Guest Columnist

I am armed every day

'I am not armed because I have a gun. I am armed because I have knowledge.'

Cedar Valley Outfitters owner Ernie Traugh hands a loaded magazine back to Sara Pumphrey at Cedar Rapids while training
Cedar Valley Outfitters owner Ernie Traugh hands a loaded magazine back to Sara Pumphrey at Cedar Rapids while training at a private shooting range near Bertram on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

January 4, 2015, was a long time ago in the context of my evolution about personal safety. That was the date that a local newspaper, The Gazette, published an article I wrote about myself that was also a representation of most of my friends who carry a gun legally.

I carry a gun every day” made its way around the world and garnished some incredible feedback. I am not alone in a never-ending journey to enhance safety and my ability to protect loved ones. More and more people every day take the first steps toward being the keepers of their own safety.

Since the first article, what has happened locally, nationally and worldwide? How has it caused me to evolve in my own approach toward being safer and helping others do the same?

Since The Gazette published the article, we have seen people stabbed to death at a local grocery store. A woman killed with a hammer by a stranger in her own garage. Women have been killed with knives and blunt force. We have seen repeat offenders and prohibited persons commit felonies while illegally carrying illegally obtained firearms. We’ve experienced teens shooting other teens. We’ve seen a released felon kill with an illegally possessed gun. We have seen murders in Iowa’s small towns and biggest towns.

What we’ve seen on the national stage reminds me why I carry medical gear with me everywhere. The Parkland shooting. The Pulse night club. The Route 91 music festival. A Texas school, church and Walmart. The multiple mass shootings in New Orleans. A mass stabbing at the Mall of America. The shootings at a workplace in Virginia. A car drove through a crowd in Charlottesville. A driver used a van to kill bicyclists. The nine dead in Dayton Ohio and many others wounded.

Worldwide we have seen French citizens attacked and killed with illegal guns and even more with other inanimate objects such as a vehicle. There have been several London attacks. Hotels attacked in multiple countries. A livestreamed attack in New Zealand devised to instill hatred and division.

With over 250,000 permit holders in Iowa, we are told that “there will be blood in the streets.” But the blood hasn’t been at the hands of law-abiding, permit-holding gun owners.

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Prohibited persons often are the killers. The number of permits to carry now exceeds 18 million, yet we rarely read about a murder by a permit holder.

Estimates state there are over 400 million guns in America, yet the crime rate has consistently fallen for decades.

Although the government provides crime facts, some simply do not accept them. Is it because it doesn’t support their personal beliefs or political alignment?

It is impossible to read the hearts and minds of others so there is no law you can propose to ban “violent people.” One can only recognize human behavior and practice avoidance; fighting only if necessary to protect one’s life or that of others. Results may vary.

So as politicians promise to make the country safer by imposing more laws that only the lawful gun owners will abide by, I ask you this: Are you willing to give up your own vehicle that you operate responsibly and legally for the betterment of America?

After all, doing so will reduce deaths. Driving has killed more people than murder by firearm almost every year for decades. I heard a president of the United States once state that, “if we save even one life from gun violence it’s worth it,” when referencing gun control. So will you give up you car to help reduce deaths? Or maybe you share my sentiment that it isn’t appropriate to demand the keys of my car when I don’t drink and drive.

I have worked around hundreds of guns for 8 to 10 hours, 5 to 6 days a week, since 1997. The mere presence of guns isn’t the issue. Violent humans are the issue. Hate and lost hope within young hearts is the issue.

As for me, I will admit that I don’t carry a gun everywhere Many companies and organizations that hire me don’t allow weapons inside their buildings. I respect the rules of the organizations I frequent because it’s their property.

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Am I paranoid? Absolutely not. I am prepared and accept that violence is a possibility in nearly every place I go. I will try my best to avoid it. I will fight it if I need to. I will be able to give aid to others if they are injured.

We can all save lives together regardless of our feelings toward guns. The skills and gear I carry to try to stop massive hemorrhaging from a gun shot wound or a knife attack are the same I would use if I witnessed a motorcycle accident.

I teach people with or without weapons, how to increase the odds of helping themselves or others if violence occurs, even accidents. I teach with a holistic approach to personal safety. I don’t carry a gun everywhere every day but at minimum I carry a tourniquet and flashlight; oftentimes, more.

My team and nearly all of my customers believe that being prepared starts in your head, not your holster.

I want everyone with a carry permit to have CPR certification. I strive for everyone to seek medical training through programs such as “Stop the Bleed” that focus on saving lives no matter the circumstance.

I encourage the public to take our class to learn about avoidance and what pre-assault indicators look like. If you don’t know what to look for you most likely won’t see it. That’s been proven over and over again.

It’s not paranoid to think about, visualize and even train on how to deal with a potential threat in your home, at your workplace, at your church or even the grocery store.

Most violence happens at home or work, committed by someone who knows you. Our government and local law enforcement share facts that warrant having a plan in place to keep your loved ones safe.

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I have changed a lot since I wrote “ I carry a gun every day.” My team and I have focused more on educating people to accept responsibility for their own safety. We believe this is most effective when you focus your time, effort and resources on the most likely thing that could kill you.

The youth of America are killing themselves at a record rate. Legal gun owners kill themselves far too often as well. We all must learn to have crucial conversations with our friends. I am committed to the efforts within the gun community to eliminate the stigma around mental health and its impact on personal well-being. We can all help save lives, with or without guns.

I have changed since 2015, but some believe that makes me even more paranoid. I don’t let their words bother me. I have helped many people in the last five years, both personally and professionally. My business has lectured and taught thousands of students since The Gazette gave me 15 minutes of face time.

The results are outstanding. The feedback we receive from customers is what makes us relentlessly pursue making at least one more person safer. Almost a year after training, a young woman walking up to me in the parking lot saying “you might not remember me but I think your self-defense class saved my life.”

If I could save only one life, why would I ever quit trying to educate people about their personal safety? The answer is, I won’t.

I’ll likely see you around town. I won’t look worried, and I won’t look scared. You won’t know from the expression on my face, my actions, or my words, that I’m armed. Armed with the knowledge, skills, and acceptance that no one is can likely save me when seconds matter. That’s my responsibility and I take it very seriously regardless of the smile on my face.

I will still hold the door for you at the gas station or the coffee shop. I’ll wait patiently while you yell at the person behind the counter at the fast food restaurant because your order is wrong. I’ll keep an eye on your car that you left running with a child in it at the gas station. I’ll stay parked an extra 10 seconds when I see the lady walking to her car alone outside the grocery store with her hands full and a child in tow.

I’m a person who knows loss and respects human life. I have an extra few seconds to watch for those who walk among us and may do you harm. I do this with and without a firearm on my person.

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I am not armed because I have a gun. I am armed because I have knowledge. I may also have a tourniquet, a flashlight, a knife, a gun, a cellphone and more.

Remember, being prepared starts in your head, not your holster.

Ernie Traugh has owned and operated Cedar Valley Outfitters in Marion, Iowa, since 2001. Contact: Ernie.traugh@gmail.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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