An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Bullets


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 and is reprinted here with permission. 


  1. avatar Geoff PR says:

    Uhhhm. I’m actually curious if that pic isn’t a Photoshop, what happened next.

    Edit – Snopes says it’s fake:

    1. avatar Jay Dunn says:

      Snopes is correct. That pic has been around since Mr. Gore invented the internet.

    2. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Snopes also claims that Omar Mateen being a registered democrat is not enough to prove that he was, in fact, an actual democrat.

      1. avatar gs650g says:

        If mateen was a white guy Republican they would be so obtuse about it.

      2. avatar J Locke says:

        Exactly. You can’t believe everything on snopes. However I do use it as a source from time to time but I look to find a second confirming source. I can’t ever only have snopes. Their allegiance is to Liberal Progressivism first and then myth busting.

        1. avatar Pg2 says:

          Snopes is a joke. Literally.

        2. avatar Hugo says:

          Snopes also says that all of the deceased Clinton enemies died of natural causes.

    3. avatar Cliff H says:

      That picture, and there any many others in the same style, is intended to make a point, and make you think. Whether or not the situation was manufactured in Photoshop is entirely beside the point. It simply would not have been as effective if it was a drawing or airbrush painting.

    4. avatar Michael says:

      No it is not photo shopped, I know the mans sister who showed me the photo several years ago while working at Marriott. It was taking while he was hunting in Montana. So I can verify it is real.

    5. avatar Bob Parks says:

      I do not believe anything from Snopes. Pravda for the DNC.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “… there is zero chance the [aggressive] dog will turn tail and run if I draw my gun and point it at him.”

    Au contraire mon ami!

    A psycho, hyper-aggressive German shepherd ran straight toward me at high speed to attack me. As soon as I saw it closing in (running right past the owner who was calling it by the way), I quickly drew my handgun and stepped toward the dog to assume the best shooting posture possible — fully expecting to put several shots into the dog. That dog recognized my confident attack posture and immediately put on the brakes … stopping just 15 feet away. (Fortunately, I never exceeded 3 pounds of pressure on my 6 pound trigger).

    Dogs read body language and assess your confidence level all the time. Having a full-size handgun that you know will stop the dog gives you the confidence to move toward the dog. In a sense the sight of my handgun (and confident body language) quite literally stopped the dog without having to fire a shot.

    1. avatar Ddub says:

      I love the Internet……?

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      (Fortunately, I never exceeded 3 pounds of pressure on my 6 pound trigger).

      Oh, for the love of God.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        That was an artistic way of saying:
        (1) I am glad that I did not have to actually shoot the dog.
        (2) The dog’s approach was so rapid and dangerous that I was beyond indexing my finger along side the slide. I had moved my finger to the trigger and applied the pressure necessary to take up the slack that is typical of a striker-fired semi-automatic pistol … fully anticipating that I was going to have to shoot.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        Ah, brash youth.

    3. avatar junkman says:

      I have freaked out people by my ability to ‘communicate’ with viscous dogs, having them sit down or run away–yes, they do read body language–even did it recently to a Bobcat that was stalking me

      1. avatar Clark45 says:

        Yeah, I’ve been able to get a couple of cougars to leave me alone with my body language. Mostly waving my left hand around so they could see the wedding ring… gotta admit that didn’t work for one of my buddies & the cougar got him.

        Wait… are we talking about the same thing? Maybe not, sorry. Laphroaig muddling my thoughts…

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          And here I have a friend that swears that his ring works as a lure. Maybe it’s a question of technique.

        2. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “Yeah, I’ve been able to get a couple of cougars to leave me alone with my body language.”

          Wow. I’ve only had Cougars hunt me one at a time…


        3. avatar Clark45 says:

          Matt, you’re absolutely right. The technique is key. It’s all about the direction of the wave. 😉

          Geoff, you’re not hanging out in the right places. 😀

    4. avatar FedUp says:

      Pointing objects at dogs is more effective than yelling at them in a command voice. Sighting over the muzzle of a can of HALT! is almost as effective as pointing a gun at them. If you’re wielding it as a weapon, they don’t want to be on the receiving end to find out what sort of weapon it is.

      After soldering some wires on a trailer last weekend, I went inside and the terrier rat wanted to help me put my tools away. I ‘shot’ her with the soldering gun and she hid in her cage. (this is a non-sporting dog that knows nothing of handguns)

  3. avatar jaybub says:

    True enough I suppose.

    As a sidenote, does anyone else think it’s ironic that some doctors (and organizations like DRGO) support god-given liberties? It is not par for the course within any health profession.

    It’s difficult to find a single doctor who supports our god-given right to treat our own illnesses and buy the tools and medicines necessary to do that, or choose our own physician independent of their licensing schemes.

    Think about the millennia of bloodletting and other ridiculous practices that was only reigned in (forcibly) in that last century by scientists and engineers. Besides some of the most aggressive religious institutions, it’s safe to claim that never have so few, with so much arrogance, been wrong, so often, for so many centuries, as doctors have been.

    I guess we’ll have to take what we can get right now. It’ll be easier to reclaim our rights to our own healthcare with the aid of arms.

    1. avatar DRGO says:

      DRGO was established in the mid-1990’s specifically to counter the anti-gun institutional bias in this country’s medical establishment.

  4. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    “People may ask “Since you carry a gun, are you prepared to shoot someone?” This is a gross oversimplification of a more complex subject.”

    I disagree, it’s very simple actually. What’s wrong with giving a simple answer to a simple question… When I’ve been asked this question, my answer is quick and simple…

    Yes and I’d shoot them in the face.

    We are taking about a fight, maybe to death even, let’s not water it down with euphemisms and ambiguity to spare people’s sensibilities.

    1. avatar Mk10108 says:

      People may ask “Since you carry a gun, are you prepared to shoot someone?”


    2. avatar Ing says:

      Or you could counter with your own question: You don’t carry a gun, so does that mean you’re prepared to die?

    3. avatar Gman says:

      I agree also, this is a very simple question with only two answers. And the answer better be yes before you ever carry a firearm. There is not much complexity involved. Now, getting to that answer may be complex for some. Others like me, not so much. Me and mine are more important than you and yours if you intend harm.

  5. avatar Gilbert says:

    Does that kitty have a leash on it ?
    Just sayin.

  6. avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

    No need. The state has taken control of medical care. Feel free to take part in whatever unhealthy lifestyle you desire, knowing that the state will flip the bill in your time of need, as long as you keep voting “democrat.”

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    Q: “Since you carry a gun, are you prepared to shoot someone?”

    A: “Since you don’t carry a gun, are you prepared for someone to shoot you?”

  8. avatar Badwolf says:

    Sun Zi kind of said the same thing in Art of War sometime in 5th century BC.

    Excellence is not fighting and winning all battles. Excellence is breaking your enemy without fighting.

  9. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    That’s why you arm the cameraman.

  10. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Dr Go,
    I agree with every word you said!
    Our Anesthesia department and a majority of our surgeons are all a bunch of “gun enthusiasts”
    We also support commonsense health measures like routine colon cancer screening
    Self reliance and personal responsibility are our motto

    1. avatar Pg2 says:

      You had me until you used the most widely used propaganda verbiage, “commonsense”.

  11. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Q – “Since you carry a gun, are you prepared to shoot someone?”

    A – “If it’s my last choice, because I carry a gun, it’s a choice I have. What about you?”

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