Your family is in the car with you. You stop at your local bank to use the walk-up ATM. The sun is low in the sky as you walk back to the car with your cash. That is when a stranger runs up to you. The stranger has a machete in his hands and tells you to give him the cash. He waves the knife at you and you back up.
You have your New Mexico Concealed carry permit. You’re armed. Your attacker comes closer again and you draw your gun. You shoot your attacker one time in the chest. Now your attacker turns away and runs back to his car. You retreat to your car as well. Your wife saw the attack, heard the shot, and called 911. You stay at the scene and give a report to the police.
The police find your attacker dead in his car a short distance away. The police call the bank to get their security camera video. Your attacker has several prior convictions for burglary and drug possession. You are not charged with a crime.
This incident probably lasted less time than it takes us to read the news report. Our defender did the right thing in a few seconds. He had time to save his life, and perhaps the lives of his family. He had time to react but did not have time to think.
Our defender was prepared. He decided to be a gun owner so he would have his defensive tools with him in an emergency. He got his concealed carry permit so he could legally go armed in public. He decided to go armed that day.
As he walked across the parking lot, our defender backed away from a stranger. There is a time and a place to help the needy, but it is not in a dark parking lot when you’re alone. Our defender made enough distance to present his firearm. He defended himself and his family. He had the amazing presence of mind to stop shooting when his attacker turned away and was no longer a threat. Our defender stayed at the scene and gave a statement to the police.
Our defender recognized when it was time to shoot, and quickly recognized when it was time to stop.
Our defender faced a lethal threat. A single blow from a machete can incapacitate or kill. That is why it was important to keep a distance from the attacker. Criminals will use our social impulse not to be rude in order to get close to their intended victim. In order to save your life, you must be willing to be rude and tell people to stop and stay away. That is where the innocent teenager looks up from his phone and discovers where he is. That is where the beggar stops, and the determined criminal presses his attack.
We can’t back up as fast as the attacker can move forward. We’d like to keep an object, like a car, between us and our attacker. An empty parking lot at night doesn’t offer us many opportunities for defense. We also have loved ones behind us, so we want to keep the attacker away from them as well. It takes time and distance to draw our gun, so we quickly run out of options. The Tueller drill shows that an attacker can cross 7 yards in the time it takes for us to draw our gun and fire.
We are taught that the only reason we should use a gun is if we face an immediate, lethal, and unavoidable threat. We’re also taught to shoot until the attacker is no longer a threat. In this case, a single shot turned the attacker away, but this was a psychological stop rather than a physical stop. The attacker made the decision to break off the attack. That was probably because the attacker expected to face an unarmed victim, and due to the likelihood of getting shot again if he pressed his attack.
The attacker had the physical capacity to run to his car even though he was fatally wounded. After the single shot, the attacker retained the physical strength to continue to advance and close on the victim. Most gunshot wounds are lethal if left untreated, but most people shot by a handgun survive. They seek medical treatment and recover.
For a number of reasons, it is best practice to shoot until the threat stops. Consider that we’re shooting on the move, at a moving target, from retention or compressed shooting position, at night. It is easy to miss. That isn’t a theory. I’ve tried this exercise in a couple of exercises and training classes.. and sometimes I missed it. We can articulate to our lawyer why we pressed the trigger until the attacker was no longer a threat. As this defender did, we must stop shooting when the attacker is no longer a threat.
We are not done when the shooting stops. We look around now that we’ve defended ourselves. Now we can move to safety. Keep the four safety rules in mind. This is when we take a few breaths and slowly put our gun away. The adrenaline dump is about to hit and give us the shakes. That is a bad time to have a gun in our hands and our family nearby.
Our defender’s wife made the call to the police. That call is recorded and can be used as evidence.
Your lawyer has to explain every word, for better or for worse. If you are going to carry a firearm, then please invite your spouse to take the concealed carry class as well. The information about what to say to the police is valuable even if they decide not to carry.
You and your family survived the attack. The police and EMTs are on their way. Now we take care of our loved ones. That includes making the call our lawyer and getting the legal help we need.
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.