“The victim told police he was taking out the trash outside his home on Clifton Drive [in Nashville, TN] just before midnight when he saw three men approaching him. He tried to run inside his home, but the men forced their way inside as he tried to shut his door,” newschannel5.com reports. “Police said the man was knocked to the ground, and one of the robbers struck him on the head with a handgun. His wallet and cash were stolen. The man told police the robbers went into a bedroom looking for something and fled the scene.” Hmmmm . . .

“Looking for something” eh? Was the unnamed victim attacked by a rip crew (criminals looking to steal drugs from a dealer), perchance? Possibly. It’s also possible it was a random attack. Either way, the incident highlights the need to maintain situational awareness and remain armed (and fabulous) from wake-up to sleepy time.

Now that I’m here, let me say this about that: the Volunteer State mugging also flags an important “sticking point” between gun rights and gun control advocates: statistical necessity. What are the odds that a law-abiding citizen will need a gun? If they’re low (the odds), why carry one?

The simple answer: who cares and it’s none of your damn business. Americans have a Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Armed citizens have no more need to justify their decision to carry a gun than Noa Tishby has to use match.com.

[Note: Americans living in low-income urban communities are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than affluent suburbanites. To suggest that overall crime stats indicate that the need for armed self-defense isn’t pressing enough to “allow” a citizen to exercise their civil right to carry a gun strikes me as insensitive at best, racist at worst.]

That said, I understand why gun control advocates have a hard time accepting the idea of owning a firearm to prepare for a highly unlikely event. I call it The Law of Unperceived Randomness.

When two gym-goers find themselves using lockers closerthanthis in an otherwise empty locker room they proclaim “It’s Murphy’s Law!” The comment reflects perceived randomness. Their locker use follows a predictable pattern that creates the proximity. They consider it random because A) it doesn’t always happen and B) they notice it when it does.

Now flip that around. If an event is so rare that people never perceive it happening, they can come to believe it won’t happen.

For example, some people buy lottery tickets for a while, then give up. Although their odds of winning haven’t changed, their belief system has. Drawing on their personal non-experience they think “it will happen to someone but it won’t happen to me.”

It’s not a big leap for these folks to look at other people buying lottery tickets and think “it won’t happen to them either.” When it doesn’t, when the people they see or know don’t win the lottery, it reaffirms their faith that buying a lottery ticket is a stupid idea. If you’re not going to win, why bother?

In terms of guns, the longer a gun control advocate lives without needing a gun the more convinced they become that they don’t need a gun—and never will. Even without considering the [perceived] dangers of owning a gun, why bother? Why does anyone bother?

The Law of Unperceived Randomness dictates that people become invested in the idea that certain random events do not happen. Because they don’t. Until they do.

And even when the doors of perception open, when an unperceived random event suddenly becomes apparent, some people continue to deny its personal relevance. It’s not my locker selection or gym time that determines whether two nearby lockers are being used at the same time. It’s Murphy’s Law!

I can’t believe I got mugged by armed attackers when I was taking out the trash. It could have been anyone! It’s Murphy’s Law!

Truth be told, you can’t radically alter the odds of experiencing a random act of violence (where a gun would be helpful) without radical changes in behavior. Of course, that presupposes you have an accurate idea of which changes will lower your odds of a violent encounter. How can you know that for sure?

Nevertheless, you can play the odds of encountering a violent threat (e.g. by avoiding stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things) and affect the outcome should one occur (by carrying a gun).

If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket. If you want to defend your life or the lives of your loved ones against a lethal threat, you carry a gun.

Ultimately, it’s that simple.

26 Responses to It Should Have Been a DGU: Taking Out the Trash Edition

  1. A once famous military man said:

    “It is better to have and not need than to need and not have”

    A good rule to live by when it comes to protecting your L-I-F-E!

    because when seconds count the police are just minutes away…..right?

    • “because when seconds count the police are just minutes away…..right?”

      Except when they’re just days away…

    • That’s wrong for the simple reason that your chances of having a gun mishap, many of which are extremely serious, is much higher than your chances of ever needing the gun to save the day.

      That makes it a no brainer. Only those with no brains decide to have one.

      • Ya know Mike, you never have said who you want killed by your ban of guns. And don’t go denying that you want someone killed. If you didn’t want someone killed, you wouldn’t want to ban guns. Maybe you want a whole bunch of people killed. Is that it?

  2. Stats suck. Does it matter that only a tiny number of people get hit by lightening every year if you’re one of the chosen few? I’ve never been the victem of a house fire but you can believe I keep my insurance up to date, my detectors fresh and my extingguishers up to date.

    and because stats suck I keep a j frame close when possible.

  3. Wow. Just the other day I was thinking about the very same parallel between surviving a DGU and winning the lottery and in the very same terms you describe. Scary.

