Why A Gun?

Too many people think that that guns are only "used for killing someone". This is by no means the truth. The opposite is true, guns are most often used to preserve and protect life.

Even when a firearm is used to protect someone, it is rarely fired! Usually (but not always), when an evildoer is confronted with a person who armed and appears ready to use their gun to defend themselves, the attack is abandoned.

Before we consider some of the "less lethal" self defense options that many suggest, such as becoming proficient in martial arts, staying out of big city trouble spots, carrying a knife (or fighting stick), and getting a dog, lets examine the following tragic case: My editorial comments in italics

Hiker never gave up fight, Hilton said
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/23/08

Gary Michael Hilton acknowledged that the petite woman nearly overpowered him when he first accosted her. As they struggled near the Appalachian Trail, Meredith Emerson disarmed her attacker of a knife and baton.

This young lady was enough of a fighter to take a knife and baton away from her attacker!

Hilton eventually subdued Emerson, kidnapped her and later killed her. She did not make it easy for him, according to interviews Hilton gave to investigators that were obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Meredith Emerson, R.I.P.

Speaking to Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent Clay Bridges only days after killing the young woman, Hilton said: "I think it was you probably, or one of the GBIs, said 'That little 120-pound-girl about probably came close to whipping your ass.' She about did."

Her life in danger, Emerson fought back using her strength, her wits and a large measure of courage and determination. In the four days after she disappeared on a Blood Mountain hiking trail in Union County, investigators said, Emerson never gave up.

Ms. Emerson, RIP, certianly had the proper "mindset" and valued her own life.

Bridges said he talked with the South Florida-born vagrant as authorities drove him from the Union County Jail to the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, where Hilton killed Emerson. Hilton made a deal with prosecutors that he would lead investigators to her remains, if they would not seek the death penalty.

Meredith Emerson and Ella

As they descended the winding North Georgia mountain roads, the Army veteran casually detailed the abduction and slaying of the 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate.

She was not in an urban trouble spot.

Bridges said Hilton clearly relished the attention, and authorities described his account as "self-serving."

Still, Emerson's tenacity and smarts are evident throughout, and, despite Hilton's best attempts, her actions overwhelm the one-sided narrative.

"She was doing everything she could to stay alive," GBI Director Vernon Keenan said.

Her Judo teacher said at 5 feet 4 inches and 120 pounds, she "trained with us like she lived every day — hard and with everything she had."

Hilton, 61, told investigators he abducted her because she was a woman.

Easy prey, he figured.

'Wouldn't stop fighting'

Both were with their dogs when they met near the Appalachian Trail in Union County on New Year's Day... He intercepted her on her way down, producing a military-style knife and demanding her ATM card.

Did you get that? She had her dog, a loyal Labrador retreiver with her. Sadly her dog did nothing to prevent her from being assualted, imprisioned, raped and ultimately decapitated.

Without pause, Emerson fought back.

"The bayonet is probably still up there," Hilton told Bridges. "I lost control, and ... she fought. And as I read in the paper, she's a martial artist."

Emerson, who held a green belt and a blue belt in two different martial arts, grabbed the blade.

She had learned enough in two different martial arts to be awarded two "belts".
She was a skilled enough fighter to take Hilton's knife away from him.
Ms. Emerson couldn't/didn't run, she fought her attacker and DISARMED HIM

He countered with a baton. She grabbed it, too. They stepped off the trail and fell down a slope, leaving the weapons behind.

"I had to hand-fight her," Hilton said. "She wouldn't stop. She wouldn't stop fighting," he said. "And yelling at the same time. ... So I needed to both control her and silence her."

He kept punching her, so hard it left both her eyes black and may have fractured her nose. Hilton said his hand was broken by the blows. He figured she had worn down, and they moved farther off the trail.

Ultimately, it was multiple solid impacts that took Ms. Emerson out of the fight.

Then Emerson started fighting again. He finally got her to stop by telling her all he wanted was her credit card and PIN. He then restrained her hands with a zip tie.

Then, Hilton told Bridges, "I had to go back and clean the crime scene."

