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. 29 Should I Shoot? Are You Afraid to Shoot Because of Media Backlash?
- Ep. 30 Should I Shoot? Have You Chosen Not to Be a Victim?
- Ep. 31 Should I Shoot? Self-Defense Amid a Riot
- Ep. 32 Should I Shoot? Threat Assessment in Cold Weather
- Ep. 33 Should I Shoot? The Late Night Prowler
Almost all defensive training of any kind — armed or unarmed — stresses that, “There’s no room for a fair fight when your life is on the line.” That’s very true, and I don’t want you to ever forget it. Where this can get dicey is in trying to decide when, exactly, your life is no longer on the proverbial line.
Real life is rarely as clean-cut as the movies. Come to think of it, it’s rarely even as clean-cut as training scenarios, even those run in high-quality schools. Real life has a tendency to be messy and unpredictable.
How messy and unpredictable? Allow me to insert you into an actual armed robbery that went down a while back.
Picture yourself in a small, narrow convenience store waiting in line to pay for your beverage. The man at the head of the line pulls a pistol and, in no uncertain terms, initiates a robbery. He orders all five of the rest of you to back up against the wall opposite the register and away from the door. You’re at the back of the line and too far away to immediately disarm him, so you and everyone else comply. As all of this happens, another young man moves out of the line and locks the only visible door of the store, which is up by the register; at this point, it’s worth assuming they’re working together.
You walk backward with the group and keep your hands in the traditional “surrender position” taught by countless instructors: palms out, elbows bent, biceps on your sides. The man with the gun returns his attention to the cashier and you make your way back with the crowd, all of you coming to rest about 30 feet from the counter.
You’ve calmed your breathing and you’re running the math: At this range, you’re confident that you can be out, up and accurately placing bullets within a second and a half. You silently take in all of the information that you can.
The one who’s at the register is holding a small pistol in his right hand and a drawstring backpack in his left. The one who locked the door is watching the guy with the gun, but he’s also glancing over at you — yes, you — every few seconds. The one holding the gun is wearing skinny jeans and a dark t-shirt; the other one’s hands are empty and he’s wearing long khaki shorts and an untucked flannel shirt.
For now, T-Shirt is concentrating on the cashier, who is shaking and crying as he clumsily empties the bills and change from the till into the bag. He’s begging for his life, and it’s making T-Shirt mad. Flannel over by the door is nervously slapping his left fist into his right palm, and he still keeps pausing whenever he scans past you. (Who knows why … maybe he thinks you look like someone who might be carrying a gun.) All told, T-Shirt seems to be all business, while Flannel looks like he wants to leave as soon as possible.
The money from the till is now in the backpack. As T-Shirt realizes cinching the drawstring will require both hands, he readjusts his grip on the gun and, as if in slow motion, he drops it. His eyes bulge, his left hand shoots out to grab it, and though he tries to bring it in for a fair catch, he actually knocks it away from himself. It goes skittering across the floor, coming to rest 15 feet from him and 20 feet from all of you. For what seems like 30 seconds but what is probably only a half a beat, everyone just stands there, motionless. T-Shirt starts to lunge — you can’t tell if it’s for the gun or the exit — and Flannel is frantically trying to unlock the door.
“Should I shoot?”
T-Shirt is obviously dangerous. He was just threatening to murder all of you if you didn’t do what he said, but he’s dropped his gun, which might mean any number of things. It might mean that he’ll realize the whole situation’s now officially out of his control and, as such, he’ll just try to get away with the money. It might mean that he wants to get hold of that gun and use it to cover his and Flannel’s exit, only shooting if he deems it necessary, whatever that might mean. To a guy like that, “necessary” might mean that he’ll only shoot if any of you move, but being the kind of guy who would threaten to murder strangers for money, it might also mean that he’s a violent psycho who sees dropping that gun as embarrassing enough to right his mind by popping a few of you for laughing at him.
Moving on, everything you know about human body language has told you that Flannel wants out and that he thinks you are a potential threat to him and T-Shirt. If he’s been through the system before, he knows that if someone gets shot and killed right now, he’ll go down for what my home state calls “Felony Murder” — basically a life sentence because he knew exactly what the plan was when he walked in with T-Shirt and locked the door. Flannel doesn’t appear to be armed at the moment, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something concealed under that big billowy shirt.
Both of them are currently concentrating on only one thing — getting away with this armed robbery — but unfortunately, you have no idea if that includes re-acquiring that pistol.
“Should I shoot?”
Well … how quickly can YOU be out, up and accurately placing gunfire? How much do you want to bet that Flannel can get the door unlocked before T-Shirt gets hold of that pistol? How close are they to the poor guy working the counter? Has he moved?
Do you make the bet that T-Shirt is going for that gun and, therefore, is about to present an imminent, unavoidable deadly threat to you or others?
Or do you look out for No. 1, ride it out and count on the poor marksmanship of this nation’s criminal class?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.