Protection and Preparedness Choices: An Interview With Paul Markel

Paul Markel’s byline is familiar to many of our readers. Over the years, he’s written a number of features for the Wires and here at Shooting News Weekly on a variety of subjects. He’s runs Student of the Gun and has also written a number of books, including Beyond the Boo Boo: Traumatic Medical Training for Citizens, and Knights of St. Nicholas: Protector of Children, a book laying out the case for a comprehensive program for protecting Christian schools. In light of the the general state of the world, we talked with him about what we can (or should) learn from the current state of global uncertainty.

QA Outdoors: Paul, most people know you for being an author, and a trainer. But you’re also very thoughtful regarding when it comes to the time to stop looking and start anticipating things. In light of what’s going on in Israel and your military experience in that part of the world, what do you think we should be preparing for here?

Paul Markel: In anticipation of our conversation, I had the opportunity to remember something that I was told…oh, man, I don’t want to date myself, but probably in 1987, when I was in Marine Corps infantry school. One of our instructors said, “Somewhere on planet Earth, there is a man training to kill you. Right now. At this very moment in time. And there’s nothing you can do to change that fact. The only thing that you can do is to train harder than him. So that someday when you meet, you destroy that mother-lover (to keep it PG).”

The fact is, while it might sound cliche, it’s absolutely true. And it’s been true for a long, long time. What I’ve tried to convey to people for 20, 30 years is there are people in the world right now that are ready, able, and willing to kill you. The only reason that they’re not killing you is because there’s geographic distance separating you. They’re in a different country and you are an ocean away.

But what happens when you’re not an ocean away anymore? What happens when you’re only a city away, or 50 miles away?

What we’ve done through our arrogance, or apathy, or whatever, is we’ve allowed the nation to be flooded with America-haters. And some people say, ‘Oh, these people are the same as your grandparents and great grandparents.’

No, they’re not. My great grandparents came here because they loved the idea of America and they wanted to be a part of it. The people that are coming in illegally right now are not coming because they love America and the idea of America. They love the idea of free stuff. They love the idea of invading a foreign land.

Today, Britain knows that’s not hyperbole. We’ve seen it all over Europe. Europe has been invaded, whether people want to admit it or not.

Europe as we knew it, is over with and it’s not coming back. They’re bankrupt by socialist, communist policies. And their socialist behavior of open borders has filled their nations with people who hate them.

Look at the “no-go” zones in Paris. There are literally areas of Paris where the police won’t go. That’s crazy. They’re just 20 years ahead of us. We are them in 20 years if we don’t get adult leadership in this country.

QA Outdoors: For the years we’ve known each other, you’ve always been an advocate for personal responsibility and taking personal responsibility for societal wellbeing. Your teaching has irritated some, but you haven’t changed your position about it.

Now you’ve sent us a book called Knights of St. Nicholas: Protector of Children. First of all, it’s an interesting title because most of us don’t envision St. Nicholas as anything other than, you know, a jolly guy in a in a very funny fat suit.

Paul Markel: Yeah, the jolly fat man. That’s what the secularists did. They turned a real Catholic saint, a real person into “the jolly fat man.” But the job of St. Nicholas, the reason that he’s revered is because he was the protector of children. I wanted to drive that idea home for people.

QA Outdoors: Talk us through the premise of the book, and what you want people to take away with it.

Paul Markel: What I want people to take away is the subtitle; a guide to defending Christian schools. People say, “Well, why has this got to be Christian schools?” Because the secular schools are generally run by communists. They can’t be helped. They’ve already decided the path that they’re going to take. Their path is going to be apathy and political correctness so I’m not going to deal with them.

But Christian schools, private schools, or parochial schools have the the option to be different. They don’t have to go to the State Board of Education and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to protect our childre.’ They don’t need approval.

All they need to do is get their collective heads out of their collective rectums and understand something we’ve been hammering for decades; the only people who’ll have the opportunity to have a positive effect during an attack on a school are the people who are present the moment it happens.

The idea that we have a wonderful 911 system is just sophistry. It’s ridiculous. We’ve already seen this in malls. In churches. In schools. The only people who can stop what’s going on are the people who are present the moment it begins. And that goes to armed staff members. Trained and armed staff members.

