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Posted by on in Stalking


The Andover MA couples were once friendly neighbors, but then things took a terrible turn.   William and Gail Johnson lived near Jim and Bernadette Lyons. The Johnsons wanted to develop land they owned that lay behind Lyonses property.  The Lyonses objected, along with other neighbors.  Years of litigation did not resolve or improve the situatuion.

In 2008, the Johnsons began to harass the Lyones.  Here are some of the thihgs they did:


Offered a free golf cart on Craigslist, with the Lyones' address, posted by a friend.


Offered a motorcycle for sale on Craigslist, again with Lyones' address, again posted by a friend


Had their friend send anonymous email containing personal information, including their SSNs and the message "If you aren't miserable, I ain't happy!"


Tried to ruin their busioess.


Sent child protection state officials to Lyones' home to investigate a completely false charge that the Lyones were abusing their son.


Having advised over a thousand stalking victims over the years, I'm quite familiar with this crime.  These activities clearly fall under the stalking law or criminal harassment in Massachusetts.  The most common stalker/victim type is a current or former boyfriend or husband who is stalking the woman he wants to keep from leaving or wants to get back.  But a surprinsing number of stalking situations arise between people who are neighbors.  Neighbors, not co-workers or people who have some other kind of relationship. Neighbors.

It makes a certain amount of sense.  Neighbors can cause tension in many, many ways.  A nieghbor is someone you might not like, but can't easily get away from, and might have to see often.  Things that would be minor harassment, if only occasional, can become stalking if they are repeated. 

William Johnson was tried and convicted of criminal harassment, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  Gail Johnson was also convicted of criminal harassment and sentenced to 6 months.

The Johnson's appealed their convictions, arguing that they had made no explicit threats, and that they had a constitutionally protected right to speech, even speech that their neighbor didn't like.

Freedom of speech is guaranted by our consitution, but it has limits.  We all know that you aren't permitted to yell a false "Fire!" in a public theatre.  But what about the Johnson's words, in email and on Craigslist?  How does the First Amendment apply, or not, to that?

Fortunately, the state's highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, let the convictions stand.  The court ruled that "the conduct in question was not protected speech but rather a hybrid of conduct and speech integral to the comission of a crime."

In other words, stalking is a crime that is carried out by both actions and words. Those words, being part and parcel of the crime, are not protected by the First Amendment.  No harasser can claim that they are exercising their First Amendment rights by saying words that are necessarily part of their crime.

If anyone you know in Massachusetts is being stalked or harassed, make sure they, the police and their proseutor understand that this ruling might help them get their harasser convicted.

More information about this case is available here.


Picture: Shutterstock/Robert Brown Stock



Tagged in: Stalking Women
Hits: 13397

Posted by on in Legal

bglogoDoes Jaime Caetano, a homeless woman, have the right to use a stun gun to protect herself from her ex-boyfriend, the violent man who is the father of her children?  She didn't even have to hit him with the stun gun.  According to a report in the Bostog Globe, all she had to do was show hm that she had it, and he left her alone.  If only the police could have done the same.

 The Globe reported, "The same stun gun, however, landed Caetano in the middle of a legal battle about the weapon and the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. She was convicted last year under a state law criminalizing the possession of stun guns by private citizens. Caetano is challenging the law in court, saying it violates her rights under the Second Amendment to defend herself."  See the full article here.

 She is now appealing her case, attempting to get her conviction overturned, based on two argements.  First, that the Second Amendment covers "arms" that are not firearms.  Second, that US Supreme Court decisions have implied a right to carry outside the home.  Also at issue is the question of whether a homeless person has the same rights for self-protection as a person who has a home.

 Caetano's case was brought to AWARE's attention last August. AWARE was asked to provide an amicus brief for the court.  An amicus is a “friend of the court” document that isn’t required to be part of the case, but that provides the court with relevant expert information they might not be aware of.  AWARE did file a brief, giving arguments why many people have good reasons to choose stun guns as self-defense tools, including religious or ethical compunctions against killing, being psychologically unwilling to shoot, women who need protection against a violent ex but don’t want to kill him, and firearm owners who want to have a reliable but less lethal alternative available. The brief also also explained why the legal right to keep and bear arms extends beyond firearms, and therefore should automatically include carrying stun guns outside the home.

 You can see the full text of AWARE's brief here.

 We await the resolution of this case with the greatest interest and will keep you informed of what happens to Jaime Caetano, and when, if ever, we can legally have those less-lethal weapons in Msassachusetts.


Tagged in: Personal Protection
Hits: 12256

Posted by on in Legal


With all the publicity regarding nearly every killing of one person by another, it is reasonable to ask, is this crime getting worse in our country, or better?  There are two national databases that collect relevant information on this.  Why two?  Do they agree with one another?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been collecting Uniform Crime Reports since 1930, so they have gotten very good at it.  The UCR data comes from voluntary police reports, so it attempts to collect all and only crimes that are known to police.  That data, for crimes that include murder, involve a lot of specifics: jurisdiction, circumstances (argument, robbery, gang-related), victim-offender relationship, and so on.  

The FBI’s UCR data has two divisions for killings, one for all murders plus nonnegligent manslaughters and one for negligent manslaughters.  Negligent manslaughter means only unintentional, accidental killing of one person by another.  The first division includes everything else: justifiable homicide, murders, law enforcement-related killings, and killings in self-defense.

The second national database on death is managed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  It is called the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and collects information by Fatal Injury Reports.  Its data about deaths comes from death certificates filed by people in each state, primarily funeral directors, medical examiners, or coroners.  The death certificates include information on the manner of death (homicide, suicide, unintentional)  and also information about the cause of death (injury, poisoning, etc.).  

