Murder suspect Gary Yarborough surrenders to Raleigh SWAT (note the green aiming laser dot on his side). He should have already been in a bodybag, but his victim didn’t have the training she needed to stay alive.

One of the things that is most frustrating to me as a supporter of the right of armed self-defense is the mindset that obtaining a concealed carry permit (where required) and purchasing a handgun means that you’re prepared to defend your life.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A woman in Franklin, NC, apparently paid for that mistake with her life last night.

Tracy Williams had been stalked and previously kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend Garry Yarborough, and so she went out and obtained a handgun and a concealed carry permit because she was in fear of him. What she didn’t do was learn to fight with that handgun, and she died as a result.

“After their breakup, it turned very nasty,” he said. “He was threatening her to the point where she felt uncomfortable and she went and got a concealed carry permit. She was able to get one shot off, and then unfortunately the gun jammed.”

ABC11 says that Tracy Williams’s body was found with two guns. One was jammed. The other appears to have been unfired.

Williams had two guns with her. She had her concealed carry permit. It wasn’t enough.

She didn’t know how to fight with her handguns, and she she didn’t know how to clear the malfunction that occurred.

She go the first shot off and actually scored a hit to Yarborough’s leg. Unfortunately, her gun jammed, and she panicked. She didn’t clear the jammed weapon, nor bring her other gun into play. She began running and screaming for help, at which point he chased her down and shot her in the head with his gun, which he apparently didn’t even load until after he’d been shot.

There are lessons here, folks, the primary lesson being that a concealed carry permit is just a piece of paper.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I think we all personally know people who have taken the minimal steps required to get a concealed carry permit, and who seem convinced that piece of paper it is proof that they can competently defend themselves with a handgun.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

Everyone has differing views on what “competence” means, but I think most people would benefit from a combination of:

  • basic firearms safety training
  • defensive handgun training on the square range focused on firearm manipulation and marksmanship
  • life-fire scenario training against stationary targets/shoot-house training
  • force-on-force training with airsoft guns or man-marker rounds
  • frequent dry-firing and drawing practice

I put those in that order, because it seems to be the most logical and proven progression. You need basic safety training first, then can begin working on fundamental to advanced shooting skills, then progress to applying those basic skills to problem-solving in scenario training, before finally putting it all together against live human opponents in force-on-force training. You then keep your skills honed between classes and range trips with dry fire and manipulation drills at home with an empty firearm.

I’m sure there are people out there who are thinking that this sounds like a lot.

I’m also going to assume that they’ve never been in a force-on-force training exercise, where you get a sudden adrenaline dump when a real human charges you with a bladed weapon, or shoots at you.  When that happens, the static, square-range techniques perfected shooting paper targets at your local gun club suddenly feel completely inadequate.

I don’t know any professional firearms trainers or serious shooters who think there is such thing as “enough” training, as there is always something more to learn. That allowed, you need to practice with your gun enough to know that it will cycle reliably when you need it to, and you need to practice common malfunction clearance drills so that you can get your gun back into the fight if it does jam.

Sadly, Tracy Williams didn’t learn any of that well enough to put it in practice.

Now she’s dead.