There’s a story coming to us out of Florida about a woman who had to battle a kidnapper who was trying to seize her 13-year-old daughter in public.

Investigators say the suspect, Craig Bonello, age 30, entered the store and at some point grabbed a 13-year-old girl who was shopping with her mother. As he ran toward the exit of the store with the girl in his arms, the mother was able to catch up to him and grab her daughter.

Screaming could be heard throughout the store as the suspect and the mother got into a tug-of-war over the girl.

Bonello eventually gave up and ran away before being caught by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who just happened to arrive at the store as the kidnapper ran away.

There is, however, a much more effective and way to handle attempted kidnappers rather than getting into a tug-of-war using your child as the rope, and it goes something like this.

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I’ve been to a considerable amount of formal defensive firearms training in the past two years—something north of 200 hours, I think—primary focused on fighting with a handgun. In all of those courses, the focus has been on me, saving my life. Sure, there have been plenty of innocent bystanders and “no shoot” targets in my training scenarios, but in all of my training, I’ve been responsible for the security of myself and no one else.

I’ve been trained to perform as an individual, but what happens when I have my spouse, and/or my children with me? The dynamics of the scenario change considerably, as getting your spouse and child/children out of danger becomes the priority instead of your own safety. That’s a significant shift in how you respond that few of us have ever trained for in a formal environment, and yet that’s the reality of many families with young children ranging in age from infants to teens who can’t be expected to provide for their own defense.

Instructor Melody Lauer (left) locks the arm of a student playing an older child to her side so that she can guide her away from a threat while acquiring her handgun.
Instructor Melody Lauer (center) locks the arm of a student playing an older child to her side so that she can guide her away from a threat while acquiring her handgun.

Melody Lauer, a firearms instructor/rangemaster and mother of three young children, dove headlong into controversy last year when she taught her first “babywearing and carrying” class in central Iowa. The class was designed to teach young mothers with infant children—an incredibly easy target for violent criminals—how to safely carry a gun to defend themselves and their children without putting the gun where a child could access it… and it horrified many. Some people didn’t want to deal with the reality that there are evil, violent people in this world who are more than willing to hurt children to get something from their parents. Others recoiled at the thought of having firearms around children, citing some of the very instances of children finding a purse-carried gun which inspired Lauer to create her course on how to do it right.

The controversy over this important but poorly understood training niche brought Lauer to the attention of John Johnston of Ballistic Radio. The two began talking, and their collaboration led to the formation of Citizens’ Defense Research as the training arm of Ballistic Radio.

I was invited to take part in the test run of their very first class, “The Armed Parent/Guardian,” (TAP/G) outside of Topeka, Kansas.

It was a “shakedown cruise” for the class, with students ranging from industry professionals and serious students of armed self-defense to relatively new shooters who had never been to a formal class at all. graciously provided all the students with ammo for this inaurgural run of the class.

It is incredibly tempting to get into a play-by-play of what we did in the course, but I think I’d be doing a disservice to Melody and John by trying to get down into the weeds too much.

Instead, I’ll let the course description speak for itself before I make a few specific points about things I learned.

Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian course.
Skills, Tactics, and Legalities for Armed Parents/Guardians

A fast-paced course designed around the thought, “What if my children are with me when I get into a shooting?”

Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian discusses with students the hard/soft skills necessary to solve the commonly observed shooting problems associated with fighting with our children present. Are some of the most commonly held best practices for if we are attacked when we are alone actually going to put our loved ones at risk when they are present? Students will be shown WHY the context we find ourselves in as a parent can change our tactics. This skill-intensive two-day course covers application of practical handgun skills in a family environment.
Topics include, but are not limited to;

  • Types of attacks
  • Avoidance skills
  • Handgun terminal ballistics and the importance of accuracy
  • One-handed access/shooting skills
  • Shooting past/around no-shoots
  • Clearing family members from lines of fire
  • Best practices for dealing with a close-range assault while loading/unloading children from the vehicle
  • Malfunction clearances and more

The Goal Of this course is to Teach the Students the Skills and Attitude that will make them capable of delivering fast, accurate, fight-ending fire on demand.

The hardest parts of TAP/G’s curriculum for me to face were the conjoined realities that there are truly evil people in this world who will harm or kill a child in the blink of an eye for very little or nothing, and that to defend those children—possibly your children—you may be forced into taking a life right in front of them.

Previously, I’d learned defensive behaviors and tactics that might convince bad guys that I’m not a target the really want to engage, and have developed above-average self-defense skills with handguns and to a lesser extent, edged and impact weapons. I even have enough training and have run through enough scenarios to get a general idea of how I’d respond if I was attacked alone, or even with my spouse.


The study of violent encounters shows us that you will not “rise to the occasion” if the worst happens. That is a comforting lie that we tell ourselves to excuse not training as we should. You will instead default to your level of training, and will only perform to some fractional level of efficiency within your training.

Until taking The Armed Parent/Guardian, I had no training on how to move children out of the line of fire, or how to act in certain scenarios including hostage/kidnapping scenarios, such as that story out of Florida that could have ended much differently if only a few minor variables had been different.

As instructor John Johnston backs away holding a “child” hostage, a student uses a SIRT (laser training) gun to deliver legally-justified deadly force to prevent his escape.

Put bluntly, that’s a recipe for disaster. It will slow down your response as you have to think about what to do, instead of defaulting to a pre-programmed response to a given scenario for which you’ve trained.

I have to admit that prior to The Armed Parent/Guardian, I would have likely frozen in several possible scenarios, or worse, would have followed training from other classes that sound great in theory, but which have a low rate of success when they’ve been tried in the real world.

In some scenarios, such as some kinds of attempted kidnappings or hostage scenarios, stepping past the hostage and putting a gun in a bad guy’s face and pulling the trigger is the exact right response.

TAP/G was specifically targeted at the parents of small children, but the lessons are just as important for grandparents and babysitters, and the techniques and strategies could just as easily apply to older children, untrained adults, or large men playing children.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no other defensive firearms schools teaching what Citizens’ Defense Research is teaching in The Armed Parent/Guardian. That is hardly surprising when you consider the number of schools that were founded by law enforcement officers and military servicemen, typically long after their children were grown. Training for such eventualities probably simply never occur to them, and wasn’t something that their law-enforcement/older-male-concealed-carry audience thought much about. Unfortunately, that’s left us with substantial gaps between training based largely on how law enforcement would approach a problem, and how a mother or father with a gaggle of kids in tow might need to address a threat with very difficult variables in play.

We’re fortunate to live at a time in the United States where more Americans than even before are becoming shooters, and they’re seeking training applicable for their lives. This is driving a renaissance in defensive firearms training, such as The Armed Parent/Guardian class offered by Citizens’ Defense Research.

I think TAP/G did an excellent job of melding proven real-world tactics and techniques to the kind of scenarios most of us are most likely to find ourselves in during our day-to-day lives.

They’re offering the class again soon in Troy, Ohio, on September 10-11, and in McHenry, Illinois on November 19-20. If you happen to be a range member or owner and would like Citizens’ Defense Research to teach The Armed Parent/Guardian at your range, contact Melody Lauer.

I highly recommend that you take this class if you can.