CDC’s NVSS data covers virtually every death, because death certificates are filed for everyone who dies.  The FBI’s UCR, coming from voluntary reports, has some omissions where police reports were not sent to the FBI, or where crimes were never reported to the police.

A bigger difference than the number of deaths in these two databases is the way they classify homicides.  The UCR takes a predictably legalistic approach, classifying homicides as intentional, justifiable, or negligent.  The NVSS puts all person-by-person death in one category, homicide, without judgment of criminal intent, because death certificate data cannot make those  distinctions.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics just published a report on these two measures of homicide, describing in more detail than I have done here the methods and limitations of each system.  Then the report includes a graph of the homicide rates by each method, over a 30 year period, 1981-2011.  Here is that graph.


You don’t have to remember all of your school mathematics to understand this.  Looking at each organization’s own definition of homicide, the graphs are striking similar.  The NVSS rate is slightly higher, probably because that captures all the deaths while SHR misses some due to non-reporting by police.

The really striking thing is that in 1981 the homicide rate was 10 per 100,000 people in the US.  It dipped to 8 in the mid 1980’ and climbed to a high of 10 again in 1991. Since then, for the last 20 years, the homicide rate has been falling or steady.  Falling or steady to its 2011 level of 5, half that of 1991.

Murders are going down.  Down, not up.  Down, despite all the publicity being given to both mass and individual murders.  Down.

If you want to see the beautifully short (4 page) report from which this material was taken, here it is. It contains pointers to many other reports and sources of data for you to explore if you are a data junkie, as I am.

The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide  NCJ247060 July 2014


Picture Credit:  hoyou / Shutterstock

Hits: 5016

Posted by on in Women


I no longer trust or believe this statistic. The FBI rpoduced an excellent, trustworthy analysis of mass shootings, called the "FBI Study of Active Shooter Incidents".  The anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety published a paper with a similar title, "Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings." Everytown did not explain how they got that 51% statistic.  They did not explain how many people were in that group, or how Everytown obtained information about them.  Thus this number must nto be trusted.  AWARE will continue to provide only information that is the best and most reliable.  The FBI has it; Everytown does not.

According to FBI statistics, only 13% of murder victims in a typical year are women.  According to the same statistics, 51% of victims of mass murders are female.  What is going on?  Why are women dying so frequently in mass murders?  The intersection of domestic violence and mass murder, that’s what is going on.  Hardly anyone knows that fact.  Everyone should know it.

99% of gun-involved homicides are not mass murders.  Most of them involve a male shooter and a male victim.  That’s why barely 13% of “typical” murder victims are women.  Mass murders are less than 1% of the gun-involved homicides.  But they are spectacularly more lethal to women.  

A study called “Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings” recently became available.  I’ll provide a link to it at the end of this blog.  The study is based on one very good feature.  It uses the FBI’s rather strict definition of “mass murder” which is an incident in which at least 4 people are killed.  It includes for each incident information from the FBI and from media reports.  

There were 110 mass murders in  five and a half years, the time covered in this report, January 2009 to July 2014.  That’s about one every 3 or 4 weeks.

For each incident, the report gives the city, state and date, a brief description of the shooting, the shooter’s name and age, the people killed, the type of gun (if known), the type of ammunition (if known), how the shooter obtained the gun, whether the shooter was a “prohibited person” (unable to buy a gun legally), where the shooting occurred (a gun-free zone, or not), whether the incident ended in suicide, and more.

It makes for very informative reading.  Here are some of the highlights.

Overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, mass murders are committed by men.

Seventy-seven of the mass murders (70%) took place entirely in private residences. Think about that. Most mass murders started and ended at home.  Mass murderers are virtually all men.  So, who is going to be at home for them to shoot?   A wife or ex-wife, a girlfriend or ex-grilfriend, children, some of whom will be female.

In a clear majority (57%) of these murders, the shooter killed a a current or former spouse, a current or former intimate partner, or another family member.  

In about 18% of the incidents, the shooter’s past included a domestic violence charge.

Federal law prohibits gun ownership in only three situations, (1) the perpetrate has been married to the victim, (2) the perpetrator has a child with the victim, or (3) the perpetrator cohabits with the victim.  It does not prohibit  gun ownership in situations where the perpetrator and victim have a current or past intimate relationship, without cohabitation.  In 12 of 48 mass murder incidents, there was “no evidence the pair had ever married or had a child together.”  Perhaps this is a loophole that could be plugged.

You can see and download the report for yourself at Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings. Yes, that’s the website of the anti-gun group Every Town for Gun Safety.    This report, however, does not call for guns to be banned.  It exposes the critical and often overlooked relationship between domestic violence, mass murder, and victims who are women and girls.  If the report is used, as we are advocating here, to call attention to the problem and to help reduce the number of women killed in these attacks, that will be a good thing.  A very good thing.

Picture Credit: Shutterstock / Fabio Freitas e Silva


Picture credit: Shutterstock/Alexey Grigorev
Picture credit: Shutterstock/Alexey Grigorev
Picture credit: Shutterstock/Alexey Grigorev
Hits: 7083

Posted by on in Concealed Carry


Most shooters know of the Tueller Drill.  It established that 21' is the minumum distance that an attacker with a contact weapon an run while a defender can draw and fire.  "The 21-foot Rule" is widespread.  But your distance will vary, hence the concept of your PERSONAL Tueller distance.  We'll show you a simple method to find it.

