“Four people killed during a pharmacy store robbery in suburban New York City, including a teenager due to graduate high school this week, were shot at very close range by a dangerous suspect intent on stealing painkillers,” our friends at the AP report. “Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer [said] police patrols would be deployed near small pharmacies until a suspect is apprehended.” Yeah, that’s going to do it. Aside from railing against a state that infringes on Americans’ god-given right to armed self-defense, how about this: if you have a gun you must be ready, willing and able to use it. To do that, you have to master the grieving process . . .
Life is a constant grieving process. New job? Kid entering puberty? Switching from PC to Mac? New car? 40th birthday? You have to let go of the old before you can embrace the new. We do so in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
To maintain enough presence of mind to act responsibly and effectively in an armed self-defense situation, you have to drop your attachment to the non-armed self defense reality that preceded the event. You have to grieve for peace and prepare for war. And you have seconds to do it. Tear through them.
Denial is an instinctive, instant and sometimes overwhelming response to life-threatening danger. This isn’t happening. And if it isn’t happening, I don’t have to do anything. So . . . I won’t. We saw this “deer caught in the headlights” non-response at the Florida School Board shooting, where not one soul ran out of the auditorium.
Freezing in the face of danger may be an excellent strategy. But it should be a conscious decision. And you should be ready to abandon the hide response at a moment’s notice. That’s why I like the command: FIGHT! Self-defense trainers use it to initiate drills. It gets the adrenalin pumping and the legs moving. It’s a green light for action.
[CAUTION! Creating an automatic stimulus – response connection between FIGHT and firing your gun is a bad idea. Make sure you spend a good amount of time training yourself NOT to shoot. At the range, from time to time, bring your weapon to bear and hold it there. Then go back to ready.]
Adrenalin and anger go together like sex and orgasm. While anger is motivational, it also leads to strategic stupidity and poor motor control. You can easily end-up emptying your gun without hitting the bad guy. Or shooting the wrong person. Or running into a fight you should have avoided. So you have get past your anger.
I like the command: AIM! This forces you to aim at the bad guy and gives you a fraction of a second to decide whether or not to shoot. If you do pull the trigger, aiming dramatically raises the chances that you’ll hit what you’re aiming at. Repeating the command improves the accuracy of any and all follow-up shots. Obvious stuff—that should not get lost in the fog of war.
“If I don’t shoot him, maybe he’ll leave.” “Maybe he’s only going to shoot the pharmacist, not me.” I know it sounds a lot like a return to denial, but there’s a subtle difference. Bargaining is an intellectual process, with both an active and passive element.
On the downside, bargaining can delay action until it’s too late. It can also lead to an extremely dangerous interaction with the perp or perps, with whom you have no real bargaining power.
On the upside, bargaining can establish suitable parameters for action. “If he shoots someone, I’ll shoot him.” “If he start herding people into the back room, I’ll shoot.” Even better, you can train yourself to bargain. I recommend David Kenik’s most excellent shoot-don’t shoot video or force-on-force training.
There is no need for a self-command here. With even a small amount of mental preparation,you will move through bargaining in a fraction of second. Perhaps unconsciously.
I’ve spoken to dozens of people who’ve been in an armed self-defense situation. Many of them report a momentary feeling of utter despair. “This sucks and I’m going to die.” They talked of a literal feeling of heaviness, as if someone turned gravity up to 10. It passed.
You often hear of people saying they thought of their children and decided to fight for survival. What you don’t hear: carrying a self-defense weapon is inherently motivational. If you have a gun in the face of a lethal threat you don’t have to die. You might die. But you don’t have to. You have an option.
The feel of the gun in your hand should be enough to get you through this trough. If not, return to the FIGHT! command.
Some people call it “resignation,” but I don’t hold with that. Acceptance is an understanding that you have to do what you have to do and . . . you’ll see what happens. And whatever happens, happens.
In the few times when I was in life-threatening danger, I remember this feeling of calm clear-headedness. The trick: get there as quickly as possible. Use the command BREATHE!
BREATHE! is a reminder to not over-oxygenate your body (and shut down your higher brain functions). It creates a little bit of mental space so you can think responsibly, move quickly and shoot accurately. So you can shoot the bastard who’s in the process of threatening to take your life
Which is about as good as it’s ever going to get. To recap:
1. Learn gun safety
2. Learn gun handling
3. Study shoot – don’t shoot scenarios
4. Get force-on-force training
5. Use the following commands: FIGHT! AIM! FIGHT! BREATHE!
6. Do what you have to do to survive—and nothing more.