Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 34 Should I Shoot? ‘The Drop’
- 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
These posts are all about the more unexpected angles of going about armed, the kind of stuff that some concealed carriers never even consider. They’re always difficult scenarios, and that is entirely by design. That said, I pull the specifics directly from past personal experience, experiences of other current and former law enforcement officers, and raw footage of violent crimes. The scenarios that I guest-post here are real, and the way I present them is designed to make you and all other concealed weapon permit holders think more deeply and broadly about the defensive use of force than you otherwise might.
Say you’re walking through the parking lot of a grocery store and you say something under your breath. Maybe you mumbled to the person next to you that it’s cold or hot or rainy. Maybe you’re alone and mumbled one of those statements that we seem to mumble more often as we grow older. It was a non-statement; it was just one of those things that happens sometimes.
You continue to walk toward the door of the store, but when you’re about 20 yards away from it, you feel a hand on your shoulder as it spins you around. You almost lose your balance, and as you get your hands up and orient yourself, you see who’s connected to that hand: he’s about 5 inches shorter than you but is about as muscular an individual as you’ve ever seen. His face, neck and arms are covered with tattoos, he’s wearing black jeans, black Converse All-Stars and a tight black T-shirt, and he’s demanding that you repeat what “you couldn’t have possibly been stupid enough to just say” to him.
Well, what do you know … it appears that he’s certain he heard you.
NOTE: Yes, I know that some of you guys are Ronins who live in caves, drinking gasoline while putting cigars out between your toes. Yes, I know that a lot of you will swear up and down that this could never even remotely possibly happen to you. Yes, I know that you’re just SO situationally aware ALL the time, and that anyone who could ever, under any circumstances, be snuck up on shouldn’t even be allowed to live in the United States of America. If this is the case, then I would ask that you either humor me or pass this link along to a mere mortal who could use the help.
Let me reiterate that you didn’t really say anything at all, let alone to him. No one reading this would be foolish enough to walk around insulting strangers, even under their breath, because this is exactly the kind of disaster that such behavior can generate out of thin air. You really were just mumbling a song lyric or an old saying about walking in the cold, and this entire exchange is a terrible misunderstanding.
You tell him so as you raise your hands and back up, but the little bugger is extremely fast and it’s hard for you to keep track of where he is for more than about a second. His language is intensifying; he’s now bragging about how many men he’s killed with his bare hands and how he isn’t afraid to “go back inside” for killing a such-and-such like you.
There’s now a crowd forming, and some of the people have pulled out phones and are very clearly recording what’s happening. You keep moving away from him, but the crowd makes it hard to maneuver; he’s still all over you, and now he’s demanding that you strike him. You again tell him that you have no intention of fighting with him, but this only seems to make him madder.
Then he says it: “******, I’m gonna kill you. You gonna die today. You hear me?”
The crowd immediately backs away, and some of them actually flee the area altogether.
“Should I shoot?”
In this specific scenario, we’re getting into a pair of crucial legal areas referred to as “victim-perpetrator factors” and “disparity of force.”
How old are you? Are you, like our bad boy here, also a starkly muscular prizefighter who could probably kill the average person with a single right to the back of the jaw? Are you over the age of 40? How about 50? Are you older than 60? Do you walk with a cane? Would you describe yourself as downright elderly? Would you describe yourself as disabled, and would others agree? What is your experience with single combat, unarmed or otherwise? How’s your eyesight? Arthritis? What are your knees up to these days?
Just to reassure some of the folks who think I go too hard on the private citizen and bring up too many concerns for the predator, what does the crowd appear to be doing? Do they appear to know this man? Do they appear to be siding with him? Have any of them begun to verbally assault you? Are any of them yelling things like “Wolrdstar!” or “Take him!”? Are you incapable of elbowing anyone out of the way, let alone what appears to be an entire high school’s worth of gawking under-achievers? I don’t expect you to be able to keep a running tally of every single person in the area, but these are all factors that can (and do) come into play in the aftermath of a defensive shooting.
You’d never seen this man before this interaction, but from what you know about him, he’s extremely dangerous even if all he has in his pockets is chapstick. He’s told you about how many people he’s killed and how he’s been to prison, and now he’s actually said aloud that he intends to kill you. Under such a circumstance, you have no choice but to believe him.
“Should I shoot?”
As in any use of force, you need to be ready to articulate exactly why you did exactly what you did. In most law enforcement agencies, any time an officer lays a hand on a citizen outside of a handshake, that officer has to explain in writing exactly what led up to and the justification for that use of force. Such a document is called a “Use-of-Force Report,” and it will be used internally and, if necessary, in court.
If you’re forced to shoot someone to save your own life or the life of another, you will have to do the same. The biggest difference will be that you won’t have the backing of a badge, a department and a union. Unless you have a legal backup plan, you’ll be on your own.
“Should I shoot?”
Just as you don’t have to wait to be shot or stabbed or clubbed to shoot an attacker, you don’t necessarily have to be punched or kicked before shooting either.
“Should I shoot?”
If your life or the life of a loved one is immediately and unavoidably in danger, the answer is basically always, “Yes.” If not, the answer is always, “No.”
I’m still a comparative youngster who’s roughly the dimensions of a decent-sized black bear. I also have a few years of calming down meatheads like this guy under my belt, so I might not (even though he’s just told the assembled crowd that he intends to kill me). If I can’t calm him down or get out of the crowd, I might well end up being forced to immediately stop the threat that he presents.
I also understand (as should all of you) how dangerous that assembled crowd could be regardless of my relative youth and experience. I understand that if I am forced to shoot this man, the chances of the crowd scattering are better than the chances of them all attacking me at the same time, but not so much better that the latter isn’t crossing my mind. If they all rush me at once like they mean it, they’ll basically neutralize my skillsets apart from rapid target acquisition and engagement until either I run out of ammunition or they get tired of getting shot.
I think I might still have a chance of talking him down, and I’d really rather get out of this without having to shoot a local hothead in front of 30 of his closest admirers. I’ve done so under similar conditions in the past, so at this point, it’s still worth a try. He’s running out of time, though … and so am I.
How about you?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.