Making the Shoot/No-shoot Decision

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Every time one of us takes up arms in the defense of self or others, we are taking an enormous risk. There’s the risk that we’ll be shot. Then there’s the risk that we will miss and hit the wrong person. There’s also the risk that we’ll face criminal charges for doing the right thing. On top of that, there’s the risk of being sued by the criminal’s family. Finally, there’s the risk that we will make the wrong decision and shoot at the wrong person.

It is this last risk that I want to talk about right now. I’ve carried for a number of years, and I’ve intervened in a number of different situations. One of the most important things I’ve learned in all that time is that you don’t always know the full situation when you walk into it. It’s quite possible that things look one way and they are actually totally different.

Probably the most dangerous situation you can walk into is a domestic violence situation. Just ask any police officer; it’s not arresting a murder that gets them nervous, it’s walking into domestic disputes. On the other hand, if there’s one thing that will get my blood boiling and make me want to react, it’s domestic abuse. It’s hard to not react to that sort of situation.

But that doesn’t mean that I should just jump right in and defend the woman. While most domestic abuse is men attacking women, it isn’t always that way. The opposite can exist as well, catching us by surprise.

Then there are situations where two men are fighting. Unless you are there before it starts, how can you know what’s going on? How can you know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy? It can be impossible to tell and relying on how they are dressed, “profiling them” can lead to making the wrong decision. You have to know for sure, especially if you’re going to use a gun.

Following the example of the police, the way I handle all these situations is to leave my gun in the holster, in reserve, unless and until I need it. While that increases the risk to me in one way, it reduces the risk of my using the gun in the wrong way or against the wrong person.

Often, the simple presence of another person is enough to prevent a situation from getting out of hand. That’s especially true if the participants know that the person stepping into their situation is armed. Something about having someone there with a gun tends to settle them down.

But what about a crime in process? What if you walk into that?

Once again, how do you know who is the criminal and who is the victim? Determining that can be even worse, if the intended victim carries and is trying to defend themselves. When two people are exchanging shots, there’s no way of telling who is the good guy and who is the bad one.

In this sort of situation, you need to remember that your responsibility is to protect yourself and your family, nothing more. While you might be tempted to step in and be a hero, don’t do it! Take the time to evaluate the situation and figure out what’s going on. Then, and only then, do you have the possibility of doing the right thing and rescuing the right person.

Finally, what about a situation where someone has their gun pointed at you?

This is even trickier than the previous scenarios. If someone is pointing a gun at you, you have to assume that they intend to use it. Their action is clearly provocative and threatening, giving you the ability to claim that your actions were in self-defense. But do you need to shoot? Do you need to kill them?

The basic rule of thumb is that you don’t draw your gun unless you intend to shoot and you don’t shoot unless you intend to kill. I agree with that philosophy. Anyone carrying concealed with the idea of scaring a criminal is asking to have their gun taken away from them. So the mere act of drawing it is stepping across a big red line, which you can’t step back across.

But here’s the key; don’t lose control of yourself. While you have every legal right to draw that gun and fire it at someone who is trying to do you serious bodily harm, don’t lose control. You should be able to stop yourself anytime during that process, up to the point of pulling the trigger. From a legal point of view, if that criminal sees you pull your gun and turns to flee, you no longer have a legal justification to fire. So you have to stop.

What I’m saying here all boils down to one basic truth. That is, the only real way to make the shoot/no-shoot decision is to only shoot if you have to, but be sure that you have to. Remember, you’re going to have to live with the consequences of that action, even if you are acquitted. The mental punishment you mete out at yourself could very well be much worse than anything the courts do to you.

Don’t be afraid to use your gun if you have to; but always be sure that you really have to, before you use it. That’s the only way you can play it safe.

So, until next time, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand; and if you can, keep your pistol in its holster, except at the shooting range.

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