TTAG commentator MikeB302000 believes that a significant portion of American gun owners are irresponsibly aggressive. I would argue that the number of concealed carriers actively looking for trouble is statistically insignificant. Still, point taken. Some gun owners have a worrying “take no prisoners” attitude. That’s not good. (Interestingly, dozens of people have told me they’d never own a gun because they don’t trust themselves not to shoot someone.) Unbridled aggression is never good; the only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win is the one you don’t have. Avoiding confrontation is an excellent way for a concealed carrier to stay alive . . .

The above poster provides an excellent guide for solving conflicts non-violently. It comes from a Quaker perspective; a religion that knows a thing or two about avoiding bloodshed. Let’s take it step by step.

1. Stop. Cool off

Humans are hard-wired for three basic responses to danger: fight, flight or freeze.

Fighting? You could get hurt. Other people too. You could also hurt the wrong person. Police will be involved. Lawyers will be called. Best case scenario: there will be tears before bedtime. Worst case: lights out.

Freezing? Also not good. There is evil in the world. People who sense weakness and exploit it with extreme prejudice. And nothing is quite as weak as a person who is not actively engaged in conflict resolution. In other words, a victim. [Note: Quakers do not advocate victimhood.]

There is a difference between “resolving” a conflict (coming to a mutual agreement) and “solving” a conflict (ending it). As an armed self-defender facing a potentially deadly aggressor or aggressors, you want to “solve” your problem. Leaving the conflict is the quickest, best and easiest solution. Period.

Saying that, cooling off is the key to not getting sucked into a vortex of escalating conflict and suddenly finding yourself in fight or freeze mode. Easier said than done. But nowhere near impossible.

Step 1: Be cool. Avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things. Don’t go to places where conflicts are known to arise (e.g., rough bars). Also, don’t be stupid. If you’re a Yankees fan in a sports bar stuffed to gills with Red Sox devotees, STFU.

Step 2: Stay cool. Exercise. No really. Never mind marksmanship (for a while). Do something that prepares you to cope with high levels of physical, mental and emotional stress. Kick boxing, Yoga, martial arts, meditation, marriage. You get the picture.

2. Talk and listen

Assuming you haven’t left the potential scene of the crime and the conflict isn’t teetering on the abyss, it’s good to talk.

Listen to what the aggressor wants to hear and give it to them. “You know what, you’re right. The Red Sox are better than the Yankees. I just didn’t want to admit it.” “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken this parking space. I’ll pull out. It’s all yours.”

How far do you go in your verbal or practical “submission”? As far as possible. It costs you nothing to apologize or agree with someone who’s contemplating (or planning) to do you harm. If you can’t cope with racial, ethnic or personal slurs, you need to check your belief system.

Bottom line: words don’t kill. Or: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Your problem.

3.  Think of ways to solve the problem

Again, leaving, giving up and giving in are excellent strategies. In all cases, de-escalation is the order of the day. Be creative.

When someone called me a dirty kike in a bar, I shrugged my shoulders and bought him a beer (without letting him get within striking distance). You’d be amazed how an offer to buy an aspiring bad guy (and his friends) a drink defuses their aggression.

Distraction is another excellent strategy. “Never mind the Yankees, the Bruins are friggin’ awesome.” If you’re with a group of people, appealing to a non-partisan outsider may also derail confrontation. “Hey John what do you think?”

Humor’s another effective ploy. Ask any “class clown”: a good joke can sometimes knock the wind out of the sails of even the biggest bully. Sometimes.

4. Choosing an idea you both like

Pay VERY close attention to an aggressor’s body language when you attempt to calm them the f down. If one of the above techniques doesn’t work, if there’s time and space, try another. Watch and listen. Are you helping matters or cruising for a bruising?

If someone is really, truly spoiling for a fight, anything you say or do can and will be used against you. If that’s the way it’s going, talking and listening and idea choosing are best used to buy yourself some time to get yourself mentally prepared to defend your life.

Non-violence beats violence all day, every day (until the violence starts). As a gun owner, you have extra incentive to find a way away or out of interpersonal conflict. An armed society is a polite society? Something like that, only on the personal level.

46 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: De-Escalate

  1. “Interestingly, dozens of people have told me they’d never own a gun because they don’t trust themselves not to shoot someone. That’s not good.”

    Yeah that’s pretty bad alright. That is not normal for a person to be unable to control their own impulses, and even if they abstain from gun ownership they’ll likely still drive cars, so road rage is a possibility.

