I would like to start this month’s column off with a resounding thank you to all of you. The e-mails that I have received in response to my column about the viscous assault against the Landry family have been overwhelming, to say the least. To all of you, who took the time to reach out to me in response to this heartbreaking column, I want to say thanks on behalf of myself and the Landry family. It makes me very proud to be a member of the USCCA and even prouder to be affiliated with such fine, compassionate and like-minded people.
As I sit and type this month’s Ordinary Guy column, I am sitting on an American Airlines jet at the gate awaiting departure from El Paso, Texas to Dallas and then on to Atlanta, Ga. For those of you in the know, I am disappointed to report to you that Mr. Jim Irvine is not the first officer of this flight! Not that it matters to anyone who like me, has a busy schedule and doesn’t really give a hoot about the daily comings and goings of the Ordinary Guy, but I felt compelled to switch gears here a little bit this month.
It is amazing to me that one can literally walk from one side of a fence to the other and be in another world altogether.
The past two months have been made up of some stressful, real-life career decisions with real-life implications for my family and me. I’m glad to report that although I believe I have made the right choices, those decisions have seen me on the road and away from home quite frequently over the last 12 weeks with no immediate relief from the stresses of airport hopping.
Since my travels have taken me to various states that I don’t tend to frequent regularly, and not being one to be without some caliber of protection, I have been forced to do a little more than the usual research on individual state laws lately. This most recent excursion to El Paso was for a required meeting in Juarez, Mexico, a city suffering with a well-publicized violent crime problem and hundreds of unsolved and very brutal serial killings. I can assure you that there is absolutely no research needed on Mexican handgun laws as any American citizen in the know, traveling south of the border, can tell you that a mere spent shotgun shell or bullet hole key chain will cause one to wind up in a Mexican prison cell.
It is amazing to me that one can literally walk from one side of a fence to the other and be in another world altogether. As an American who goes heeled on a daily basis, it was quite un-nerving to be unarmed in this City of Death, as it is referred to in the major media. I was forced to another level of situational awareness and a couple of things come to mind that I thought worth mentioning. First, I was travelling with a small group deep into the heart of Juarez and felt somewhat secure in the fact that I was with 2 local residents.
After travelling to the plant I was visiting that day, we had some free time as we headed back across the border. Being hungry after a full day of playing Mr. Businessman, and anticipating a long line of traffic back at the border crossing, we decided to stop at a Mexican version of a 7-11 a couple of miles south of the El Paso border for cold drinks and some snacks. It is worth mentioning here that our local guides left us to fend for ourselves as they remained at the factory while we went home.
As I stepped out of the vehicle in what was obviously a notorious section of a well known, run-down and struggling city, I kept my eyes wide open. As I was paying for my food and beverages at the counter of this Mexican “stop n rob” and as I turned to exit, I immediately ran into three individuals who were coming through the front door to my left. It was obvious by the way I was dressed and how I appeared, that I was certainly not a local resident.
I had been warned not to wear any expensive jewelry, watches, chains, etc. and took that advice to heart. It shocked me though, to realize that had these individuals meant me any harm, which fortunately they did not, that I was totally unprepared. I had let down my guard for only a couple of seconds and found myself face to face with three strangers at less than arms length. It was a reminder for me to be more vigilant–and you would have thought that I would have gotten the message.
Apparently I didn’t! We finally crossed the border and found ourselves safely back in El Paso. I was done working and could now relax, head to a fantastic Mexican restaurant for dinner and a cold beer and then head back to the hotel for some much needed rest. At about 10:00 p.m., I wandered outside the hotel room to the drink machine which was outdoors near the pool only steps from my room at the end of the first floor hallway.
After grabbing a cold Coke, I lit a cigarette and walked over towards the pool, leaning up against the fence. As I stood there for a moment reflecting back on the day and my flight home in the morning, I was completely startled by two individuals who had come up behind me on the sidewalk. One of these men had accidentally bumped into me before I was aware of their presence as I was leaning against the fence door forcing me to jump back completely startled.
Here I was, a guy who carries a gun on a daily basis, unarmed and very conscience of that fact, allowing myself to be taken by surprise not once, but twice within a few hours
Now, like you, I am aware that crime against hotel guests on hotel property late in the evening in unlit areas of the hotel grounds is almost unheard of in an American city (read the sarcasm here, please). My reaction to their presence must have shaken them for a moment as the man who bumped into me jumped back and apologized quickly. Again, no harm was meant against me but it really woke me up to the fact that I had let myself down, AGAIN. Here I was, a guy who carries a gun on a daily basis, unarmed and very conscience of that fact, allowing myself to be taken by surprise not once, but twice within a few hours. Not my idea of good situational awareness!
It got me thinking. Was the fact that I was unarmed the real culprit here? Like most of you, I hope that I am incredibly keen to my surroundings when carrying my choice of firepower du jour, and I carry daily. So what was it? Why did I have my guard down when I was unarmed? That really bothered me. I gave it a lot of thought and the only reason I could come up with is that I was in fact, unarmed. I had reverted back to the days before I carried a gun for personal protection without even realizing it. I had gone back to a victim mindset without even thinking about. It was a real wake up call that I would subconsciously let my guard down when I wasn’t carrying my sidearm.
I have since used those seemingly innocuous events to remind myself of the importance of my situational awareness and as a personal tool to always remain focused on my surroundings. I am since back home and have a gun with me regularly, but I will not long forget the fact that I was capable of becoming a victim anytime soon. Stay armed and stay focused my friends!
[ Mark is the director of Gun Safety Education and a NRA Certified Instructor in three disciplines. He is the owner of 45 Caliber Transfer, LLC and 45 Caliber Transportation, Inc as well as a Second Amendment activist in his home town. Mark is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). He encourages readers to contact him at: email@example.com ]