Q: “What should a responsible, armed citizen do if they see a violent crime being committed against someone else?”
A: “It depends.”
It’s a beautiful day and you decide to go do whatever it is you do when you’re off work and the weather is nice. Before starting your personalized adventure, you pull in at the local Stop-n-Rob for fuel and a fountain drink. After filling your cup and paying the clerk you exit the store, crossing paths with a shady looking character who avoids eye contact. Moments later as you’re pumping gas, you see that same guy is inside, brandishing a gun, and he’s clearly robbing the joint. Furthermore, you know that in the amount of time it takes for an index finger to move a single inch, this robbery could become a murder. What do you do? What are your options? The proverbial sugar has suddenly turned to… well… poop. For the sake of time, lets operate under the notion that you have three options in the scenario I’ve presented.
1.) Drive away and call the cops from somewhere safe.
2.) Be the best witness you can be and call the cops from your current location.
3.) Draw your gun, enter the store, and confront said bad guy.
Option one is obviously the safest (notice I didn’t say “best”) choice for yourself and for anyone who might be with you. Just get away. This is not your fight. You don’t need to die today, and you don’t need to kill anyone either.
Speaking as a cop, option two is also a good (notice I didn’t say “safe”) choice. Because if someone takes the time to be a good witness, they will be invaluable from an investigatory / prosecutorial standpoint. The problem is good witnesses are an endangered species. So much so, that most cops are skeptical of any lawman who claims to have ever encountered such a creature. All cop humor aside, intentionally being a good witness is a brave and commendable thing.
Then there’s the third option, the option every wanna-be pipe hitter claims they’d choose. Take it from me, when your resting heart rate rises like a rocket to 185 bpm and there’s a stain in your britches, you’ll regret ever wanting to do “hero stuff.” What you think you’re capable of and what you’re actually capable of will meet one another like a wife and a girlfriend on an episode of Maury Povich. You can carry a gun, or you can carry an ego, but you can’t carry both and be an asset to society.
Many things could go wrong by choosing direct action. You could die at the hands of the thug, or you could be killed by responding law enforcement who have no idea you’re the good guy. You could accidently shoot an innocent person. There’s the possibility of a protracted gunfight and potential for a barricaded suspect and/or hostage scenario. Have you effectively scanned your surroundings to see if the bad guy has accomplices? You might be outnumbered and outgunned without realizing it. You also can’t afford to underestimate the bad guy. What looks like some two-bit hack might be a professional criminal with honed skills. These are just examples of things that could go wrong in the moment. The aftermath poses an entirely different set of challenges.
If you survived, could you live with yourself after one or more of these possibilities unfolded, knowing you could’ve reacted differently? On the other hand, by making option three your first choice, you might save lives. Could you live with yourself knowing you could’ve taken direct action but didn’t?
Choosing any of these options would be a proper response to the scenario at hand, depending on your personal capabilities, your level of training, and other factors that might be present. For example, if you’re reading this thinking “I would absolutely take action!” then you should also ask yourself “would I make the same choice if my children were with me?”
I’ve heard it said by several pundits of the martial lifestyle, most notably perhaps by John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society, that “the body cannot go where the mind hasn’t already gone.” It’s important to understand that the decision to intervene in someone else’s life-threatening situation must be made long before you’re compelled to action. You must have a plan, and should the circumstances change, you must be prepared to change your tactics in an instant. Remember, “it depends.” Be sure to tune in next week when I cover what to expect after the smoke has cleared.
Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.
(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official, legal advice.)