If there’s one thing that the Learn About Guns website wants you to learn about guns it’s this: it’s better to be armed than unarmed. Day after day, the now-freshly-minted lawyer shares tales of citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights in situations where doing so leads to a positive result. Given the huge number of news stories where guns lead to tragedy of one sort or another, fair play. But LAG’s most recent post gives me pause for thought . . .
“A recent robbery attempt from Cleveland, Ohio, in which the victim tried to flee but was shot by the robber, reinforces the benefits of armed self defense and the problem with trying to flee from a robber.” Back when I was a salesman, this kind of assertion was called a “false option set.”
In other words, you force the customer to choose between two options—ignoring the fact that there are plenty more choices. Including the option not to buy. For example, “Would you like to buy this car now or after your wife approves?” Not “Do you want to buy this car or not?”
In this blog post, the reader is presented with two choices: run for your life or stay and make a stand with a gun. LAG dismisses the first option out of hand.
I’ve seen some anti gun rights people suggest that instead of being armed for self defense, a citizen can just run from a criminal. As this shooting shows, running is not necessarily a good choice. Simply put, humans just don’t have the speed to outrun an armed criminal who is intent upon shooting them. Even the fastest human sprinters, under ideal conditions, can only manage to run at about 29 MPH for a very short period time, while bullets are (obviously) much faster. It takes just an instant for a criminal to aim and fire their gun, while a human trying to run away must first overcome inertia and then avoid obstacles, all while trying to avoid being shot. Given the fact that robberies often happen in enclosed spaces with limited escape routes, a criminal will have a good idea of the victim’s potential escape route, making it easier to shoot the fleeing victim. Or as the NFL’s Brandon Jacobs explained while defending Plaxico Burress‘ decision to carry a gun: no one is fast enough to outrun a bullet.
There are lots of holes in this theory. First, note the phrase “outrun an armed criminal who is intent on shooting them.” That’s a bit . . . inflammatory. Just a bit. Yes, I’d assume that any criminal with a weapon—especially a gun—was intent on harming me. But shooting the victim is not usually the criminal’s intent. It’s a means to an end. And if you’re looking down the business end of a criminal’s gun, running may be no more or less dangerous than compliance.
But are those the only options other than fighting back with a gun? Once again, we need to rewind any encounter with an armed assailant to the moments before the deal goes down.
The best way to cope with a dangerous situation is to avoid the dangerous situation in the first place. If enclosed public spaces are where attacks occur, don’t go there. If criminals are looking at your escape routes, do the same before you encounter a criminal. If you see trouble brewing, maintain as much distance from danger as possible.
If you feel threatened and you can run, run! Why not? What’s the downside? If you’re far enough away, and they haven’t drawn yet, you’re good to go. If you can’t flee, put an object (tree, car, anything) between you and the potential assailant. Note: you don’t need a gun for this strategy.
Obviously, you can’t outrun a bullet. Less obviously (but just as important), drawing a gun on someone who’s pointing a gun at you is a fool’s errand. Chances are you’ll get shot before you can shoot. If children, your environment or some other factor prevents high-tailing it out of danger, well, yes, you’ll be wanting a gun.
But wait! There’s another, better option. Run AND draw your weapon (should you have one). In fact, I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that anyone who plans on defending themselves with a gun should ONLY practice moving and shooting. Because shooting without moving is so wrong on so many levels in a self-defense situation that static fire should NEVER be the default option. (More on that in a separate post.)
These two factors—avoidance and evasion—are so important that anyone trying to learn from a self-defense shooting should ask themselves two questions. 1) Could the confrontation have been avoided? and 2) Who moved where? Despite Learn About Guns’ constant pro-gun drumbeat, not all self-defense shootings offer us the same lesson.
On the other hand, armed citizens are in the best possible position to defend themselves and their loved ones. This armed barber shot an armed criminal who threatened his young child. This armed pet shop clerk shot an armed robber who threatened a fellow employee’s life. This armed pizza delivery man defended himself against a trio of robbers. This armed citizen stopped a bank robber, while this armed Israeli stopped a terrorist. This armed woman shot a rapist, while this armed woman shot a stalker that broke into her home. Even citizens who are illegally carrying guns have stopped bat-wielding racists and armed robbers. While it is true that not every crime could be prevented by an armed citizen, a great many crimes could be – and that is why I support the right of citizens to be armed for self defense purposes.
LAG’s conclusion suggests that guns can prevent crime. Thanks to stat man John Lott, it’s a popular notion. Common sense suggests that the higher a criminal’s perceived risk of armed confrontation, the less likely they are to take that chance.
But citizens don’t arm themselves to prevent crime. They do so to combat crime when it occurs. (I don’t consider brandishing a gun crime prevention per se.) Truth be told, an effective armed self-defense puts running at the top of the list of options.