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By Jim Duke

I’m not what you’d call meek. I don’t like assholes and I’m not afraid to let them know it when the need arises. Unfortunately, they seem to be everywhere these days. From the jerk behind the [insert business name here] counter who wants to talk to me like I’m an idiot because I might not know as much about whatever crap he’s selling as he does, to the dude that bumps into my kid without so much as an “excuse me.” There are opportunities to lose my cool everywhere I go. I think most guys can relate to this and can probably share a story or two where they let some jerk have it for one reason or another. But these days I have to be a bit more careful. Not only because I’m getting a little older and I’m not a kung fu master, but because I typically have a .45 somewhere on my person when I leave the house . . .

I know there are people out there who have never carried who think having a gun is somehow empowering and causes a person to be more prone to confrontation. In some cases they might even be right, but those examples are usually the idiots that have no business carrying a firearm anyway. The fact is that if you’re going to carry a firearm, concealed or openly, you should probably leave your ego at home.

The reason for this is that any confrontation, no matter how minor it seems, has the potential to escalate. How many times have you seen an argument between two kids over a toy end up with someone getting pinched or hit? Plenty of adults aren’t much more advanced than that if you stop to think about it. The stakes are just a bit higher. Sometimes.

I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve seen over the years where, after the fact, the people involved can’t even remember what they were fighting about. Yet a few minutes earlier, they were beating the crap out of each other. Or sometimes they do remember, but it’s something so stupid it’d be better if they’d forgotten after all.

When carrying a firearm, a person has the ability to violently take a life. That’s the point of carrying in the first place. What some people forget, however, is that there is also a big responsibility that goes along with it. Most people carry as a defensive measure; a last resort when all other means of defense have failed. But what means of defense should be employed before the gun is drawn? Pepper spray? Martial arts? How about a good baton? Maybe, but I have something else in mind.

The first line of defense, in my opinion, is situational awareness. I bet anyone reading this can name a part of their town or city where it’s a really bad idea to be. A place where violence is probable. Most of us typically avoid these areas, not wanting to increase our chances of experiencing the muggings, rapes or worse. If a place makes you uncomfortable and you don’t absolutely need to be there, then don’t go. That sounds simplistic because it is.

Even though trouble is usually fairly territorial, sometimes it can pop up in unexpected places. Maybe there’s someone in your favorite retail store that thinks he’s a shark in a swimming pool. You can usually spot these guys pretty easy. Often there’s more than one.

If you have good situational awareness you’ll likely see them before they see you. It’s best to just go around them whether or not you’re sure you can kick their ass. When I’m carrying — actually even when I’m not — I try to be aware of everybody around me and who might represent a threat. This is especially true when I’m with my family.

The second line of defense is letting things go. If I went off on every dumbass that pissed me off when out in public, I would a) never get anything done because almost everybody pisses me off when I’m in public, and b) at some point some jackass is going to be stupid enough to take it to a violent level, at which point I may have to actually draw my weapon. No bueno.

When we carry in public, the responsibility to avoid or diffuse confrontations falls on us whether we like it or not. This is true on both a legal and a moral level. Even though I’m not a lawyer, I would say it’s not unreasonable that if you are involved in a defensive gun use and it’s determined that you could have reasonably walked away at some point, but failed to do so, you could be held liable.

I think this is especially be true if the other person attacks you with anything other than a firearm. A good example of this is the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Yes, that kid attacked Zimmerman and put him in real danger, but Zimmerman could have avoided the whole thing by leaving before anything actually happened. Regardless of who you may think was actually at fault, it’s incumbent on the person with the gun to remove himself from the situation. Had Zimmerman done that, Martin would not have been killed that night.

The reason this becomes a moral issue in addition to a legal one is the fact that you may get to a point where you have to take a person’s life. And when all the smoke clears you’ll have to live with that. Will you be able to live with the reality of shooting and killing a person because your argument over the last shopping cart at Walmart went too far? That may sound extreme but people fight over far less every day. It ain’t always easy, but a person carrying a gun needs to stick to the high road no matter how bad it feels to do so.

I’m not saying we should just let people walk all over us, ’cause God knows they’ll try. I’m saying that it’s important to know who to avoid and when to walk away. In every argument there’s a point at which it’s clear that the other party will never see things your way no matter what. That’s the point at which you walk away, even if the other person doesn’t want to let you. Sometimes that may require you to choke on your pride a little, but the alternative can be far worse. By doing so, you’re not only protecting yourself, but also the jackass giving you a hard time.