QA Outdoors: You’ve touched on the importance of training. Can you expand on that?

Paul Markel: Nobody’s saying walk in and start throwing guns at teachers. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not that difficult to train people who are willing and able to take the training. In two days I can provide someone with enough information, education, and training to be prepared. And then it’s up to them to go out and practice it.

But the idea that only the police are qualified to do that is ridiculous. How many more times do we have to see that lie smack us in the face before we change our way of thinking?

I’ve had people say, ‘We should get veterans to go to the schools,’ and that’s just missing the point. We already have physically fit, capable, adult humans in these schools. The gym teacher, the science teacher, the vice principal, the Dean of Students, whatever. They’re always there. And not just in one place. They’re immediately able to respond and react. What they need is the mindset.

Once they embrace the mindset of, ‘Okay, it’s my responsibility to protect these children from evil monsters,’ we can go from there. The biggest thing is adjusting the mindset away from the idea that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

We love to subcontract violence. And that’s what it is. When you say, ‘That’s not my job, that’s the police’s job,’ you’re already acknowledging that somebody needs to do some shooting. Somebody needs to shoot the bad evil people,  but I don’t want it to be me, I’ll just subcontract that out to someone else.

Well, sometimes that doesn’t work. While the police are out in the parking lot arguing over who has jurisdiction, you’re inside the building being slaughtered.

QA Outdoors: That has happened enough that one would think we would learn. But that doesn’t seem to be the situation. You don’t have to be able to win three falls of a wrestling match to defend a child from a crazy person. You don’t have to be in any particular shape other the mental shape to defend your home, your family. Doesn’t it seem that some people believe you have to look like the troop running uphill with the 240 Bravo and 10,000 rounds of ammo on his back without sweating?

Paul Markel: I don’t think that guy exists, but you’re right. The most important part is the mindset. If I could get people to say, Okay, I understand that it’s my responsibility. It’s our collective responsibility.

If you’re sending your kids to a parochial school, a charter school, or a Christian school…whatever, and that school’s administration has the opinion that our staff can’t be trusted or is not capable of doing that…if there are no adults that are capable or trustworthy enough to be in possession of a firearm, that’s worrisome. Yeah, that’s a real problem. Ask the principals, ‘Whose responsibility is it to keep our children safe from monsters?’

If they say, ‘Our policy says, no guns are allowed in the school’ that’s not a fun story.

QA Outdoors: We covered Columbine. It was different from living a few miles away from a private school shooting in Nashville. But they got the same response: incredulity. The “How could this possibly happen here” response.

Paul Markel: After these horrible things happen, everybody says the words. “I can’t believe that.” And I would ask, ‘Why?’

Why can’t you believe it? Because you wouldn’t walk into a school and slaughter innocent children. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are monsters in this world who would.

Embracing the disbelief doesn’t alter the reality. I don’t know if that’s a standard human weakness or not. But if people can’t understand that there are humanoid monsters in this world, who will slaughter children because those children don’t fit their worldview, I don’t know how to talk to you.

Those humanoid monsters exist. You can’t stop that. You can’t change the fact that they exist. But you can change how you react to them. You can change what would happen if you ever encountered them. That’s what you can change.

QA Outdoors: Another thing that you can add is a little situational awareness. That has been trained into you. Talk a bit about the things you see every day that people seem to ignore.

Paul Markel: From a Christian perspective we almost have this, this self-defeating mentality. You know, like ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ OK, cool, I dig that. But at the same time, the Bible doesn’t say walk down the street with your head firmly ensconced in your rectum until somebody comes over and knocks you over the head with a baseball bat.

You need to pay attention to the world around you. We’ve fallen into this — especially with the phones — this trap of just completely being self-involved. We don’t see what’s going on around us.

I’ve been making that case since, I don’t know, about 30 years ago since the movie The Bodyguard. In the very opening scene, Kevin Costner shoots a would-be assassin. In the aftermath, the guy asks him, ‘How’d you know?’ Costner says ‘I saw him washing the car.” And the client says, ‘Yeah, I know. So?’ And Costner says, ‘They don’t wash cars on the parking levels.’

