Self Defense Tip: Hesitation Kills

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Full marks to Chad Morley for home carry. I can’t say it enough: when you need your gun to defend your life inside your home, you want it right then and there. On your person. If you’re not willing to hip holster at home, buy a small pistol and a pocket holster. As for Morley’s assertion that he awoke to find himself in a “do or die” situation, I’m not so sure. Seems to me he could have pulled a Snagglepuss, exited stage right and called the cops. Question: if he could have retreated, did Morley have a legal right to use his firearm against the perp? Not to go all Trayvon Martin on you, but Utah has one of them recently reviled stand your ground laws, and it goes a little something like this . . .

76-2-402.   Force in defense of person — Forcible felony defined.

(1) (a) A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.

(b) A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony . . .

(4) (a) For purposes of this section, a forcible felony includes aggravated assault, mayhem, aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and aggravated kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault as defined in Title 76, Chapter 5, Offenses Against the Person, and arson, robbery, and burglary as defined in Title 76, Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property.

As I read it, Utah’s OK with Morley using lethal force to prevent a forcible felony, and burglary is a forcible felony. So, chocks away. Maybe.

Remember: all of these stand you ground laws are subject to real world interpretation by the police, the DA and (if needs be) a jury. There’s plenty of wiggle room for prosecution. If nothing else, you could drive a prison sentence through the words “reasonably believes.” As George Zimmerman seems destined to learn.

Setting aside Morley’s apparently non-existant duty to retreat, one wonders if he should have left his home (through another door) and called the cops from a safe location. That was, I’m afraid to say, the best option. As in the only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win is the one you don’t have.

From Morley’s account in the video above—a tale that should not have been shared with anyone but the police with a lawyer present—the bad guy wasn’t aware of the home owner being at home until Morley confronted him. So why confront the intruder? We sure learned why NOT to do it. An inch to the left and the bad guy would have left Morley for dead.

Alternatively, I’m sure Morley’s bloodstream was suffused adrenalin. Perhaps his fight or flight (or freeze) response was irrepressibly set for combat. Bad guy. Must go. Now. Quick digression . . .

Assuming Morley was holding a revolver, cocking the gun was bad craziness. Not only does going into single action mode dramatically increase the odds of an unintentional discharge, it opens the shooter up to the possibility of being charged with intent. At the very least, a cocked gun can lead to some uncomfortable questioning downtown or, worse, on the witness stand.

If Morley was carrying a semi-automatic pistol—and by “cocking” he meant racking the slide on an empty chamber to chamber a round—that’s also bad joss. The sound of a bullet ka-chunking into the chamber could have alerted the bad guy to Morley’s presence. If the perp had the element of surprise and Morley needed a bullet in extremis, he would have been SOL.

Keep one in the pipe people.

Anyway, the basic problem in all of these scenarios: hesitation. Hesitation kills.

Morley admits that he hesitated to act violently against his uninvited guest, which led to the struggle, which almost led to Morley’s demise. Perhaps one part of his mind was screaming FIGHT while the other part was screaming LEAVE.

The trick to avoiding this clash (i.e. the “shall I stay or shall I go” moment): commit. Force yourself to make a decision and implement it as quickly and completely as you can. Go all in or GTFO.

Some trainers use a key word like “FIGHT” or “ACTION” (a la Time Crisis) to create a subconscious connection between threat and some kind of response. Works for me—provided the armed self-defender practices NOT shooting after they hear/say the key word. ‘Cause shooting may not be the best course of action.

Make a decision. If it’s the wrong decision you may get a chance to change your mind. If it’s the right decision, speed, surprise and violence of action may give you a decisive strategic advantage. Even if that “violence” means running away as fast as humanly possible.

I’ve spoken with people who’ve killed people. They talk about that brief moment before they pull the trigger. They call it “hesitation.” It’s probably not. It’s probably their rational mind imprinting the moment of truth in their subconscious mind. Real hesitation is a kind of paralysis. Don’t let it happen to you.

Think, decide, act. And if not that, act.

comments

  1. avatar tdiinva says:

    One of the likely outcomes of the Martin-Zimmerman confrontation will be the neutering of armed self defense especially when races/ethnicities differ. The family of the perpetrator will cry foul even if their precious little darling is shot while roaming around in your house at three in the morning with a deadly weapon.

