Locals arming themselves for self-defense
EAGLE COUNTY – Michelle Hall has run into some “real creeps” on hiking trails. Nowadays, she will be ready to fire her pistol if one of those creeps tries to hurt her. “When push comes to shove – when you need to get away – it could be a great deterrent to give you a head start,” Hall said. Hall is one of about 60 people this year who have bought guns from local self-defense instructor Mathew Bayley, who sells them through his Web site, http://www.ontargetatvail.com. That’s three times as many buyers compared with last year, Bayley said.Almost all the guns purchased this year are pistols that could be used for self-defense, he said. Bayley thinks violent crime has risen in the valley, and many of his students share that belief, he said.That’s one of the reasons so many people are flocking to buy guns and take classes from Bayley, he said.”A firearm gives you a remarkably effective tool for self-protection,” Bayley said.
Beric Christiansen, a retired business executive who lives in Gypsum, thinks violent crime has risen in the region, he said. Christiansen has not seen crime statistics and has never been attacked, he said. His only experience as a victim of crime here was with a thief or thieves who stole some possessions from his garage, he said. But Christiansen pointed out the October 2005 murder of Maria Madrid at a Dotsero-area campsite and the recent shootings in Glenwood Springs and Basalt as good reasons to own a gun.”The odds you’re going to need it are very slim, but if you do, you’ll be glad,” Christiansen said. Charles Gross, who murdered Madrid, used to do metal work for Paul Smith. Smith, a real-estate broker who lives in Eagle-Vail, shoots at targets for fun, but the campground killing reaffirmed his position on the use of guns for self-defense.”There are evil bad guys out there, and they will shoot you,” Smith said.Police respond to crimes after they have been committed almost all the time, and as the valley grows, more crime occurs here like in a big city, Bayley said. “In our society today, there is a need for (guns),” he said.Burglars broke into the room where Dorothy Cummins’ daughter sleeps in her grandmother’s Colorado Springs home, Cummins said. Cummins, of Edwards, bought her gun for protection against wildlife, but the break-in affirmed her initial decision to buy a gun, she said.”It really did make me think, ‘Gosh, this isn’t such a bad idea,'” she said.
Others carry guns for protection against wildlife, they said. Cummins’ husband was concerned about her hiking in the backcountry alone and encouraged her to get a gun, she said.At times, Cummins’ dog has refused to continue hiking with her because the dog may have seen a mountain lion, Cummins said. That’s why she plans to carry her lightweight, short-range .38 Special under her jacket, she said.”If I’m out hiking a trail and come upon a mountain lion, it’s something I could release and shoot immediately,” Cummins said. It’s unlikely that a wild animal would attack a person – fewer than a dozen people are attacked each year, said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“You are thousands of times more likely to be attacked by a domestic dog than a wild animal,” Hampton said.Still, Smith has had a bear break into his home, and his guns would help protect his children in case it happened again, he said. “It’s probably very, very unlikely, but I would be ready for it,” Smith said.Many people are taking the class Colorado requires for a concealed-carry permit, Bayley said.Dorothy Cummins wants a concealed-carry permit because some people find guns “unnerving,” she said.”If you were out on the trail and ran into me with the holster and saw the looks on people’s faces, you would know why,” Cummins said.
Hall owns a gun mostly because she likes the challenge of target shooting, she said. A shooter must have “absolute precision” to hit the middle of a target, she said.”It’s something you practice and practice and practice,” Hall said.Along with teaching accuracy, Bayley’s courses put people in realistic self-defense scenarios, Bayley said.Bayley’s students do jumping jacks to simulate an increased heart rate likely to occur during an attack. Bayley also slings a duffle bag on a rope toward the shooter to train them to be adept at shooting a moving target, he said.And Bayley teaches gun safety. All the gun owners interviewed for this story either keep their guns locked up or use trigger locks, they said. And they tout Bayley’s classes as essential to learning how to fire a gun safely, they said.A lot of criminals own guns, but good people own them, too, Cummins said. “There are people out there who own them and are safe with them who are very conscious,” she said. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.
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