If you're like me, you believe that self-defense is a natural-born right.
The USCCA is for people like you and me — people who are willing to carry a concealed weapon to protect their loved ones.
Now, get ready for some goosebumps, a little disbelief and a whole lot of good-old-fashioned American pride!
You know, there are really two kinds of people in this world. The first group of people are those who are always looking for others to take care of them.
You know what I’m talking about. Nowadays, it’s all we hear on the news. These people want the government to provide for them, and they want the police to protect them and provide their safety. (Some call these people “sheep” or “sheeple!”)
And then there’s the OTHER group of people: those who truly believe in personal responsibility.
I can still recall something my dad told me over and over as I grew up. He’d say, “Tim, you must always remember: If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
As a kid in my early teenage years, I can remember thinking to myself, “Yeah, Dad, I got it. You’ve told me this a thousand times.”
But you know what? That phrase, along with a whole bunch of other brilliant wisdom from Dad, had an impact on me.
Now, if you’re still reading this, I’ll bet you can relate to this concept of personal responsibility. Heck, you and I probably have a lot more than that in common. My dad did an amazing job instilling in me that there is only ONE person responsible for my happiness, safety and security.
And that one person is ... ME!
This realization caused the second-biggest frustration in my life.
We all have certain defining moments in our lives. Times when normal, everyday events end up having a lifelong impact. I’ll never forget those first couple of days after my and Tonnie's first son was born. My mind was flooded with all kinds of new thoughts and feelings.
There were feelings of joy, amazement and wonder. Feelings of gratitude and responsibility ... AND feelings of fear and frustration.
What was I afraid of? I was completely overwhelmed with the idea that I was now responsible in EVERY WAY for this new little life. Not only did I need to provide for my new son, but it was also my duty to PROTECT him from the evil that will always exist in our world.
It hit me like a ton of bricks!
You know, I think everyone has their own self-defense “awakening.” For some, it’s a friend who was attacked or mugged. For others, it’s a robbery or break-in.
And for others still, it’s the survival of a horrific experience that opened their eyes to the need to be able to defend themselves.
You see, I got off easy.
For some reason, my internal personal-defense switch was tripped by the simple circumstance of becoming a new father.
I can only hope you’ll be as lucky as I was!
I found myself becoming very protective, thinking a lot about what I would do in different situations.
I started learning about self-defense. I started buying books, magazines and whatever else I could get my hands on.
I started buying books about guns!
Growing up, I never went hunting because Dad wasn’t a hunter. But he DID like guns, and there were always guns in our house. (I still remember the first time Dad let me shoot his Smith & Wesson 5-inch .357 Magnum revolver!) So my desire to start learning about guns and how I could use them to protect my family came pretty naturally.
And that’s when it happened.
I read an article that ultimately changed my life. The article was called “The Constitutional Right and Social Obligation to Carry a Gun” and was written by a guy named Robert Boatman. (Mr. Boatman has since passed away, but I DID have a chance to meet him face to face and tell him how much of an impact he had on me and my family!)
This article opened my eyes to the idea of carrying a gun with me wherever I went. It made perfect sense to me, and I was astonished how Mr. Boatman presented it as a social obligation.
I was hooked. I needed to learn exactly how to do this as fast as possible.
And that’s when I ran into a few roadblocks.
You see, I couldn’t find a resource or magazine that focused 100 percent on concealed carry. Sure, there were tons of gun magazines (and lots of articles, forums and websites) that talked about concealed carry, but all of these resources seemed to just talk about guns and holsters. There was almost no information about the people who carried. I could find nothing about WHY people carried, HOW they carried and what had happened in their lives to make them decide to become armed citizens.
I couldn't find a resource or magazine that focused 100 percent on concealed carry.
PLUS, I never seemed to be able to find a gun review that wasn’t sponsored by the gun maker! (I mean really, have you EVER read a review about a gun that didn’t say anything but positive stuff?)
I never seemed to be able to find a gun review that wasn't sponsored by the gun maker!
