Lessons from a Predator
August, 07 2016
By Michael Brown, CEO of Frontier Justice
My wife and I have just returned from a much-needed week of R&R in California. We love to visit the state for short getaways as it’s almost like visiting a foreign country, both in leisure opportunities and in its politics and worldviews. Over the years, each time I have visited the “Republic of California”, I have become increasingly weary of spending both my time and money there as I disagree wholeheartedly with about everything these strange people seem to embrace. It sure seems like it’s still part of the USA that I grew up in, but after spending a week here it feels more like Europe than America. However, I can’t argue with myself about 75 degree-days, beautiful beaches, and booming views that take your breath away.
It’s the people that you have to marvel at. Sitting at the pool we had the opportunity to meet a few families that were sitting beside us. I always enjoy meeting new people, but it often becomes predictable how the conversation will go. We begin with the niceties, the weather, the resort, and where we are from. Then, the next question is the one I always wait for. “What do you do for a living?”
This is the tricky one and depending on my mood, my answer will take various forms. Many times I want to say, “I’m an arms dealer.” Then stare at them as the image of Nicolas Cage in Lord of War plays out across their face. Most days I simply tell them I own a company and I am a firearms dealer. This is where the predictability plays out. The niceties end, the conversation cools, there is fear in their eyes, and they begin searching for how best to exit the conversation politely. It’s always a disappointment when this scenario plays out, but it was at the poolside that I found my new answer to this question with Nikki, the Hawk.
If you’ve ever been to a beach resort and had a poolside hamburger, you know about the birds that are a constant nuisance foraging for an easy meal. There are the small ones that cutely tiptoe under your chair picking up the crumbs. Then there are the more annoying larger ones that sit on the nearest chair or umbrella, eyeballing you and patiently waiting for an opportunistic moment to snatch a French fry or a piece of sandwich that you have left unattended. Finally, there are the aggressive ones. The large birds that view you as an easy target and have no issue with attempting to snatch your meal right from your hands. These are the ones you rarely see coming. They hit hard and fast, and they often choose women and children first as they know they are a softer target and easier to take what they want from them. Sound familiar?
As I sat at the pool this week, I did not immediately acknowledge the fact that there were no birds annoyingly trying to take what was rightfully mine. It wasn’t until I went to the restroom when I saw something I had never seen at a resort before. I saw Nikki, a beautiful Harris Hawk, sitting in the corner, out of the way and in the shade, perched with her handler, quietly yet keenly observing everything that was happening.
Like the other tourists who took note of Nikki, I stopped to admire her beauty and ask questions of the handler. I was immediately told not to get too close. Nikki was very protective of her personal space. I watched as parents and children alike took pictures of Nikki and asked the same questions. They were in awe of her beauty, respectful of her abilities and many had a healthy fear of being too close.
When asked why Nikki was here, the answer was simple, yet profound. Nikki was here to protect the guests. The handler pointed out, that at this particular pool, there were no other birds waiting opportunistically to break the peace of midday hamburgers by the sea. The mere presence of Nikki, one of the top predators in the avian hierarchy, was enough to deter any of her fellow kind from disrupting or otherwise ruining the fun that was being had by the guests. He was quick to tell me that Nikki never hunted here, never flew here but simply perched and made her presence known.
Genius, yet simple! As I began to observe this closer, I was amazed that the handler was correct. With Nikki, the birds were there but they stayed far away, at perches high in trees or on decks but never at the pool where Nikki was. Then I noticed something else odd and telling. When the handler took a break or went to the bathroom with Nikki, the other birds suddenly appeared! Once Nikki was gone, they once again were scavenging for handouts and immediately the more aggressive ones were waiting for the moment you dropped your attention so they could grab what they could from your plate or a child’s unsuspecting hands and be gone with their theft.
I couldn’t help but notice the parallels to where we find ourselves in society as gun owners and Second Amendment supporters. We are Nikki, the hawk. To many, they don’t even know we are here, quietly carrying everyday in our purses, backpacks or in the waistband. We are observant and situationally aware, knowing that if necessary, our skills will be used to keep people safe and protect our families. Usually, it is our mere existence and presence that helps keep violence at bay and keeps the predators from swooping in and taking what is not theirs in an opportunistic moment.
The danger for all of us comes when people naively don’t know that Nikki is there, what her role is, or worse yet, believe that she isn’t even needed or is a danger to them. Most don’t even stop to think about the peaceful afternoon they are having, and why there are no birds assaulting them as they eat their lunch by the seaside. The ones that do know she is there are willing for her to stay in the corner, out of the way and not drawing attention. Some recognize Nikki, they understand her purpose, are thankful she is there, yet still view her with fear.
As I reflected more on this I realized it’s not the gun owners who have changed, it is the complacency of a society lulled to sleep by the very sense of security provided by those individuals who are willing to use firearms when necessary. I fear the day that we foolishly tell Nikki she is no longer needed, or that we become so fearful of her that we try to outlaw her. As I mentioned, the birds are out there waiting to take what they want when we are not paying attention and simply enjoying our lives. We need to educate the anti-gunners that their freedoms are always being guarded by those of us, civilian or military, who are willing to fight for others. To keep watch over the rest of the flock. Nikki and her talons never have been the problem. The problem is demonizing the people and the tool that keep us free and safe from the “birds” that are foreign or domestic.
I was proud to tell the next family that asked what I do for a living. That I was like Nikki, the hawk – quietly keeping watch and the mere presence of my firearm would be there to keep their day wonderful and uneventful. They eyed me cautiously… But at least they could rest assured that the peace was being kept.