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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Emphasizing The "Self" in "Self-defense"

I've had guns on my mind lately.  Well, self-defense weaponry of all sorts, actually.

Next week, I'm giving a talk to a couple of local Neighborhood Watch groups in a city with a very high crime rate.  One of the highest in the SF Bay Area.

One of their representatives contacted me shortly after the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.  And they want to talk about guns.  I'm a bit apprehensive, to say the least.

I've been putting together a Power Point presentation that I'll use to guide me through the talk - which will cover knives, pepper spray, stun guns, Tazers, handguns, shotguns and rifles.

Part of what I'm going to discuss is crime statistics.  If you listen to the .GOV types, things are peachy-keen.  Crime is down to historic lows.  Yippee!

But you look at the local newspapers, and every day - without exception - there are multiple stories about local murders or shootings.  Reality doesn't foot back to the statistics.

I guess if they can fudge the economic data, they can fudge the crime data as well.

I ran across this piece by Thomas Sowell [link] that might explain some of it -
Similar episodes of unprovoked violence by young black gangs against white people chosen at random on beaches, in shopping malls or in other public places have occurred in Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles and other places across the country. 
Both the authorities and the media tend to try to sweep these episodes under the rug as well.
A specific example -
In Milwaukee, for example, an attack on whites at a public park a few years ago left many of the victims battered to the ground and bloody. But, when the police arrived on the scene, it became clear that the authorities wanted to keep this quiet. 
One 22-year-old woman, who had been robbed of her cellphone and debit card and had blood streaming down her face said: "About 20 of us stayed to give statements and make sure everyone was accounted for. The police wouldn't listen to us; they wouldn't take our names or statements. They told us to leave. It was completely infuriating."
An unreported crime is one that never officially happened.  I thought that choice was up to the victim, though, and not the police.

Oh, and for those of you who are unaware, Thomas Sowell isn't some jack-booted, black-hating, skin-head white supremacist.

He's a black man.

Unlike the rest of the media, Sowell sees what's going on, and takes it head-on.  If there's a problem, let's address it.  You can't just click your ruby-heeled slippers and hope it all goes away.
Trying to keep the lid on is understandable. But a lot of pressure can build up under that lid. If and when that pressure leads to an explosion of white backlash, things could be a lot worse than if the truth had come out earlier and steps had been taken by both black and white leaders to deal with the hoodlums and with those who inflame the hoodlums.
This guy, for totally different reasons, sees what could be coming as well - VERY UNSAFE FOR WORK OR CHILDREN.  SERIOUSLY!

When was the last time you went to the range?  How about your spouse?  Your kids?

Confidence doesn't keep you alive and safe.  Skills do.

I had a first on Saturday for my introductory gun class:  3 couples (I limit my intro class to 6 students).  I found that interesting in and of itself, but the after-class chat was revealing.

Two of the couples were white.  One in their early 60's and one in their late 40's/early 50's.  The other couple was Hispanic in their 20's.

I tell all of my students that I'll always stay after class as long as they need me to answer any questions they may have that aren't covered in the class.  Most that stick around want more specifics on how to select and purchase a handgun.

One of the white couples took off right after class.  The other white couple already owned a gun, asked a couple of questions, then took off.  The Hispanic couple stayed around for a half hour.

What caliber?  Handgun vs. shotgun?  Concealed vs nightstand gun?  Revolver vs semi-auto?  I asked them a number of questions to help them make their own decision.  They thanked me and left.

After I cleaned up my classroom, I popped out to the lobby of the gun range, and there they were.  They'd just finished taking the test for their Handgun Safety Certificate (required in CA before you can buy a handgun) and were plopping down some bucks for a gun.

I turned around and ran into another Hispanic woman who had taken my intro class a month ago.  With her husband and daughter.  The three of them, plus her uncle have signed up for one of my advanced Practical Defensive Pistol classes.  They, too, were buying guns.

My point?  I think Hispanics are taking this possible "race/economic justice/I want my fair share/gang banger" war threat a lot more seriously than a lot of whites. Especially whites at or reaching retirement age.

At least in my little corner of the gun training world, Hispanics are taking more of the advanced classes in comparison to their demographic representation in the SF Bay Area.

One more thing to think about:  What if you find yourself in a shooting situation, where the object of the shooter isn't to steal something or to escape, but is just to shoot and kill?

