REACHING FOR YOUR GUN CAN SOMETIMES BE THE WRONG MOVE.
When bad things happen, they sometimes happen very quickly. Carrying a concealed weapon mandates that you be able to make sound, often split-second, decisions under very stressful circumstances. It’s not always easy to keep your emotions in check.
At those times, you’re not going to have time to analyze the situation. But if you are faced with a confrontation, you have to ask yourself one question: “Is my life in danger?” If the answer is “No,” and you’re not defending the life of another, you should probably keep your gun holstered.
Laws vary from state to state, and I’m not qualified to give legal advice. Learning the specifics in your area is your homework assignment before you carry. But generally speaking, you’re usually justified to use deadly physical force when someone is using it against you or another. (Okay, you knew that already.)
The trouble is that most conflicts don’t escalate to that level, and if your only self-defense strategy is a concealed-carry handgun, you might resort to that when you shouldn’t.
There’s nothing wrong with defending yourself if necessary, but you don’t want to get arrested or lose the right to carry as a result. And without other self-defense skills and strategies, you risk
having your gun grabbed and used against you if a shoving match gets out of control.
Here’s an example: You pull out into traffic but don’t see the other car coming. The driver of the car you accidentally cut off pulls up next to you and is waving and screaming obscenities. You put up your hand and mouth an apology, but he won’t let it go. He rides your bumper, and you think he’s going to ram your car. You pull over and stop. Both of you get out of your cars. You try to reason with him, but an argument ensues. He pushes you.
The law usually doesn’t care who threw the first punch. Because you both stopped and got out of your cars, most likely, you’ll both be deemed willing participants in a fight. That’s the reality. And if you draw your gun during a fist fight, you will be seen as the one escalating the level of violence, even if your intent was to merely scare the aggressor away.
STAND-YOUR-GROUND AND THE CASTLE DOCTRINE
Some states have stand-your-ground statutes that don’t require you to retreat before using force. Others follow the Castle Doctrine, which gives you certain allowances if you are confronted in your own home. Naturally, you will do what you have to do to protect yourself and your family. Just understand that you will probably have to articulate in court why you believed deadly force was necessary. And if your actions somehow contributed to a situation you could have avoided, it might not go easy for you.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure conflicts are resolved in your favor. Here are just a few:
Learn to maintain awareness, and practice avoidance. Get your eyes off your cell phone and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Follow your gut instincts when things don’t seem right. After all, you don’t step on a snake that’s in your path. You give it a wide berth and walk around it. The same applies here. Awareness and avoidance are your top stay-alive tactics.
Exercise the discipline needed to walk away. There’s nothing shameful about a tactical retreat. Forget your pride. Don’t be suckered into a fight by harsh words or aggressive actions that could easily escalate into deadly violence.
Train in a martial arts discipline. These skills can come in handy to thwart an attack before it becomes deadly. Even if your capabilities are limited by physical infirmity, there are techniques you can learn to distract, discourage or temporarily impair a combatant. These will give you time to get away or space to access your weapon if the situation turns deadly.
CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON MANDATES THAT YOU BE ABLE TO MAKE SOUND, OFTEN SPLIT-SECOND, DECISIONS UNDER VERY STRESSFUL CIRCUMSTANCES.
Keep your weapon out of reach. Adrenaline often trumps reason. During a struggle, if your attacker sees your gun, he’s likely to try to grab it. If you’re carrying a gun on your hip, keep it concealed and turn that side away from your attacker.
Keep a round chambered. It’s surprising how many people think they’re safer carrying a handgun with the chamber empty. They’re not. If you are afraid of your gun and your gun-handling skills, you’re not sufficiently trained and aren’t ready to be carrying a weapon. The majority of self-defense situations occur suddenly at contact distances. Chances are good you’ll have to block an attack with one arm while you reach for your weapon with the other.
React to the threat. If you’re facing a situation in which avoidance and retreat are impossible, you have to be able to recognize when things have turned deadly; then, you have to act without hesitation. (That gets into the topic of “warrior mindset,” which we’ll save for another time.) GW
… IF YOU ARE FACED WITH A CONFRONTATION, YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF ONE QUESTION: “IS MY LIFE IN DANGER?”
Sometimes, the threat level doesn’t justify deadly physical force. When it does, you have to be able to access your weapon without hesitation. (Photo: Kostyantin Pankin/ Dreamstime)
Keep a round chambered. You might not have time or the ability to rack the action once you’re under attack. (Photo: Steven Paul Barlow)
Receiving personal defense training from a professional adds to your ability to handle a wide range of confrontations. (Photo: Guruxox/Dreamstime)
If you must draw your handgun, you have to understand that you will likely have to articulate your justification in court. (Photo: Ron Bailey/Getty Images)
You can’t always avoid a confrontation. When you’re faced with a bad situation, you have to watch with heightened awareness for signs of impending violence. (Photo: Vuk Vukmirovic/Dreamstime photo)
Off-body carry, such as in a purse, isn’t the best way to carry a firearm, because it’s likely to be the first thing an attacker will grab. (Photo: Rich Legg/Getty Images)
Self-defense aids such as pepper spray can be useful when drawing your handgun isn’t the best option. Pepper spray can be a good method to distract or slow down an attacker, giving you a chance to escape—or, if necessary, to draw your weapon. (Photo: Zoran Kolundzija/Getty Images)
Things happen quickly. You might have to fend off a knife attack before you even have time to draw your handgun. (Photo: Jophil/Getty Images) Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 30 years and has served as the editor for a number of Engaged Media special publications, including Gunslingers.