The silver lining — the only silver lining — of the modern season of jihadist violence is the fact that each and every jihadist attack reveals that there are Americans of unusual courage. Sometimes, when they don’t have the means to protect themselves, even the most extreme acts of bravery don’t stop an attack. In San Bernardino, for example, three unnamed, unarmed men rushed the two heavily armed attackers but were cut down.
But in St. Cloud, Minn., the tables were turned. A jihadist on a knife rampage encountered a part-time, off-duty police officer, and the outcome was very, very different. The officer killed the terrorist and saved lives. But to call Jason Falconer a mere “part-time cop” is to do him a grave injustice. To use the proper sociological phrase, let’s just say that the dude is a boss.
In other words, Falconer wasn’t just in the right place at the right time, he was the right person. And here’s the key point: You can be the right person. You can be Jason Falconer. In most communities in this country, you can not only own and carry a weapon for personal defense, you can also receive comprehensive training. You have virtually no control over whether you’re at the right place at the right time, but you do have control over whether you’re the right person.
It’s not enough to get a carry permit and fire away at a gun range every now and again. To be the right person — the kind of person who can and should react when lives are on the line — takes training and practice. And this training is available — better training, even, than many law-enforcement officers receive.
Lest anyone think this kind of training is a burden, or a sad concession to a broken and dangerous world, it is both challenging and enjoyable. The bonus is the people. Spend much time around the world of trainers and serious gun owners, and you’ll spend time with some of America’s best. American “gun culture” ultimately isn’t about weapons, it’s about the people. You’ll meet former (and current) cops, former soldiers, competitive shooters, and a whole host of others who’ve made a fundamental decision, to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their families. I’ve linked this before, but it’s too good not to link again. They choose to be the sheepdogs, not the sheep:
Just before she left for her class, Nancy said: “This is the first terrorist attack when I didn’t say to myself, ‘I should be doing more to protect myself and our family.’ I’m doing what I should do.” This has nothing to do with fear or panic. It has everything to do with responsibility and vigilance. It’s about living with humble confidence. None of us knows how we’ll react until the moment of crisis, but we can certainly prepare to react the right way.
Years ago, Jason Falconer made his decision — to protect. I don’t know how he feels today. Taking a human life is an act of extraordinary weight. Even when justified, some men struggle mightily with the aftermath. Others can drive forward, firm in the conviction that they fulfilled their purpose and grateful that they had the courage to rise to the moment. I pray that Falconer can be at peace, that he knows he did what he had to do.
Of course we can’t all be just like Falconer. After all, he shoots and trains shooters for a living. But we can make the same fundamental choice. We can choose to protect.
— David French is a staff writer for National Review and an attorney.