The question Dennis Tueller, police firearms instructior, was trying to answer was "how close is too close with a contact weapon?"  At what distance should an officer be drawing his or her gun, in order to have enough time to shoot if the attacker came any closer?  Police, with quite a bit of training, can, on average, draw and shoot in about 1.5 sseconds.  So, what Tueller had to establish was how far someone can run in that time.  The results showed that 21 feet was typical.

Even Mythbusters got into the action, doing a variation of the Tueller Drill in a show called "Duel Dilemmas" and pretty much confirmed it, but found that 24' was about the right distance.  They also noted that although the defender could draw (from an open holster) and shoot the attacker, the attacker would also get close enough to use the club or knife before or just after being shot, sos in fact both parties would end at least injured, if not killed.

In a recent interview with the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Tueller said,: “It goes back to the issue of reaction and response time. The more time you need to physically access your defensive weapon and put it into action, then you need to have that much more distance that an adversary with a contact weapon would have to cover. The thing to do is to find out how long that is.”


Your “reactionary gap” will be different from that of a typical police officer and different from other people with concealed carry licenes.  So, how can you use your personal factors (reaction time, concealment method, and so on) to figure out how far away from YOU an aggressor is dangerous?

A future article in Women&Guns magazine will detail three different ways of measureing your personal Tueller distance.  The one we present here is probably the simplist to carry out.

Although there are many unpreidctable thjings that can affect your persona Tueller distance in a real event (your attacker can run faster or slower than average, vissibility might be good or bad, you might be able to retreat or not, the ground might be easy to move on, or hard, and so on) the one consistent, most predictable factor will be the time it takes you to draw and fire . 

Most of us don't have that 1.5 second time to draw and fire.  Even competition shooterss, who go much fasster than that in competition will be slowed down in the real world.  In your real world, you carry in some concealed place quite consistently. 

What you need to find out is how long it takes you, on average, to draw from that concealment and fire.  For this test, you need to wear your real clothes, not range gear.  A coat, if it is winter.  You will need a shot timer, or a friend with one.  With a target at about 7 yards, usijng the timer as an unpredictable start signal, draw and shoot once.  Don't be standing facing downrange with your hand positioned to reach you holster.  Write down every time for every shot.  Notice the spread; you probably have some nice short time and some longer ones you wiuld like to forget about.  Calculate the average, and then take a look at the following table to see your personal Tueller distance.


Time in Seconds Approx. Distance in Feet
1.5 20
1.75 23
2.0 27
2.25 30
2.5 33
2.75 37
3.0 40
3.25 43
3.5 43
3.75 50
4.0 53


Are you shocked at how big your persosnal Tuellar distance is?  Most of us will be, but that knowledge is invaluable.  Even with this knowledge, your mileage will vary.  Consider your personal Tueller distance the minimum for a distance that might help save your life.


 Picture credit: Shutterstock/Alexey Grigorev


Tagged in: Personal Protection
Hits: 5565

Posted by on in Women

womenontargetAre you new to shooting?  Do you have a friend, girlfriend, mother, sister, aunt or grandmother who has no experience with guns?  All women 16 and over are invited, regardless of skill level, ot a day of fun with guns alongside other women.

The Harvard Sportsmen’s Club will provide classroom safety instruction followed by hands-on range experience with rifle, shotgun, and handgun at the hands of friendly and experienced instructors.  Several AWARE instructors have volunteered to assist with this event.

This will be a great opportunity to try recreational shooting or to take the first step toward a firearms license.

The event is called Women On Target.  Last year it was sold out, and those who attended were thrilled with the experience.  One of my friends, a grandmother, brought her granddaughter and is still talking about how much they both loved this event.

Attendees receive a certificate that fulfills the state requirement for a Mass firearms license.

The cost?  Only $50 per person, which covers lunch, all equipment, ammunition, and a student handbook.  

The date?   Saturday July 19, 2014, 8:30 to 4:30

We expect a sold-out event this year, too, and the limit is 40 attendees, so register soon if you are interested and tell your friends!

Pre-registration is required and payment must be received by July 11th. To register, contact the organizer, Claudia Stewar, at 978-760-1847 or by email cbsstewart2@gmail.com.



Tagged in: Women
Hits: 4916

Posted by on in Guns

Flinching with a gunWhy is it we can't always shoot as evenly as this picture?  Sooner or later, someone will watch you shooting and say those  fatal words, "You're flinching!"  Or you feel yourself tense up when shooting and see the shots go low.  "I'm flinching" you think.  "Don't flinch," you tell yourslf, as you see your shots going lower and lower on the target.  "Dont' flinch!" echoes in your mind with each shot, and you curse afterward, "I flinched!"

 What is a flinch, anyway?  It is your body's reaction to an anticipated shock.  The shock can be the loud noise of a gun firing.  The shock can be the gun's recoil.  The shock can be pain you experience when you shoot.  Whatever has caused the shock in the past (that past can be in your current shooting ssession, or long, long ago) your body knows it is coming again, and tries to protect you by clenching many muscles involuntarily.  This usually results in your hands moving the barrel of your gun downwards and the shots go low.  It happens to handgun shooters and long gun shooters.

 As a teacher, I've seen it happen to many students.  The number one cause, in my experience, is sound, so the first thing I will suggest is maximizing hearing protection with both foam in-the-ear plugs and high quality, well-fitted muffs. 

