental picture he drew was oddly humorous to me. Skip took his new PC to his car and went home.

Problem solved – for now

As I listened to him describe the incident, I couldn’t help bursting into a Jell-O-belly laugh that was soon tempered by a flood of “What if?” questions. And many of the answers were unpleasant to think about. For sure, this encounter could have gone very, very bad -- very, very quickly.

Skip’s summary brought things into focus.

“I didn’t really stop and consider all the possibilities, the impact of the whole thing until after I got home and had time to think, really for the first time. During the incident, it seemed like I was on auto-pilot – I didn’t really think, I just reacted in a calm, controlled way. I think it’s because of all the extra training and experience, all the time spent creating possible, “God forbid” scenarios in my mind and how I thought I’d react to them. Plus, I gained a lot of confidence from spending extra range time. It all came together and sort of took over when the real thing happened,” he explained.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt and I wasn’t forced to shoot – I didn’t want to shoot. But – if it DID come down to them or me, I was prepared to make it me. I didn’t have to. But the problem is though, those bad guys are still out there and I cringe every time I think of it. I was lucky because they were a whole lot more intimidated than I was. But what about all the other people who aren’t?”

“Those punks looked like they were all drugged up,” he continued. “They weren’t afraid of me – heck, they chose me because they thought I was just an old man, a pushover. The seriousness of it didn’t hit me until later when I replayed the whole thing in my head. I still think about it. A lot.”

“So,” I inquired, “what did the cops have to say about it?”

His head drooped forward. “I didn’t report it,” he said.

“Really?” I asked, “Why not?”

“I probably should have, but I didn’t really want the hassle and was real concerned about it,” he explained. “The cops are pretty much stand-up people. But once something like this gets to the higher-ups, there’s no telling how it will turn out. It’s all about politics. Plus, you can’t trust the [local] newspaper. What if they published my real name and those punks saw it and came after me in my own home? I might not be so lucky the next time,“ he mused.

“Well, Skip, on one hand,” I replied, “it would be good for other people to read about your encounter, a real-life, local success story about how a good guy stood up against the bad guys and scared them off. That would send a strong message and it just might motivate someone else to do what you’ve done.”

“On the other hand, I understand your concerns. I’m not sure how I would handle it. I’m just glad you’re here to talk about it.”

It could happen to anyone

What if something similar happened to you?

How would you react? Have you thought about it?

Would you just hand over your wallet or purse thinking it would appease the bad guys and they will simply go away?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

Recent, very credible studies conducted by law enforcement agencies and organizations report that an alarming, increasing number of robbery incidents tragically end with the victim either being shot or brutally attacked in some form despite their cooperation. Passivity, as many believe, does not always yield positive results. (For more information, review articles posted elsewhere on this site).

Bottom line: no one knows for sure.

But the facts are clear: a mountain of irrefutable evidence collected by State, Federal and other law enforcement entities clearly proves that the presence and proper use of a concealed weapon acts as a deterrent to crime.

Consider this. Not everyone can or perhaps should own and legally carry a handgun. Some personality types are predominantly passive and may not possess the qualities required to safely and effectively use a firearm under life-threatening duress. It may be extremely difficult and uncomfortable for them to prepare their mind to aggressively respond to a grave threat. No shame in that.

But -- if you have read Skip’s account and it left you with a thoughts or feelings of, “Wow, that makes sense. Maybe I should look into this, maybe I can do this too…” then take action. DO something.

Explore buckeyefirearms.org to begin to educate yourself. There is a wealth of information in addition to links to other valuable information. Take time to reach your decision, it is not a matter to be taken lightly. You will need to reach deep inside yourself and ask critical questions like, “Why do I want to carry a gun? Can I learn to develop the skills necessary to become proficient with a firearm? Can I develop a mindset that is prepared as possible to react to life-threatening situations?

Consider the immense, sobering responsibility of obtaining a CHL, and then devoting time to become proficient with handgun use. You must consider the remote but very real possibility that you may unexpectedly face a criminal situation like Skip did. You too MAY be thrust into unexpected crisis wherein you must shoot a criminal to preserve your life, and/or the life of a loved one or even an innocent, defenseless person.

Skip wasn’t just lucky – he was prepared.

Can you say the same for yourself?

Bob Harsanje is a Buckeye Firearms Association volunteer, and lives in Northwest Ohio.

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