The other person is typically going to assume that you’re not armed, especially if he or she isn’t. The vast majority of people you’ll encounter don’t think much about who might have a gun because they’re out of sight and out of mind. Acting on this assumption, they may be more willing to escalate things since the only consequence, in their view, is a fist fight. Or the other person could be carrying a gun as well…and be stupid enough to use it in anger.

Without getting into the whole ‘Stand You Ground’ debate, a concealed firearm is the absolute last resort. It’s what you use when there is no physical means of escape and the other person is clearly intent on harming you. Even though you might be in the right or you think that you can whup the other guy that’s pissing you off, if you’re carrying a gun you should always be looking for ways to avoid or diffuse a contentious situation.

It may be the last thing you want to do, but if you look beyond the moment and think of the consequences, you’ll see that that’s usually the best outcome for everybody. In those rare instances when you can’t walk away, just remember — shot placement is key.

A version of this article originally appeared at

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  1. I know we’ve all heard it, “An armed society is a polite society.” The first time I heard it (long before I carried), I thought it was true, but also funny as hell. Several years on now, I still think it’s true, but I also think it’s deadly (no pun intended) serious.

    I’m as capable of being impatient and in a hurry as anyone else on occasion, but it doesn’t happen often in public. I regularly hear (from the person behind the counter, after having waited on an annoyingly slow customer in line in front of me) that I look like I don’t have a care in the world, and often they thank me (sincerely, not the default customer service “Thanks for waiting; how can I help?”) for being so patient. The fact that they notice and point it out shows how used to dealing with impatient assholes they are. I try to be the counterpoint to those folks.

  2. It’s situational dependant; if someone cuts me off in traffic, I don’t flip him or her off, I just go on about my buisness; if I’m in line and some one trys to cut in front of me I’ll tell him the line is back there and if he still ignores common courtesy I’ll call store security, unless, if course, he punches me in tbe face first.

    Then I’ll defend myself at the level needed to resolve it with the least force needed.

    Ultimately, the stats show that 99.9% of people carrying a weapon legally don’t use the weapon unjustly; that is shown by the fraction of a percent that lose thier CCL because of illegal behavior; that’s the reason there is less and less restrictions in carrying a weapon for self-defense, because there is no “blood in the streets” as the anti’s constantly were hyperventilating would happen as more people carried weapons for self-defense.

    • Amen.
      You’re a breath of fresh air. Let’s all make liars out of the “wild, wild west” Cassandras, and true believers out of the predatory criminals in our midst.

  3. Great article.

    To expand situational awareness more, one should
    also know WHEN and HOW to walk away. Turning
    your back and leaving is often fine, other times it
    actually invites trouble. Cultural perceptions also
    weigh in. Backing off before escalating can make you
    seem weak and make you an instant target for any-
    body watching. Finally, leaving without keeping
    an eye on your query can also be invitation to disaster.

    • Backing down too easily may invite aggression, but it’s a good legal tactic. Short of the bad guy’s friends perjuring themselves, it’s hard to make a case that someone who backs away saying “I don’t want to fight you” is the aggressor. If it does turn into a DGU, the more lopsided the better. It’s the defender’s responsibility not to provoke an attack. He has no responsibility to deter one. Therefore, the meeker, the better.

  4. While I agree 100%, why is it the topic is only discussed in the context of a non-black shooter vs. a black victim?
    Blacks shoot blacks, and whites shoot whites literally *every day of the week here in Hampton Roads & no one bats an eye. Just another day of the week. Not a single word.
    But when there happens to be an inter-racial shooting, it’s the only thing anyone can talk about, and worse, it’s a foregone conclusion that all gun owners are racist wackos.
    It’s an absurd strawman that we allow progressives to get away with repeatedly, unchallenged.

    • He picked, as an example, a situation that would be familiar to everyone, in which (in his opinion) the guy with the gun could have avoided/evaded the situation that resulted in gunplay. I happen to disagree with him, but that’s not relevant to the point he was attempting to make. It’s a very polarizing incident and probably not the best example he could have used.

      That said, his using that example (not the example itself, but his use of it) had nothing whatsoever to do with race, and I’ll thank you not to drag it into an unrelated discussion.