 There are two ways recoil can be the cause of flinching.  One is what you might expect, the upward motion of the fired gun.  The other is any backward motion; if recoil has ever made anyone feel they might be pushed over backward, that's very unpleasant; the cure might be careful attention to a shooting stance that never threatenes one's balance.  Mindfulness of trigger control will slow the trigger pull and help to avoid a slapped trigger that pulls shots low.

 If a flinch is caused by the pain of shooting, the pain must be cured, by a different grip or stance, a modification to the gun, a different kind of ammunition, or even a different gun.  Shooting should not hurt. 

 There are many other things you can do to help cure a flinch.  Ten of them, including the Ayoob Wedge technique, are here in the article It's a Cinch Not to Flinch.  Take a look and see what might help you, or a shooter you know who has this problem.


Picture: Shutterstock/Ficus777

Tagged in: Other Women
Hits: 8662

Posted by on in Guns

gunquestionmarkWhat do you think?  Do you believe that, in Massachusetts, where a firearms safety class is required for anyone applying for a firearms license, that that class should include firing a real gun on a real range, or is classroom-only training sufficient?

You don't have to be a shooter or a gun owner to have an opinion on this topic.  Think about this.  Someone in your family decides to obtain a firearm for personal protection.  They find a half-day course that covers gun safety, laws, the parts of various types of guns and ammunition.  They see and handle some guns here, but don't fire them.  They do fire a training aid that looks like a gun, but "fires" a laser, like a laser pointer.  How confident are you that they are now prepared and qualified to protect themsleves and anyone else who might need protection?

What if they took, instead, a full day class that included not just safety and legal issues but also some actual firing of actual guns on a real range.  Wouldn't they be better off?  Wouldn't you have more confidence in their abilites?

It is a no-brainer to me that licensing someone who has never actually fired a gun to carry one concealed in public is as dangerous as giving someone a driver's license when they have learned driving laws and used a driving simulation game, but have never been on a real road in a real car.

If you are a shooter and do have a license, what kind of training did you get first?  Was it sufficient, or did you seek more training at some point? Does it make you feel safer in public to know that there are people carrying guns without ever having shot one?

Hits: 4430

Posted by on in Personal Protection


 Neither arthritis, nor a wheelchair, nor heart surgery, nor impaired mobility, nor gloom of night keeps chronologically gifted folk (senior citizens) from defending themselves.  If anyone tries to tell you that defense guns and seniors are incompatible, here's some proof that it isn't so. Age, even when accompanied by physical impairment, is generally no barrier to shooting a gun. That can't be said of most of the other methods of self-protection such as impact weapons, unarmed fighting, and running away.

 The Cleveland Ohio Plain Dealer published a story about senior citizens and guns. A 69-year old man was quoted as saying, "Having a concealed weapon today is more to my advantage than it perhaps would've been when I was 30 years old." About 12 percent of all concealed-carry licenses issued since 2005 in Cuyahoga County have been to people 60 and older. Seniors make up nearly 50% of students in one man's license certification class, "An 87-year-old woman with a gun is equal to anybody," he said. A 64-year old man said he carries a gun because, "I've had two heart surgeries. I literally can't run, can't fight." With headlines like "Granny Gets Her Gun", "Elderly Women Send Rapist Running", "80-yr old Woman Uses Shotgun On Intruder", "Go Grandma!", "Woman in Wheelchair Shoots Mugger," "Wife Uses Gun To Save Husband", "Woman Blasts Intruder Dead", "Armed Grandma Captures Two Escapees", and "Granny Bar Owner Chases Off Armed Robber", you can see that there are many amazing stories.

 Here are summaries of more than 20 people, from 55 to 91, all women, who have successfully protected themselves with a firearm.  As you read them, consider what would likely have happened if these seniors had not been armed.  Chronologically Gifted Folk Protect Themselves


Picture credit:  Volodymyr Baleha / Shutterstock


Hits: 6991

Posted by on in Women


This is a concern that has been felt at least briefly by any woman who has ever had the experience of having a stronger man take something out of her hands, no matter how hard she tried to hold on to it.

It becomes internalized, that understanding of the limits of your own strength when going up against someone much more physically powerful.  It is a concern that has stopped many women from getting a gun for defense.  Some men still use it as a “reason” for a woman not to get a handgun.  

The dreaded follow up to the gun being taken away, of course, is that it might then be used against the original owner.

Is this a valid concern? No.  How often does this happen?  Essentially never.  I’ve been looking for cases of a gun taken away from a woman with some protective handgun training in a real defensive situation, and haven’t found one in years of looking.

One of the closest calls was Susan Buxton, a Texas grandmother who had an intruder who hid in a closet.  He came out compliantly when she, gun in hand, found hiding place, but he did not want to wait around for the police to arrive. His plan was probably to  grab her gun and run.  Susan’s plan was to shoot him if he lunged for her gun.  Susan’s plan prevailed.

For Susan’s entire wonderful (and short) story, see He Grabbed For Her Gun.

If someone does try to grab you gun, you can’t be sure they have no intention of using it.  An attempted gun grab is justification for pulling the trigger. You can pull the trigger faster than he can get to you and get your gun away.  If you pull the trigger, he will not get your gun away from you.  The chances of being in that situation are so remote that it should not prevent anyone from getting a defensive gun and, of course, the necessary training that should go with it.


Photo credit: Lorenzo Mondo / Shutterstock.com


Hits: 4646

Posted by on in Women


You are walking to your car in a deserted parking area after working late one evening, and you hear someone behind you who fast approaching. You realize that person can reach you before you can get to your car. What would you do?


