Use of Deadly Force

This topic, I guess for lack of a better term, is complicated. Friday night, in a small town close to home, there was an officer involved shooting. It’s still early so there are few details; however, as you can imagine, this day in age, there are plenty of people on social media taking sides. Why? Ignorance, mostly.

The laws surrounding self-preservation, or protecting the lives of others are very vague and complicated. In my humble opinion, I believe every case is unique. Every single case has its own story that should make us pause to evaluate before throwing our opinion online for the world to see.

“Shooting, in theory, is simple…it’s just not easy.”

I’ve carried a firearm in my personal or professional life for 11.5 years. I have been privileged enough to be trained by some incredible instructors; former SWAT officers, retired police officers, operators turned competition shooters…all equally amazing. Through their training I have found a passion for the sport of shooting. One of my mentors always says, “Shooting, in theory, is simple…it’s just not easy.” I remember hearing him say this for the first time; it blew my mind. In an attempt to make this sound easy, shooting is pulling the trigger while holding the sights steady on target. That’s it. Simple as that. You know what makes shooting incredibly hard? The bang. In the chamber of whatever weapon system you’re operating, you are triggering, pardon the pun, an explosion. BOOM!! You hear it and feel it in the sensation of recoil. After the first shot, you anticipate this, and there in lies the problem. If you can get over this, and find the balance of relaxation and pressure, you’ve figured it out.

  • “Here’s an idea, don’t break the law”
  • “The full report has yet to be released, people. We don’t yet know what caused the officer to discharge his weapon.”
  • “Shooting to kill was not the best or only option they had”
  • “I think it’s wrong that the officers that are supposed to protect us are all getting away with murder”

These quotes are taken from the comments section of our local media’s online post concerning the officer involved shooting. As you can imagine, there are more…a lot more. However, if you were to go through all 243 comments, you could classify them into the 4 categories above. There is a full spectrum of understanding on the use of force, from informed, patient, and understanding to oblivious and ignorant.

Did the attacker have the ability? Did the attacker have the opportunity? Did the attacker show jeopardy? Ability can be anything from bare fists or a rock, to a powerful rifle, or even more. Ability is the tool the attacker uses to cause harm. Was the attacker close enough to use that tool? That is opportunity. If an attacker is 100 yards away from you, he’ll have a hard time doing damage with a kitchen knife; however, give that same 100 yard attacker a rifle, we may need to reassess the situation. Jeopardy is the hard one. Jeopardy is the reading, or assembling of the individuals verbal and body cues. If someone is carrying a concealed firearm in public, at the local Walmart, does that person have the ability and opportunity to harm people. Yes. We’re missing the jeopardy, or intent though. Now, if a person walked into Subway screaming, making threats, and looked enraged while the sandwich artists are crafting your favorite sandwich, would you believe his threats? This person is showing jeopardy and is within the working distance of many weapons, opportunity. Where is the ability? Do we know if this person is carrying a knife or firearm? Can we be sure? Action beats reaction so situation awareness and distance in this scenario are both important.

For reference, from concealment, at 3 yards the fastest I’ve been able to draw and put a round on target is .99 seconds. At 50 yards, the fastest I’ve been able to draw from concealment and put a round on target is 1.61 seconds. So, from 0-50 yards, in less than 2 seconds, you, as a police officer or a law-abiding citizen must be able to accurately process information and make a decision to shoot or not. If you’re wrong or inaccurate, you pay with your life, in prison or a grave. You must be accurate with your decision and your shot placement. The decision you make in less time it takes you to read this sentence will be analyzed from the comfort of office chairs and couches for years to come. Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy help you make and explain that decision.

It’s scary, huh. This topic has no room for macho bullshit. Making the decision to carry a firearm professionally or personally shouldn’t be driven by inadequacy or compensation. Your ability to manipulate your firearm should be practiced over and over so, should you need it, your focus is on the processing of external information not working through your basic fundamentals.

I hope I never have to make this decision. I hope none of you have to either. If we do, I hope we’re right, accurate, and we’re able to protect ourselves, our loved ones, or someone in the most desperate of need. My thoughts go out to the police officer and his family, the individual who lost his life, and the individual’s loved ones whose lives were forever changed Friday night.

The Barber Shop

The sun is shining through the blinds to my left; slivers of light are burning parallel lines into my hands as they’re wrapped tightly around my rented coffee mug. It’s Friday, I’ve put in more than 40, I’m sitting in my favorite diner, and I have a haircut in 2 hours. Life is so good.


