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William Lawlor (left) (courtesy

“WILLIAM LAWLER [above left] didn’t want to shoot the man who threatened his girlfriend and him with a 13-inch knife Sunday outside a Pathmark store near his Northeast Philadelphia home,” reports. To make a long story short, he did, after telling Knife Guy to cease and desist. “At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop. The last time, I said, ‘I don’t want to shoot you, but I will,'” Lawler said. “Then, after I shot him, he fell to his knees and tried to throw the knife at me.” Lawler, a gun owner who’d unsuccessfully sued the City of Philadelphia after cops clocked his pro-gun bumper stickers and confiscated his GLOCK 17, won. Here are the deets on Lawler’s defensive gun use . . .

Lawler, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant after serving more than a decade, continued to walk with his girlfriend. DeCosta brandished the knife and started mumbling and cursing at them, Lawler said. Right away, Lawler said, he moved his girlfriend away, unholstered his gun and held it at his side.

“Nine times out of 10, all the gun owner has to do is show the firearm, and the threat goes away,” he said.

Not this time: DeCosta instead moved toward the pair, Lawler said, threatening, “I’ll cut you up.” When he got within 5 or 6 feet, Lawler said, that was it. Lawler leveled the Glock and fired once, hitting DeCosta in the groin.

“My intent was to stop him, not kill him,” Lawler said yesterday. “I hope he’s OK, and hopefully he will be prosecuted.”

I’m not a firearms instructor, a task performed by Mr. Lawlor on behalf of the general public. Nor have I served in the armed forces, like our hero (and I say that without irony). And again and always for stories of this nature, result! That’s all that really counts. But . . .

While I realize that groin shots are all the rage these days in the tacticool community, I’m not shooting someone posing a threat of death or grievous bodily harm – mumbling incoherently and holding a 13″ knife – in the groin. Nor am I going to let him get within five or six feet if I can help it. Nor am I likely to shoot him or her just once. I’m thinking center mass until there’s no danger of the bad guy crossing the gap between them and me or other innocent life.

As they say, just sayin’. And in the interests of appeasing readers ready to accuse me of ill-informed armchair quarterbacking, I’ll let Lawlor, who must feel vindicated after his previous legal struggle, have the last, indeed best, word.

“I firmly believe that in order to maintain a free society, people need to take personal safety into their own hands,” he said. “You should walk around ready and able to protect yourself and others in your community.”

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    • It also creates problems too. We’re all humans and we have a full range of human emotion. Taking another human life is not something that comes without that baggage of human emotion. Why don’t you look into the problems people have after talking another human life? On the battlefield, we call it PTSD. Even if you’re 100% justified in what you’ve done, you’re going to suffer and your loved ones will have to deal with the emotions you put on display – some of them will walk away from you. Sure, you may play that part of the guy who gonna go “pop pop” and celebrate them drop drop – but we know know, unless you suffer from an antisocial personality disorder, you’ll be anything but what you say.

      I’m certainly not going to armchair Lawler’s decision.

      • Speaking from experience? I am aware of the PTSD that some suffer. Others don’t and its not from some sort of anti-social personality disorder. My Dad and Uncles served. They killed Germans and Japanese and not one of them came home with “battle fatigue” as it was called then. My Dad is 92 and speaks freely about what he did in the Pacific. One of my brothers-in-law, on the other hand, flew combat helos in ‘Nam and came home a wreck suffering nightmares about all the people he killed with his machine guns and rockets. It depends on the psych makeup of the person. I served 20+ in the military and had no qualms about what I had to do. I still don’t. Does that make me an anti-social personality? Don’t think so.

        • Well put Mike, just because you can sleep at night after putting a parasite on humanity down. Does not make you a mal adjusted psycho looking to kill someone just because you came back from the Nam, as many of were because we grew our hair too long and stayed away from all the a**holes and nosey neighbors.
          The two morons I dispened with aren’t missed to this day. Even their families knew they had coming. Yoo don’t kick in someones back door with a shot gun on your shoulder. Tthe only sleep lost was explaning to the Sherrif and Highway Patrol what occured. When you are in the right, ya got nothing to worry about.

