Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Ed Combs, the Associate Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 35 Should I Shoot? When All You Have Is Your Backup Gun
- Ep. 36 Should I Shoot? Is that a Pellet Gun in My Face?
- Ep. 37 Should I Shoot? The Crazy Man With the Knife
- Ep. 38 Should I Shoot? Lunch Date Gone Wrong
- Ep. 39 Should I Shoot? ‘You Mad, Bro?’
Greater and greater numbers of Americans are carrying concealed, not only for self-defense and the defense of loved ones but also so they can be prepared to stop rapid mass murder if necessary. Whether it’s a terrorist with an international political agenda or simply a madman, this nation is one of the only on Earth where private citizens are allowed to fight back with effective means.
Complicating this is the fact that even though gun sales have remained strong for several years now, a lot of those guns aren’t exactly what you might consider “duty guns” or handguns designed for counter-offensive use. A lot of them are what you might call “get-off-me” guns: micro-frame pistols chambered in .380 ACP and five-shot revolvers chambered in .38 Special. I’m not going to stand here and say that no one can hit much past 15 yards with guns like those, but I will stand here and say that most folks who own one don’t train to. Why would they? It’s a “belly gun,” and most people end up using their guns to defend against close-in, face-to-face attacks.
It’s not just private citizens either. Most law enforcement officers who have to fire are firing at assailants well within 25 yards, often no farther away than the average private citizen is from his attacker.
“Most,” however, isn’t “all.”
A few months ago, a deputy with whom I briefly served with was on duty with a different agency and, at a full run, stopped a school shooter with his service sidearm, a .40-caliber Glock 22. He was patrolling past a high school prom, and as soon as he was able to visually confirm that what he saw was, in fact, a young man with a firearm who’d already shot innocent persons, he immediately stopped an active deadly threat to the individuals inside and outside of the school building.
I’m ashamed to admit that I hardly remember this officer — I’d maybe worked a shift or two with him before leaving law enforcement to work full-time at Concealed Carry Magazine — so I do not recall what he was like as a shooter during training or qualification. “Shooting qual” hardly enters into such a situation though; anyone who’s in the least bit experienced with firearms will recognize what he did as truly outstanding shooting. Engaging a moving target with a sidearm under the extreme duress that only a rapid mass murder in progress can bring on and scoring incapacitating hits while you yourself are running is not only admirable, it’s something that all who go about armed should occasionally (if not regularly) train for.
Even if you suffer limited mobility or other limiting factors, shooting on the move at something that is also not stationary isn’t a weird range drill … it’s the kind of shooting that you as a concealed carrier are the most likely to have to employ. Even in the “most common” circumstance listed above, your target will most likely be moving at least a little bit and you need to be moving in order to present to your attacker no better a target than necessary.
That’s close-in though. What about when you can’t smell the threat’s breath?
Say you’re pulling into the parking lot of a large store and, when you track some movement out of the corner of your eye, you see a young man behind the wheel of a parked pickup truck speaking animatedly into a cell phone that’s held in a bracket on the dashboard. He’s wearing all black clothing, but you can see large pockets and, as such, you can’t tell whether he’s wearing a vest of some kind over a black t-shirt or whether he’s wearing a cut-off black BDU blouse. You can’t quite tell; you’re driving and your attention is split between him and the other vehicles moving about in the area. You glance back and see what you swear is the front sight aperture of either an AR or AK-type rifle bobbing around his face, and he’s started moving and twisting in the cab of the truck. You’re about 35 yards away now, and his door pops open.
Yup, that certainly appears to be an AK-pattern rifle, and that certainly appears to be a vest covered with magazine pouches.
“Should I shoot?”
Rather than run down a list of the options as I see them, I want to focus on one very specific decision: Do you, at that moment, reach for your cell phone or your firearm?
If your answer is cell phone, exactly who are you going to call and exactly what are you going to say to them?
If your answer is firearm, what are we talking about here? Are you reaching for an LCP or similar pocket .380? Are you snapping the “truck gun” out of the roof rack and feeling especially grateful for the 30-round magazine of 7.62 NATO you have on hand? Maybe something in between? Do you drop it into gear and commence to ramming speed? Or do you sit there like a lot of folks will, reinforcing the reality that not making a decision is, in and of itself, making a decision?
“Should I shoot?”
To a law enforcement officer, the most important point of order at that moment would be to ensure that the man getting out of the vehicle with a rifle did not get into the large store and start shooting. If you’re a sworn officer of the law, you immediately verbally engage him to clarify what exactly is happening, and if necessary, you do everything in your power to keep him from getting inside and starting to shoot, period.
But private citizens aren’t law enforcement officers.
The cop or trooper who just drives away from this scene isn’t just letting down his department and wildly shirking his duty, he’s breaking the oath that he swore and fundamentally breaking the trust he is supposed to hold between himself and the community he serves. If it can be proven that he knowingly and intentionally fled the scene of a rapid mass murder, there will definitely be professional repercussions for him, and he would also be open to civil suits brought by the families of the murder victims.
A private citizen? Your average Joe Range-Bag who carries a concealed sidearm just to be safe rather than sorry?
The private citizen always has the option of just driving away.
Should I Shoot?
The circumstance in the parking lot described above is a heck of a challenge to take on, but it’s one that everyone who carries should at least think over before (God forbid) they’d have to decide to investigate, accept or decline it. All of this is compounded by the fact that you don’t yet even have an articulable, concrete reason to shoot at this man. For all you know, he’s one of those open carry activists and this is his way of showing everyone in town what a big boy he is now. Maybe he was live-streaming a Facebook rant about how unfairly targeted open-carry activists are and how he’s about to peacefully walk into this big-box store with a GoPro strapped onto his chest to prove it.
But I wouldn’t bet lives on it.
What say you?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.