Let me be perfectly clear: these are three things you need to do before you shoot someone who needs shooting. That would be a person or persons who pose an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm to you and/or yours. I view these three activities as more than simple common sense. They form as an extremely important “pre-flight” check. If you know you’ve done everything you could not to shoot your attacker or attackers, you can drill them with confidence and clarity of mind and, thus, increased accuracy and decreased personal trauma. I reckon that’s a win – win – win – win – lose. So let’s get started . . .
1. Avoid the Threat
At the risk of offering a piercing glimpse into the blindingly obvious, it’s better to avoid a gunfight than to try and win one. Equally clear: you have to perceive danger to avoid it. And yet most people—even people carrying a concealed weapon—are oblivious to potential trouble. They walk around in what’s called Condition White. Hello? If a switchblade opens in a forest and you didn’t hear it, trust me, it really exists.
So switch on your radar.
The easiest way to activate and hone the threat avoidance skill: think like a perp. If I was going to mug or rape someone, where would I hide? How would I approach the victim? Would I rob this store? Practice this thinking often enough and it becomes instinctive; you’ll scan potential hot spots for trouble without undue fear or trepidation.
Strangely enough, that’s the easy part . . .
Humans are task-oriented pack animals. We spend our whole lives making plans with and for others, and then following them to achieve common goals. While most folks are excellent at on-the-fly re-scheduling, the main tendency is to keep going. To keep heading in the same direction. To persist in our overall goal, no matter what.
Just as a driver sipping on a hot coffee is loathe to drop it on their lap or floor when they need to make an emergency maneuver, most people are unwilling to mentally shred their plans in the face of a security threat. They convince themselves that the danger is low-level. Or that the goal is too important to abandon. Until it isn’t. And then it’s too late.
You must make safety your top priority. There is no bag of groceries, no restaurant meal, no business appointment, no social engagement, no kids’ play-date that’s worth your life. If you see trouble, stop doing what you want to do and start thinking about what you need to do. Which is avoidance. Failing that . . .
As Dave Edmunds sang, you got yourself in (however inadvertently, although that’s not in the song), now get yourself out. At some point, a looming threat becomes a “real” threat. At that point, avoidance morphs into something altogether more pressing. It’s time to bugger off.
Ask any fan of prison movies: the best escapes are pre-planned. Millions of hotel guests check the escape map on the back of their hotel doors before they go to sleep, but never think to scan a meeting room, restaurant or airport waiting lounge for the nearest exits. The good news: once you’ve devised an escape plan you can file it away and get on with what you’re doing. That said . . .
Now you’ve got to think like a perp to detect trouble, assess the threat level if it arises (or seems like it’s arising), try to avoid the problem AND have a plan for escaping. Dynamically. In real time.
At this point, many people say screw it, it’s not worth it. I’m not a gang banger. I live in the suburbs or a relatively safe city, not a war zone. Why would I want to walk around in a state of perpetual paranoia? I’d rather accept the risk, don’t worry, be happy.
Fair enough. I could say that the more you practice, the easier the process becomes. You can walk, chew gum, smell the flowers, talk to your beloved, scan for danger and plot an escape all at the same time. Happily. But if you think I’m delusional, and prefer to live the oblivious lifestyle, God bless America.
One caveat. Don’t get to thinking that you can switch on your scan and plan process when things suddenly become “serious” (e.g., late at night returning to your car in an urban environment). Not to put too fine a point on it, this shit takes practice. What’s more, perps don’t smell fear. They see it. They read your body language like a book. Well, like you read a book. They know when you’re on the edge of panic. And that makes you weak.
Anyway, RUN! Oh wait. You haven’t exercised in years? That’s not good. In that case, the best way to escape a threat is to put something between you and it. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to keep a car between you and Mr. Bad Guy when you have to. Throwing objects in the way of your pursuer as you leave is a useful sub-strategy (it’s WAY more effective than Hollywood would have you believe).
Of course, there are times when you can’t escape. You might have failed to detect the threat early enough. You may have family or friends by your side. You might not be fit enough. In that case, you don’t have a choice. At that point . . .
3. Consider a Non-Ballistic Solution
To eliminate a serious threat, you may have to draw your weapon. You may have to shoot your attacker. Or several attackers. Several times. But you don’t want to do that. It’s loud, messy and expensive. It could lead to years of psychological and financial trauma for you and your family. Not to mention a lifetime of looking over your shoulder. If possible, pass before you punt.
Before you draw your gun, consider a Plan C. In some cases, throwing your wallet at the bad guy and THEN running might work. A shouted warning about your firearm could also prevent a violent confrontation. It might be a pepper-spray-worthy situation (should you have a can handy). A simple hard shove might git ‘er done.
The operative words here are “could” and “might.” I’m not going to second guess your actions in a life or death situation—especially when seconds could be the difference between life and death. But rest assured the cops and maybe even a jury will. It’s a good idea to at least think about thinking about what you could do to eliminate a threat short of aerating the bad guy with lead.
After that, it’s chocks away—subject to other strategic concerns and all applicable state, local and federal laws. I know: defending yourself is a complicated business. But no one said staying alive was going to be easy. This much is true: the more you think about how not to shoot a bad guy, the better your odds of leaving your gun holstered and your body unmolested.