Before we do the armchair analysis, here are the facts, as presented by the pro-gun-rights folks at examiner.com:

Police say that a 28 year old man was loading groceries into his car, in the parking lot of an East Stroudsburg, PA Wal-Mart, when an armed robber approached and pointed a handgun at him, while demanding money.  The man reportedly told the robber that he had no cash to hand over, and that the groceries had been purchased with a debit card.  In response, the robber is said to have become more threatening, at which point the man took out his wallet to give to the robber and tried to shield himself with his vehicle’s door . . .

Unsatisfied, the robber reportedly pointed the gun at the man’s face.  The man then ducked down, and the robber fired a shot, which went through the vehicle’s window and missed the man, but caused the man to suffer glass cuts to his face, according to news reports.  The man then dropped to the ground, then drew and fired the handgun that he was carrying for self defense, striking the robber in the lower leg and foot, as the robber continued to fire at – and miss – the man, according to police.  The man reportedly then ran back to Wal-Mart to seek help, while the robber fled to some nearby bushes.

Examiner writer Eric Puryear offers an “aren’t concealed carry permit holders just the BEST people?” interpretation of these events:

I would note the great restraint that this robbery victim showed by not immediately firing at the robber who pointed a gun at him. Those opposed to gun rights like to suggest that armed citizens who fire in self defense are blood thirsty killers just looking for an excuse to take a life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, such armed citizens fire as a last resort, in order to protect themselves and their families from an imminent threat.

Obviously, Mr. Puryear’s enthusiasm for concealed carry weapons (CCW) has got the better of him. The idea that CCW holders are, as a group, without sin is patently ridiculous. Sure, you can make some generalizations about people who carry a concealed weapon. They can’t be mentally ill felons. In some states, they have to be able shoot straight. Other than that, they’re just plain folks. A minority of whom do some very stupid things. With guns.

Like, OMG, shoot people they shouldn’t! Gun rights advocates are right to suggest that concealed carry license holders don’t view their gun as an open invitation to Wild West-style murderous mayhem. But advocates are wrong to place their right to bear arms on a sky-high moral pedestal. They’re setting themselves up for a fall, whenever the inevitable legal loony lets loose.

Bad shoots are, I’m afraid, the price society has to pay for legal concealed carry. Collateral damage. And please don’t give me any of that IF ONE LIFE IS SAVED BY NOT GIVING A CITIZEN A CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT malarky. All our rights (e.g. the right to free speech) come at a societal cost.

Anyway, forget politics for a mo’. Let’s back it up and take a closer look at the strategy of what happened.

Police say that a 28 year old man was loading groceries into his car, in the parking lot of an East Stroudsburg, PA Wal-Mart, when an armed robber approached and pointed a handgun at him, while demanding money.

Here’s the thing: the CCW holder’s goose was cooked long before he was staring down the barrel of a gun. He failed to identify his attacker in time to take effective action against the threat (and then reality) of armed robbery.

If the CCW holder had seen one Jean Jacques of East Stroudsburg coming towards him before he was in striking distance, the target could have warned Jacques to stop, called for help, run and/or placed the car between himself and the robber. He may have had enough time to draw his weapon against the robber, warn him off and/or, possibly, fire.

Note: none of the initial options I’ve suggested necessitated a firearm. The second set would have required at least five car lengths of distance for even a reasonable chance of being effective. And ALL of these options would have been impossible—or least hugely dangerous—if Jacques approached his victim with his gun drawn or by his side.

If a gun’s pointed at you, you don’t have time to draw. That part of the gunfight is over and you lost. Generally speaking, you need to seek cover before you even think about bringing your own weapon into the fray.

The man reportedly told the robber that he had no cash to hand over, and that the groceries had been purchased with a debit card.

Well, that sucks. Assuming it’s true. If the vic did have greenbacks, he should have handed them over. Hollywood isn’t all B.S.; the moment when the perp takes the money during a robbery is an excellent time to counterattack or run. More than a few law-abiding citizens have thrown money and/or a wallet at a robber’s face and run to safety. And it seems that Mr. Jacques’ target was thinking along those lines . . .

In response, the robber is said to have become more threatening, at which point the man took out his wallet to give to the robber and tried to shield himself with his vehicle’s door . . .

A car door isn’t ideal cover for a gunfight. While the average car door MIGHT stop an average 9mm bullet, there are lot of variables in play: the door’s construction, the angle at which the bullet strikes the door, what part of the door it strikes, what part of the door’s interior bits the bullet hits (e.g. the window motor), the bullet’s velocity (including the distance from the gun to the point of impact), the number of bullets (luck) and, most importantly, caliber. A .22 may not make it through a car door. A .38 might. A 9mm probably will. A .45 will.

[The only part of your car that offers anything like decent ballistic cover is the vehicle’s engine block. Hence police park their cars at an angle during a traffic stop or entering gunfight.]