    As far as the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, I’m not exactly sure what he’s referring to. I agree that you do need to be able to decide for yourself if you’d be capable of taking another person’s life to save your own if your life is threatened, as you’d hopefully not hesitate if it ever came to that.

    • The “take no prisoners” attitude is the “I have a gun so I’m invincible” attitude.

      If you’ve done much reading at all on concealed carry, you’ll find a repetitive thread of people saying they are now less likely to get in fights than they were before they carried, because the potential consequences of those fights are much more serious now. With the “tnp” attitude, the exact opposite is true. It’s “I can go where I want, and say what I want, because I’m carrying the ultimate conversation ender.” Thankfully, only a very small percentage of gun owners feel this way.

      • Thanks for clarifying, I didn’t want to put words in his mouth.

        Yeah my experience with other gun owners has been that they’re pretty passive towards anything but true threats, more so than the general populace. For every guy with a gun that loses his mind over something stupid, there are tens of thousands that never do any such thing.

  2. Well said, as a ccw holder I don’t want to shoot anyone and thus I’m always thinking that getting out of dodge is the best solution for all.

  3. Anyone who gets in a fight because of a conversation going south is a fool. I wouldn’t classify those fights as self-defense.

    Any true self-defense situation is going to be going too fast to stop and cool off. You might be able to mitigate with some verbal skills or put yourself in a more advantageous position before punches are thrown or weapons come out, but all of this is happening within seconds as someone tries to set you up so they can more easily take your lunch money.

    • Agree. Indeed, as police will point out, civilians do not have the right to escalate to weapons in an argument. A claim of self-defense (in PA, at least) is difficult to make if you had, before shooting, stayed in an escalating argument. Pulling a knife or gun to win an argument is not OK. Such situations almost never occur with legal gun owners/permit holders. Defensive shootings are almost always responses to house break-ins or burglaries, street mugging attempts, and the fending off personal attacks even AFTER a person tries to withdraw from the argument or conflict.

  4. Sudden violence is not easily avoided. Most criminal intent is not telegraphed. Gangs will take you down. There will be no conversation. Other than that, do the best you can to avoid violence, being macho is fine for the younger crowd, but as you get older, you will have learned fights hurt. Let the fools find some other fool. The best defence against trouble is to see it coming, and not be there when it arrives. Defending your home/your family is a whole different thing. Seriously, firearms aside, I would like specific input from Mikeb on how he handles, or, might handle the rare instances of violence, or, potential violence. What plan does a pacifist have to protect home and family? On the road, or at the office/workplace? Rational against irrational? I understand the question, but do not have his alternative clear as yet. (Sorry about the brevity, but I don’t have all day……….gf has threatened to whup my butt if I don’t get up and do something).

    • I haven’t been in a fight or had to run away from one for about 25 years. If I had a PLAN, just in case something did happen, I’d be as paranoid and overly dramatic as you guys.

      But, to answer the question, if something bad does happen, I’ll try to do the best I can. That’s all.

  5. since being a CCW for a ‘few’ years, i have become significantly calmer in situations prior to carrying, that i would have been ‘agitated’. being aware of the consequences of your actions tends to make one weigh the outcome of those actions. i would bet MikeB302000 believes as many of our population, that consequences are for other people……..hence why he projects his false belief, that those who carry do not contemplate the impact of that responsibility.

    • I agree with you 100% Marty. There will also always be that “bully” in the crowd, be it 14 or 64. I have noticed that I will disengage the person and concede a stupid point or let them have their glory.

      There is no point in taking someones life needlessly. I will have no hesitation defending my friends and family with deadly force if necessary, but I will not get “talked” into any sort of altercation that is unneeded.

      It simply boils down to a simple fact, you can not let them take your firearm… and if it comes to CQB, there is not a lot of options if you are carrying.

    • Actually Marty, I believe that most of you who carry are responsible guys. There is some percentage that isn’t, but I don’t think it’s the biggest part.

      But, you know what’s funny reading these comments you’d think it was 100%. Nobody admits they have trouble with staying calm, or that they hate those punk lawbreakers so much that they wouldn’t be able to control themselves.

      On another recent thread I was surprised how many agreed with Robert that retreating was a good tactic in some cases. But, in that discussion we had plenty of macho guys who said they don’t own guns for home protection so they can flee their own homes. Well, the same attitude exists among you concealed carry guys in general. Backing down in any way is unacceptable to many of you. And that makes you dangerous.

      • Mike, I’m really confused now.

        First you say, “I believe that most of you who carry are responsible guys.”

        But by the end you say, “…the same [don’t retreat] attitude exists among you concealed carry guys in general. Backing down in any way is unacceptable to many of you. And that makes you dangerous.”

