Join Date: October 5, 2005
Location: Houston, Texas
I've been reading this thread for the past few days and thinking carefully about the issues that some think are simple, and some think are not so simple. I then had an AIM conversation about it, and it was so important for me to remember some of these things, that I saved it. And now I'm going to take what I said before to one other individual and greatly expound on it.
Ideals are necessary reference points that form the mentality we live by. Ideals should be held high. However, that doesn't mean a person shouldn't analyze how and why those ideals apply in a given situation.
Scenario: Convenience store robbery. A guy in a trench coat pulls out a .357 and starts waving it around. He points it at the cashier, and demands for her to get the cash out of the register. He screams at the few people in the place to get down on the ground and not take their eyes off the floor. Any observer can tell that he's strung out, perhaps on amphetamines, and definitely has an itchy trigger finger.
The problem here is forthcoming, but not easily resolved. Can you best protect the lives of bystanders by setting an example of being calm, and staying down until the situation passes? Or is the best way to protect these people to stand up and draw, perhaps stopping the attacker in the process, but also running the risk that the ensuing exchange of fire may put the bystanders in more danger than they were to begin with?
In situations like these, stopping the perpetrator, at any cost, is not always desirable. Also, drawing your firearm is not necessarily ALWAYS the best way to save lives. In the above situation, I refer to three rules:
1) Do not draw your weapon unless you intend to fire at your attacker until he has been killed or otherwise incapacitated (dropped to the ground and unable to use his gun). Drawing your weapon with intent only to threaten can cause the situation to become escalated in a number of ways, adding to the endangerment of bystanders. You've already decided to draw your gun, and quick follow-through is necessary unless you plan on risking the lives of everyone present by creating a tense standoff.
2) Do not draw and fire your weapon unless it is apparent that the perpetrator will harm or kill others unless he is immediately stopped.
3) Do not draw and fire your weapon unless you have a clear line to the target and you know you're skilled enough to drop the perpetrator quickly, and without either you or the perpetrator causing collateral damage in the form of human lives.
I really wanted to address in detail what some of the practical concerns would be in those convenience store robbery situations that we've all wondered if we would ever be caught in (and, I'm sure, that a very select few of us have been caught in). If anyone can think of relevant things to add, please post your feedback!
Another possible situation: You're walking down a street that you know pretty well, when a young woman cries for help in an alleyway. It turns out that she is about to be raped by a thug brandishing a knife and armed with god knows what else.
The equation here is obviously more straightforward. The immediate question that comes into my mind here is: should you draw your gun with intent to threaten/use it as a negotiating tool in a situation like this? And the answer: No! Of coruse not! He is close to the girl, probably in physical contact with her, and pointing a gun at him without shooting him in that same moment will invite a hostage situation.
However, shooting immediately when two bodies are in such proximity (one of which you obviously do NOT want to hit), could have disastrous ramifications unless you are truly that good.
Furthermore, we have not established whether this attacker has a gun!
This is a very tricky set of variables. What I would probably do in this situation is yell out to the attacker and taunt him, in the hopes that he would turn his attention on me and identify me as a target. Unless the woman was in emotional shock, she would probably make every effort to put as much space between her and the attacker as possible, whereupon I would very discreetly put myself in a position that allowed me to draw my gun and fire it quickly. Whether he had a gun or not would still be problematic, but I've already made a committment to stop this woman from being raped (and probably murdered), and to that end, this guy is going down. The decision to fire would have been made before the gun was drawn. I just don't think I could risk having further harm come to the victim because I hesitated or thought I could talk the guy down.
I've contrasted two hypothetical situations, one in which you could choose to intervene but the consequences are unclear if you do so, and one in which you MUST (morally, not actually) intervene because you know what will happen if you don't.
In the first example, I'd really hate to see a situation turn uglier because of the actions of a self-proclaimed hero - a true hero will put his ego aside and keep his gun in its holster if it means that NOT acting is likely to save more lives.
In the second example, I'd hate to see that woman not get help on account of someone's apathy and fear. If someone can't bring themselves to do what's called for in the face of such obvious evil and depravity, then they don't deserve to carry a gun in the first place.
This sounds hokey but in the end, I really think a person should listen to their heart (NOT to be mistaken for ego!) when it comes down to it. A person of well-developed principle and perception, one who is in tune with himself and the world around him, will know in his heart whether or not a situation warrants a direct confrontation. People who carry handguns have the responsibility to think these things over in advance in the event that they someday find themselves in the midst of such a situation. People who carry handguns have the responsibility of prudence: to carry out decisions through a rational and conscientious concern for other lives, and not through cowardice or ego.
Anyway, the bottom line is that a real man, a real hero, whatever, knows that determining right action takes a LOT of daily effort and stringent self-examination, and you can't wait until you are confronted with a life-threatening situation (either your life or someone else's) to ponder the true nature of your principles. Know thyself.