By Jim Duke
I’m not what you’d call meek. I don’t like assholes and I’m not afraid to let them know it when the need arises. Unfortunately, they seem to be everywhere these days. From the jerk behind the [insert business name here] counter who wants to talk to me like I’m an idiot because I might not know as much about whatever crap he’s selling as he does, to the dude that bumps into my kid without so much as an “excuse me.” There are opportunities to lose my cool everywhere I go. I think most guys can relate to this and can probably share a story or two where they let some jerk have it for one reason or another. But these days I have to be a bit more careful. Not only because I’m getting a little older and I’m not a kung fu master, but because I typically have a .45 somewhere on my person when I leave the house . . .
I know there are people out there who have never carried who think having a gun is somehow empowering and causes a person to be more prone to confrontation. In some cases they might even be right, but those examples are usually the idiots that have no business carrying a firearm anyway. The fact is that if you’re going to carry a firearm, concealed or openly, you should probably leave your ego at home.
The reason for this is that any confrontation, no matter how minor it seems, has the potential to escalate. How many times have you seen an argument between two kids over a toy end up with someone getting pinched or hit? Plenty of adults aren’t much more advanced than that if you stop to think about it. The stakes are just a bit higher. Sometimes.
I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve seen over the years where, after the fact, the people involved can’t even remember what they were fighting about. Yet a few minutes earlier, they were beating the crap out of each other. Or sometimes they do remember, but it’s something so stupid it’d be better if they’d forgotten after all.
When carrying a firearm, a person has the ability to violently take a life. That’s the point of carrying in the first place. What some people forget, however, is that there is also a big responsibility that goes along with it. Most people carry as a defensive measure; a last resort when all other means of defense have failed. But what means of defense should be employed before the gun is drawn? Pepper spray? Martial arts? How about a good baton? Maybe, but I have something else in mind.
The first line of defense, in my opinion, is situational awareness. I bet anyone reading this can name a part of their town or city where it’s a really bad idea to be. A place where violence is probable. Most of us typically avoid these areas, not wanting to increase our chances of experiencing the muggings, rapes or worse. If a place makes you uncomfortable and you don’t absolutely need to be there, then don’t go. That sounds simplistic because it is.
Even though trouble is usually fairly territorial, sometimes it can pop up in unexpected places. Maybe there’s someone in your favorite retail store that thinks he’s a shark in a swimming pool. You can usually spot these guys pretty easy. Often there’s more than one.
If you have good situational awareness you’ll likely see them before they see you. It’s best to just go around them whether or not you’re sure you can kick their ass. When I’m carrying — actually even when I’m not — I try to be aware of everybody around me and who might represent a threat. This is especially true when I’m with my family.
The second line of defense is letting things go. If I went off on every dumbass that pissed me off when out in public, I would a) never get anything done because almost everybody pisses me off when I’m in public, and b) at some point some jackass is going to be stupid enough to take it to a violent level, at which point I may have to actually draw my weapon. No bueno.
When we carry in public, the responsibility to avoid or diffuse confrontations falls on us whether we like it or not. This is true on both a legal and a moral level. Even though I’m not a lawyer, I would say it’s not unreasonable that if you are involved in a defensive gun use and it’s determined that you could have reasonably walked away at some point, but failed to do so, you could be held liable.
I think this is especially be true if the other person attacks you with anything other than a firearm. A good example of this is the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Yes, that kid attacked Zimmerman and put him in real danger, but Zimmerman could have avoided the whole thing by leaving before anything actually happened. Regardless of who you may think was actually at fault, it’s incumbent on the person with the gun to remove himself from the situation. Had Zimmerman done that, Martin would not have been killed that night.
The reason this becomes a moral issue in addition to a legal one is the fact that you may get to a point where you have to take a person’s life. And when all the smoke clears you’ll have to live with that. Will you be able to live with the reality of shooting and killing a person because your argument over the last shopping cart at Walmart went too far? That may sound extreme but people fight over far less every day. It ain’t always easy, but a person carrying a gun needs to stick to the high road no matter how bad it feels to do so.
I’m not saying we should just let people walk all over us, ’cause God knows they’ll try. I’m saying that it’s important to know who to avoid and when to walk away. In every argument there’s a point at which it’s clear that the other party will never see things your way no matter what. That’s the point at which you walk away, even if the other person doesn’t want to let you. Sometimes that may require you to choke on your pride a little, but the alternative can be far worse. By doing so, you’re not only protecting yourself, but also the jackass giving you a hard time.
The other person is typically going to assume that you’re not armed, especially if he or she isn’t. The vast majority of people you’ll encounter don’t think much about who might have a gun because they’re out of sight and out of mind. Acting on this assumption, they may be more willing to escalate things since the only consequence, in their view, is a fist fight. Or the other person could be carrying a gun as well…and be stupid enough to use it in anger.
Without getting into the whole ‘Stand You Ground’ debate, a concealed firearm is the absolute last resort. It’s what you use when there is no physical means of escape and the other person is clearly intent on harming you. Even though you might be in the right or you think that you can whup the other guy that’s pissing you off, if you’re carrying a gun you should always be looking for ways to avoid or diffuse a contentious situation.
It may be the last thing you want to do, but if you look beyond the moment and think of the consequences, you’ll see that that’s usually the best outcome for everybody. In those rare instances when you can’t walk away, just remember — shot placement is key.
A version of this article originally appeared at unsolicitedbiasedopinion.blogspot.com