  4. It’s sad because this is probably one of the best and clear cut examples of carry/firearms ownership/self defense examples I have read, but this will still make absolutely zero sense to people who are against it to their core. Which you delineate clearly with the “the chances are so relatively low, that it can not happen” example.

  5. Think of it this way:someone somewhere in America just had a traffic accident. That someone isn’t me or you today-but tomorrow’s a different story.

    Its the same concept with regard to crime. Someone somewhere just had a gun pointed at their face by a cretin today. I may be the target tomorrow, and your wife the week after. Stats cannot predict that which is unpredictable.

  6. The attackers most likely had no information that the victim was going to be taking out his trash at that specific time. It seems more like a crime of opportunity and a random attack.

    • Well, only to some extent. Case in point, my trashman comes on Friday right around 0700.

      Being a rational human being (!) I wait until the last minute (or until I hear him down the street) to take the trash out. Judging by my neighbors actions, I see I am not alone in behaving this way.

      A criminal may or not just be wandering, looking for a random victim, and find me. He may also have cased the house, and knows that he has a nice window of opportunity between 0630 and 0700, and so he may wait me out.

      Point is, this may not be quite as random as you say/think.

  7. Didn’t I read an editorial on this very site claiming that home carry was simple paranoia? I take my gun off when I go to bed at night, placing it on the night stand within arms reach. I don’t want to go and grab my gun from a safe each and every time I walk outside my home. If it’s always on my hip, I always have it ready for an emergency. It’s not paranoia, it’s preparedness.

  8. In this day and age with the economy like it is we see more and more incidents like this everyday.
    There are those people out there who are too stupid/lazy/ignorant,etc to try to work or make a living, and then there are those that are just thugs for the hell of it!!
    The government wants us to be disarmed and rely on the PO-PO and the PO-PO want us to be calm and rely on someone else.
    Not all police are like that but there are those that are all over the US!!
    Until such time as the judicial system gets off its collective lazy ass and gets really tough on the BG’s we had better stay armed and stay alert despite what the government and certain dumbass mayors would have you believe about how safe life is!!!
    Just my opinion!!

  9. This is exactly why I try to get all my fence-sitting friends to read “The Gift of Fear”. Random is not random to the criminal. There’s a reason they do what they do, and a reason they picked you to do it to.

    • Big +1. The Gift of Fear is a great eye opener and should be on everyone’s reading list.

      A lot of of the advice is basic situational awareness, but he also goes into how we process much more information than we realize. We subconsciously noticing facts and behaviors that are out of context. This is the source of our “bad vibes” or “gut feelings” that something’s wrong. You should never ignore those. If you get that feeling, GTFO.

      • and a big +1 to that. It took awhile (decades) for me to figure out that the “little voice in my head” that would urge me to do or not do something seemingly without reason was often based on subtle things that I didn’t consciously notice until I stopped and analyzed the circumstances. and that little voice is usually right.

  10. Risk analysis has another component. There’s the liklihood, and then there’s also the impact. If you have a risk that is of low liklihood, but high impact, you’re going to clasify it as at least a medium risk, and maybe a high risk. You can then look at all your risks and see which ones are of higher importance to decide on which ones to spend time and money mitigating. Just like someone above said they make sure their home insurance is up to date, smoke detector batteries are fresh, and extinquishers good to go. It’s not likely your home catches fire, but if it does the impact can be huge, so we do something to protect against it.

    There is a low liklihood of needing a gun to defend your like or that of your loved ones, but the potential impact is very high (loss of life). Thus it is appropriate to pay attention to this risk.

  11. While it would have been great if the victim were armed for self-defense, I am not sure the victim could have justified using lethal force outside. Put yourself in the victim’s situation as it started to unfold. You just put your trash in a garbage bin when you look up and see three men running toward you. At that point the ONLY thing you know is that three men are running toward you. You have no idea why they are running toward you and they have not announced any intention to harm you. That doesn’t seem to be enough to justify using lethal force.

    As a reminder the almost universal requirement for using lethal force is that a “reasonable person” would be reasonably fearful of great bodily harm, rape, or death; the attacker actually has the ability to carry out the attack, and the attack is imminent. How does three men silently running toward you satisfy those requirements?

    • It’s midnight and 3 strange men are running towards you without badges and uniforms. I think a reasonable man can be safe in assuming they’re intent on doing harm. And even if all 3 men are unarmed by sheer weight of numbers they can kill or cripple 1 man fighting them alone.

      I would have verbally confronted while drawing my gun. If they had continued past that point I would let the lawyers deal with the aftermath.

      If you’re too busy second guessing yourself you’re going to get plowed under without a chance to fight back.

      • Draw and keep it pointed at the ground. When they hesitate, AND THEY WILL, then you say “Do you really want to mess with me?” in a confident voice. If their intentions were good, they will tell you so, and you will explain why you felt threatened. If they intended to harm you, their intentions will have changed to just leaving … alive.

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