Here are some choices:


1. Don't look back, walk faster or run, try to get into your car before they reach you.

2. Put your hand on whatever defensive tool you are carrying, turn your head so you can see who is approaching.

3. Stop, turn around, and pull out a weapon if you are carrying one.


Let's consider the "Don't look back" option first. In this situation, this is not a good idea. The problem statement said that the person can reach you before you can get into your car. To ignore that fact is to put yourself in unnecessary danger. By not looking back, you can't identify the person following you, and you can't assess the situation to understand more clearly whether it is really threatening or not. In short, this is a head-in-the-sand response to possible danger that could easily result in disaster.

Option 2 is a better response. By continuing to move toward your car, you can still get there as fast as possible. By glancing back, you can get a good look at the person following you, so you can describe him later, and identify him if necessary. Also, looking back will give you a view of what is happening, so you can tell whether it is really threatening or not. If he is threatening, knowing that you have seen him may cause him to break off his planned attack.  Remember, the person behind you might be just another woman hurrying to her car because she is nervous, too.

By having your hand on some defensive tool (keys, chemical defensive spray, Persuader, or firearm, for example), and keeping it out of sight for now, you are prepared to take defensive action if necessary.

Option 3, is an over-reaction that is not justified by the circumstances.  You don't know whether the person following you is actually a threat or just another woman hurrying to her car because she is nervous, too, so pulling out a weapon (particularly if it is a gun) is not justified. (If you were thinking of a low-level weapon such as pepper spray, then it is more reasonable to take this course of action.)




Hits: 4695

Posted by on in Guns


Cats are smart, tactically aware animals.  Most cats love high places - the top of a bookshelf, the top of a door, a railing over a high balcony, the top of the highest cat furniture you have.  They have evolved to prefer heights, because from there they can more easily scan the ground for anything that might be edible prey, and they are more protected from things (wolves, foxes, and so on) that might want to eat them.

 I had a cat who would usually sleep in my bed with or without me, and would typically curl up with her head toward the door.  Was this another tactical position, tuned by generations, so that the cat's ears, eyes and nose remained pointed in the direction from which danger could come, while keeping her back to the side or corner from which no surprises would appear?  I always thought so, and marveled at her innate ability to use her surroundings for her safety.

 But if you have ever had an indoor/outdoor cat, one that comes and goes a lot, you may have seen another behavior that is quite common among such cats: the doorway sit, or the doorway stand.  Cats are famous for pausing a long time on the threshold before deigning to actually move into the outdoors.

 Tactically aware people are taught never to do this.  Hesitating in a doorway, as in the small end of a funnel, while you are clearing a house or building where an intruder might be puts you in grave danger of being shot by someone on the other side of the door who can see you before you can see them.  Hence the term "fatal funnel" for that position, and the admonition not to pause there but to move briskly though the doorway.

 So, why is this a situation where feline situational awareness good for the cat, but bad for us?  It all has to do with the nature of the danger that might await us.  A cat who goes too quickly into the outdoors is in danger while in the open, not just from predators on the ground but from some big birds that could attack a small cat.  By waiting in the doorway, a cat can be alert for any movement that signals danger, and can quickly spring back into the safety of the house.  For us humans, however, the biggest danger for us that might be on the other side of that doorway is a gun, and a bullet is going to come at us much faster than a fox will come at a cat.  There will not be time for us to perceive the danger and retreat from it.

 Different species, different dangers, different answers to the tactical question of "How do I get safely from inside to outside, or from room to room?"

 What does your cat do that would be good or bad for you, tactically or for situation awareness?

Hits: 6545

Posted by on in Stalking

stalking quiz

How much do you know about stalking?  In about 5 minutes, you can take this short (10 questions) Stalking Quiz.


You might have a situation with someone, and would like to know whether that is actually stalking or not.  A friend might have a situation, and need your help.  Maybe you are just curious to find out how much you know about this incredibly annoying, often frightening, and occasonally very dangerous crime.


Someone you don't know drives slowly past your home twice every evening for a week - is that stalking? What kinds of things do stalkers do?  Should you get a restraining order? Are stalkers usually under 21?   Mentally ill?  Strangers? 


Detailed information is available when you reveal the answers.  AWARE provides FREE services to people who might be the target of this crime.  We can help figure out what kind of stalker you have, and provide detailed, personalized  safety suggestions, whether or not your situation fits the legal definition of stalking.  Try the Stalking Quiz now.


Hits: 6598

Posted by on in Legal

Dstun-gun-no-3oes it make sense to you that stun guns and tasers are not legal for private citizens in Massachusetts?  In a state where it IS legal to buy, own and use firearms, shouldn't everyone have the same access to these less lethal self-defense tools? Michael Rosman is trying to make that happen.


Who is Michael Rosman?  He is, a lawyer at a conservative/libertarian public interest law firm, the Center for Individual Rights in Washington DC.  He is working to bring a case in Massachusetts to challenge this law.


I have volunteered to put together a small group, an "association in fact," of people who would like to see this law changed.  This is not, and never will be, a request for donations. 


It might involve having Michael Rosman represent us, but it will not cost you anything; his law firm and this effort are funded by other people and organizations, not by you and me.  It may involve becoming plaintiffs in this lawsuit, if you want.


Interested?  Curious?  Email me, bates@aware.org for more information.