I don’t know what it is about the barber shop…the culture, the history, the smell? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care to nail down whatever IT is about the experience, either. I know I love it and it cleanses my soul of weight; like something is left in hair that’s swept up and thrown away. In the footsteps found between the door to the chairs, from the chairs to THE chair, and out the door again lies some kind of magic. There’s some kind of time portal to the gentlemen of the past. There’s a powerful bond that’s found in THE chair where so many men have sat before me. I think its one of the last ties to a time where men could be men among men.


The chair I sat in today was built in 1930 by a company named Paidar. Jake is a 90-year-old vintage barber trapped inside a young man. He was gifted his first pair of WAHL Home Pro clippers in the 5th grade; he’s a true student of his craft. Today was the first time he cut my hair in his very own shop. He’s been cutting my hair for 4 years; from the hometown shop, to a hallway in his home, and now, in his own shop that’s an extension of him. While Jake works his magic on my hair, I’m surrounded by what makes Jake, Jake. I’m happy for him and super proud of him for doing what a lot of people are scared to; follow their passion with motivation, patience, and intention.

Thanks for always taking care of the “Branscum Boys,” as you like to call us. Benny and I will build a father/son tradition sitting in your chair, filling 60 minutes of your appointment book every few weeks.

Good luck, Jake. Congratulations, pal, you made it.

I can’t remember his name…

I’m currently 7.5 years into fatherhood. To me, some of the most fascinating moments that accompany this role are when children reach an age that we have memories from. Rylin, our first-born, is currently in 2nd grade with the most influential teacher I had as a youngster. Everyday, when I pick Rylin up after school, I’m blessed to relive some of Mrs. Bay’s personality quirks that made me love her so much.


What are the earliest memories you can recall? Birthday parties, favorite toys, time with family members I can never replace are a few of the stand out moments from my early days. However, it seems my mind keeps a “save for later” folder when it comes to memories. I sometimes experience things that I don’t quite understand at the exact moment they unfold. Then, when I’m least expecting it, and usually after I learn something new, I remember certain things from years past.

Tomorrow, I will be speaking to a group of people about my key take-aways from a two-year leadership program that I recently graduated from. The group I’m speaking to is halfway through this program and will be expected to prepare a similar speech at the completion of their journey. My key take-away from the program was self-awareness. I learned a lot about myself throughout this program. My company provided numerous assessments such as DiSC, Myers Briggs, Emotional Intelligence, and offered the opportunity to volunteer for tasks I would’ve normally been too introverted to try.

Much like the dried gum under desks, left behind by kids from years past, a moment from 2nd grade has stuck with me for years. Until recently, I never understood what happened while I was sitting at my lunch table eating my PB&J and sour cream and onion potato chips. The feeling of being so small, in such a large room, with so many kids disappeared. I heard and focused all of my 7-year-old focus on one 15 second event.

I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember exactly what grade he was in. I remember he wore glasses and an oversized, blue stocking cap. I remember he was handicapped. I remember how I felt the day he was made fun of by a table full of the “popular” boys. I felt everything he should’ve felt but couldn’t. I was embarrassed, hurt, and angry for him. I felt it as if I were walking in his shoes. I felt a lump in my throat and couldn’t understand why I was fighting back tears.

I’ve come to learn, later in life, sifting through the sum result of all these assessments that my ability to experience empathy scores very high. I’ve also been typed as an INFJ in the Myers Briggs personality world. As dramatic as this may sound, learning the order of these four letters has changed my life. I now understand the why behind how I operate. While reflecting, key moments in my life make sense now.

I couldn’t understand how this kid kept making his way to his table, seemingly unfazed by being bullied while there I was, sitting across from my best friend choking back tears. I couldn’t understand why people wanted to hurt others. Later in life, knowing what I do now about myself, I feel this was my first experience feeling empathy. I was 7 years old and I can see it clear as if it happened 5 minutes ago.

My “save for later” folder is dwindling down now that I’m revisiting these moments armed with this personal information. I can’t help but wonder what my kids will experience in the years to come. I’m afraid technology, and more specifically, social media is fighting our natural ability to feel empathy. We hear the term “keyboard warrior” thrown around quite a bit nowadays; I hope our highlight-reel personona in the cyber world doesn’t pull us away from reality, making it impossible for our children to feel for others as they grow.