It was one of several close calls that continue to haunt Hilton's captors. On at least three other occasions before he killed Emerson, Hilton crossed paths or was in the vicinity of law-enforcement officials.

On the day he abducted her, he was worried police officers might be waiting for him in the parking lot as he led Emerson back down the mountain, staying off the established trails. He assumed whoever retrieved his baton and knives had called police, or perhaps they had heard Emerson's cries for help.

Apparently no one did.

Without incident, Hilton placed Emerson and her dog, Ella, in his van and secured his victim with a padlocked chain.

In the following hours and days, Emerson kept Hilton off-balance by repeatedly giving him the wrong PIN for her ATM card but assuring each time that this time the numbers were correct.

She bought time with that ploy. Three days.

"That's one thing that broke my heart in this case," Bridges said. "She was doing everything she was supposed to do to stay alive, and we didn't get there in time."

This is Agent Bridges, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation speaking for the states lead law enforcment department. Read his words again: "we didn't get there in time."
[Parts of the article cut for brevity]

Perhaps one of the most chilling details followed, as Hilton nonchalantly told Bridges, he raped Emerson that first night. He was angry she'd made him drive around from bank to bank and still had nothing to show for it.

Hilton knew he was a wanted man, telling investigators he had followed the AJC's coverage of Emerson's abduction. On the day she died, Jan. 4, he was pictured on the newspaper's front page alongside a story in which police named him a "person of interest" in the Buford hiker's disappearance.

The confessed-killer-Hilton's picture was on the front page of the newspaper!

They drove to the spot where he would kill her. On the way, they passed a law-enforcement officer.

"I waved at him," Hilton said. "It was that close."

Law Enforcment Officers had a photo of Hilton, were looking for Ms. Emerson, and this criminal is waving at them! These officers were looking for the guy that was waiving at them!
[Parts of the article cut for brevity]

Hilton both killed and decapitated Emerson in a vain effort to destroy evidence that might incriminate him.

Hilton was worried about another piece of evidence that might link him to the slaying — Emerson's dog. She had told him the Lab-mix carried a microchip identifying it as her pet.

"If I wanted to ensure that no one would associate the dog with her, I would've killed the dog," Hilton said. "But there's no way I could do that."

He had no such reservations about killing Emerson.

"Was it difficult for you at all?" GBI agent Bridges asked after Hilton finished his account of the murder.

"It was like an out-of-body experience. It was surreal... You look back on it, and you say 'That wasn't even real.' You might say it was an altered state...

Meredith Emerson's parents and dog

This case may have ended differently had Ms. Emerson been armed with any type of gun while hiking in the woods.

She had done everything "right":
  • She was an acomplished martial artist (in two different forms!)
  • She had a dog
  • She was avoiding known trouble areas
  • She was physicall fit
  • She was stone-cold sober
  • She (at one point in the fight) had a knife and a baton
  • She fought tenaciously and she never gave up
  • The police were looking for her
  • The police were looking for her soon to be murderer
By all rights, if anyone would have been able to survive this attack Meredith Emerson should have been able to. The state's lead law enforcement agency said that "she did everything right" but "we couldn't get there in time".

Sadly, her "less-than-lethal" defense precautions failed her. She was beaten, raped, chained and then killed.

The reason that people use guns to defend themselves is the same reason that Law Enforcment Officers use guns: They are effective. It is a tragedy that this young, fit, beautiful woman was deprived of her life. She believed that her dog and her diligent martial arts training would be enough to protect her from an attack. They were not. If she would have had an effective weapon, she would very likely be alive today.

For a fraction of the time, effort and money that she spent on her worthwhile, yet ultimately futile, martial arts and dog training, she could have purchased and learned to use a handgun.

With a minimal amount of training, virtually anyone can successfully defend themself from a murderer like Hilton. You do not have to be as physically fit, young or have a dog. All we ask is that you have some self-discipline and learn the lessons taught here and a willingness to live.

We will teach you how to safely own and shoot a firearm that is reliable and effective. It will not take long, nor will it be very expensive. Most importantly, it will move you from the category of "potential victim" to "probable survivor".