“Tara and Her Gun”
Editor’s note: 88 Tactical Group recently ran several people through one of our regularly available Nebraska’s CCW certification courses on a bitter day at our Tekamah HQ Training Facility.
One student, a young woman who is new to handgun ownership, related a story about something which happened to her immediately following her training day. What follows is a chilling account of one of those things you tend to think happens to “other people.”
88T: Tell us about yourself, Tara.
I’m a 31 year old female and own a home in northwest Omaha. I went to college in Wayne and have been a schoolteacher for nine years. I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone. It’s one of those communities where you can leave your car unlocked with the keys in it and come back to find it with an oil change and a full tank of gas.
Q: What’s your history with firearms? Did you grow up around guns?
My older brother and father hunted and would take my sister and I with them to walk fields. My dad was always strict with safety rules. We knew we could never touch his guns them unless it was under his supervision. I never shot a gun until about a year ago. My brother owns a handgun and once brought me with him to shoot it. I found it entertaining, somewhat like a sport rather than a means of protection. Obviously, my view on that has changed.
Q: When did you purchase your first handgun? Describe your selection process.
I purchased my handgun one year ago from a local retailer. I held a few and tried to find one that fit my hand and was reasonably priced. I also looked online, read reviews and watched countless YouTube videos to find out as much as I could about what I wanted to buy. I ultimately decided on a Ruger SR9 and purchased it through an FFL holder who lives near my hometown.
Q: What prompted you to seek CCW training and why did you select 88 Tactical for your instruction?
I remember my dad’s lectures about the responsibility of owning a firearm and how important it is to know how to use them, but more importantly, how to be safe with them. My friend purchased a handgun not long after I did and she signed up for 88 Tactical’s Basic Handgun for women. She came home raving about the instruction she received from the instructors there. I was intrigued.
Q: Who were the staff instructors who had your class and how much time did you spend in the classroom and on the range?
Jason Wright and Trevor Thrasher were my instructors and they were wonderful! We went through the classroom portion of the class in about five hours. Then came an hour to hour and one half in the lodge doing dry drills (it was bitter cold on my training day – we were thankful for the work inside). We finished the day with an hour of live-fire on the range. What an experience! Empowering and confidence inspiring to say the least.
Q: What was the mood of the training setting? Fun? Serious? Did weather play a role?
During lecture in the classroom, things were relatively informal, personal and fun. Once we actually had our handguns out, the mood changed though – far more serious.
Weather played a huge role. The wind chill was below zero that day, so there was some work in the lodge that normally would have been done on the range. The instructors were aware of the cold and were sensitive to the fact we were new shooters. We were allowed to periodically warm up in the truck during the range segment.
Q: Surely you gained confidence during the process. Other than that, what’s the main takeaway from your experience at 88 Tactical?
I gained confidence for sure! I also learned the value of body language and verbal direction relative to fending off a potential threat. The tips on situational awareness and controlling your environment, for example, finding a safe place upon entering a room so as to be able to see everyone in your immediate area, will stay with me forever.
Q: We’ve learned there was an incident with a stranger’s unauthorized entry into your home the very afternoon you concluded your CCW training at 88 Tactical. Do tell.
I was in my bedroom when he entered. I heard the door open. I recall thinking it was my sister who had just dropped me off from our day at 88 Tactical’s Tekamah training facility. I was waiting for her to yell my name, or say something, but there was only silence. I thought this was weird, that’s probably why I kept my gun and loaded magazine in my hand. I walked out of my bedroom and called out as I walked down the hallway. As I got to the top of the stairs a strange man yelled “Hello” back. I knew right then I was in trouble. Serious trouble.
Q: What was your first thought after you realized an intruder was inside your home?
Honestly, I thought, “No way is this really happening right now!” Then everything the 88 Tactical instructors had taught us that day came rushing back into my mind. Remember the suspect’s description. What’s he look like and what’s he wearing? Does he have any distinguishing characteristics that may aid police in finding him? Scars, marks, tattoos, etc.
I quick-peeked around the corner and assessed him. I made a decision right there to shoot if he advanced up the stairs in an aggressive manner, or if he displayed a weapon of any sort. Never did I imagine I’d be confronted with such a frightening situation, but because of the training I had received, I felt confident in spite of the danger. In fact, I felt like it was me, not this intruder, who was calling the shots so to speak…
Q: What did you do in response to the realization a potential threat was imminent.