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      Funny you should write that as you did. A retired police officer friend (rip) who re-introduced me to guns several years ago, in the San Francisco Bay Area, gave me similar advice. He said that even if I am ever forced into a SD/HD shooting of a teen or minor, from a minority ethnic/racial group who has broken past my homes three locked security doors then I — as a white adult man — can easily be prosecuted by the local anti-gun governments and/or sued by the family. My friend added dryly that the mother of the teen would be in court wailing that he was a good boy turning his life around…

  2. avatar ST says:

    In all fairness, the “Treyvon Effect” has been with us for quite some time. Long before Zimmerman & Treyvon knew of each others’ existence cops and citizens alike were being sued ,tried, and humiliated by false racism charges. One should see the “Alvarez vs Miami” case back in the 1980s, which led to police departments adopting double action sidearms as a result.

    Much like Martin’s lawyer has done , motivated attorneys find it much easier to accuse the cop or citizen of racism than it is to prove that Mr. Felony is a good boy shot in cold blood by Officer Decorated or Citizen Joe.

  3. avatar ABN-MP says:

    Sounds like tho Mr Morley carried a firearm he was not menatally prepared to use it, his hesitation almost cost him his life and allowed a dangerous criminal with the potential to murder escape. Just like on the battlefield if you aim a weapon you better be willing to squeeze the trigger.

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      Some folks just don’t have it though, ABN. Some folks think that they will be all gungho when the time comes and find themselves living life in slow motion when an attack comes.

      Personally, I do not think anyone that has not been hit hard in some way (a fight or even boxing match) has a chance. You will be processing this new sensation and your brain whirring at full speed trying to get past the drugs that have just been dropped, the fear that has just paralyzed a body not used to such a reaction AND the surprise of the situation.

      You have no time to react or think. My suggestion is full contact self defense classes. Even to just go and get a kick in the teeth just to see how you do will be better then the lack of knowledge that most people have. Many would be surprised to learn who they are. Some would actually change their thinking and hopefully their preparedness plan once they realize they are not the rescue ranger they thought themselves to be despite all the penis tugging and bravado at the range with the booooiiiies.

      Ask yourself this: Are you the person who is startled when a family member sneaks up on you? Or are you the person who swings and pulls back when the wife or kid jumps out trying to frighten the bee Jesus out of you?

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        The relative performance of well trained but green troops versus wily veterans would seem to contradict this view. The green 29th Division moved out faster and took more initiative than the veteran First Division on Omaha Beach. The soldiers of the 29th were well trained, cohesive and too dumb to know any better. The troops in the First were too damn smart to do stupid things. The situation on Omaha required initiative more than smarts.

        I suspect the same applies in armed self defense. Those who have prepared but have never encounter violence will react faster then “experienced” gun owners especially in the wake of Martin-Zimmerman incident.

        1. avatar Buuurr says:

          “tdiinva says:
          April 4, 2012 at 10:56
          The relative performance of well trained but green troops versus wily veterans would seem to contradict this view. The green 29th Division moved out faster and took more initiative than the veteran First Division on Omaha Beach. The soldiers of the 29th were well trained, cohesive and too dumb to know any better. The troops in the First were too damn smart to do stupid things. The situation on Omaha required initiative more than smarts.

          I suspect the same applies in armed self defense. Those who have prepared but have never encounter violence will react faster then “experienced” gun owners especially in the wake of Martin-Zimmerman incident.”

          I would have to disagree, Tdiinva. You are talking about a mass of soldiers who are relying on the gumption of those around them and the orders of commanding men urging them on in their naïveté.

          I am talking about meeting a person unawares who hits you when you least expect it. Most people will fail in this regard versus those that have come to know the sensation and how to react.

          In short, what I am trying to say is that until you know what type of person you are (the only way to find out is to put yourself in that situation) you are taking a big gamble. Are you the championship boxer who has never been knocked out and is on top of the world? Or are you that same boxer who has been knocked out and thinks of nothing but being knocked out out again that consequently keeps you getting knocked out (Tyson, Rich Franklin anyone?).

          There really are only two types. The reactor or the freezer – you are or you are not. My advice is to find out who you are and then plan accordingly.

        2. avatar tdiinva says:

          Getting knocked on your ass in controlled enviroment like a sporting competition is not the same thing as getting knocked on your ass in a life and death situation. In the former case case you know that you will only suffer defeat, in the latter you could end up dead.

          MD: See Steven Ambrose’s book on D-Day.

        3. avatar Buuurr says:

          “tdiinva says:

          April 4, 2012 at 14:46

          Getting knocked on your ass in controlled environment like a sporting competition is not the same thing as getting knocked on your ass in a life and death situation. In the former case case you know that you will only suffer defeat, in the latter you could end up dead.

          MD: See Steven Ambrose’s book on D-Day.”