        So, if I’m in the majority (“most of you are responsible” and “in general…backing down…many of you…dangerous”) then I’m responsible, but dangerous. But if I’m in the minority, (“don’t think it’s the biggest part” and whatever the opposite of “in general…many of you” is) then I’m irresponsible, but a pacifist.

        You can’t have it both ways.

      • “Backing down in any way is unacceptable to many of you. And that makes you dangerous.”

        Does that mean that the US was “dangerous” when they didn’t back down from Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire back in 1942, or that the colonist rebels were “dangerous” when they didn’t back down from the British?

        You can bet one thing – they certainly were “dangerous” to the ones who were trying to take away their freedom, and that’s how it should be.

        Does a violent criminal have the right to run me out of my own home, Mike? Should I react any differently than our government has when someone tried to invade us or threaten our national security?

        You have a rather twisted idea of who’s dangerous and who isn’t. But if YOU want to live in a fantasy world where everyone holds hands and sings Kum-bah-yah, and that no one TRULY wants to harm anyone else, you go right on with your bad self.

        • Chas, could you be a bit more melodramatic, comparing your own individual guy ownership for self defense to the country fighting against the Nazis?

          Too many of you so-called legitimate gun owners are really unfit to own them. You like it that way, which in itself proves your stupidity. You should be the first ones demanding stricter qualifications. The bad apples are too many and they make you all look bad especially when you keep defending the very system that enables them to get and use guns.

  6. Excellent post! I have long kept in mind Issac Asimov’s axiom, “Violence is the last resort of incompetence.” It does not exclude the option of violence, nor embrace “victimization”, but puts the whole matter into a workable perspective.

    Thinking of the classic Sociological “bell curve”… at one extreme end there will be situations where there is no option, but to fight. Most of us will probably never encounter that extreme (fortunately). Train your power of discernment as rigorously as your skills with your instrument of defense.

  7. Bravo – very good article, with excellent suggestions.

    I used to manage a team of customer service reps years ago, and I had the hardest time with some of them. A customer would call, furious and venting about something the company had done or not done, and the reps would take it personally, and escalate right up there with the customer. I used to tell them, being the calm one in a crazy interaction is SUCH an advantage. Why do you want to give that advantage away?

    I do my best to live by that rule myself.

  8. It all comes down to mind set. You will either do what you need to do to survive, or you will die. Yes, you need training with your particular firearm, but I don’t care how many paper targets you puncture, if you don’t have the ‘nads’ to do what needs to be done…you loose. Having been in 4 ‘deadly force’ incidents as a cop….I gave my son the following advise when he went to Iraq (2006-2007) with the 3-4 Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division.

    “You can’t shoot too quick, and you can’t hesitate. Therefore, when in doubt, shoot the motherfucker”. He came home. (Just glad I didn’t tell him to piss on ’em)

  9. One of the first things said by the instructor in my concealed carry class was, if you can’t control your emotions, you should not carry a gun. I remember the point being repeated throughout the class.

    • I’d go as far to say you shouldn’t be out in public at all if you can’t control yourself. It’s not acceptable to get into fights of any kind over trivial things, there’s just no need for it. Society as a whole should reject that kind of behavior.

        • It’s true though, just recently I read about some guy who flipped out a fast food place for getting his order wrong or something. I mean come on, really? Is that how an adult should act?

        • This is a function, I think, of the coddled, participation trophy for everyone, instant gratification generation coming of age.

          I’m 35, and it seems a decent percentage of the entitled bad behavior seems to be coming from the generation right behind mine, which is when a lot of that “precious snowflake” stuff really got going.

  10. It seems a vast majority of CCWers (is that a word?) experience the same CALMING effect of concealed carry. We become acutely aware of the potential end result of conflict escalation. My propensity to inform bad drivers of my opinion of their automotive handling skills disappeared. 🙂 My situational awareness went up ten-fold. My desire to avoid stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places also increased by orders of magnitude.

    It is always fascinating and enlightening to observe people who decry our ability and desire to carry concealed by projecting their own psychological “shortcomings” upon us.

    • I would not say it had a calming effect on me. I was already pretty mellow before I made the decision to carry. I would however say that it has a very sobering effect thinking about having to use it in self defense. The worst case scenario being that it will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees even if you were in the right. Don’t get me wrong I will draw if the situation warrants it but I will damn well make sure that I have done everything to get out of that scenario before its use

      • Sobering is probably a better word. 🙂

        Getting older is probably the bigger factor in my “calming” effect. 😉

    • +1

      I know that calming effect as well, and you’re spot on with projection.

