By Tom Vaughan, MD
I believe everyone who is physically and mentally capable should take personal responsibility for their own health and well-being, and that of their dependents. That involves living a healthy lifestyle, and seeking competent medical advice. It also includes taking primary responsibility for their and their loved ones’ personal safety.
The two ideas are inextricably linked and, not coincidentally, the same basic approach can be used to fulfill both obligations. Avoid, Evade, De-escalate, and Defend—it doesn’t make for a catchy mnemonic, but it’s how I approach both health and safety concerns.
First of all, AVOID unnecessary risks. For example, I always wear my seat belt, and don’t smoke. By the same token, I don’t hang out in dark alleys, attend violent protests, or take 3 am walks in the park. In both the “Health” and “Safety” arenas, you win every fight you avoid.
Unfortunately, for certain diseases that tend to run families, avoidance is not really an option. And economic circumstances and unforeseeable events may limit the value of avoidance as a safety measure. Not everyone can afford to live in the “nice” part of town, and dangerous situations may occur anywhere. When avoidance fails you, it’s time to proceed to step two, which is to EVADE the problem.
Appropriate medical screening can mitigate the risk of certain diseases. For example, screening colonoscopy can nearly eliminate the risk of developing colon cancer. It can identify pre-cancerous conditions, allowing individuals to evade potential threats.
Likewise, safety and security experts talk about “Situational Awareness”. This means paying attention to your surroundings, so that if a danger arises, you have maximum time and distance to react. With your eyes open and head up, it will be far easier to steer clear of unsavory characters while walking down the street. Evasion is a good backup plan, but there will be times when it still won’t be enough to see you through.
And when that happens, DE-ESCALATION is your next best option. If despite your good diet and exercise you have hypertension, take your prescribed anti-hypertensive. When the person you accidentally bump into in the coffee shop goes ballistic, apologize and leave the area rather than risk a larger altercation.
Unfortunately, even de-escalation won’t always avert a fight, and then it’s time to DEFEND, using the appropriate level of response. If a colonoscopy identifies a polyp, it’s best for the endoscopist to remove it, rather than have a surgeon resect your entire colon. When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it may be necessary to undergo more aggressive treatment, such as surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.
When forced to confront a physical threat directly, it’s also important to use the right tools for the job. I carry a gun everywhere it’s legal, but I don’t want to rely on my firearm to resolve every unavoidable conflict. I’d rather pepper spray an aggressive dog—it’s usually an effective deterrent against dogs, and there is zero chance the dog will turn tail and run if I draw my gun and point it at him.
When facing a bona fide lethal threat, deadly force is the appropriate response, and then you must be prepared to use your firearm. Being prepared means having it with you, loaded and accessible. It means being adept at drawing it, firing it, managing malfunctions, and hitting your target. And it means having your cell phone at hand to call 911 as soon as possible.
Not every health and physical threat will progress neatly through the above steps; sometimes you’ll have to jump right to DEFEND. If a family member is suddenly incapacitated and not breathing, its time to call for help and begin CPR, not check their immunization records. If an intruder breaks into your home at 3 am, evade, avoid, and de-escalate are already off the table. You are by definition involved in a deadly force encounter, and its time to focus on trigger discipline, target identification, assessing your backstop, and the front sight.
People may ask “Since you carry a gun, are you prepared to shoot someone?” This is a gross oversimplification of a more complex subject. A more appropriate question would be “What is your plan to ensure your and your family’s health and safety?” In my opinion that’s the real question, and one every capable adult should be prepared to answer.
Responsibly carrying a firearm is a small, albeit critical, part of that. If you decide to carry, by all means make sure you are mentally and physically prepared to shoot someone. But whether or not you carry, make sure to do everything you can to minimize the chances that you’ll have to face that situation.
Tom Vaughan, MD, is a neuroradiologist in private practice in Louisville, KY. He is a shooting enthusiast who believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility.
This article originally appeared at drgo.com and is reprinted here with permission.