          Yeah, I get it, Tdiiva. But your D-Day references are not really relevant to those of us not willing or able to test ourselves on the field of battle for the sake of knowing what being taken down feels like.

          The point you keep missing is that you don’t know until you do get your ass kicked what it feels like or near what the real situation will be like until being through something like an ass kicking. Since most people don’t like to die testing every little thing in their life I would say my scenario is the best to take. Wouldn’t you? Or do you still think we should all go by the myriad of millions of WWII stories and use those and just those in this modern day?

          Fact: Getting your ass kicked let’s you know how you will generally react to the situation should it arise in self defense terms. Fact: The average Joe on here does not have military experience to go on. Fact: If all he has to go on is not being blooded in any way, all he has is luck to get him through. Fact: Militaries and Police agencies spend billions all over the world to ‘train’ their soldiers in self defense without a gun.

          Seeing how you will be accosted in your home at little to no distance from the perp self defense is a must if possible. Otherwise you are just gambling with a gun.

        4. avatar tdiinva says:

          I have been knocked on my ass for 60+ years. I know what it feels like. I still don’t know how I will react in the next life or death situation that I may confront. History is repleat with examples of the same person being both a hero and a coward in simliar situations.

          I won’t be accosted in my home at close quarters. My dogs will see to that. I am actually more worried about reflexing shooting first and asking questions later.

        5. avatar Buuurr says:

          “tdiinva says:
          April 4, 2012 at 17:18
          I have been knocked on my ass for 60+ years. I know what it feels like. I still don’t know how I will react in the next life or death situation that I may confront.”

          Well, good, so to speak. My point is that it is better to have experienced it and know better. No amount of training will make you better at how you respond to conflict. The point of my posts are to illustrate that there are too many armchair bandits out there that think they will be badass and get through it all, hands down, with no ill affects. This just isn’t true.

          “History is repleat with examples of the same person being both a hero and a coward in simliar situations.”

          This is true. But being familiar with a situation often helps you cope with the situation. Hopefully that leads to a better outcome for all involved but that isn’t a guarantee.

          “I won’t be accosted in my home at close quarters. My dogs will see to that. I am actually more worried about reflexing shooting first and asking questions later.”

          Awesome. Dogs are great. In one of my earlier posts this is what I was getting at. Some folks think they will John Rambo through it like well, John Rambo. What I am suggesting is a bit of a reality check. Nothing more. It doesn’t make you better trained or able to deal with it. Those are things that are ingrained in you as a person and no amount of training (that most can afford) will change that. What I was suggesting is alternate plans for attack. Dogs for instance. ADT or security systems. All of the above are often better than a wolf mindset in a sheep that doesn’t know his or her fur is white and fluffy.

        6. avatar MadDawg J says:

          If this where a History site I would debate your summary of Omaha Beach since there are lots of details involved that lead to the outcomes. Since it’s not a History site, I won’t open that can of worms here.

        7. avatar ABN-MP says:

          It all comes down to training and a warrior mindset… being struck, knifed or shot doesn’t mean you are dead or even incapicated… As for taking hits… I learned to take them playing Football from 3rd grade all the way thru to graduation… it was reinforced in jump school.. 800ft AGL w/ full CE and high winds= hard landing every time, but we get up and continued mission. My point is he let the crook get too close… maybe the crook was calling his bluf or he snuck up either is plausiable, buy when the crook reached for the weapon he should have shot. Goes to show that just owning a firearm doesn’t in itself make you safer you have to have the ability, skills and most of all the mindset to use it when the chips are down .

        8. avatar Buuurr says:

          Them’s facts, ABN.

  4. avatar GS650G says:

    Criminals everywhere are hoping for an advantage.

  5. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    No.

    FLAME DELETED

    1. avatar Brian says:

      Please elaborate.

    2. avatar C. Walther says:

      That’s unfortunate. I actually got to see the director’s cut of this post and thought it was brilliant (though I think Rhode Island would have been the correct state to pun off of).

      On an unrelated note, did anyone else look up Utah’s definition of Mayhem? I thought it would be something massacre or Grand Theft Auto related. Boy do they have a strange idea of what mayhem is…

      http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE76/htm/76_05_010500.htm

  6. avatar ST says:

    The only weapon which counts in the end is mindset. Everything else from bare fists to nuclear ordinance is an accessory to that mindset.

    A citizen -whether armed or not-must condition themselves to be ready to take another person’s life, as their personal survival and that of family may require that to happen. A gun enhances the odds , but there are plenty of instances of unarmed people determined to prevail who get the drop on armed assailants-the Giffords incident is one of many examples.

