Like many of you, I groaned in disbelief when the news first broke about the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. When another individual shot up a street in an entertainment district of Dayton, Ohio, less than a day later, I was simply unable to find words to express my disgust.

Just as we have come to expect, the political class and its media minions wasted no time in trying to use these two very different cases to their own political advantage. Naturally, the focus of most of the politicians was on banning “assault weapons” and restricting access to guns.

Without doubt, the anti-Second-Amendment rhetoric is likely to ramp up in the coming days and weeks, especially with the 2020 election campaigns in full swing. But politics aside, there are a number of things that these incidents make abundantly clear.

There Are No ‘Safe Spaces’

Any rational person would conclude the obvious: that gun-free zones are completely ineffective at preventing violence. In fact, the evidence is accumulating that such prohibitions actually increase the odds of an attack by attracting those bent on mass murder. This should be obvious; mass shooters seek out “soft” targets.

Those of us who carry firearms have all been taught the importance of situational awareness. Today, it has never been more important, especially when we find ourselves in places that in the past we didn’t typically consider to be targets, such as churches, movie theaters and shopping malls.

Unfortunately, it is far too easy to get complacent, busy or preoccupied. At that point, we may fail to notice things that should normally warn us. Paying attention to everything that is going on around us, at all times, must become a way of life. Better to notice that suspicious person in the parking lot before he or she opens fire.

You’re on Your Own

I have only the deepest respect and admiration for the police officers, especially in the Dayton case. They immediately responded, confronted and killed the shooter less than a minute after he began firing. They doubtless saved innumerable lives.

But the harsh reality is that the police are always responding only after the attack has already begun. And despite the truly rapid response by police, the shooter was still able to fire multiple shots, killing and wounding dozens.

Until the police arrive and/or engage the shooter, you are your own first responder and must be ready to react quickly and decisively. If you first become aware of a threat when you hear gunfire, you are already behind the curve.

EDC — Now More Than Ever

Everyday carry is a way of life for most of us in the pro-Second-Amendment movement. I strongly suggest to all of my students that carrying only occasionally is tempting fate. Having a gun and never needing it is always better than finding yourself helpless and vulnerable when any threat appears — let alone a mass public shooting.

Obviously, protecting yourself and your loved ones, especially children, takes precedence over engaging the shooter yourself. And before you do, just remember that this is more difficult than it sounds. After all, the shooter may be standing right behind you or several hundred yards away.

Finally, commit to making regular training and practice a routine part of your life.

Be aware. Be armed. Be safe.

About John Caile

John Caile, a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine, has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. As communications director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, John was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. Certified through the NRA as an instructor of Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home, John continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida. He has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is frequently published in the press.