This article [link] goes more into the specifics of this Active Shooter class attended by the author, but it's something to think about.
We talked about some of the differences between your average robbery and an active shooter. Fundamentally, the active shooter is there to shoot people. He's not using violence as a means to and [sic] end in the way that a robber is (the end being your money), the violence is an end in itself. He's also very likely to be suicidal, or at least willing, or planning, to die in the course of events. This means strategies that involve dissuading or deescalating the situation are unlikely to work and we're more likely to have to achieve physical incapacitation, rather than relying on pain or fear.
Irrational, crazy person with nothing to lose.   Just looking to inflict some pain and damage.  Doesn't care if he lives or dies.

I dunno, like if he can't find a job and his government payment days are coming to an end.  Or he's lost his house, his car, his family, his friends.  His dignity.  He might be listening to a black power or white power or la raza preacher, and figure he's "a chosen one" - "Preacher's talkin' to me!"

He could be wrapped up with some, "end of days" cult, or Mayan calendar sect.  He could be persuaded by a Muslim imam, a Baptist minister or a Catholic priest to help cleanse the world before the fiery end.

It takes all types.  It could be any or all of them.

Things seem to be wound up pretty tight in our world right now.  NATO protest, more Occupy (fill in the blank) protests, Canadian protests, Greek protests, French protests, German protests, Camp David protest.

Might be a good time for YOU to think how you'd handle such a situation.

The neighborhood watch group will get much of the standard fare:  Situational awareness, distance from violence is your friend, and fight like a crazed banshee if you're forced into it - get out of there, THEN call the cops.

I'll talk a bit about how their city is basically broke, and police services have been cut to the bone.  Emphasize the "self" in "self-defense".

I will actually spend more time on the "non-lethal" pepper spray, stun guns and Tazers than on handguns and long guns.  Since virtually no mere citizen in this city has the ability to get a concealed carry permit, if someone in the Watch group has a handgun on them outside of their home, it's likely illegal.

Now, I won't encourage them to break the law, but I sure as hell won't say or imply I agree with our state's insane gun laws.  They've got to walk that path alone.

And I'll encourage them to have multiple back-up with them at all times.  Assume failure.  A twist on an old saying:  Walk softly and carry a big spare magazine.

Copyright 2012 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

The problem with carrying a gun is it takes away choices in a confrontation. You will be forced to shoot because you cannot afford to allow a physical confrontation. That is if someone is going to fight you or confront you then you can't afford to wait until a punch is thrown because the risk is that he will punch you and take your gun and shoot you with it. At all costs you must prevent that so you must pull your gun before a punch is thrown.

Some years back two women, who were friends, on a bus in a rough city were argueing about a man they were both seeing. One woman pulled a little .32 and shot the other point blank in the head. The bullet bounced off her forehead and caused little damage. She grabbed the gun from the first woman and shot her point blank and killed her. She wasn't even charged because she claimed self-defense.

The point is regardless of how a fight starts because you have a gun you must protect the gun as well as yourself and you cannot afford to let the situation get to the point where you are trading punches or wrestling.

Chief Instructor said...

The problem with carrying a gun is it takes away choices in a confrontation. You will be forced to shoot because you cannot afford to allow a physical confrontation.

Your thinking is very disturbing. I would only be forced to shoot if the bad guys makes the decision to attack me.

You imply by your statements that I have an obligation to take a couple of punches before I defend myself.

If I have been threatened, I pull the gun to display I will defend myself from your attack. If you choose to escalate your threat into an attack, I have the God given natural right to prevent your attack.

Your example of the two women is a typical gun-grabber strawman argument. The first woman was not in fear for her life, and had no legal or moral right to shoot the second woman. When the second woman shot and killed the first woman, she was clearly within her rights of self-defense.

How would you have responded? "Uhm, honey, you just shot me in the head and somehow I lived. Let's sit down and talk about your rough life and social baggage and explore the reasons you felt the need to try and take my life."

I suggest you never venture outside. If you are ever attacked, your best case result will be getting your butt kicked. With your low regard for your own life, I believe you'll easily find someone willing to take it from you.

Shy Wolf said...

Gee, Anonymouse- if you're going to be brave enough to espouse such tripe as that, at least have the guts to leave your name.
Sorry, Chief- Anon is probably a plebian from the Creeps Against Guns and I couldn't resist.
Otherwise, I concurr: get a gun or two and get some training and a lot of amo for it/them. Your Hispanic friends are no more liked by the ghetto agitators than you or any person with skin other than black. So they're being prudent, IMO. So sad that we're coming to this in America- a lot of good people on all sides are going to be put down, all to please their masters. And make them more wealthy, but that's another story.

Anonymous said...

Don't put words in my mouth just because you can't deal with what I actually said.