Miss Casey’s

Are you interested in people? Well, not just in people, in their behavior towards others? If so, and you’re up for an experiment, watch how people interact with service workers. No, don’t just watch it, see it. Watch the interaction, see the results of that interaction in your fellow human.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

When I was little, my mom and dad frequently took us to small diners for breakfast or dinner. It is often said our children learn by our example, much like, I’m assuming, we learned by our parent’s example. My dad always did something during those meals that has stuck with me over the years. He would treat our waiter or waitress with respect and always developed a rapport during the short time our paths happened to cross. He was polite, funny, and adaptable to the individual. I believe the value I place on humility in life was built from watching his example.

Some mornings, when I’m not running a little behind, I stop at the local Casey’s General Store for coffee. I walk through the doors to a medley of farmers, truck drivers, and other people, like me, struggling to just see straight, let alone function without their cup of liquid gold. I greet the same lady, behind the same counter, with the same welcoming smile, with a different comment every day. I beat her to her “good morning!” and invite her to be the one to respond.


The aroma of Casey’s in the morning is caffeinated. I am a sucker for hazelnut coffee. I often feel as if I float to the industrial coffee pot bank like Bugs Bunny floating through a scent trail towards the food in the kitchen. My feet don’t hit the ground until my Ozark Trail mug is full of steamy goodness and I’ve taken my first sip.


While I’m floating, mixing up the perfect blend of Hazelnut, 2 Sweet and Lows, and a mini creamer cup, I hear “Miss Casey’s” greet the same people, with the same “Good morning,” to hear the same silence. I see the emptiness. I see the rejection. I feel the invisibility. I’ve felt it in my profession. It’s not everyone, but definitely the majority; let’s say 60% of the people I see in 3 minutes time.

As I wait for my turn to pay, I listen. For what? I don’t know. Is it weird to just say…something? Something for her to work with? Someone to interact with?

It’s my turn. I smile. By this point, that sip I took 30 seconds ago, well, it has officially touched my soul which allows me to take the controls back from my autopilot. “Miss Casey’s” already has my total put into the register. She takes pride in knowing that I swipe my card and won’t be needing my receipt. She noticed the day I got my new cup. She even noticed when I put the new American Flag sticker on that cup. If it’s not busy, she’ll tell me about her morning.

Recently, I noticed a pattern; she compartmentalizes people who interact with her. To the people who treat her as a human, she says, “thank you” with sincerity. To the people who treat her like a small screen they mindlessly scroll by, she says, “thanks” while looking past them to the next person in line. Isn’t this interesting?

Dad taught me through his actions. He never used pretty words or “Danny Tanner-ed” me, thank god, but he led by example. He knows people. He has a massive heart that taught me to see people for what they are not as pawns in the game of life. My father is a man of character. Continue reading “Miss Casey’s”

Our 2nd born…


I’ve been a dance dad for nearly 5 years. Throughout the course of my life, I’ve spent my fair share of time at dance competitions, recitals, and conventions. However, in these pictures, while you may see our little girl nervously make her way on stage for the first time, what I saw, through teary eyes and my lens, was much more.

Aivan Lane Branscum was ready to make her entrance into the world earlier than we had planned. At Tara’s final checkup, 2 full days before we were scheduled to be induced, our doctor discovered Avi was ready to make her grand entrance. This, we now know is vintage Avi; impatient and demanding. She was born, start to finish, in 16 hours, half the time it took her big sister to make her way into the world. As I watched her come into the world, I saw what we, as parents, all fear; the chord was around her neck and she wasn’t breathing well. Dr. Robb snipped the chord, the nurse quickly gave her oxygen, and once the color returned to her, they draped her across Tara’s chest. I felt every emotion imaginable, from one end of the spectrum to the other, at 3:23am on September 28th, 2012.

I’ve seen, heard, and read about parents telling their kids they love them all the same. I don’t. *GASP* Hear me out… I love all my kids differently, the way THEY need my love. I feel we all know this, intuitively, as time passes, watching our children be built from the foundation up, with the building blocks of nature AND nurture.

At home, before her rehearsal, she was excited and ready to go. I remember taking her picture in the front yard before we left the house; she was wearing her pink, high-top Chuck Taylor’s with this costume. Never has an outfit matched her personality so perfectly.

You see, on the exterior, this little doll of ours is tough as nails; however, she uses that tough exterior to protect her fragile, gigantic heart. She is full of emotion; her little body cannot contain it. She is strong yet incredibly vulnerable. I see her. I know the feeling. I know what the world will be like for her. I love this most about her.

It was just the two of us there for dress rehearsal that day. Tara dropped us off at the entrance of the auditorium. I could feel the tension radiating from her as we got closer to the doors. We walked through the doors, I flashed my pass, and we found her group. She was clinging to me, I could feel her swelling with what she didn’t have the words to describe. Her heart was beating out of her chest. I knelt down, eye to eye, and said, “talk to daddy, babe,” and that was it. Bawling and burying her face into my neck to shield herself from the overwhelming stimulus of cartoon colors and time management in motion.

