What led me to this?
I’m Rachel Vangsnes, and I met Heather and CTBC in 2012 when I was pregnant with my first, a boy. We got to work together again and become even closer through my second pregnancy and birth with our baby girl in 2014. My husband, Evan, and I are blessed to have had both babies with the midwives and student midwives at CTBC. Everything about these people is wonderful, and I’d choose them all over again.
One thing having a baby did for me was automatically make me responsible for someone else’s safety. One thing having a SECOND baby did for me was make me realize how much of a target I was in public– eyes on newborn and toddler, hands on newborn and toddler, nursing newborn in public while having a hand on toddler, all the car seat buckling, all the slowing down in the parking lots so toddler can walk like a big boy, all of the incredibly focused attention on what was directly in front of me. No matter how much babywearing was involved, I was a big ol’ distracted target. And I wanted to avoid violent encounters because… who doesn’t?
The 2015 Violent Crimes figures released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics showed about 1 out of every 100 people 12 years and older being the victim of a serious violent crime that year (and these are only the non-fatal crimes). Our chances of being killed in a car accident, according to the 2015 Census data and the the US Department of Transportation’s 2015 Motor Vehicle Crashes Report, are 1 in 10,000. Yet we take precautions against car crash fatalities multiple times a day with correct car seat installation, buckling, booster seats, adult seat belts, and making sure our vehicles have high safety ratings and no current recalls.
I think our culture (myself included) has a “That only happens to other people” mindset regarding violent crime. We walk around distracted, oblivious, and naive, and are utterly shocked when something goes wrong. When the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics shows us violent encounters typically last only 90 seconds, time wasted being surprised or shocked is a luxury we can’t afford. Dave Spaulding, who was named 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year, says, “We must all be active participants in our own rescue!”
To avoid being targeted and surprised, I started small by upping my situational awareness. This was merely looking left and right after exiting Target, scanning the parking lot while loading kids and groceries, and continually looking behind and around myself while taking the kids on a walk. Then I’d have dreams about being aware of an impending dangerous situation and having nothing on my person to help me– I really needed mace in my dreams. Then I’d have other dreams where I had my handgun, but was unsure of my ability to be accurate with it (if I could even access it quickly enough). Weirdly enough, these dreams provided seemingly real situations for me, with stress and fear and a pounding heartbeat, to be able to take a look at how I’d react in a violent encounter. Let me tell you– I would’ve lost all the fights had I not woken up!
So all the years of my husband gently encouraging me to take carrying and being proficient with a weapon more seriously were starting to take root in my mind. Because I was with my two tiny children all day, every day. They had no other protector for the majority of the day but I. And I am a woman and not Ronda Rousey, so I would lose a fight immediately. I can handle home births, but please don’t pull my hair like the crazy ladies I’ve seen fighting on YouTube.
I knew I needed to be confident and competent in my pistol skills if I ever assumed I’d be good enough under extreme stress. I started practicing 3-4 times a month at a range while my husband watched the kids during his lunch break. He showed me videos and articles like Paul Howe’s Home Defense and Managing Unknown Contacts by Craig Douglas, and I felt compelled to share with other stay-at-home moms! The more training I took, the more I wanted to share! Evan and I prayerfully considered whether or not I should embark on this career path, and then he signed me up for two of Tom and Lynn Givens’ Rangemaster Instructor Development Courses when they were being held a short drive away because he knew Rangemaster was LE-GIT. I’ve been training since before that certification and continue to train from the best traveling instructors we can find, but the 3- and 2-day Rangemaster courses are what gave me the skills to begin instructing students of my own. Continued mentorship from Lynn Givens has boosted my confidence in my ability to develop lesson plans too, because one thing I’ve learned is that gun school instructors don’t just give their lesson plans to newbies like we do in public school!
One of my goals is to teach women who already have guns in their houses how to safely use those guns. I offer an Intro to Defensive Handgun class that is ideal for someone who has never shot a pistol before or who has shot a few times, but isn’t comfortable manipulating their firearm without help. It’s a 3-hour class in my living room that covers gun safety for kids and adults, an overview of different types of pistols and holsters, how to manipulate a pistol (clearing, loading and unloading, firing using an airsoft gun), safe storage options for their home, and how to safely dry fire at home to practice and/or maintain their skills in between live fire training.
Following my Intro class, students can sign up for an hour-long private lesson at an outdoor range for Defensive Handgun I and later, Defensive Handgun II. These classes focus on safety again, dry firing, drawing from a holster (holsters provided) and later from concealment, and live fire at close range (3-7 yards). If you have a license to carry and decide you’re comfortable doing so, I’d love to talk safe holsters and wardrobe with you, even if you are needing nursing-friendly clothing and babywearing-friendly holsters!
Classes are being added monthly, which is something I’m pumped about. Future classes will cover more of the mindset of someone who carries a handgun for self defense like pre- and post- violent encounter actions (how criminals think and how not to get selected, and then what to do in the aftermath of a violent encounter). My more advanced classes will also include simple medical tips like how to use a tourniquet — because if you’re prepared to take a life, you should be prepared to save a life! As well as more focused training for parents of small children based on what I learned from Melody Lauer and John Johnston in The Armed Parent/Guardian.
What can students expect?
Freshly roasted Chemex coffee, snacks, comfortable environment, lots of info and lots of room for questions. There is coloring involved because I may have channeled my inner middle school teacher that knows how to make information stick in your mind! I try to keep the group engaged by doing a mix of lecture and video and said coloring and movement and providing goodies (handguns and holsters) to touch and examine.
I believe God is sovereign and nothing happens beyond His orchestration, but I also know that I have God-fueled passion and gift for teaching others and as soon as He tells me to pursue another career I will obey. So this is where He has me right now, cheerfully training to protect my family and helping others who wish to do the same. This job energizes me and I love having students again. You can follow me on Instagram @risedefensive and on Facebook at RISE Defensive Handgun Training if you’d like to learn a little more about what goes on here!