When it comes to armed self-defense, a lot of gun owners talk a good game at the gun counter of their local gun shop. Truth be told, flipping the switch between passive and aggressive, peaceful and ruthless, doesn’t come easy. A life-long cultural aversion to seriously harming another human being makes it difficult to poke them full of holes. Could you commit ghastly violence? If so, what would it take to provoke it?
I’ve been teaching defensive handgun classes for two decades. Occasionally I run across students – usually the fairer sex – who say they can’t and won’t use deadly force in self-defense. “What if a bad guy is going to hurt your baby?” I ask. Well that’s different! I’ll gently point out that if they can use deadly force to save their young child, they can use deadly force to save themselves. “Your child needs its mother, not a foster parent.”
A Real world example
Before their divorce, Dennis and Linda talked about home defense and personal protection strategies at home. After their divorce, Linda answered the door around 10pm during a thunderstorm. Looking out her side window, she thought she saw her neighbor on her porch. She opened the door and a man forced his way in, saying “they’re trying to kill me!”
Linda retreated to her bedroom. She got her Smith & Wesson K-framed .357 revolver and her cordless ‘phone. She called 9-1-1. The dispatcher kept her on the line as deputies screamed down the highway. Mr. Intruder came into her bedroom, repeatedly saying “don’t hurt me” and “I’m scared” as he walked closer and closer. As I’d taught her, she warned him not to proceed. “I’ve got a gun! If you come closer, I’ll shoot you! I’ve called the police! Leave now!”
A pair of deputies rushed into the home in the nick of time. They tackled the guy just as he reached out and touched the muzzle of Linda’s revolver. Linda simply couldn’t shoot her intruder that night; I shudder to think what could have happened if the deputies had arrived five minutes later.
Saving innocent life?
When it comes to flipping the switch from passive to aggressive, you never know until you know. Some people will only attack an attacker to defend themselves or their loved ones. Others have no problem acting to saving an innocent stranger. Yes, defending an innocent third-party is fraught with risk. The downside to not getting involved? You have to sleep with yourself every night for the rest of your life.
In another life, I espoused the “not my circus, not my monkeys” view of third-party self-defense. Until one of my students raised his hand and asked, “What if that was my daughter working the counter at the Stop and Rob? Wouldn’t you do what you could to save her life?”
I thought about it. What if that was my daughter that walked into a bad situation? Wouldn’t I want someone with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to stop the bad guy? By the same token, if I’ve got a newborn in my arms, I will look for the nearest exit and become scarce at the first sign of trouble.
If you haven’t given serious thought about when and whether or not you can use deadly force, I encourage you to do so now, before that bad person with evil in their heart comes into your life.