You’re driving through downtown Philadelphia on a weekday night. It is about 9 pm when a car pulls up beside you at a stoplight. The man in the car points a gun at you and says to get out of your car.
You own a handgun. You have your Pennsylvania license to carry. You’re armed tonight. You pretend to move the seat belt as you draw your firearm. Your attacker is getting out of his car when you shoot him. He drops his gun so you drive away and call 911.
Police find your attackers. The police call for EMS to transport the wounded robber to the hospital. The police arrest your attacker’s brother as the getaway driver. They claimed they were innocent, but the police had a video of them carjacking another driver at gunpoint only a few hours earlier. They were sitting in the stolen car. The police said they have surveillance videos of both attacks.
Our defender did a lot of things correctly to save his life. He was a gun owner and he was legally armed. Our defender recognized a lethal threat. He defended himself and then moved to safety. Once his safety was assured, he called the police. He met with the officers and made a brief statement.
These reports are always incomplete, so let’s think about what wasn’t covered in the news story.
Good guys have permits and holsters.
Even though he’d probably driven that route before, even though he had carried his firearm and not needed it on other days, he chose to go armed that day anyway. Our defender invested his time, money and effort to get his Pennsylvania license to carry firearms. His actions would have been scrutinized to a higher degree if he were carrying his firearm illegally.
The environment works both against us and for us.
Darkness, bad weather, and the sounds of traffic are both a hindrance and a help. Unfortunately, they help an attacker get closer to us before we can recognize a threat. Fortunately, those environmental factors, and wearing a winter coat, mask the motions of our hands and the sound of our clothing as we grab our gun to defend ourselves inside a dark car.
We have choices about what to do.
We always have the option between complying with the robber’s demands and defending ourselves. The victim that these carjackers robbed a few hours earlier was proned-out on the street with a gun pressed to the back of his head. Surviving the attack by complying with a criminal’s demands puts us at the mercy of the merciless.
We choose when and how to defend ourselves.
We want to avoid a race to see who can draw the fastest when our attacker already has his gun pointed at us. We want to use tactical patience until we have better options. We want to wait our turn to defend ourselves so we avoid a gunfight where bullets are traveling in both directions.
Thinking about our defense gives us more choices.
We can’t think under stress. Almost none of us can. Thinking about our defense ahead of time lets us remember what is possible. For example, the outcome could have been tragic if the defender had shouted, “Oh, yeah? F#*k you!” It is better to put one hand up and say, “OK. OK.”.. as you undo your seatbelt and get a firm firing-grip on your concealed firearm.
Know what you can do.
Your practice lets your recognize realistic options. How much time and space do you need to draw your firearm while belted into your car? The only way to answer that is to practice it for yourself. Practice moving with your gun from your holster in your car. I had trouble getting my firearm untangled from the seat belt and steering wheel. Use a toy gun, a plastic training gun, or use dry practice. Dry practice includes a set of safety rules we follow so we can safely train with an unloaded gun.
You probably want to practice presenting your handgun while you are seated in your car. You first make sure that there is no ammunition anywhere in your car or in your garage. We’d like the convenience of practicing in our own garage, but will those walls stop a bullet? Maybe we have to find a safer place to train. Whether you think you are fast or slow, at least you know how much of an opportunity you need as you defend yourself.
Win the race to the phone.
Good guys call 911. We do that even if the bad guy ran away and we never pressed the trigger. It is common for a criminal to claim that you attacked them. Their story stands as the truth if it is the only story being told. Get to safety, and then call 911.
Call the police.. and say little.
Don’t let your anger get the best of you during your initial statement to the police. You want to say something like this when the police arrive-
I’m glad you’re here. I called you.
They attacked me. I thought they were going to kill me. I defended myself. I want you to arrest them and I will testify against them. I will cooperate and answer all your questions after I’ve talked to my lawyer.
And then, you keep your mouth closed. For example, you don’t know how many times you fired your gun, so don’t guess.
Not only is that sort of statement good legal advice, it is extremely practical. As obvious as it sounds, having a planned statement keeps you from saying stupid things. In the moment.
You might feel “That S** of a B**** tried to kill me. I F****** fixed him.” It is certainly an understandable outburst, but it immediately draws your actions into question. Did you have to shoot several times, or was the attacker running away at the sight of your firearm? Did you drive away because you were worried that the other robber might be armed, or were you fleeing because you couldn’t justify your use of lethal force? Did you lie about the number of times you fired because your memory was faulty due to the effects of adrenaline, or were you trying to hide your use of excessive force? You are responsible for every shot you fire and every word you say. Don’t make extra work for your lawyer.
You have a lawyer to call, don’t you? You need one. Everyone does.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.
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