By Rob Morse
Don’t confuse the news with the truth. The corporate news media is in the business of delivering eyes and ears to their advertisers. That’s how they earn their money. The assignment editors, reporters and the copy editors aren’t against honesty and proportion, but cash comes first. That means they’re biased in their reporting. They ignore common but important stories in order to leave room for the shock and outrage that keeps us clicking, watching, and listening.
I study armed defense. Ordinary citizens like us defend ourselves, our families, and innocent strangers every day. You wouldn’t know that from watching the news. This is why the corporate media does such a bad job of reporting.
To be fair, we all have our own biases. Most of us think that armed self defense looks like something from a John Wick movie or from The Matrix. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I have to describe what ordinary people do because most of us are not even familiar with the terms and you’re not going to read about it in the paper or see it on your nightly news.
Armed self defense is when the intended victim of a violent crime uses a firearm to deter or stop the criminal.
That includes something as simple as grandma shouting for an intruder to go away because she has a gun and that she’s called the police. The police might not classify that as a defensive gun use, but grandma thinks it was. She thinks the home invader/robber changed his plans because she had her firearm. (SPOILER ALERT: The criminal thought grandma’s gun was important too.)
Armed self defense is when an armed mom is crossing the parking lot late at night. She tells her kids to get in the car, she turns toward the three young men who were following her, puts her her hand into her purse and yells “STOP!” The three young men change direction. They get back into their car and drive away.
In these examples, the victim didn’t have to point their gun at their attackers. The significant thing was the armed defenders didn’t look or act the way the attacker thought they would. The criminals moved on to find easier prey.
Some people would say those examples aren’t really armed self defense, but the use of force comes in shades of grey. It’s a continuum. It starts with turning toward your attacker, yelling “STOP,” backing away, grabbing your gun, presenting your firearm and pointing it at the attacker. It ends, if need be, with pressing the trigger. Each of those are separate steps on the ladder of defense. We don’t want to climb that ladder any higher than we absolutely have to.
The good news is that we are reluctant to use lethal force. It isn’t our job to close with, contact, subdue, and arrest an attacker. That’s for the police when they finally arrive. We just want the bad guy to go away and let us escape without being hurt. That’s what we do.
In fact, the mere presence of a firearm is usually enough to make most bad guys go away. That reaction isn’t as unusual as it seems. A police officer puts his hand on his gun many times, but seldom has to present it and shoot a criminal assailant. Bad guys behave the same way around us. They don’t want to be shot if they can possibly avoid it.
That isn’t just speculation. Scholars asked tens of thousands of ordinary adults if they’d ever used a firearm for armed defense. About one-adult-in-ten said yes. Only one-person-out-of-fifty actually had to pull the trigger. That’s significant, but it leads us to something bigger.
The police might not take a report if you were armed but didn’t shoot a bad guy. Sure, we should call the police, but they might not call it a defensive gun use unless the firearm was fired, or at least drawn and pointed. Most incidents of armed defense are never recorded as such because of this quirk in the way the police take their reports.
Most examples of armed defense aren’t reported by the press either. Just because our heart is beating fast after the bad guy runs away, that doesn’t mean our armed defense will make the news.
Protecting our family is vitally important to us, but most armed self defense doesn’t make good news copy. Assignment editors seldom waste space on a story in which the bad guy ran away and no blood was spilled.
Unfortunately, not every defensive gun use turns out that way.
A shooting is when someone presses the trigger and the gun goes ‘bang.’ That doesn’t mean the bad guy was killed. It doesn’t even mean that the bad guy was wounded. A shooting means that at least one bullet flew in one direction.
The great news — and another story that’s disgracefully underreported — is that gun owners in the US are exceptionally reluctant to take a life. We stay within the law, and the law only allows us to use lethal force in very specific instances.
We’re only allowed to use a gun when an innocent person faces an immediate and unavoidable threat of death or great bodily injury. Said another way, we’re only allowed to use lethal force when it’s the safest thing left to do.
That’s a high bar to clear. Honest citizens don’t shoot other people very often. When we do, the bad guy usually lives. The amazing news is that sometimes we don’t shoot people even when we have a legal justification for doing so. When we look at the record, we tend to use a gun only as a last resort. That is a very good thing.
The other great news is that we win. The news media are sure report when a good guy gets disarmed by a bad guy. That makes the news because the event is so unusual. It’s far more common for the good guy to take the criminal’s gun than the other way around.
We also win because we’re on defense. Defenders have an easier job than their potential attackers. The criminal is trying to get close to us and we are trying to keep that from happening.
Our spouse dials 911 as we huddle behind the bed with a gun pointed at the bedroom door. The criminal breaks down the door, steps into the room and we shoot them. That isn’t a great feat of marksmanship. It doesn’t make for an exciting tale so that isn’t what we’re shown in the movies.
There are exceptions. Sometimes an honest gun owners has to shoot an attacker at a distance. Sometimes those defensive stories are incredibly important because the defender stopped mass-murder. Honest citizens do a good job stopping mass murder, but most defensive uses of a gun are at close range.
A gun fight is when bullets fly both ways. That’s a situation we want to avoid at all costs.
We want to defend ourselves from a physical position where we can shoot at the bad guys and the bad guy can’t shoot at us. If we’re attacked in a parking garage, we move behind a car or a column so we’re harder to shoot. In our home, we hide behind a wall and peek around a corner so we’re harder to see. That’s the opposite of what we see in action movies.
The truth is that we’re at risk if the criminal is shooting at us. No matter how skilled we are, there’s a chance we could be injured or killed in a gunfight. That’s why self defense classes talk about avoiding them in the first place. We win every gunfight that we avoid.
You may be really proud that you saw the two sketchy-looking guys standing behind the corner of a convenience store so you drove to another store to buy gas late at night. You made a very good decision. People need to know about your actions so we learn to keep ourselves safe.
Unfortunately, what you did is important, but it’s not newsworthy.
Armed self defense happens between 4,000 and 6,000 times a day. In most of those situations, the good guys don’t have to shoot because the bad guys were chased off. Sometimes we have to pull the trigger, but the bad guy usually lives. That simply isn’t the kind of attention-grabbing story the news media is looking for. It doesn’t bring in readers and it goes against the dominant narrative that guns should be avoided by the average person.
That puts the burden on us. We have to find better sources of information if we want to learn the truth about armed self defense. There are a few news shows that cover those stories. There are many websites, blogs and podcasts that highlight and talk about armed defense stories. Knowing the truth is good for all of us.
This article originally appeared at Slow Facts and is reprinted here with permission.