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A few days ago, RF posited this “shoot / don’t shoot” scenario: I’m in the back of a convenience store with my family. I see a man enter the store and walk directly to the cashier. He draws a gun, sticks it in the cashier’s face and demands money or he’ll shoot. She freezes. He’s going to pull the trigger. The bad guy doesn’t see me and it’s likely that he won’t. My family and I are safe where we are. I’m armed. What would I do?

My first and only responsibility, I replied, is to me and my family. I’d draw my firearm, train it on the BG, and then . . . I’d keep a defensive posture and make sure that my family was safe. I would not fire at the BG.

Why? First, maybe I’d knock him down with the first shot, or maybe he’d have time to turn and sling lead in the direction of my family. I can’t have that. Second, if I fire, even in the defense of the defenseless store cashier, I’m going to be treated like a suspect in the People’s Kommonwealth of Massachusetts, and I can’t have that either.

Sure, in the end the shooting would be deemed justified, but I’m not going to go through that agonizing process for a stranger. Finally, if the clerk or the state made a decision that the cashier could not or should not carry, that’s on them, not me. I am not my “brother’s keeper,” I’m my family’s keeper.

So I ask you: in the same exact circumstances, what would you do? Would you do anything different if the robber executed the cashier in front of you?

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  1. I agree with you; your first and foremost duty is to your family. I would feel terrible if the clerk were seriously injured but I can’t put my family in harms way for anyone.

  2. Theoretically . . .

    1. Draw weapon as I seek cover for me and mine. If not cover (unlikely), then concealment.

    2. Move family away from me (nothing attracts a perps’ bullets like a gun shooting at them)

    3. Aim. If the robber doesn’t shoot the clerk, and doesn’t see me and mine, and leaves, that’s that.

    3B. If the robber shoots the clerk, if I have a reasonable shot, shoot them before he sees me and mine. Shoot until the threat stops.

  3. I’m in the local convenience store almost daily. I exchange pleasantries with the various clerks all the times. Aim for the head and pull the trigger. No brainer.

    But if we assume some random store … I still don’t know if I could look in the mirror and know I watched someone else get murdered when I had a chance to stop it. I agree with get the family down low, behind cover, away from me. Give the guy a chance to take the money and walk out. But if I think he’s going to shoot? Bang.

    After, move to cover front of store in case he has an accomplice. At this point shoot on sight if he comes rushing in. Stop him at the door.

  4. The problem with drawing your weapon and especially pointing it at the bad guy is that there may be an unknown accomplice there, perhaps in the back where you are, who may not look kindly on your actions. It would probably be best to keep back, separate from your family in case bullets do fly and maintain readiness with stealth.

    Other than that, I concur.

  5. “I still don’t know if I could look in the mirror and know I watched someone else get murdered when I had a chance to stop it.”

    This sounds great in theory. Many people, when they first get a gun, think that they can now stop robberies, murders, rapes, etc., without thinking that they may be the ones to loose the gun fight.

    Is it worth dying to stop what was probably going to be a $200 robbery (as most stop and robs are)

    Here’s a link to an important article I wrote on the exact subject:

    • What’s the point of being a responsible gun owner if you stand by and do nothing? If you watched someone get gunned down and did nothing to stop it (if you were CCWing), then you’re just as bad by not doing anything. (As they say, Evil persists when good men do nothing)

      I mean: yeaaaah, sure, your family’s safety comes first. But what about other people and their families? What if the roles were reversed and the gun were in your face? Would you sit there, nod approvingly as the armed civilian in the back with his family huddles there when the BG puts a round in your face?

      • You need to decide if you are willing to get shot, die, go to jail, spend $100,000 on legal fees to defend a stranger, because those are the potential consequences of a gunfight.

        Would you die for a stranger who did not think their own life was worth saving since they did not carry their own gun?

        Do you think your wife and kids would be willing to trade your life for a that of stranger?

        Read the article that I linked, it will be worth your time.

        • Let’s turn it around.

          Would you want some stranger stepping up and being willing to defend you if you were unarmed?

          There are hundreds of reasons why we may be unarmed for a moment, an hour or a day.

          If you want a stranger to step and defend you, shouldn’t you be willing to defend others?

        • Carrying isn’t for everyone. This may be a shocker, but there are people out there who don’t carry because they damned well don’t want to walk around with a gun strapped to them. That’s their choice, and it should be respected.

          When it comes down to it, I’d rather shoot to save a life and risk the consequences than wake up every day knowing that someone died because I was being selfish and covering my ass like a coward.

      • “If you watched someone get gunned down and did nothing to stop it (if you were CCWing), then you’re just as bad by not doing anything.”
        -To witness a homicide is VASTLY different from participating in one.

        I would rather live with regret than die due to some warped sense of responsibility to an individual who chose to work in a convenience store but failed to provide for their own security.

        I take care of my own and expect others to do the same. If one is unwilling to provide for their own security in a job notorious for crime, then I’m unwilling to risk myself for their sake.

        I carry to protect me and my family. The clerk should do the same.

  6. I learned this past year in force on force training that I won’t always behave the way I think I will behave while sitting at a keyboard on the internet.

