A new FBI study says a person is more likely to be carjacked in St. Louis than any other city in the country. Instructors at Ultimate Defense Firing Range & Training Center in St. Peters are offering a new class they hope will make people feel safe, comfortable and confident if they ever need to defend themselves.
The class is called "How to Survive a Carjacking." Paul Bastean, Managing Director at Ultimate Defense, said the class was created when clients started asking questions like "What is the best way of surviving it? Do we give up the car? Do we not give up the car? Do we try to fight it out?"
According to Bastean, the goal is not to teach people how to shoot, rather it is to teach people how to get out of the situation safely.
Ultimate Defense instructors are all NRA certified firearms instructors, use of force experts, and many, including Bastean, have law enforcement training.
The three-hour class includes classroom instruction where instructors discuss priority of life and when it is legal to use deadly force. Missouri law says use of force can be used to protect yourself or someone else from death, serious physical injury, rape, sodomy or kidnapping, according to Bastean.
Next, the class gets to run through role-play scenarios. Other instructors act as potential carjackers, and the students have an opportunity to experience what is like to navigate the scenario verbally and physically.
Bastean said even steps as simple as drawing the gun, taking off the seat belt, and opening the car door can be difficult when the adrenaline is high.
Students and instructors are equipped with training guns with simunition rounds. When a round makes contact, it leaves a splatter of paint on the target.
Kristen Holton attended the training with her husband. The couple has three children who often travel around town in the car with Holton. She wanted to take the class to feel more prepared should she ever find herself in a carjacking.
"To me it could be such a real situation," said Holton. "I have three kids and every time I'm coming out of the grocery store, Target, anything, I'm definitely more aware."
When it was Holton's turn, the instructor handed her a doll to carry. She had to defend herself and her "child" during the simulated attack.
"I've never been able to practice that situation of having one of my kids and having to do something to protect them," she said.
The class is open to all skill levels. While some may find it helpful, prior firearms experience is not required. Bastean said the course is also beneficial for people who are not interested in learning to use a firearm because the class teaches body language and verbal skills which may help in the event of a carjacking.
"I don't think you're ever very prepared, but I think that this exercise gets you thinking about situations," said class participant Noah Lander. "It gets you thinking that in a carjacking situation especially, you just want to get out of the car... and get out of the situation. For me, now, I've got the tools to think about that.'
Registration for the class is $85, and there is space available in upcoming classes.