      • Well, except that the guy with the gun did try to avoid the situation of actually confronting the suspect. It’s an interesting example to use here because Zimmerman, the guy with the gun, initially followed the suspect because the dispatcher asked him for additional information. He stopped following Martin when the dispatcher told him to, and was in fact heading back to meet the police when they arrived. Which is why the dispatcher ended the call. It was no longer an in progress incident, it devolved to a follow-up by the police. Martin indicated to the girl he was talking to on the phone that he had lost Zimmerman. Yet, the two crossed paths a second time. That is the problem, we only have Zimmerman’s account of the second confrontation and a little bit from the girl on the phone as to what Martin was thinking, why he didn’t simply continue to his home…

        • I wish I could make this 20-point type:

          That said, his using that example (not the example itself, but his use of it) had nothing whatsoever to do with race, and I’ll thank you not to drag it into an unrelated discussion.

    • Hispanics shoot blacks too, see the Zimmerman/Martin case. Also blacks shoot whites often enough and yet I can’t think of a single example of a case like that making national news.

  5. “Will you be able to live with the reality of shooting and killing a person because your argument over the last shopping cart at Walmart went too far? That may sound extreme but people fight over far less every day. It ain’t always easy, but a person carrying a gun needs to stick to the high road no matter how bad it feels to do so.”

    Great article, and I agree.

  6. Good article. Common sense isn’t that common anymore. The Zimmerman case is one of the best examples of putting YOURSELF into a sh*tty situation that you don’t have to be in. I don’t feel a bit sorry for him, I feel sorry for the parents of Martin.

  7. I agree with these points except for one, Zimmerman . He was doing a civic duty by calling the cops on a suspicious character that turned out to be capable of assault. If we all ignore everything we end up a lot worse as a society.
    If Martin had gone home he’d be alive today, and free to beat up someone else instead.

      • Who followed who?

        Zimmerman stopped following Martin, he lost sight of Martin and was on the way back to his truck to wait for the police when the confrontation occurred. The fact he stopped following Martin and lost sight of him was confirmed in the conversation with the dispatcher, and by the girl who was on the phone with Martin.

        • Ok. But my father, who grew up in Chicago during the depression taught me a couple things about fighting:

          You can lose. Don’t engage in combat you can avoid if it’s not worth your life.

          You never know how far the other person is willing/planning to take the fight-any fight you get in is risking your life.

          You never lose the fight you avoid.

          Patton put it as: – “Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.”

  8. To everyone above that it applies to:

    Can we please, please not turn this otherwise very good thread into a Zimmerman discussion? It will not fail to devolve into a shouting match that will distract from the otherwise very high quality of the information presented here.

  9. Guns are terminal, and carrying one is the ultimate definition of responsibility over life and death. Best to avoid of course, or if the situation is unavoidable, escalate in steps, if possible. If possible is the key of course. And if it is, I highly recommend these:

    They are state of the art, law enforcement grade, and perfect as a handle for your keys. If this option doesn’t work then escalation to deathly force is more than warranted.

    If they work though, you have saved yourself from a world of “you know what” that follows a firearm discharge.

    I have family members in local LE service. They carry everything on their belt. Handgun, baton, OC, and Tasers. That tells you something…..


  10. Good article. If your going to carry a firearm, you better know, that you NEVER, interject yourself into a situation when your armed. Period! The words, George Zimmerman, should be forever be in your mind.

    You don’t go looking for trouble, for it may just find you.

    I’ve been cut off by angry drivers. I have started to change lanes with a vehicle in my blind spot, recognized my mistake and avoided the crash. Shit happens and sometimes we make mistakes. When the guy or gal, goes flying by me and lets me know that I am number 1, in their world with the extension of the middle finger, I never, flip the bird back. I just let them go by. Why? Because I carry a gun everyday. I NEVER Escalate! If you find yourself in an argument, deescalate or if you have to, leave!

    A friend, told me the story of how he was harassed by 2 drunk guys once. My friend, was carrying a .45 inside the waistband, concealed. The main antagonist, told my buddy, “Well, you must be a Pussy”, my buddy responded, “yes sir, if you say so, yep I am a pussy”. They ended up laughing and getting in their truck and driving away.

    Bottom line was that these drunks, were not threats. They were idiots. Words can’t hurt you. Had they pulled knives or threatened to beat the crap out of my friend, then things would have been different. But, that didn’t happen. My friend explained, these guys couldn’t win. He had the .45. But, he didn’t have to shoot a couple of guys for being drunk idiots. He went home, no harm, no foul.

