Ep. 13 Should I Shoot? Understanding Disparity of Force

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Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

You and your family have just had a fun-filled day at the county fair. Lot of rides, games and you totally blew the “trying to eat only good food” diet on all kinds of funnel cakes, hot dogs and deep-friend everything. While walking to your truck, you comment to your wife that you don’t remember having walked so far to get into the fair when you hear a voice from a few rows over yell, “What the hell are you looking at?”

You turn to look and, through the crowd, you see a group of five tatted-up shirtless guys who appear to be weightlifters. One of them notices you look over and he starts toward you and bellows, “What the *&^% are you looking at?” You notice the other four are following him. As they close in, you realize these boys are all really big. The first two appear to have cauliflower ears, and from the look in their eyes, they mean business. What do you do?

Use of force, especially deadly force, requires certain criteria to be met before we can employ it. I’ve covered the topic at great length in earlier columns, but at its core, we have to be in fear for our life or great bodily injury (GBI) before we can use deadly force to stop the threat (or, in the above scenario, multiple threats). Today, we play the “what if?” game as it applies to a group of what at least appear to be unarmed thugs but who are definitely of superior size and appear to be in great physical shape. I mentioned the cauliflower ears because, in my world of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and coaching MMA fighters, I know those come from very hard training in either wrestling or other combat-style martial arts.

Disparity of force laws are different in some states, but let’s apply the “reasonable person” test: What would any reasonable person in your position perceive from being in the middle of the storm in the fair parking lot? Disparity covers many stand-alone aspects and, when you combine them, it multiplies the threat. Superior size of the assailant(s), massive strength, age (20 versus 50 years old), number of assailants (five against one) and skill of the assailant(s) (in this case, what appear to be trained fighters). I know from the time spent in the gym very powerful and talented fighters can come in very small packages, so I’ve learned to not always judge a book by its cover. The guys and girls I train with are all awesome people, but I know of some schools that are known to train thugs to be better thugs.

Back to that fair parking lot — what are you going to do? My family is my first concern. I’m going to tell them to run, get help and call 911. This gets them out of the danger zone and gets help coming, and it also shows I’m trying to find another option to fighting. I’d try and run, but with them only 20 feet away, I wouldn’t get far on my bad ankle. I know trying to fight even one of these monsters could get me killed or crippled. Five of them would only make my demise quicker. I’m left with no choice but to defend myself with my concealed firearm.

What would you do? Have you thought of how disparity of force applies to your personal defense plans? If not, it’s time to do some more research on the laws of your home state and the other states where you carry a gun for personal defense.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Ron Stidham July 30, 2016, 6:17 am

    My wife is the skilled fighter of the family. I have a bad back, knee, and shoulders, but with 5 on 1 or 2, its not a favorable condition. I would draw, have my wife run for assistance while holding the bad boys at bay. Should I have to shoot, first come first served. If that doesn’t change things, well I guess there is a price to pay for everyone. The only thing I have to loose is my life, not my family, that is the most important thing I have in this world. I will not go quietly into the night!

  • Gregory Cushing July 29, 2016, 10:16 pm

    You should, even with your bad ankle, walk 90 degrees from the direction the group is walking to establish that they are pursuing you. Being verbal would be a good idea also. “Please leave me along.” or “I am armed”. As you head a different direction would well establish that you are having a threat that needed to be dealt with.

  • Stephen July 29, 2016, 7:33 pm

    Makes no difference what your age or physical condition is at the time. Five on one means GBH or death. I pull my weapon, and if they continue and fail to stop and retreat then they get shot. This is a case of imminent threat of great bodily harm.

  • Shawn McFatter July 29, 2016, 11:22 am

    I would agree with the three previous comments. At the point of no return, the state laws will take a back seat to current events. If I hold back too long, potential harm to my family or myself is not acceptable. I am also still looking for the situation to quickly deflate, when the aggressors see that I am “all in”.

  • John July 29, 2016, 7:39 am

    Disparity of force means nothing to me. I’m too old and arthritic to run. And no one is going to hit me or take anything that belongs to me. And certainly no one is going to hurt my family, they’re first. I know our good laws here in Florida do not give be a license to kill, but they do provide a way to protect my family and what little I own from the thugs of the world. Perception, especially in dark or remote areas, is reality.

  • Mr Robert Anton Novak July 29, 2016, 5:31 am

    I’d pull my piece and tell the guy to back the fck off. If he keeps coming even after seeing my weapon, then the threat has just escalated to the point where I would shoot. If he backs off, then I would send the family safely back while I hold the group at bay. Then I would follow, as my wife covers my retreat with her EDC.

  • Jake Z July 25, 2016, 1:30 pm

    Well I’d say in that situation, considering I’ve been in quite a few similar situations, I’d have to pull my piece. That’s one of those fights where you have to put your pride and fear of drawing away and skin the smokewagon. Hopefully they see the seriousness in your eyea and realize they made a mistake, but if not then family and self first. Let it sing.

    • STS August 28, 2016, 7:16 pm

      I’m not 100% certain I know what, “skin the smokewagon means.” But I love it.

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