Here is the point; I'm 6'2" 205 lbs and not a couch potato. If I came up to you in an arguement and got in your face you would have to pull a gun on me because you couldn't risk an actual fight. You have no choice. You would have to do this even if I had no intention of hitting you. You would have to do it because if I were going to punch you I could do a lot of damage and may well have you on the ground and go Trayvor Martin on you bashing your head into the ground. And you know that once that happens the very fact that you have a gun puts your life at risk. That is because if you are fighting back and pull that gun I MUST take it from you and use it on you. The law at that point will support my claim to self defense about as much as it would support yours if you shot me. That is the truth of the situation. You should address what I have said rather then try to find ways to change the discussion to make me look a fool. The simple fact that you have a gun makes it likely that you will have to use the gun!! A policeman faces the same problem. He cannot just "fight" a suspect because the risk that the suspect will get his gun is too great. He MUST use the gun, even if he doesn't shoot he must draw the gun whenever he feels threatened. This is not an anti-gun attack on my part or an arguement against guns it is a simple fact of life and one that deserves an honest discussion.

Chief Instructor said...

Shy, LOL, no apology needed! I fear you're right. I think it's going to get very ugly very soon.


You have no choice. You would have to do this even if I had no intention of hitting you. You would have to do it because if I were going to punch you I could do a lot of damage and may well have you on the ground and go Trayvor Martin on you bashing your head into the ground.

Not a single word put into your mouth, I clearly stated that you're implying I must take a few punches. Or at least to allow an aggressor to get close enough to deliver them.

Not gonna happen.

You see, I have no way of KNOWING your intentions, I am only able to witness your actions. If you come up in my face, I assume - whether I'm armed or not - that you're looking to fight. And I'll respond accordingly.

As I noted, if you came up into my face - inside my personal safety zone - I would start the process of self-defense - drawing my gun. If you escallated, I would escallate.

My actions are 100% dependent upon your actions.

I'm going to take a stab in the dark that you live in Ca, NY or some liberal, gun-hating state. You have been re-educated to believe that it's OK for aggressive behavior to go unchallenged.

I reject that belief.

An armed society is a polite society. Also, for your liberal notebook, consider that WITHOUT EXCEPTION, every state that has enacted "Shall Issue" gun laws has seen a decline in violent crimes of all types.

Go to to start the reversal of your indoctrination.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not! I never said you have to take a few punches. In fact I said the opposite. And that is the point. Because you have a gun and because you cannot afford to get into a fight and risk that your opponent will take your gun and use it against you then you must use your gun. This is true even if your opponent is drunk and a loud mouth who invades your space inadvertently but didn't intend to get into a fight. Therein lies the delima. I'm not saying we shouldn't carry a gun I'm saying that having the gun changes everything and can result in a shooting where none was necessary. I have bluffed down or intimidated down more then just a few potential bad guys and I have had a few fights when intimidation didn't work. In none of these cases did someone get shot and that is because I didn't have a gun.

I am so far from a liberal I would make you appear to be a liberal.

Shy Wolf said...

Anonymouse... You're 6'2" and 205 pounds and no couch potato...
I'm 65 and 140 pounds and use a cane or walker until I have hip surgery.
If you get in my face, you can bet your ass I'm going to pull my gun and if you don't back away by the time it's out, I'm going to back you away until you can't go farther.
That's my reality. I'm not going to give you a chance to get in my face and make threatening words or moves toward me- or anyone with me.
God didn't make all men physically equal, Sam Colt did. And that's one reason I carry. That is one choice of options you are not going to take away from me.

Anonymous said...

Shy wolf can't stop himself from bragging and showing off. If you read what I said you would understand I was talking about backing down people who confronted me. If you don't understand maybe, just maybe you shouldn't have a gun or a car or anything sharp...

Adam said...

As a police officer, I have been in plenty of fights and have never fired my gun. In fact, when involved in a fight, I haven't even drawn my firearm.

To use a firearm, you must be able to articulate the facts surrounding it and justify its use. Yes, if you as a 6'2 205 pound man am approaching a 65 year old 140 pound woman, I guarantee you I wouldn't care she shot you. But if you are acting crazy at me while I'm at work, I more than likely wouldn't pull my firearm. I have other tools to use against you and I have plenty of friends to help me out. If it got to the point that I had to shoot you (I was about to go unconscious, etc), then that's the way it is and you shouldn't fight someone who has a gun. It's a self correcting error.

But your comments that by carrying a gun means you automatically escalate the level of force is completely inaccurate and unsupported. If you are fighting someone and you realize they have a gun, how about stopping instead of trying to get their gun. You would ABSOLUTELY NOT be supported in a claim of self defense because you took someone's gun and used it against them for a confrontation you caused. You'd go to jail for their murder. That has to be one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time.