    This scenario (as you described) was covered in a few different iterations and one time was a crowded store. I did not account for a pre-staged second bad guy in that instance and was shot non fatally but the point was still made. I “fatally” shot the guy holding up the register. The trigger for me was being ordered to the floor.

    In another version of that scenario I was not the only good guy with a gun, and simultaneously we both moved to prevent any pre-staged bad guy from getting us. In this action we both shot the bad guy. In this scenario we learned that we had both run our guns to slide lock, neither of us believing we had fired more than 2 or 3 shots.

    I’d done force on force before but being a little more educated I was surprised at how “binary” my decisions became under adrenaline. We debriefed each encounter as a team and that was very valuable.

    Once the bad guy’s gun is out, and pointed at someone lethal force has been employed. If as you say you are defensively staged and discovered it is almost certain that the BG will kill you if (s)he can. Maybe they’ll leave with the money, but maybe they won’t. I will probably run through this scenario and a few more like again this year in force on force training. I sincerely hope I never have to go through a real scenario like this.

  7. You picked the winning move in my book…

    I CAN’T JUSTIFY SHOOTING if the perp is pointing a weapon at another person… I do not have any legal reason to “fear for my life” until that perp turns toward me or mine.

    I can’t read their intentions unless they fire a weapon, at which point it may be too late for the cashier, but it WOULD show clear intent to murder someone…

    Getting the kids below shelf height, making good use of cover, and drawing my weapon without attracting the attention of the perp would be my response in this scenario…

    Something else to consider: Having practiced enough “weak hand” drills to be able to use either end of a display island could make the difference between giving the perp a target and exposing only enough of yourself to make the shot if necessary…

  8. Three things:

    – As another poster stated, if you have time to get your family in a safe position, you have time to either call 911 or (probably better) tell one of them to. Sure, when seconds count the cops are only minutes away, but there’s no sense in not minimizing the delay.
    – There is a very good chance in the described scenario that the clerk you’re trying to save on the other side of the crook is in the path of your bullets already. Know what’s beyond your target and don’t point the muzzle at something you don’t want to destroy.
    – Adrenaline rush aside unless you’ve got some mighty keen eyes and a touch of mindreading skill you don’t know the crook is going to shoot until he does. Once and only once he does, he is a mortal threat to every single person in and around the store and should be dealt with immediately with appropriate (deadly) force. Just because someone’s shouting “I’M GOING TO FXXKING PULL THE TRIGGER” doesn’t mean they’re going to.

  9. Both R.F. and the Rabbi have great points on how to handle this perp. I would tend to lean toward their view, but after reading what Bob. S had to say I would hope that I could have helped the clerk. If one of my family or friends was in need I would like someone to help them. Sadly, I don’t believe I would have shot unless the perp came at my family and I had no other choice. In the People’s Republic of Mass. your screwed if you shoot the perp unless he kills half of the customers in the store. And even then you’ll get sued by the morons family and the state will go after you for using excessive force. Now if this happened in the Great Free state of Florida, you could kill that lowlife scum and you’d get a medal. But alas even if I was in Florida I probably still wouldn’t shoot. Shame on me

  10. A quick follow up on this officer’s handling of the perp. If he had shot this lowlife he’d most likely be charged cuz the scumbag didn’t have a weapon. But why didn’t he just pistol whip this fool and knock some sence into or out of him.

  11. I have both a cell phone and a gun (many many guns) and I would take the gun over the phone everytime. I’ll let the other guy call 911 and take my chances with one of my Kimbers. I’d really like to use my one of my S&W 500’s but I’d probably take out the badguy and four or five goodguys at the same time.

  12. A big part of this decision seems to be twofold: are you/your family in danger and can you safely make a positive difference? If the answer to both of those is “yes” then my answer is also “yes, I would engage the target”.

    In this scenario, you have a bag guy you believe is about to shoot the store clerk and you have the drop on the bad guy. After doing the things that Robert mentioned (as well as dialing 911), I would deliberately engage. Why?

    1. My family is about to go from being witnesses to a robbery to being witnesses to a murder. One errant sneeze and a very desperate bad guy may come looking for my kids.

    2. The clerk may be armed. The corn chips and Twinkies that are concealing my family will not protect them. I want to end the situation as quickly as possible to avoid any potential shoot-outs or whatever. I have to assume that I am better trained than the average 7-11 clerk.

    3. I have the most advantage while the bad guy is concentrating on the clerk. If I believe that my family and myself are in danger, why would I wait for the danger to worsen and for my advantage to fade away?

    You may think I’m taking advantage of the law by using the defense of others as a way to preemptively defend my family. I don’t know that you’re wrong. But it’s still legal.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to whether or not I would defend the store clerk just to defend the store clerk. The law (in this situation) gives me the OPTION to use deadly force. My family’s presence gives me the REASON.

    Of course, this is assuming that my only two options are attack or hide behind the Little Debbies. If I could hustle my family out the back, that is the best answer.

    Great post and some great replies!

  13. Ted,
    What state do you live in? I’m not sharp shooting. I’m just really curious and really happy that Ohio laws are much more on the side of the victim in this arena.

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