      I feel safer around fellow CCers or OCers than I do around unarmed sheep in, say, a NYC subway any day.

  11. The Quaker way? I’m the 11th generation in America from Society of Friends settlers. My line through fathers bought their farm when West Jersey was first settled, and they belonged to the Pemberton and Haddonfield meetings. BUT they were excommunicated from their meeting in 1777 for taking active part in the Revolutionary War. They were not readmitted until 1786. Considering that the reason they were in the colonial US was to flee British drawing-and-quartering for their beliefs, this seems in retrospect to have been a peculiar action. “Ground rent and six percent” is their motto, and avoid any fight possible, even if it is a fight for your freedom. Today to be a Quaker seems essentially to be pro-Palestinian and anti-US-wars, while living in a community which so affluent that almost all conflicts can be resolved with a call to 911…”let them do the violence.” Nonetheless we are still mostly Quaker and I can only write the above under a pseudonym…because I don’t want a local fight. Laugh.

  12. Every firearms training course I’ve ever attended (15) has at some phase stressed the need for avoidance. Avoid people, places where you know there’s a high potential for conflict. Of course, this is a bit easier for me as I’m 73 and seldom to be found out and about after sundown unless I’m on the Oregon Coast with my wife. I have a couple of “hangouts” where I meet with fishing/shooting buddies, but not generally after dinner time. Younger folks may find it harder to avoid situations where conflicts might arise. That’s one of the benefits of growing old. Remember, don’t travel ar0und in condition ‘White’.

  13. The average criminal is beyond irresponsibly aggressive, they’re criminally aggressive.

    You can’t talk a criminal out of his actions, especially mid-action. In those instances, you have no choice to subdue aggression with sufficient aggression to end the confrontation as quickly and safely for you as possible. Remember, you’re on defense. The criminal initiated the confrontation, you’re just trying to defend yourself.

    I’d much rather have a defensive tool that I can use at a distance greater than arm’s length to minimize danger to myself and those who I am defending. A firearm is that tool.

    • Yeah, when you are face to face with a bad guys that has weapons and are being aggressive to use them, the negotiating phase has more or less passed.

  14. Who does not already know that (gun or no gun) violence is best avoided? What lawful gun owner does not already understand the points in the article? I’ve personally never met a fellow gun owner who was not aware of the points above. The Advice is for people involved in an argument. Gun defense is appropriate when under assault, not when in an argument. It is curious to me that the self-defense tip is inspired by MikeB. He lives in a country in which fully 1/3 of the territory is regulated by organized crime, specifically from Naples south. His last Prime Minister has been repeatedly associated with organized crime. Europol credits the far-south Italian N’Dragheta with the control of German organized crime today, including drugs and extortion. Italy has a high rate of gun ownership (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/italy), about 12 guns per 100 people, worked out to 1 of 4 households. MikeB’s adopted land is also most famous for vendettas….which makes it the model worldwide for the concept of generations-long violent retribution. He should contribute his comments to an Italian, possibly Neopolitan, web site. They would laugh him off the blog with critiques as pointed as a stiletto. He is beyond tedious. Is this site actually expecting its readers to have such a low level of information or inferential ability that they would benefit from today’s piece? Remarkable.

  15. If CC reduces road rage, I’m all for it. I think bullies (aka insecure cowards) in F-250s are much more of a menace than 95% of folks armed with handguns. If you accidentally cut in line at the grocery store, you say “excuse me, sorry, my bad” and that’s the end of it. If you accidentally cut the same guy off in traffic, the jerk feels justified in menacing you with his 6000lb truck (especially uncool if you’re on a bicycle). I’ve had it happen when I was biking, and I’d say it was the moral equivalent of pointing a gun at me because I cut in line at the grocery store (I went out of turn at a stop sign, and the guy followed me for blocks to make his little point, I finally just pulled up on the sidewalk). We all make mistakes, but too many people in cars feel they can respond aggressively because they’re protected and anonymous. Of course, these are the same kind of people who tend to be careless, dangerous drivers. People who carry guns generally understand and respect the huge potential they have to cause harm. I wish that people who drove cars had that same appreciation. Chill the F out.

  16. Excellent post, TTAG! It’s a shame that the main – stream media rarely picks up on the responsible side of gun ownership. One of my favorite parts of gun ownership is the fact that judgement, discipline, and awareness are essential to shooting well – whether it be the shooting range, hunting, or under adverse conditions. I wish that people took driving (typically the most dangerous environment that most people encounter on a daily basis) more seriously as well, but alas, our culture has issues with personal responsibility. Wisdom protects its owner, and legal gun owners understand that cogent point better than most.

