Life is a risky business. From the moment we exit the womb we are assailed by countless forces which seek, either actively or passively, to do us harm. Whether it is childhood disease, terrible accidents, or the hostile actions of other humans, the factors that cause damage to us are legion.
As a response to these hazards we have invented all manner of innovative ways to mitigate the risk that life throws at us. We wear safety belts when driving, purchase insurance policies, keep fire extinguishers within reach, immunize our children, and create armies and defense forces to protect us from foreign enemies.
The oldest known example of mercantile insurance and risk management dates from the 3rd Millennium BC when Chinese traders would distribute their wares over several vessels to minimize the risk of loss should one boat capsize. Thus the act of humans offsetting their risks and threats is as old as civilization itself.
Even more primal and ancient is the fight-or-flight response that all humans possess. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1915, and is defined as ‘a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.’ Through a discharge in the sympathetic nervous system you are primed to either flee or attack your threat, and so doing resolve the situation.
Crime and Fighting Back
Where does this phenomenon guide us regarding the problem of crime? It is obvious that the best place to be when a crime is being committed is someplace else. This is not always possible however, and as is frequently the case, safeguards can fail or be overcome by criminals regardless of how numerous or complex they happen to be.
As any engineer will tell you, nothing man-made is ever fail safe.
It is therefore not entirely unlikely that you may at some stage be confronted by criminals in a situation from which escape is very difficult. Considering that felons rely heavily on the element of surprise to gain control over their intended targets, you may have only two options to consider:
- Submission – you submit fully to the demands of your assailants and hope that they will not harm you or your loved ones. Chances are even that they will injure or kill you as not harm you. Submission does not guarantee your safety. Which brings is to:
- Resistance – you fight back against your assailants in an attempt to fend them off. This strategy is also fraught with risk, but in perusing cases where resistance is employed it appears to be frequently successful.
I am not a proponent of submitting to the whims of violent criminals, and giving them free rein and final say over my life or those of my wife or loved ones. These are people who cannot be trusted to obey the laws and statutes of the land, so why would I trust them to spare my life?
It is plainly not logical to do so.
Considering that you do not know the full nature and intentions of the criminals who are making you their prey until it is too late, fighting back with everything you have available may greatly increase your chances of survival. Nature clearly knew what it was doing when it gave animals the right-or-flight response.
It’s Not the Tools or Talent, It’s the Attitude That Matters
When it comes to fighting back, armed resistance is obviously much more effective than unarmed resistance. Nonetheless, the attitude of the defending party is also of critical importance in determining a successful outcome. It would do you no good to possess a defensive tool, be it a firearm, OC spray, a TASER, knife or gun if you are for some reason inhibited from employing these tools when you need them most.
The sources of these impeding factors regarding self-defense are plentiful, ranging from ignorance of the law and its consequences, to a lack of competence and confidence in using the selected tool or technique, to an aversion to violence and the fear of being injured, among other numerous psychological, emotional, and intellectual reasons.
Almost all of these inhibitors can be eliminated through training, practice, study, and the development of confident competence with the chosen tool or technique. However, the desire to fight and triumph over your assailants, in other words the desire to win, can be more important than your choice in tools and level of competence.
A clear illustration of this is the case of an 82-year-old father and his daughter who successfully fended off three men in their 20s, who attempted to rob them with knives. During the ensuing melee the two victims stabbed their assailants with the pocket knives they always carry on their person, causing them to flee. The father and daughter only sustained minor injuries themselves.
Another example involves an elderly man who apprehended two robbers with his hunting rifle, and held them in custody until they were arrested by the police.
I have sincere doubts that any of these brave people had any kind of formal self-defense training. Their chosen defensive tools were also far from ideal, considering that hunting rifles are definitely not designed for self-protection, and pocket knives are better suited to fending off aggressive bits of packing tape as opposed to armed robbers. Nonetheless they triumphed over their circumstances, in no small part due to their desire to win and an indomitable fighting spirit.
To successfully defend yourself you must have the right mindset to do so, and even the humble Victorinox in the right hands is better than nothing.
Myths and Misperceptions
Detractors of armed self-defense are fond of claiming that a gun won’t save innocents from the wicked. That a firearm is more likely to be used against the victim and that submission is safer than resistance. They are partially correct, at least regarding the first part: the gun by itself will not save you. The same can be said for any defensive tool. For it to be effective it must be carried, and the carrier must be willing and sufficiently competent to use it.
It is for this reason that I very strongly advocate for gun owners to carry their handguns as much as is practically possible. The same sentiment count for any other defensive tool you may have; leaving your OC spray in the kitchen cupboard means that it is ultimately useless to you.
Another favored denigration frequently leveled at those who carry these tools is that they are “afraid of something,” or they are sarcastically queried if they are perhaps expecting an attack, and are thus accused of being paranoid.
This is a rather naïve and overly simplistic way of viewing the world. Do you wear your seat belt because you expect to be involved in an accident? Do you take out an insurance policy because you expect your house to burn down? Do you vaccinate your children because you expect them to develop polio?
Or do you take such precautions simply because you understand the risks of everyday life and attempt to mitigate them, as improbable as some of them occurring may be?
It is for precisely this purpose that many of us carry defensive tools every day. They serve as an insurance policy in the event of the worst-case scenario culminating in reality, and then provide us with a fighting chance to survive. Dismissing preparedness as paranoia misses the point entirely, and people who have household or health insurance would never be subjected to such ridicule.
Yes, You Have a Fighting Chance
If you take your personal safety seriously enough to prepare contingency measures, such as an armed response, fencing, security gates, and defensive tools, it stands to reason that you are well acquainted with crime statistics. It is also an indicator that you are an unwilling victim, eager to do whatever you can to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm.
All of these things are, of course, good.
Denial can be a killer. Staring reality in the face, with all the unpleasant revelations and realizations that accompany doing so, allows us to realistically prepare for what is possible. If bad and violent people manage to breach whatever perimeter you constructed, be it a wall or your vigilance, you will be forced to deal with them through some form of either submission or resistance.
Equipped with the right tools, the right training, and the right mindset, you are capable not only of surviving such an encounter, but prevailing. This is where millennia of human behavioral adaptation, and even more ancient reflexes such as fight-or-flight come into play: you have been built to win that fight and survive.
But you cannot rely on instinct alone. You need to do your part and prepare: get a legal weapon, get high-quality training, and practice. Barriers are wonderful, but they have never stopped determined criminals from getting in.
If your last line of passive defense fails, you must be ready to be the front line of an active defense. You are then all that stands between the Bad Men in front of you, and your family behind you. Considering that average 2019 average police response time was nearly 10 minutes, you have to be prepared to defend yourself and those you love.
A gun by itself won’t save you. But a gun in the hands of a competent, confident citizen can stop dangerous criminals in their tracks.
Gideon Joubert is the publisher and editor of Paratus.
This article originally appeared at partatus.info and is reprinted here with permission.