You might say, ‘Okay, haha, it’s a Hollywood movie.’ No…that was one of the few times that they absolutely got it right.

When I was a cop, you’d interview victims of assaults, whether it’s a rape, or a robbery or whatever, after it’s all over. You talk to them and they’ll say ‘I saw something’ or ‘I thought he was acting kind of weird, but I just discounted it.’ Or ‘I saw him over there, I thought it kind of strange he would be doing that.’

Very rarely does a ninja just drop out of a tree and land on your head. Usually, there’s something that you will notice. Something that’s out of place. Unfortunately, we’ve trained ourselves to not judge or we’ve trained ourselves to, well, everyone has their own way of doing things.

It’s the whole Eddie Murphy thing in Beverly Hills Cop. He says, “See that dude over there? It’s June. Isn’t it a little warm for a full-length coat? And the other guy says ‘Yeah, I suppose.”

That was the clue. What Walt Rauch used to say was, ‘If you’re walking down the street and three guys cross from the other side, to your side of the street, you’re about to get mugged.’ That was your clue and you only get one. That’s the trick, most people don’t understand you only get one clue.

It goes back to the Cooper color codes, you know…yellow, orange, red. You get one clue and you should immediately go into orange. But if you don’t know the color code or understand clues, you’ll never see the clue.

The next clue you get will be you laying on the ground looking up at the stars and wondering how you got there.

QA Outdoors: There’s also the jungle rule…if you don’t want to get eaten, it’s best not to look like food. Having survived a few situations over the years, the clues were always there. But thinking that everything’s all going to work out for the best, that we’ll definitely come to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, that’s not a realistic view of the situation, is it?

Paul Markel: We’ve got more than 50 years of history on our side. Our dearly departed friend Rush Limbaugh said 20 years ago, ‘You don’t achieve peace through settlements, you achieve peace through victory.’ He believed there would never be peace in the Middle East until one of the two sides achieves a dramatic, demonstrable victory.

We lived through the Begin/Sadat peace accords. Remember when Carter held their hands up and they signed the papers at Camp David and said ‘There’s gonna be peace in the Middle East for the first time!’

It was wonderful. But how long did that last? Sadat was dead within three years, assassinated by the hardliners. Every time Israel capitulates or gives an inch, their reward is rockets, mortars and beheadings. It’s insanity. Doing the same things over and over again and anticipating a different result.

QA Outdoors: Let’s bring this down to the granular level. I’m a grandparent, a parent, or a child. Or just somebody who’s reading this conversation. What can I do other than sit in the corner, chew on my thumb and be afraid?

Paul Markel: Step number one, do positive and proactive things. One of the most positive proactive things you can do is train. That’s a positive thing. There’s never a bad time to train.

People say, ‘Yeah, I know, I need to do that, and someday I will.” Someday was yesterday. And people think, ‘Well, I’m pretty good.’ OK, here’s what I’ve been saying for years; remember the fundamental four when you walk out your front door. Don’t leave without something, lethal, something sharp, something bright and medical on your body. And know how to use all of them.

QA Outdoors: I want to end on a positive note. Otherwise, some people will read this and say ‘Well, here we go again, advocating that we all become gunfighters.’

I’m no gunfighter, but I want to be a responsible citizen. You’ve emphasized the medical side of the responsibility to protect. If we believe in the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, we should also believe in the level of responsibility that says that once an adversary is out of the fight, it’s our responsibility to try and keep everyone alive.

Paul Markel: One of the big learning points we should have gotten from the Kingsgate Mall attack in Kenya was that people died needlessly because they laid there on the floor, bleeding, waiting for someone to come help them.

Help wasn’t coming. When it did get there, it wasn’t fast enough. That’s why so many died in Parkland. The people who were supposed to be helping them were in the parking lot or they were two blocks away, or the police captain on the scene wouldn’t allow the EMTs to enter the scene…yada, yada, yada.