Hits: 7741

Posted by on in Legal

 Gun being put in car trunk

 It is bound to happen at some point. You are carrying your handgun lawfully on a Class-A LTC on your daily errands when you have to go somewhere that you can’t take the handgun. Let’s say your child’s school calls – your son is throwing up and needs to be picked up within the hour. Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, §10(j) clearly says that you can’t carry a firearm (or other dangerous weapon) on your person in a building or on the grounds of a school (including colleges) without the written authorization of certain school officials. In the wake of Newtown, it is not worth taking chances with this statute.
So what can you do? Unfortunately, the answer is not clear.
Chapter 140, § 131C concerns weapons in a motor vehicle. You can carry a loaded firearm on your person, under your direct control on a Class A permit. Someone with a Class B permit can transport a firearm unloaded and contained within the locked trunk or in a locked case or other secure container. Arguably, if you make a brief stop you are still transporting the firearm, and you could place it unloaded in the trunk (if you have one) or in a locked case or container. (The ammunition, apparently, does not need to be in its own locked container, but it must be separate from the firearm.) Trigger locks and cable locks do not count! A locked glove compartment might count, but the trunk or a locked case/container is a better option.
The other possibility is Chapter 140, § 131L which concerns weapons being stored by the owner. To comply with 131L, you need to secure the firearm in a locked container or equip it with a tamper resistant mechanical lock or other safety device. (§ 131L does not say the firearm has to be unloaded.) What is an appropriate locked container under this section – according to the Court, "the container must not merely be locked, but securely locked ... [i.e.,] maintained in [a] locked container[] in a way that will deter all but the most persistent from gaining access.” Com. v. Parzick, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 846, 850 (2005). Use something sturdy with a reasonable lock.
The only case interpreting this area, so far, is Com. v. Reyes, 464 Mass. 245 (2013). In Reyes, the defendant was a corrections officer who carried his firearm to work one day at the house of correction. When he asked for a key for a gun locker, he was told the lockers were all full. He put the handgun, including a loaded magazine, in the glove compartment of his car, parked in an employee lot directly in front of the entrance, and went to work. It is not clear whether the glove compartment was itself locked. Corrections officials asked to search his car and found the firearm. He was arrested, and convicted of violating both G. L. c. 140, § 131C (a) (carrying statute), and unlawfully storing a firearm (after leaving it in his motor vehicle) in violation of G. L. c. 140, § 131L (a) and (b) (storage statute). Reyes was granted a new trial after his appeal because the trial judge did not properly define “locked container” for the jury.
The Court said that leaving a firearm in an unattended vehicle while at work is storage under G.L. ch. 140 § 131L. A secured container “must be capable of being unlocked only by means of a key, combination, or other similar means.” The locked passenger compartment is NOT a secure container. The Court specifically mentions a locked vehicle trunk as a possible secured container.
As to the glove box, the Court says it might suffice under § 131L “depending on the particular factual circumstances including the nature of the locking mechanism, whether the motor vehicle was also locked and alarmed, and ultimately whether in the circumstances it was adequate to ‘deter all but the most persistent from gaining access.’”

The Court discusses § 131C, but does not explain whether § 131L applies to all instances of a firearm left unattended in a vehicle, or to only situations where the firearm has been left unattended for a long period. Reyes was convicted under both statutes, implying that both applied to him.

Bottom line:
The safest process is to put the firearm, unloaded, in a secured case or container when you have to leave it unattended. This complies with both 131C and 131L. If you have a trunk, you can keep a lockable storage box in it in case of an emergency. (If you use a proper storage container, you don’t have to secure the container to the vehicle – see Com. v. Lojiko, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 82 (2010)). While the locked trunk will qualify, a container within the trunk will protect your firearm from dings and scrapes, and inadvertent discovery if you have to open your trunk while it is still there.

Want to discuss or ask questions? Post a comment to this blog.

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Posted by on in Women




Only a few lucky people were able to see the premiere of the documentary film A Girl And A Gun, a by Cathryne Czubek at the Coolidge Corner theatre in Boston.

Now, however, everyone can see this amazing film in the comfort or your own home.
From the film’s website:
Breaking through stereotypes, A Girl and A Gun reveals America’s diverse and far-ranging female gun community. It depicts how this community is portrayed by the media and targeted by the gun industry; and shows, through personal stories, how guns change women’s lives. The intimate and graphic portrayals in A Girl and A Gun are of women who’ve carved themselves a home in the gun community, but their personal journeys in one way or another reflect the same issues every woman faces today.

It is getting reviews like these:

“Neither overtly pro- nor anti-firearms, “A Girl and a Gun” explores the many ambiguities, real and symbolic, surrounding gun ownership, even as its feminine focus entirely changes the terms of the debate. Czubek’s documentary excels at exploring contradictory facets of her subject.”-Ronnie Scheib, VARIETY

“Shines light on a worthy subject… anyone who walks out not aching for a discussion wasn’t paying attention.”-Maitland McDonagh, FILM JOURNAL

Three Stars! “Director Cathryne Czubek’s well-researched, incredibly lively chronicle of the way guns are marketed to, coveted by, and portrayed with women is a vital glimpse into a cultural phenomenon.”-Joe Neumaier, NY DAILY NEWS

It is fast paced, beautifully edited and constantly entertaining or informing.


Check your favorite pay-per-view system:  Comcast xfinity, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse, CableVision, iTunes, RCN, Barnes&Noble.com, Cinemanow, GooglePlay, Mediacom, XBox 360 Live, DirectTV, VDU HD Movies Playstation Network, Dish Network, Amazon Video, Blockbuster On Demand, Cox, BrightHouse, Charter On Demand, Zune, Shaw, Rogers On Demand, and  Insight all have A Girl And A Gun now.  

Cathryne, the film’s director and producer, strived to make the film non-political, focusing on real portraits of real women and their relationships to guns, good and bad.
Two AWARE people are in this film, Robin Natanel is featured as one of the women getting a gun for protection and Lyn Bates, Robin’s instructor.

