Real life isn’t like Hollywood. In the real world, the good guy doesn’t walk off into the sunset with the pretty woman to live happily ever after. In this world, following a bloody, violent incident in which the bad guy is struck down in a deadly force encounter, the good guy may have serious injuries. He (or she) can expect to suffer nightmares, legal headaches and all manner of other upheaval in their lives.
Even if you prudently exercise righteous force to counter criminal violence, you may still end up dead. If you live, you may well be arrested, be strip searched and thrown in jail with a bunch of ne’er-do-wells. You could be sued by the criminal or his or her next-of-kin.
Those who justifiably kill almost always have sleep disturbances (that’s a nice way of saying “nightmares”), and frequenlty suffer the Mark of Cain where folks look at them very differently after the incident.
Then as an added bonus, you may also suffer depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual dysfunction, and other health effects from the stress. You may turn to food, recreational or pharmaceutical drugs, or alcohol to cope.
You may be stripped of your guns while police investigate. All that at the same time, the criminal’s kinfolk may seek retribution from you or your now-disarmed family.
You will probably lose some “friends” and you might lose your job. The financial implications can be staggering, especially if you don’t have a legal coverage insurance policy.
In short, it could very well be a be a mess.
Most of us who carry each and every day know and understand these risks of using force in self-defense. We are the sheepdogs, after all. We carry because we’d rather risk the aftermath of a shooting than become another statistic. If we pass prematurely as a victim of violent crime, our friends probably won’t be at our funerals saying, “Gee, it’s too bad he didn’t have his gun that day.”
If you understand all of the above risks and possible fallout from using deadly force, you’ll probably think long and hard before intervening to save a third party’s life. Yes, the instinct might be to ride to the rescue, but stop and fully assess the situation before charging in like John Wayne.
Your first instinct should be to find cover, look over the situation and evaluate it dispassionately. Break tunnel vision to ensure you’re not shot in the back as happened to Joe Wilcox who interrupted a pair of cop-killers intent on a rampage in a Las Vegas Walmart store in 2014. Mr. Wilcox bravely approached the male half and didn’t see the bad guy’s girlfriend. She came up behind our would-be hero and shot him dead.
Make sure what you’re seeing are truly life-threatening exigent circumstances, as defined by a reasonable and prudent person, before you get involved. Would your average Jane Soccermom believe that the victim is under threat of death or great bodily injury? Jane’s to be the on the jury, not your firearms instructors and shooting buddies.
Keep in mind, the standard by which you will be judged will vary by region of the country. Obviously, it will be entirely different in Baltimore (thank you, Marilyn Mosby) or Chicago (ditto for Anita Alvarez) than it is in Texas, wherem in some places, “he needed killin'” is an semi-valid defense.
Given all that, knowing all of the downside of intervening, why would anyone help save someone else?
Simply put, it’s the moral and ethical thing to do. While you almost certainly bear no legal responsibility to act, you have to go to sleep every night for the rest of your life. Did you shirk your perceived duty to act and let people die? (Translation: Did you act like a coward, particularly when you could have intervened with minimal danger to yourself?) That would be a heavy burden to bear, especially if innocent women and children that perished due to your inaction. Imagine looking at their pictures in the media coverage afterwards.
There are 13 million Americans with carry licenses now, plus nearly a dozen states don’t require them to carry a gun. Just because you’ve got a gun on your hip or in your purse doesn’t mean you’re a junior crimestopper. That gun you carry is the last resort solution to any conflict you may seek to de-escalate or avoid.
Sometimes things aren’t always what they seem, especially when you’re late to the party. Sometimes life gives you a big sandwich o’ merde and you have to take a bite to save an innocent life. As an example, there’s the story of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources cop who wouldn’t allow a woman to be strangled to death in his front yard.
If it’s a fight, robbery or a simple domestic dispute involving others, should that be your problem? As always, itt depends, but probably not. Be very wary and cautious before you draw that gun…and doubly so before you use it to defend someone you don’t know.
If in doubt, find cover, observe and report to police.
Be careful and stay safe out there.