One of the things I can distinctly remember shortly after I decided to protect my family by carrying a concealed weapon was how ALONE I felt.
Surely there had to be other people like me out there.
And that got me to thinking...
“Why doesn’t everyone think the same way that I do about self-defense?”
I mean, wouldn't most people do WHATEVER IT TOOK to protect their loved ones?
And then it dawned on me: I wasn’t born thinking like this. There was a process. For whatever reason, a bunch of events happened in my life that opened my eyes to the importance — the DUTY — of being an armed citizen.
And if that happened to ME ... well, maybe I could help guide other people through that same process.
What if there were a resource dedicated SOLELY to the people who carry concealed? What if there were a 100 percent independent, member-driven resource to support armed Americans?
As it turns out, all of these events led up to a “perfect storm” in my life.
This is how the “perfect storm” began.
At the same time I was going through my self-defense awakening, my engineering business was at a similar crossroads. I had started Schmidt Engineering with Tonnie in 1997. (Yeah, I know, the name wasn’t all that original ... but it worked for us!)
It was a small mechanical-engineering consulting firm, and it was the first business I ever started. It was a wonderful business that supported my family and the families of my five employees. But something was missing.
I knew in my heart that Schmidt Engineering was not my true calling. I knew there was something else I was supposed to do. Yeah, I realize this may sound a little touchy-feely, but it’s just the way it was.
Heck, I was ALWAYS looking for new business opportunities. During the first five years of starting and running Schmidt Engineering, I considered starting a security-products business and a garage-storage-system company. I even tried to start a business manufacturing coffee roasters!
So I guess what happened next was completely natural.
As I went through my concealed carry education process, I couldn’t help but think, “How could I turn this into a business that could help other people like me?”
I thought to myself, “There MUST be thousands of people out there like me.”
Thousands of people searching for other fellow armed citizens. Thousands of people looking for insight, perspective and answers. Thousands of people out there wondering, “Am I the only person who feels the need to carry a gun to protect my family, my loved ones and myself?”
“I know! I’ll start a magazine.”
Yep, that’s what I said to myself. Little did I know that starting a magazine from scratch is about one of the toughest (and least profitable) businesses to make work. (It was actually GOOD that I didn’t know this little fact! More on that later.)
Like the good engineer that I was, I bought several books about how to start a magazine. I got about halfway through the first book and had to put it down. Why? Because it was depressing the heck out of me.
The book explained that very few new magazines survive past the first year. It also went on to say that I needed to have an entire year’s worth of magazine content done before I even started!
I can remember talking to Tonnie about this idea. By this time, she was pregnant again, and we were in the process of starting to build a new house. The timing just wasn’t right. I put my dream on the back burner.
But the idea would just not go away.
In retrospect, one of the smartest things I ever did was to put down that book and never pick it up again. I am convinced that if I had continued to read that book, I NEVER would have started my magazine and subsequent association.
And so it came to be.
In the fall of 2003, Tonnie and I began to work on the very first issue of Concealed Carry Magazine. I worked every single night on that issue, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning. I managed to find a bunch of contributors, and I even taught myself how to use magazine-layout software.
It took about three and a half months to create that first issue!
I put all the equity in our house on the line and had 30,000 copies of that magazine printed. I then mailed these out to a list I rented from a list broker.
Next, I crossed my fingers and prayed that we would get a bunch of subscribers.
And then all hell broke loose.
Do you know the fastest way to get to a million bucks?
Easy. Start with two million and then build a magazine from scratch!
I can laugh about that now, but at the time, the reality of this statement was all too true. Sure, we had started a new magazine and had even managed to get a few subscribers with that first mailing.
But what we had REALLY done was create an instant Frankenstein. We now had almost a thousand subscribers who were expecting another magazine in six weeks, absolutely no staff beyond me and Tonnie, and very little money!
Luckily, we still had our engineering business that was making money.
I clung to the attitude that I could NOT fail. There was just no way this thing wasn’t going to work. No way.