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Posted by on in Women

Safety Signs

 If you are being stalked, or if your life is being threatened, if someone who harmed or threatened you is being released from prison, or if you live or work in a highly dangerous environment, AWARE is available to help you find the resources and training you need to keep yourself alive. Some AWARE board members have first-hand experience with situations like these. We can help evaluate the danger you are in, and assist you in developing a personal protection plan that is suited to your specific situation. Don't ignore what might be real danger!

Are You In Danger?        Yes

If you are in extreme personal danger, you should contact your local police immediately. Your highest priority should be to keep yourself safe, which includes finding a safe place to be, such as a police station, a safe house, a domestic violence shelter, or even a very public place.

If you are being stalked, AWARE has specialized stalking services and information to assist you. We can help to evaluate your situation, and work with you to develop a personal protection plan.

AWARE does not purport to be a substitute for law enforcement, legal advice or therapeutic intervention. If you need such services, contact your local police (911), the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800-799- SAFE), RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (800-656-HOPE), a local domestic violence counselor, or your local bar association.  

Then contact AWARE, too, so we can help.

Are You In Danger?        No

Consider yourself very fortunate. However, violence can come your way when you least expect it. Every woman should learn how to protect herself from the most common problems women face (rape, street crime, domestic violence). AWARE courses are an empowering way to learn how to take care of yourself.

Take our Safety Quiz to test your reactions in a variety of situations.

You might also want to check out our website’s information on specific crimes, or tools and techniques for general information on what works and what doesn't for various situations.

Are You In Danger?        Not sure

Uncertainty can be agonizing. If you are concerned enough about a situation to feel that you might be in danger, you should take those feelings very seriously.
You should consider getting assistance, from AWARE or other sources, to assess your situation. If you are at high risk for a potentially violent situation, or even just a dangerous one, there are many steps you can take to prepare yourself.

You might also want to check out our information on specific crimes, or tools and techniques for general information on what works and what doesn't for various situations.  Search our web site for terms related to your situation. Contact AWARE for information and advice.

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Posted by on in Women

 Czubek photo

Who is Cathryne Czubek, you might ask?  AWARE folk know, but this is to reach other folk who might be very interested in seeing A GIRL AND A GUN, a wonderful documentary film by this woman.

From the theatre’s website, “A Girl and a Gun shows the female perspective on an object whose history is deeply bound to men and masculinity.
The classic Hollywood portrayals of pistol packin' mamas, tomboy sharp shooters, sexually twisted femme fatales, and high-heeled, cold-blooded assassins are caricatures. In truth, the typical woman who hangs out at rifle ranges and keeps ammo in her purse is the girl-next-door, the single mom, a hard working sister or aunt. Maybe she's a realist or has learned tough lessons from life; either way, she cares about her personal safety and may even find salvation, comfort or something satisfying in possessing a gun. In a word, she is empowered.
Breaking through the caricatures, A Girl and a Gun reveals America's diverse and far-ranging female gun community. It depicts how this community is portrayed by the media and targeted by the gun industry; and shows, through personal stories, how guns change women's lives.”

Cathryne, the film’s director and producer, (who strived to make the film non-political) will be here for this showing, and for a Q&A discussion afterward, joined by Robin Natanel (one of the women featured in the documentary) and Lyn Bates (Robin’s instructor, also in the film).

When: Wed July 3, 7:00 pm

Duration: 76 minutes

Where: Screening Room Theatre of the Coolidge Corner theatre, Brookline MA

This theatre seats only 45 people.

Advance tickets online at the theatre's website.

Tagged in: Women
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Posted by on in Legal

Mug shot of Sandra Layne

A 75-year old woman named Sandra Layne recently endured a jury trial because she shot her grandson.  The shooting was never in dispute, just her claim of self-defense.

Here is some background, gathered to support her defense.  Sandra Layne and her husband, Fred, had agreed to take into their Pontiac, Michigan home their 17- year old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman for his final year of high school.  Jonathan had been living with his parents in Arizona, but depending on which story you choose to believe, his parents were divorcing, or his sister developed a brain tumor and so his parents needed to devote most of their time to her.

Jonathan was not an easy teenager to deal with.  He used drugs, not just marijuana but something hallucinogenic that required hospitalization at one point.).  He brought people his grandparents didn’t know, and doubtless would not have approved of, into their home, without their permission.  He didn’t respect or listen to his grandmother.  He swore at her.  He demanded that she give him money. He had an awful temper, and hit or kicked  things.  In short, he was completely unmanageable.

She bought a gun, a Glock, because she thought Jonathan’s friends might be dangerous.

A few days before his death, Jonathan had failed a drug test that put him in violation of his probation.  He wanted to get away, out of Michigan before he could be jailed, and he wanted his grandmother’s car and money to carry out his escape plan.

Sandra Layne said he hit her during a huge argument about money, and that she was afraid of him.

She sounds quite sympathetic, doesn’t she?  If you had been on her jury, would you have believed her claim of self-defense and acquitted her?  Would you at least have reduced her guilt from first degree murder charge to manslaughter?

Let’s look at a few more facts about this situation.  Maybe that will help you decide.

Layne fired 9 shots (from a Glock 9mm) and hit him 5 times.  Better accuracy than many people in that kind of situation would have had, you might be saying.  But what if I add the fact that the 911 call showed that those 10 shots took place over 6-minutes? Yes, 6 minutes, not 6 seconds.