I could make this a lot longer, but I'll leave it there for now.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I am saying "that by carrying a gun means you automatically escalate the level of force". What I am saying is because you have a gun you must protect it. If you are a cop you know most/many cops are killed by their own weapon. I truely doubt that if you weren't so focused on trying to prove me wrong that you would deny the need to protect your weapon. The simple fact is if you go to hot spots (which I did in my youth) you WILL encounter poeple who are looking for trouble. Without a gun I would defend myself against someone if attacked. But with a gun I have to make the decision to defend before the attack (if possible). No matter how tough you think you are there is always someone tougher. You can't afford to wait until someone sucker punches you before you draw your gun if you feel threatened. Without a gun if someone comes at me I react by preparing to give him a one/two punch and mentally prepare for a followup if necessary. Not because that's what I want to do but that's my only choice. With a gun I must draw or show it. I cannot engage with him physically because if he overpowers me or knocks me out with one punch then HE now has my gun and I might be shot with my own gun. If you are a cop then you would have seen those videos where the cop failed to draw his gun and was overpowered and shot with his own gun. To try to turn this into an anti-gun arguement or exchange macho threats is counter productive. This is my own personal reason for not carrying a gun everyday and everywhere I go. The value in a concealed carry permit is so that I can carry a gun when needed without breaking the law. On those rare occasions when I do carry a gun I am aware of the awesome responsibility AND the legal minefield it puts me in.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, What I am saying is because you have a gun you must protect it.

So what?

You continue to say that you're not implying that I should have to take some punches when you're making this statement.

Then what are you saying? I will protect a knife, a pepper spray, an asp - whatever.

If, as you say, I'm not wrong for using a gun to defend myself, then why would you make the statement about having to defend the gun?

Explain the value of your statement. If you're having a moral issue with taking the life of another when they are trying to harm you, fine. I get it. If that's the case, then YOU shouldn't carry a gun because it will likely be used against you.

But if you carry a gun, a knife, an asp or pepper spray and choose not to use any or all of them, you're a fool.

Adam said...

Of course you need to protect the gun, just like you would with any other weapon. So if someone comes up to me and wants to fight, what am I going to do? Find a way out. I sure as heck am not going to give him a "one/two" if I can avoid it. If it resorts to a physical altercation, then it does, but that is already my last option.

The first way to win a fight is to avoid it. You can do that by being aware and hopefully avoid the situation. If you are so concerned about being overpowered and your gun taken, then you really shouldn't carry a gun. It's obvious you have other concerns and are more likely to end up in a fight than someone else. I'm not trying to start an argument, etc.

In order to use your gun, you still have to have a justifiable need to use it. You can't just pull it out and start shooting because someone came up to you and wanted to fight. You have to articulate the deadly force threat you faced when you pulled the trigger.

Many cops who were killed with their own weapon were killed because they did not escalate the force necessary to control the suspect quickly enough. Any use of force is violent and you have to know what you can and can't do long before you ever get into that first fight, otherwise you will second guess yourself, which could cause you to get hurt, or you will use excessive force and end up in jail.

I personally don't agree with everyone pulling out a firearm just because someone wants to fight. That's probably because I am used to following a continuum of force and know other ways to counter a violent attack. I'm certainly not the biggest baddest mofo on the block so don't think I'm pretending I am. I know my limitations, which means that I know what I can and cannot do with using force.

Everyone needs to have that same conversation with themselves and be prepared to accept the consequences of whatever action they take. Just because you have a gun does not mean you can't defend yourself without the gun. You can still get into a fist fight if someone attacks you. But you should be aware that you have a gun. But the best option is to leave and not get into the fight in the first place. Those people who like to get into fights and put themselves into those positions (by going to the "hot spots") really shouldn't carry a gun because they aren't mature enough to do so.

Again, the use of a firearm still requires a deadly force threat. You have to justify why you do what you do, even if it's pepper spray, a knife, etc.

Chief Instructor said...

Adam, great point. This discussion immediately went from zero to 60.

I teach and practice avoidance, whenever possible. From my Refuse To Be a Victim class: The best way to avoid harm from an emergency is to not be there.

Avoidance is the first choice, fighting is the last.

I also teach that if you are forced to fight, you fight like a crazed banshee. And never give up.


Anonymous said...

I can only assume your "experience" is imaginary or from books. You cannot simply draw a gun everytime you feel threatened and in many cases you would be breaking the law. In addition to wanting to be able to defend myself from thugs and bad guys I want to stay out of jail. Simply flashing your gun or drawing down on someone can get you into some serious legal trouble. Most times what appears to be an imminent fight can be avoided or mitigated. But if you pull your gun then you have passed a point you can no longer make believe didn't happen. If someone does escalate to a physical altercation then you dman well better be ready to give him a one/two. If you haven't already figured out what you are going to do then you will quickly discover learning on the job is painful.