While a car door isn’t the best possible barrier between you and a shooter—technically speaking it’s “concealment” rather than “cover”—it’s still better than nothing. It limits the perp’s vision (for aiming) and mobility. That’s PROVIDED the cover doesn’t hem you in and limit your options.

No matter how you look at it, it’s all about choosing the best possible compromise. You gotta work with what you got.

Unsatisfied, the robber reportedly pointed the gun at the man’s face. The man then ducked down, and the robber fired a shot, which went through the vehicle’s window and missed the man, but caused the man to suffer glass cuts to his face, according to news reports.

At this point, the victim is operating on instinct. He reflexively chose the right option of the three available: fight, flight or freeze.

Unless your name is Norris, the chances of wresting a gun from your assailant and/or disabling him in close quarter are pretty small. Hand-to-hand combat is better than getting shot, of course, which is what will probably happen if you freeze (a.k.a. present a perfect target). Flight—moving out of the way—is almost never the wrong thing to do.

As for the glass cuts, no biggie. I bet the vic didn’t even notice them.

The man then dropped to the ground, then drew and fired the handgun that he was carrying for self defense, striking the robber in the lower leg and foot, as the robber continued to fire at – and miss – the man, according to police.

I’m thinking the CCW guy fell to the ground. I can’t emphasize this enough: MOVE! As the rabbi says, if you have a choice between moving out of the way of someone shooting at you, or shooting them, which one would you do first?

I’m guessing, but it reads like the CCW guy shot low because he was low (he’s going so low, he’s going so low). He was probably on the ground, possibly below the car door. I wonder if he could have shot through his own car door at Mr Jacques’ center mass. Or moved to get a better shot.

If you’re going to shoot someone, you really need to stop them. In this case, the robber continued to fire even after he was shot. In fact . . .

Police soon arrived and apprehended a suspect, who was caught trying to bury a handgun in the ground near the bushes, according to news reports.  The suspect, reportedly identified as 17 year old Jean Jacques of East Stroudsburg, was taken to a hospital for treatment, and then to court to face charges of attempted murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and other charges, police say.

If Mr. Jacques was able to walk around and attempt to bury a gun, he was heathy enough to resume his attack. Legally and morally, you’re only allowed to continue shooting your attacker until the threat has ceased. While I’m glad no one died—if only for the victim’s sake—it’s important to remember that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

My take: Mr. Jacques’ victim is lucky to be alive. Once you get behind the curve in a deadly attack, there’s not much you can do to regain the initiative. The earlier you interrupt the perp’s plan, the better. Staying alert and aware to potential danger is your best defense against having no defense other than shooting. Which may not work.

From a political point of view, nothing. An anti-CCWer could make the argument that the victim might have been more alert and, thus more successful at avoiding the attack, if he didn’t have a gun. That’s nonsense of course. But a case can be made.

Meanwhile, a “good shoot” doesn’t mean there aren’t such things as bad shoots. The more important question in my mind: would I have wanted a gun in that situation? Would you?

5 Responses to Two Ways to Interpret a Self-Defense Shooting

  1. "If a gun’s pointed at you, you don’t have time to draw. That part of the gunfight is over and you lost."

    No it isn't! It's only lost if you give up!

    While I agree with most of what you say in this post, I disagree with what you said above. 9 times out of 10, action beats reaction. Most times, drawing is the last thing he'll expect you to do and you'll be able to get inside of his OODA loop before he can react.

    85% of people that are shot, survive.

    Fighting back immediately increases your chances of survival.

    To suggest that people to give-up and die is very wreckless.

    • I never suggested that the person facing the business end of an attacker's gun should "give up." I'm saying that a person in that situation should seek cover first, THEN draw their weapon. Think of it this way: someone's shooting at you. Which do you want to do FIRST: get out of the way or draw your gun? You could do both at the same time, but priority number one is to buy yourself time, space, distance, options. To use your terminology, if an attacker's gun is drawn and yours isn't, you're behind their OODA loop. When they see your gun, chance are they're going to shoot you—not stop in amazement. Do you want to bet your life that I'm wrong?

      • “If a gun’s pointed at you, you don’t have time to draw. That part of the gunfight is over and you lost. Generally speaking, you need to seek cover before you even think about bringing your own weapon into the fray.”

        Wrong. Your premise (that if a gun is pointed at you, you’ve already lost) is FALSE.

        Only one thing is going to solve that problem: Employing your gun. Not employing cover.

        But you go ahead and grab cover. I’ll grab my gun.

        “I never suggested that the person facing the business end of an attacker’s gun should “give up.”

        You most certainly did. “If a gun’s pointed at you, you don’t have time to draw. That part of the gunfight is over and you lost.”

        The problem here is that you give people bad advice. Advice that could get someone killed.

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