        • Why would you have PTSD if you did the right thing? Those guys who do get PTSD from killing I think they know what they did was wrong.

        • I think it might be more in whether or not you subconciously believe that you’re doing is “the right thing”. In WWII, we were killing aggressors and true threats to the world. In Nam, it wasn’t so clear cut, and the American public wasn’t all-in like they were for the first two world wars. Lack of support on the home front probably has a lot to do with a soldiers ability to cope on his own terms.

        • It’s like the man says: It’s a hell of a thing, killin’ a man. Take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have. I think most people would be conflicted about killing someone, whether they’re right or wrong. It’s human nature.

      • Some people deal with it better than others. A good friend and co-worker of mine was 50 cal gunner on a humvee and did his job very effectively, particularly when it came to eliminating threats by the use of projectiles. He hasn’t suffered any signs of PTSD and is living a life that serves as an example of a happy one to those in our friend/work group.

  1. I’ve always firmly believed if you don’t want to get shot in the groin don’t pull a knife on someone. It’s a rule that has successfully saved me great distress.

    • Sound advice. I’ve never threatened anyone in the knife, and have never been shot in the tallywhacker. If our bad guy is unable to procreate, the loss to society will be little to nothing.

    • Generally speaking you give good advice, governor, however…

      I decline to take personal defense advice from cartoon characters, even Southpark.

      If the opportunity for a center mass shot existed I think it would have been preferred, but to choose a groin shot as a first response seems inadvisable. On the other hand, in a recent training class our instructor pointed out that if you have the time to assess the situation AND you have concerns as to what is behind the target (rule 4) should your shot pass through, the the groin offers a great alternative as the pelvic girdle has a higher probability of stopping over-penetration of the round than does the chest cavity.

      As an aside, shooting directly at the guy;s dick does not offer this tactical advantage.

      Just sayin’.

  2. Groin shots have their place. If the bad guy has body armor, for instance. Or if they’ve somehow gotten their chest behind a piece of cover. It seems that neither of these were the case in this story, so I personally would have shot the guy in the chest.

    But hey, he stopped the threat, so I’m not going to say that he was wrong.

    • Another area that might work on someone wearing body armor is to shoot for the hip joint/pelvis area. If you blow out a hip or break the pelvis, the perp will not be too fast on his feet.

  3. I suggest a new self-defense shooting protocol called the Slowzambique. It requires two rapid pistol shots to the groin and then a pistol shot to the other head if necessary.

  4. Maybe he flinched before firing the shot? Aimed for the chest, flinched down and hit in the groin? I see a lot of new or inexperienced handgun shooters do that.

  5. Who cares about the groin shot! Read the linked article about the lawsuit! Abso-fvkin-lutely amazing! Where are the LEOs denouncing these fvkstains?

    • It’s Philly. Dont’cha know?

      They believe that the laws the rest of the state operates under don’t necessarily apply. They got special circumstances you see. Typical lib big city stuff.

    • Yeah, the linked article that describes the cops seizing his gun is shocking!

      Lawler wasn’t even arrested for anything during the traffic stop.

      “Still, it took Lawler 689 days, $2,000 in lawyer’s fees and a judge’s order just to get his permit and his $800 gun back.”

      • “Roper said that if Lawler admitted to carrying a licensed firearm, then the police were justified in frisking him and conducting a limited vehicle search to see if he had more guns.”

        That is such unmitigated bullshit right there.

    • Upon reading a subsequent decision (could not find the original) things are not **quite** as ridiculous as they seemed in the article. It sounds as though Lawler was driven to the police station to give him a receipt (voluntarily… I think), as opposed to being under arrest at the time. He was handcuffed earlier because he was obstructing the officers’ legal search (federal caselaw allows for police to check a vehicle for weapons and temporarily remove them on a traffic stop if reasonable suspicion points to the existence of such weapons, even where lawful).

      Still not sure why his gun was ‘confiscated,’ though since he was not charged with a gun crime and there is no duty to inform in PA.

    • From that linked article….

      He stuck to his guns, turning down a $25,000 offer from the city to settle his claims. He said that he wanted to challenge what he believes is the practice of the Police Department to harass legal gun owners.