It goes back to what I said 15 minutes ago…only the people who are present at the time of the incident will have the opportunity to ensure a positive outcome. Sometimes that positive outcome is keeping someone from bleeding to death while you’re waiting for the ambulance to show up.

QA Outdoors: So you add another level of responsibility to the guns.

Paul Markel: Absolutely. There’s no reason that every adult can’t have that training. Buz Mills, a friend of mine and yours, says the “Beyond the Band Aid” class needs to be taught to every high school senior before they graduate.

Obviously, I’m with him. If we can make 13-year-olds learn CPR and Heimlich, why not? Why can’t we teach them to save someone’s life in a farming or industrial accident? Or a commercial accident or a home accident? The answer is that we can. We’ve had 13- and 14-year-olds go through that class.

QA Outdoors: When I was a kid, that training started in the Cub Scouts, then the Boy Scouts, and Explorers. Even the 4-H clubs back in my day taught first aid and preparedness. It was to keep you and everyone around you alive in case of an emergency. I think it’s irresponsible to own a gun and not keep a first aid kit with it.

Paul Markel: A trauma kit. When we start every one of our classes, before we teach anything, I tell everybody this, ‘Close your eyes and picture the faces of the people you see when you wake up in the morning. See the faces of the people that ride in the car with you.’

When they open their eyes, I tell them, ‘That’s why you’re here. You’re hear because the people who you’re probably going to use this training and gear on are the people in the car with you every day, the people you see when you wake up everyday. You’re not here to become ‘medical man’ or some kind of a medical superhero. The people you see before you go to bed and when you wake up everyday…they’re why you’re here.

QA Outdoors: There is probably no better feeling than knowing that you helped someone who needed help.

Paul Markel: It’s been gratifying. Over the years, we’ve had people come and take our ‘Beyond the Boo Boo’ traumatic first aid class, then a month or a year later call and say, ‘Hey, I had to use what you taught me.’ Last summer a guy, just two weeks after the class, a student called and said, ‘I had to put a tourniquet on a ranch guy’s arm after a steer cut his arm right down to the brachial artery.’

I don’t need to tell you how long it takes to get from a ranch to a hospital, but it’s not quick. When they got to the hospital with the tourniquet on, the doctor asked, ‘Who put this on?’ And they said, ‘Brad.’ The doctor said, ‘Well tell Brad he saved this guy’s life because he wouldn’t have made it here without that tourniquet.’ That’s gratifying because it makes you feel you’re doing things right.

If you’d said to me 20 years ago, ‘I’d like to take a traumatic medical class, but the training’s not available or the gear’s not available,’ I would have given you a pass. If you tell me in the year 2024 that no one’s teaching it or you can’t find the gear, I’ll call you a liar.

It’s out there. It’s available. You can do it. You’re the only reason you’re not doing it. You made a choice.

You choose that you don’t want to be prepared. You don’t want to carry a gun, you don’t want to take medical training, you don’t want to do that, okay? You made a decision to not be prepared.

Being unprepared is a choice that you make. I would hope that people would decide to go the other direction. That’s why I’m alive, to help people make the right decisions.


This interview originally appeared at our sister site, QA Outdoors

3 Responses

  1. Okay, this is probably the #1 best “POTG” related article I’ve read so far this year. No fluff, no nonsense, all excellent points. I’m going to bookmark it and read it a few more times.

    1. I recently broached the topic of security and self-defense at my church. When I began graciously detailing the ineffectiveness of “conventional wisdom”, one church leader in the conversation sensed that I was building a case for armed church members–and quickly volunteered that our church would not go in that direction. I am going to take selected parts of this article and refine them to emphasize how my church tacitly realizes that danger exists and yet refuses to allow effective countermeasures.

      Note: churches in my area reject armed members for security. I only recently learned of one church out of several dozen which appears to have armed members for righteous self-defense. I am not fond of that particular church’s religious/faith philosophy/doctrine so I am not interested in joining.

      1. Turning the other cheek to violence. Something many people of faith believe in just gets your other cheek violated. It’s all part of the belief in an imaginary deity’s and an eternal afterlife of milk, honey and everlasting joy. You can’t help people who refuse to help themselves.

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