  17. Great post. Particularly liked this: “Stay cool. Exercise. No really. Never mind marksmanship (for a while). Do something that prepares you to cope with high levels of physical, mental and emotional stress. Kick boxing, Yoga, martial arts, meditation, marriage. You get the picture.”

    Great advice for OFWGs, and aspiring OFWGs like me. Note that the final option can hasten the impending OFWGness, unless she’s a terrible cook.

    One quibble: you say that non-violence beats violence all day, every day. I disagree. Non-violence beats violence… until the violence starts.

  18. I faced a woman in a parking lot who called me an asshole in front of my child and accused me of taking “her” parking spot despite getting one closer to the building anyway. She actually blocked my path between cars and stood there menacing me and yelling in my face.
    Instead of dropping her with one punch to the face I merely told her that her language was a bit colorful for a lady and pointed out that I made sure she got the spot closer to the building. Her fat ass needed fewer steps anyway but I didn’t remind her of it. I don’t know who picked out her hair style but they should be fired from Supercuts.
    She continued to berate me and her breath was most foul. I then told her she needed a tic tac and another dose of her meds and finally I looked this beast in the eye and told her if she didn’t move out of my way on her own she would be moved against her will. Fortunately I’m very tall and big and she realized she probably shouldn’t be ranting away any longer.
    She was close enough to warrant concern since if she pulled out any kind of weapon she could have used it. My daughter, terrified, was hiding behind me and prevented me from backing up. I kept my eyes on the hands of this lunatic the whole time (easy since she talked with them a lot) and if she reached into her handbag at anytime I would have been forced to make a hard choice.
    It’s hard to imagine someone taking the time and effort to get into a strangers face like that for no reason. I could see this schitzo doing something really bad with a firearm. Or mace. Or one of those tazers they sell at gun shows.
    I took down her license plate number in case any damage to my car appeared while in the store. When I left she was still in there, maybe at the pharmacy getting more Welbutrin
    A wise man once said, “being armed doesn’t mean you don’t take shit from people, it means you take a lot of shit from people because you’ve got a lot of responsibility on you.”

  19. So, this gnarly looking old guy comes up to me in the mall last week and starts out with a personal insult and continues the rant into the subject of this particular city being the “worst fuckin’ place I’ve ever lived”, etc.

    Being the overly aggressive, super macho gunny with a killer instinct, I simply agree with him and walk away while paying careful attention that he also walks away.

    In order to fit the profile, I guess I should have just unloaded the .38 I carry into the old fart’s center mass.

  20. Word of advice from a psychologist (Not me, a former teacher)
    If you want to get an agitated opponent to cool off after a disagreement, yell at him that he is correct. If it doesn’t really matter in the short term who is right (car accident and waiting for police to show up, etc. ) just scream that he is right. More than anything, the other person becomes confused and has to stop for a second to process what happened. This is extremely effective in cases where the other person is actually wrong, because when they try to figure out your weird behavior, they think about the incident as a whole. It can sometimes be really funny to see the person’s reaction.

  21. Real bad guys, the kind we arm ourselves against, rarely argue. A real bad guy tries to come up on you from behind and take you out before you even know he’s there.

    On the very rare occasion that someone might flip me the bird or call me a dirty name, I laugh. It’s funny, because as a lawyer I’ve been called worse and I’ve developed a rhino hide. And it’s even funnier because I know that I’m carrying, and the loudmouth with the red face has no idea.

    The problem with the suggestions in the photo is that, in the adult world as opposed to pre-school, engagement is likely to end in violence. My idea of de-escalating is to walk away.

    • I agree, choosing “an idea we all like” is a bit Kumbaya. It’s been said that democracy is 2 wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. “Thinking of ways to solve the problem” may include ruining the other person’s day and that’s not “an idea we all like”.

      • Well, you might both like it for differently reasons. He might like it because it involves you doing things his way and makes him feel like a real alpha-male. You might like it because it doesn’t involve the necessity of filling him with lead. There’s nothing Kumbaya about that.

        Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t times when lead is good problem solver…

  22. I don’t see those points as radical as some do here. By changing the attacker’s mind, we may end up with a solution we all want – going home safely and unscathed. Fairly close to what my teacher(s) have to offer at http://www.shinichitohei.com/english/2008/09/put-yourself-in.html Only when we are unable to change the attacker’s mind is violence required. Having something at hand that puts a large hole into something else can be an excellent tool to change a person’s mind when words fail.

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