After she was born, it took 4 months for Avi and I to bond. This hurt me to my core. With Rylin, this part was so easy. With Aivan, for those 4 months, she wouldn’t let me hold her. It was the hardest 4 months of my life. I will forever remember the night she fell asleep in my arms for the first time; I felt as if I was holding the Holy Grail with chopsticks while wearing oven mitts. I was paralyzed in fear yet flooded with relief. Looking back, it felt as if we both held each other that night.

This was it…time was up. Stop. Read that sentence again. I ended the first sentence of this paragraph with a period instead of an exclamation point for a reason. I felt what happened next would be swayed one way or another by the tone of my voice. Her going through with it or not was balancing on how my spoken words would be read from a script. At this time, she is latched onto me like a koala bear in a wind storm while wringing her beautiful little eyes out on my shoulder. I was fully prepared to walk out on stage with her so she would feel comfortable. As we moved backstage, Miss Heidi, having seen this before, I’m sure, started comforting her, matching my tone and pace with her (forever grateful for her role here). I could feel her words reaching Avi, her grip on me began to loosen, her tension started to dissipate. She trusted us; she felt safe, heard, and taken care of.

As you’ve seen by now, she walked out on stage that day. I remember watching her walk out as if she was on a tight rope. I waited on bated breath, in the wings on stage left, to catch her from a fall she never took. She had a bobble or two, sure, but she gave me the opportunity to use my love for her to get her through this, the way she needed in that moment, not some preset I have in my mind. Every piece of my heart was on stage with Avi during this 30 minute rehearsal. I was so proud of her.

To this day, it is one of the most memorable moments of our special little relationship.



Catching light…


Saturday morning, I was sitting at my desk, busy clearing some hard-drive space in my laptop for my next online course. My wife and I have 3 beautiful children, all under the age of 7, so our home is rarely quiet. However, during this moment, over the make-believe voices of Barbie and LOL dolls, I heard my 2-year-old son, Bennett, pouncing at something saying “gotcha” as he lurched forward, clasping his hands together.

Recently, a friend of mine wrote a blog about seeing the world through the lens of a child. Her blog was a good reminder to see the beauty in the daily grind that we seem to lose focus on in our middle age, but tend to refocus on as we reach the later years of life. It really stuck with me and the timing of her blog was impeccable. A week before my friend wrote her blog, Santa brought me some Enchroma colorblind correcting sunglasses. This “seeing the world through a different lens” theme has been resonating with me lately.

When Bennett pulled my attention away from my computer, I was kind of overwhelmed by what he was doing. He was playing in a beam of light that was coming through the window. Small particles were illuminated and floating in the light. Bennett was enthralled with what he was seeing; he was adamant on catching the light that was so close, yet too quick to be caught. Reading this back, it seems as if I’m describing a cat trying its hardest to catch a laser light, but stick with me, it was much more than that.

When Santa Clause delivered my Enchroma sunglasses it was night-time. I was teased by the glasses trying them indoors; I could definitely tell something was different. That night, I saw true pink for the first time in a Bubble Guppies book. I was really anxious to see what they would do in some sunlight. The next morning, on the way to work, I saw the sunrise in all its glory for the first time in my life. I could see the gradient of color working its way up from the horizon. I’ve never seen that many shades of color. I definitely did NOT shed any man tears…trust me.

By this point, Bennett was rolling his fat little wrists in and out of the light, similar to surfing the breeze with your car window down on a beautiful spring day. I slowly leaned down, pulled my camera out of its bag, and turned it on to capture this moment. The red battery indicator light was screaming at me through the viewfinder so I knew I had to adjust for exposure quick. I managed to snag a few shots that captured that moment perfectly. He could feel the heat from the sun on his palm. The light was reflecting off his hand, into his face, filling those beautiful baby blues with enough light to capture the wonder in his eyes. It was powerful.

What happens in the middle years of our lives? What makes us blind to these moments? Are we looking too far forward, waiting for the next Friday, the next weekend, the next day off to hit the pause and take a look around? It’s similar to me walking through my 33 years of life blind to a world saturated in color. However, I couldn’t see what I couldn’t see. I needed the special lenses to see and appreciate the world for what it really is.

Good news! We don’t need special glasses to see the world through child’s eyes. We just need to be present long enough to focus on what’s in front of us. Children don’t really understand the concept of time, they just live in the moment.