I hired an editor and layout person and we got to work. Hundreds of people called, emailed and phoned saying they wanted to write for us!
We got the first few issues out, and our customers were ecstatic. They simply LOVED Concealed Carry Magazine. It was very exciting.
But things are not always as they seem.
It took our new magazine about nine months to burn through $115,000. That’s right: We lost well over $115,000 in less than a year.
This was where my complete lack of publishing experience was starting to be a bit of a problem.
I felt like a rat in a cage.
We couldn’t get advertisers because we didn’t have many subscribers. We couldn’t get subscribers because we were competing directly against other gun magazines. We needed to figure out a way to raise more money, position ourselves differently ... or BOTH!
I can still remember when I hit rock bottom.
I was sitting on the steps of our new house (whose equity was 100 percent on the line!), and my feet were resting on the gravel because we couldn’t afford to put in a driveway.
It was about 12:30 a.m., and Tonnie and the kids were asleep.
I was scared.
I didn’t know what to do.
I had tried almost everything. Heck, I had even tried soliciting cash from a group of 80 “angel investors” in my hometown. I had spent almost a week putting together a powerful investment package. Needless to say, I was CRUSHED when 56 of the investors completely ignored me and 23 of them politely refused my offer.
Just ONE responder said they’d be willing to invest in my idea. Just one. And that person was my dad.
You know, it’s funny how life works sometimes. It meant so much to me that Dad was willing to invest in my business idea. But since he was the only investor, I ended up not taking any money from anyone. Still, the vote of confidence from my dad was EXACTLY what I needed.
I got up from sitting on the steps and went to bed. I just KNEW something would present itself. I just KNEW there was a solution out there.
And finally that solution came.
We had to figure out a way to offer MORE value to our customers. Sending them a magazine eight times per year was just NOT going to be enough.
And this was when Tonnie and I started the USCCA – The United States Concealed Carry Association. We was no longer in the magazine business. We were in the business of connecting like-minded armed Americans!
Now there’s quite a bit more to the story than just changing the focus from Concealed Carry Magazine to the USCCA, but this one little change DID have an amazing effect.
In fewer than six months, the operation turned the corner — and our customers were happier than ever!
My prayers had been answered. Concealed Carry Magazine and the United States Concealed Carry Association were going to survive!
And that brings me to a story I would have NEVER believed just a few years earlier...
I found myself standing on a stage in front of more than 3,000 people ... and I was petrified.
My knees were shaking, my voice was trembling, and my throat was dry.
I looked across the crowd of more than 3,000 of my fellow Americans. Just behind all these people, the Washington Monument rose high into the sunny spring sky.
You see, it was April 19, 2010.
And I was standing on the stage as one of the speakers at the Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. Heck, the USCCA was the No. 1 sponsor for the event!
It was hard for me to believe that the USCCA had gone from being an idea that had nearly bankrupted me and Tonnie to a national organization with tens of thousands of members in fewer than five years.
It was humbling that day to walk around and meet some of the other Second Amendment March attendees. The crazy part was that most of these people knew who I was and treated me as if I were their brother or son.
I had never intended for all of this to happen.
But I am so thankful it did.
You know, it wasn’t all that long ago when I sat alone at my engineering desk and happily worked on my computer for hours on end.
And then I was thrust into a position of reluctant leadership. I was reluctant only because I had never been in such a position.
But now I am so proud to be the president and founder of the USCCA.
The USCCA has become so much more than Tonnie and I had ever envisioned.
And now for something REALLY exciting.
We’re on a mission, and we need YOUR help to make it happen.
The USCCA's mission is to:
Educate 10,000,000 gun owners
Protect 1,000,000 USCCA members
Stop 20,000 crimes
Save 1,000 lives
To reach this goal, we need your help. All we ask is that you personally recommend the USCCA to your friends, family and relatives. You don’t have to ask them to send us any money or join our association.
If you believe in what we’re doing, I simply ask that you spread the word.
Take care and stay safe,
President & Founder, USCCA
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