I looked him straight in the eye and shouted at him to leave my house immediately. I told him I had a gun and I was going to call the police. (I thought about the way I speak to my first-graders and knew I had to be specific: Get out now, you can’t be here, you aren’t welcome in my home, I have a firearm and I am calling the police!) He told me I needed to calm down and he was looking for his buddy Jim. I repeated the exact commands I gave him the first time, but he didn’t respond. At that point I held the gun up in plain view, inserted a full magazine, racked a round into the chamber and issued the commands again. The gun, my mannerisms, voice projection and posture made it clear to him he was going to leave my home one way or another. And with that he put his hands up and backed out the door.
Q: How do you think your response might have been different had you not sought out professional training from 88 Tactical?
I know exactly what I would have done. I would have said, “Oh sorry. You have the wrong house. I don’t know a Jim, what’s his address?” So on and so forth. I would have had a conversation with him which is probably the dumbest thing I could do! You just don’t know who you can and cannot trust. After training that day, I realize I am the only person who can keep me safe. We are all responsible for our own safety.
Q: Have you shared your story with friends, family or co-workers? What has the overall response been? Do you believe your experience has changed anyone’s worldview around you?
Much of my family was shocked. My brother, beaming with pride, keeps reinforcing the fact I did the right thing. My sister was in disbelief, especially about the timing of the event. She just said this exactly why we took the class, and that things like this are why women need to be able to protect ourselves.
I shared the story with my neighbors too. I wanted them to be aware of what happened and to reinforce the idea we need to be vigilant about keeping doors locked and garage doors down. There have been occasions where I have called neighbors late at night because their garage doors have been open and they weren’t aware of it. They were all a little frightened about the fact that someone would just walk in if you forget to lock your door. All it takes is one time. Lesson learned.
I shared the story with a close girlfriend. She also lives alone and has been asking a lot of questions about handguns and the range, if I really feel safer with a gun in the house, and if she could go shoot with me sometime. Clearly women are thinking about their personal security, and I’m grateful my story might inspire even one person to seek out professional training at 88 Tactical.
Q: How has the experience changed you? Or you more preoccupied with what’s an admittedly dangerous world or less so because of what’s transpired?
The CCW class and the experience which followed have made me a lot more aware of my surroundings. I tend to be passive and just let things slide, but now I feel I have the validation I need to be more aggressive in situations that make me uncomfortable. I will trust my instinct and my training every time from here on out. If someone or something near me feels “off”, it’s my responsibility to act on that cues.
Q: You’ve indicated the incident has made sufficient impact on your psyche that you believe it will change the way you interface with your students. Describe that for the reader. What’s the practical difference between the way you taught/mentored your students prior to this incident and after?
Before this incident, I taught my students to stay calm and diffuse the situation with words, not actions. It’s appropriate in the classroom and on the playground when resolving conflict with friends and classmates, but if a stranger approaches, that is the exact opposite of what I would want them to do! I am passionate about my job and truly love every child in my classroom. I always tell people there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for their safety, but I realize now I need to teach them different responses for different situations, for example, how to trust their gut, how to react to a stranger, to let them know it is appropriate to shout at someone if they’re making you uncomfortable, offers you candy or a ride, or uses an unsafe touch with you. I need to let my kids know if someone you don’t know grabs you, it’s acceptable to hit, bite and kick – to do anything you can to save yourself. The points I taught my students before were valid, but only for specific situations; I don’t want them to default into “classroom conflict resolution” mode if they are in real danger.
Q: What are your plans for additional training? Are there other weapon systems you think you might explore, e.g. AR-15 for example?
I would like to take another class. Everyday Carry is the one that sticks out in my mind right now
I’m not sure I’m ready to buy my own AR-15, although my brother has one and it is a pretty phenomenal weapon to shoot. I’m also thinking about a sub-compact handgun that would be more appropriate to carry on a daily basis. Maybe a Glock 26?
Q: Anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your new perspective, the brush with danger or the training that prepared you for it?
My biggest fear is that I would be in a situation where I would have to shoot someone to protect myself or someone I love. That being said, after taking this class I realize it sometimes is the only option. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to training at your facility and be taught by your incredible staff. Due to 88 Tactical’s confidence building instruction, I feel I am prepared mentally and physically for situations that previously would have made me cower in a corner.
In short, I feel prepared. Thank you for that.