Layne shot him, and walked out of that room.  Apparently he called 911, kept the 911 operator on, then she returned to the room where he was lying on the floor, and shot him again.  If a fight had been continuing, the 911 call would have picked it up.  The 911 call did pick up Jonathan saying, "My grandma shot me. I'm going to die.”  A few minutes later he said,  “Help. I got shot again."

Another telling point, Layne never asked for an ambulance for her grandson.  

Layne was examined at a hospital right after the incident, but did not appear to be injured in any way, undermining her claim that Jonathan had hit her.

Does that change your opinion of what the verdict should have been?  The jury in this case had the 911 tape in the jury room, and played it over and over.  It helped them reach their verdict: guilty (first-degree murder).  That poor woman will spend at least 14 years in prison, if she lives long enough to complete her sentence.

Everyone suffers in a tragic situation like this.

You can read more about this story here:


Photo Credit: West Bloomfield Township Police Dept.

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Posted by on in Stalking

Cover of Lasdun's book


The quick outline; James Lasdun (his real name) was a happily married college teacher of writing who had a promising student called Nasreen (not her real name).  After her graduation, they communicated by email, he trying to encourage her talent by reading her work, and helping her find an agent.  She developed the odd habit of sending him LOTS of email. such as copies of her correspondence with a lawyer she was consulting about a harassment case.  Eventually, Lasdun, family and professional obligations taking all of his time, started to distance himself from her by, without explanation, not responding to her email.  Possibly gradually descending into mental illness, she began to retaliate by sending email to his agent saying that he had stolen from her work.  An accusation of plagiarism is extremely serious for any person whose livelihood depends on their creative output.Accusations of misogyny and racism are awful when completely untrue.

Nasreen determined to ruin Lasdun, and began a program of denunciations and insinuations that he could not counter. She posted an accusatory review on Amazon, he eventually got it removed, but she moved on to other sites. Hateful accusations poured from her like lava from a volcano.

Given the number of books and blogs written by stalking victims, why is this book interesting and important?  First, most stalking victims are female, so a man’s experience is slightly different and worth understanding.  Second, Lasdum is an excellent writer who has taken his fiction skills and produced a book that is literary, not just autobiographical. His musings on the meaning and importance of one’s “reputation” will resonate with anyone who has had a friend pillory them, not just in person but on the internet where those awful words will remain forever.

He says, “I am a loser, a monster, a jerk, a slut, whatever, goes the logic of the despairing outcast; how can I ever hope to counteract something so vast, and if I can’t, how can I ever how my face again?  Spite has never had such an efficient instrument at its disposal.”  She edits his Wikipedia entry, just enough to discourage anyone who didn’t know him, but was trying to check him out there.  She sent email to the head of his academic department, accusing him of having an affair with another student, of being a racist, and of stealing her work.

When she had been at it for about a year, Lasdun started to fight back.  He actually talked to someone in the FBI, but got no real help.  He tried lawyers, who were clueless.  He tried a private security company and his school’s security department also unhelpful. Finally a detective in a police department in New York said she was committing a misdemeanor called “aggravated harassment”, but that because she had moved to California, expensive extradition was about of the question, but he would call her and tell her to desist.   He did, she didn’t.

Lasdun says, “Her obsession with me achieved perfect symmetry: I became just as obsessed with her.  I couldn’t write, read, play with my kids, listen to the news, do almost anything, without drifting off into morbid speculations about what new mischief she might be getting up to.”  He talks incessantly to other people about what he is going through.  He becomes easily angered, depressed, anxious, and sleepless

Nasreen found a website where one can put in one’s own email address together with comments and email addresses to send to.  She learned that she could put in Lasdun’s email address instead of her own, and thus send email to anyone purporting to have come from him.  In this way, she increased her harassment to start interfering in his relationship with his agent and other professionals. Finally, this was identity theft,

By the end of the book, there is an important trip to Israel, but no happy ending.  Nasreen is still stalking him.  He is getting better at preventing her attacks from affecting him and his profession, but knows she will always be out there, targeting him.

Not everyone likes this book.  One of the readers said this, on Amazon:

“In laborious detail, he describes his suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, and an incident where he yells at some unknown British tourist because he had left his coffee cup on a cafe table when leaving and Lasdun lost it because he was so stressed by the unceasing emails from the nut job. ...

I also find his complete passivity quite interesting. I can assure Mr. Lasdun and anyone else who cares to listen, that if some crazy woman were causing me as much grief as he claims to be suffering, I would have dealt with her lickety split and to my complete satisfaction.”

I’ve been consulting with stalking victims for many years now, and when I saw that comment I longed to tell that reader that he (or she) doesn’t know beans about stalking.  Not every  stalking victim gets PTSD or some of its symptoms, but many do - anguish, anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, and temper outbursts can be part of that.

Lasdun wasn’t passive.  He did what experts suggest, not replying to the email, but monitoring its content to see if there are any changes in the stalker’s communications that might indicate a shift from verbosity toward dangerous action.  

Dealt with her lickety split,” indeed.  Just what would that have meant?  Lasdun reported his situation to the police, and the FBI.  Though stalking is illegal everywhere, getting law enforcement to act in an effetive way is usually impossible.  Law enforcement acts best when there is a clear threat.  For years, Nasreen never explicitly threatened, but cleverly undermined her target’s professional and personal lives.

If you want a how-to book about stopping a stalker, this isn’t for you, but is you are curious about what it is like to be the victim of a probably mentally ill woman who has all the resources of the Internet at her disposal, this can be a fascinating read.

Tagged in: Stalking
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