    With the mindset of survival everything else becomes secondary. Quite a few wanna-be rapists are pushing daisies because they thought the unarmed lady wouldn’t resist, when the woman in question had other plans. LAPD Officer Stacy Lim was shot in the chest with a .357 Magnum round-something most of us would consider a fight-stopping injury-but she didn’t let that get in the way of eliminating her attacker with the issued “weak manstopper” 9mm handgun. It is that survival mindset which wins fights, not a gun , knife,or a plaque on a wall.

  7. What’s the difference between rape and object rape?

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      I think that raped with an object can refer to forced penetration with anything from sex toys to fingers. Rape by itself is generally defined as forced penetration using the penis. I’m not a lawyer and my understanding is from media pieces in this matter.

      Technically or legally a vagina cannot rape a penis even when there have been cases such as a woman mounting an unknown, drunken, and passed out man at a party with the intent to become pregnant (btw, the passed out man was later held responsible for child support). Other cases have included women holding a gun on a man while she forced intercourse on him. I think those accounts are considered sexual assaults a lessor offense (again not rape).

  8. avatar irock350 says:

    I don’t understand the assertion that cocking your firearm opens you up to legal action if your intent is to use lethal force in defense of yourself or your property. Pulling the hammer back on your revolver is no different than pulling the hammer back on your 1911, racking the slide on your Glock or your favorite home defense shotgun. Holding your weapon is a sign o intent. IF there is any caselaw to back up the assertion that switching your revolver from DA to SA opens the shooter to more legal liability I would like to see it. As far as TX law is concerned there have been no civil or criminal cases where the shooter was charged or fined simply by going to SA. And as for the the whole witness stand, STFU and use your 5a rights to defend your 2a rights.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      +1

      If I have to shoot a BG in my home, believe me, I won’t be claiming that it was an accident. The round or rounds will be center mass and there will be no issue of intent, especially if I have to shoot more than once.

      The “cocked pistol” issue arises in a shooting where the person with the gun claims that it was an accident. Cocking is irrelevant in an intentional SD shoot.

      1. avatar C. Walther says:

        I may have misread it, but I thought in Alvarez v. Miami, Alvarez claimed the shoot was intentional the whole time, but the prosecution accused him of negligent homicide anyway?

        Please correct me if I’m wrong. Probably apples to oranges anyway since it was a police shooting.

  9. avatar Curzen says:

    Not only does going into single action mode dramatically increase the odds of an unintentional discharge, it opens the shooter up to the possibility of being charged with intent.

    While I contend that it would be ideal to be able to shoot a revolver double action fast and accurately, I always scratched my head about this one.
    Do I show intent and am being irresponsible if I switch off the safety on a single action 1911 or similar pistol after drawing it? Worse, what if your gun of choice is a SAO revolver? What about a striker fired DAO gun that has no manual safeties and always a trigger pull weight similar to a revolver in single action mode?

  10. avatar Blake says:

    Chad made the mistake of thinking knife fight while carrying a gun.

  11. avatar Low Budget Dave says:

    If the Martin shooting causes someone to hesitate, then that is hardly a character flaw. People who are driving around looking for trouble have different hesitation patterns than people who are minding their own business. As well they should.

    Split-second decisions to defend your life are not the norm in society, nor should they be. Military? Law Enforcement? You may be trained to make that sort of decision. Everyone else, no.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      I don’t think that a person faced with a life or death situation will be thinking about George Zimmerman. They’ll be thinking about saving their own ass.

      Confronted with violence, people will freeze, run or fight. I’m aware of well-trained individuals who did all three, in that order. It takes all the training in the world to overcome instincts.

      1. avatar Buuurr says:

        That’s right, Ralph. And you don’t get a sense of it unless you try. To say training is of no purpose is foolish.

  12. avatar Silver says:

    Time Crisis reference!

    I think most people wonder what they’ll do should a “moment of truth” ever come knocking. I can only practice as best I can and hope I make the right decision.

  13. avatar Jwhite says:

    “Keep one in the pipe people[if you dont have kids, friends, or family around, maybe].”

    Strongly disagree with the statement “Not only does going into single action mode dramatically increase the odds of an unintentional discharge, it opens the shooter up to the possibility of being charged with intent.”

  14. avatar Tom says:

    I will say that if you are in a DGU or nearly so, having a two year old Daughter behind you in the bedroom is a terrific motivator to have a mindset to totally annihlate the BG.

  15. avatar Frank says:

    OK here comes the brady group to say gun owners get shot by their own guns so don’t own them. This is a rare occasion. Like he said he said he should have shot first.

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