      Are you stupid? Having the city lose money is how you make them change. Of coarse since it’s taxpayer money that probably doesn’t make a change anyway. Was he suing for more?

  6. Very…Very dumb. To let a subject with a knife to get within 5 or 6 feet of you ?!?!? Guess he has never heard of the 21 foot rule. I suppose it is 31 feet now that “they” have changed the standard. O well, at least he and his lady made it out in one piece….(golf clap)

  7. I’d had an LEO trainer tell me that a hip-shot is preferred if the offender has the weapon aimed and a finger on the trigger. That shot would cause the offender to twist in the direction of the hip that was shot, as the reflexive tensing of the muscles caused the offender to fire the weapon. I don’t know about a nutshot on a knife-wielder, though… but it worked!

  8. the better question is will Mr. Bad Guy be able to pee standing up like a man or has he been confined to squatting? Makes a difference in the joint. . . . 🙂

  9. Suspect that adrenaline and the excitement of the moment plus a moving target can easily result in shot placement a little askew on the target. Probably pulled the trigger just as he was “leveling” the gun.

    Mission accomplished, nothing for us to complain about here without knowing more; Mr. Lawler will do enough Monday morning quarterbacking in his mind for years to come.

  10. The femoral artery can make a gut or groin shot potentially lethal. Hitting this can cause the assailant to bleed out in less than a few minutes.

  11. You know, I’ve spent some time thinking about groin shots for self defense before reading this story. I participated in MMA training for a few years, and a very effective street fighting technique in Muay Thai is a push kick to the hip. Not a kick to the junk, but a push kick to the femur/pelvis joint. It folds your opponent around the kick and bends them over, putting them off balance and primed for a second strike somewhere else. If you were to shoot a person in the pelvis and managed to shatter some part of the pelvis, there’s a really good chance that the person being shot would just collapse without the structural support of the pelvis. Also, there is really nowhere in the groin that you really want to be shot. There are a lot of very big blood vessels down there, as well as a lot of structural bony stuff. If you don’t bleed to death, you have a really good chance of peeing or pooping into a bag for the rest of your life, or never walking properly again.

    Then again, if my life is in danger, I’d prefer that the person that I shot was flat on their back with several shots center mass, not bleeding and screaming at me and still shooting back. This DGU ended well, but it didn’t have to. Proves that it’s always better to be lucky than good…

  12. The whole point of shooting someone in the pelvis (just low center of mass as opposed to high) is to immobilize them, leaving an easier follow up shot if needed. How well this works up close with a handgun is debatable, but it works just dandy with a rifle.

  13. Scoreboard’s what matters. He won.

    I would say a hip-shot is particularly useful against a bad guy with a knife. More likely to put them on the ground quickly than a chest shot and you don’t have to worry about them still being able to pull a trigger.

  14. Not sure which has me more puzzled? The back and forth discussions on the merits of a groin shot or how many videos are on the net about dick shots.

  15. Last time I mentioned groin shots everybody was whining about the ethics and lack of efficency of it. Well, the story above is proof that groin shots work.

  16. Years ago I read an article in one of the popular handgun magazines (far enough back when those were still a thing). I think it may have been by Massad Ayoob (possible not). The basic premise was that aiming for the pelvic girdle might be a better option than center-mass. There are a lot of arteries in the area, making incapacitation from exsanguination as likely as with a chest shot. Furthermore, it is much more likely to stop someone in their track from a mechanical point of view. A solid lung/heart shot on a target running towards you with a knife/axe/club may be enough to be terminal, even within a few seconds (blood loss, shock, etc) but sheer momentum means they can close to within harming distance in that time. Whereas a hit to the pelvis, lower spine, or femur removes the mechanical support a body needs to remain standing. The person shot would drop and not be physically able to get back up (no matter how motivated/drugged). You also can’t discount the psychological deterrent effect having a gun pointed at your most precious posession. Just speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised who someone in the thrall of full-blown rage or drug influence who wouldn’t stop with a gun pointed to their chest might be given pause and reconsider if it were pointed at their junk.


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