The value of the statement is that by you having a gun it changes everything. It changes what you can do and what you must do. It is far more likely that I will be able to avoid the fight or back away from the fight if I don't have a gun where you have limited your options and are committed to "the process of self-defense - drawing my gun". Simple as that. I have both hands available to me and you have to use your strong hand to protect or draw your gun.

I do have a moral issue with taking a life. I made my decision on that issue 48 years ago when I enlisted and spent 20 years in the military. I am ready and willing to do what I must but I hope I never have to.

Chief Instructor said...

You cannot simply draw a gun everytime you feel threatened and in many cases you would be breaking the law.

Yes, I can. You too. If you are being threatened, you have the legal right to defend yourself prior to being hit, sprayed or shot.

What your liberal mind cannot wrap itself around is the difference between being threatened, and a threatening situation. They are different.

It is far more likely that I will be able to avoid the fight or back away from the fight if I don't have a gun where you have limited your options and are committed to "the process of self-defense - drawing my gun"

That liberal, "guns are bad, bad, bad" fog is clouding your view of the world again.

If I see a threatening situation, I leave. Whether I have a gun or not. Being armed is irrelevant to my actions.

You sound like all of the bunched-panty folks that said blood would be running down the streets when the first "shall issue" laws were passed. Just the opposite happened.

Seriously, get a grip. The last thing I want to do is shoot someone. But I won't hesitate if I believe I'm in danger.

Anonymous said...

"That liberal, "guns are bad, bad, bad" fog is clouding your view of the world again."

Again you misstate the issue. Either you cannot understand or provide an answer to the point I am making or you are dishonestly simply trying to change the subject to something you can answer.

The point is still the same. If I have my gun with me I must be concerned that someone would escalate an arguement or encounter into a fight. Without the gun I can respond by my ready stance and attitude and showing I am ready to defend myself and "probably" causing the threat to back off and look for an easier target. The problem with this approach (which I freely admit) is I may have to actually trade punches. However I am at an advantage because I am in a ready stance and prepared to do some serious damage.
With the gun in the exact same circumstance, as I have said, the last thing I want to do is get into a fight and grapple with the guy because he could possibly get my gun. So I can't get into a ready stance because I can't fight him and I must show or pull the gun. And I must do this BEFORE he gets close and BEFORE I could have used intimidation to back him down. I MUST precipitate the confrontation as soon as I decide this guy is a threat. Doesn't matter if he's bluffing, just a loud drunk or I have misinterpreted his actions. And this is because I have a gun and must protect/use the gun.

You prove my point in every response to me with statements like "The last thing I want to do is shoot someone. But I won't hesitate if I believe I'm in danger." I'm not saying you are wrong. What I'm saying is for 99.9% of my life I was better off without the gun for the simple reason that I never had to "shoot someone" and instead used common sense and being prepared to mitigate a potentially violent situation.

As for having the legal right to defend yourself I suggest you review the recent Zimmerman case.

Shy Wolf said...

"...Without the gun I can respond by my ready stance and attitude and showing I am ready to defend myself and "probably" causing the threat to back off and look for an easier target..."
And without a gun, the perp with a gun can shoot your ass without fear of being shot.

Anonymous said...

"And without a gun, the perp with a gun can shoot your ass without fear of being shot."

Of course!! Did you think we were talking about a situation where both of you have guns? But you are absolutely correct that even though 99.99% of the time you do not need a gun there is a very real risk that 0.01% of the time you will.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, Great. YOU shouldn't carry a gun. PLEASE DON'T! You or those around you will be harmed by your actions/inaction.

Keep hidden in your hidey-hole and feel proud that you'll not need to worry about defending yourself, or being able to exercise judgement as to when you should defend yourself.

Perfect timing: Poached from TOR over at

"A gun you can’t reach in an emergency is useless. When I read that book (Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, TOR) as a high school kid, it struck me that since I had long possessed guns in my bedroom including a loaded Colt .45 automatic, I would have had a lot more options than Clutter’s son did when the homicidal intruders entered his bedroom…and, knowing my dad, in Herb Clutter’s situation my old man’s regularly-carried Colt Cobra .38 revolver would have probably gone into action long before things got even that far.

In a lifetime among cops since, I’ve noted that investigators who piece together the aftermaths of home invasion murders tend to keep their guns on all the time after that, even when off duty in their own house, and keep them by the bed when they go to sleep.

They have learned from the helplessly-murdered dead"

-Massad Ayoob

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