Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"So, Given The Situation, Is It Okay To Shoot?"

As we all know, if you belong to a gun forum, sooner or later you'll find long, contentious threads concerning the question - When is it alright to pull your sidearm in self defense?

The poster usually ending his thoughts with something along the lines of - "So, given the situation, is it okay to shoot?  Would it be justified?"  This opens the floodgates to every members imagination, training and opinion - where intricate scenario's are presented, discussed, dissected, debated, analyzed and rebutted ad-nauseam.

And beyond what we are taught in the classroom, what exactly is justified?

What if the guy wasn't intending to shoot?  What if his friend was holding a family member?  What if he's bashing in your drivers window with a bat?  What if he turns to run?  What if he doesn't have a gun, only a knife?  What if there's three of them and they are menacing you, but they don't show a gun, only say they have one?  What if its only your possessions?  What if...What If?  What If?!

Although these imaginative story lines do qualify as mental exercises, visualizations if you will, that help prepare the individual for a given high stress situation - not unlike a ball player who visualizes himself hitting a home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth - no two people will play the original poster's movie in his own head and see the same thing... and neither will twelve individuals on a jury.

This isn't a 'black and white' situation and it would seem to me in the end, after all the discussion and debate, the only one who decides when to pull his sidearm will be the one involved in the situation.  It is never cut and dried and if it were, we wouldn't have these discussions. Any given scenario has more variables than we can articulate.  How I see it in my head is different from how you see it in your head - but in the end, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart - I may not be able to describe a bad situation, but I know one when I see one. 

I believe the real quandry that will present itself in a shooting situation is the human mind's natural revulsion at taking someones life.  We train and prepare for as many variables as possible, except for the act of ending another human beings life - not withstanding those who crow about rather being judged by 12 than carried by 6. 

If you doubt this, then may I suggest you take the time to read the eye-opening book - "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" by Lt Colonel Dave Grossman.  Given the Colonels findings - that taking a human life goes against everything we are, sometimes to the point of complete submission in the face of death - I believe the prompt to pulling your gun will be the realization that this fight is a fight against your own extinction. 

I'm saying, in the end it's instinctual.
My own experience through the years (none involving firearms) tells me there is a mental check down. Bad situation coming my way.  Can I get out?  Whats my best defense?  Is this a fist fight or is this something worse?  And so on and so on.  And this process happens in the blink of an eye, faster than you are consciously aware, so fast that when faced with having to articulate the process to the Police in the immediate aftermath, you may not be able to do so in a comprehensive and cogent manner.  (One more reason why you don't speak with the Police until you've talked with a lawyer.) It's a series of reactions to mental and visceral inputs that forces action. This is why the most important part of concealed
carry, beyond training, is to live in Condition Yellow.  To give yourself the opportunity to see a bad situation coming, before it escalates, allowing you time to process the scene and take appropriate steps to de-escalate, deter or avoid the situation completely.  I make Condition Yellow my comfort zone and hopefully that will keep me out of the fray.  You could give me 1000 situations and I believe it I would be hard pressed not to find a way to skee-daddle in 999 of them.  I want out.  I don't want a fight.  I don't want a confrontation.  I want to go home to my family.

But in the worst case scenario, when all possibilities of escape have been exhausted, when you are trapped with no way out, I believe pulling your sidearm will be a physical response to the realization that you are about to die.  The realization that this is going to happen and there is no way to avoid it.

So I believe it will always come down to "You're about to die."  The reason you are pulling your gun is not due to the laws of justification, or Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground or ability, jeopardy or opportunity.  It's not due to the discussion of what ifs and maybes.  The fight will be quick, chaotic, fierce and loud and your mind won't be thinking of Judges or juries or District Attorneys.  You mind won't be thinking of anything except the voice in your head that is raging at you... "You're about to die." 
Your training, knowledge, awareness and physical capabilities will give you the best opportunity to avoid the trouble, but failing that, in the aftermath you will know you did everything possible to walk away.

Stay Safe and Carry Responsibly


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