    Just a few days ago in Florida, a guy got into an argument with some teens over a loud car stereo. This guy is now in jail and a kid is dead, because the shooter said “he felt threatened” so he’s standing his ground. Really? You choose to open your mouth to a car load of teens over their loud radio. When if it bothered you that badly, you could have placed a call to the cops and had them come handle the problem. Wonder where he gets to sleep for the next 20 years?

    • Chad: re: your Florida car stereo example…

      I’ve lived in my ground floor, facing-the-parking-lot apartment for five years now. In that time, I’ve gone outside easily a dozen times to ask people to turn their car stereo down (I usually give them a half hour or so, unless it’s oh-dark-thirty; people gotta live together, y’know?). I suppose on one of those occasions, the driver (and/or friends) could have come boiling out of the car to kick my ass, and it could have gone downhill in a hurry. But on a dozen (so far) occasions, that hasn’t happened. I’m not going to start calling the cops to handle it now.

      • I would rather have my neighbors come to me first if they have a problem with me. Or my kids. Or my dogs. Instead of dragging the police into it. I’m with Matt, in that I will first show them the same courtesy and respect by approaching them directly. I’ve always been able to settle things amicably.

        But then, often it’s in how the request is made. A polite request tends to bring a polite, even if negative initial response. Then perhaps some compromise.

        An aggresive overbearing and presumptuos demand, tends to elicit a pronounced, defensive and negative response. And very little opportunity for compromise.

  11. Good article. Too many folks I know have the tough-guy syndrome when they go out. Mix that with CHP and it’s a bad combination. You’re not in high school anymore, be a man and let crap go. It’s a quality good women find attractive anyways!

  12. Too right.

    After you’ve in been in 2 or 3 fights, you should learn to read the situation and de-escalate and LEAVE. For gods sakes, even if you’re armed you’re not invulnerable; the other guy may have a gun, or he may have buddies you don’t notice.

  13. Good points. They should be stated more often.

    IMHO anyone who carries a gun because it makes them feel stronger and then goes out looking for trouble is unqualified to carry one. Not legally, emotionally. We are talking about a serious responsibility. Many rights we have also carry the responsibility to use them wisely. This can not be overstated.

    I also agree with the discussion of situational awareness. Trouble is that being aware of your surroundings requires practice. NRA trains people that there are four levels of awareness: Unaware, aware, concerned, and alarm. The second level, aware, is where we need to be. Maintaining awareness does not require anything but looking out for holes in the sidewalk – that sort of thing. You can maintain that level all day long without tiring. If you encounter other people you will pay attention to them and what they are doing.

    If someone acts suspiciously by observing the rest of the people closely or acting erratically you will go into level three until you have either determined there is no threat, retreated until the suspicious one is no longer a concern to you or yours, or otherwise dealt with the situation by going to level four.

    Not difficult and very valuable.

  14. Good points. Recommended reading on this subject (a bit dated, but still valid) is Massad Ayoob’s book, “In the Gravest Extreme”. He agrees with you – walk away whenever possible. Even a valid DGU can cost you a small fortune in legal fees.

  15. Walking away is a good idea even if aren’t carrying a firearm. Even if you are positive that you can ‘take’ the other guy/gal. Self-defense and mutual-combat concepts blur when a fight starts. Who is legally the agressor can shift and be very hard to sort out afterwards. Witness statements can vary wildly, even if there are some.

    In additon to the comments above re- even the best of us can lose, we may not understand our opponents intentions and how far they’re willing to go, there may be more opponents around then you assessed, etc. –

    It is possible to die in a fight simply tripping and striking one’s head on something. Particularly if alcohol is involved. Or by landing a blow on a particularly vulnerable spot. And now the legal situation becomes very interesting in that manslaughter (unintentionally killing someone) is still going to have very serious legal and financial consequences.

  16. I’m too old to fight and too disabled to run. I carry to save myself from being killed or maimed, not to teach some obnoxious cretin a lesson. I am polite because that’s how civilized people act, and I don’t wish to precipitate an incident involving Mr. Steyr that could have been avoided. If some bozo wants to think he scared me that’s OK. I was scared of what I might have to do to him, and it’s much better to go home and relax than talk to the police about why I had to shoot some obstreperous d-bag.


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