It has been a long day. You’re hungry, so you pull over to buy some food from a well-known sandwich shop. It is dark outside, but a number of people are still eating and ordering food. Two of the customers inside the sandwich shop begin to argue. One of them pulls out a knife. That is when lots of people leave the shop.. except you. You shout for the man to stop. You’re there when the man with the knife stabs the other customer. Now you run to your truck and grab your gun. You run back inside and order the attacker to stop. He stops the attack and retreats. You hold the attacker at gunpoint until the police arrive.
Police disarm and then arrest the knife-wielding attacker. EMTs take the wounded victim to the hospital. From there, the victim is flown by helicopter to University Hospital. You have your Texas license to carry, and you show it to the police. You tell the police what you saw. The attacker had 29 prior arrests. This time he is charged with aggravated assault. The Kerrville police department called you to say thanks.
An ordinary day turned into a shocking emergency in seconds. Fortunately, our good guy responded quickly and probably saved a man’s life. We can look at what the armed good guy did and think what we might do in his place.
Before the event turned violent, the good guy tried verbal commands to diffuse the situation. He established that the unarmed victim did not start the fight. Our good guy ran to get his defensive tools after the attacker stabbed his victim several times. When he returned with his gun, the defender again tried verbal commands. This time they worked. The armed defender did not press the trigger since there was no longer an immediate lethal threat to an innocent person. Our good guy also gave a statement to the police.
Like most news stories, there are a lot of things we don’t know. We’ll fill in some of the unknowns and think about what we should do if this happened to us.
Some people don’t think this was a lethal situation because the attacker only had a knife. Almost 1500 people were murdered with a knife in 2019 according to the FBI. That is far more than were killed with long guns, and few people ask if a shotgun is a lethal tool. The victim was stabbed three times and required immediate treatment at a well-equipped hospital in order to save his life.
While I consider a knife to clearly be a lethal tool, I’m not as confident about intervening on behalf of a third party. The story describes a repeat offender who had a history of violence. Most states allow a third party to use lethal force on the behalf of another person if that person is justified in defending themselves. In this case, it appears that the victim was innocent and had the right of self-defense. There is no perfect answer, and the actions you failed to take can haunt you as surely as the things you did wrong.
Most of us would act to protect a friend or family member from an armed stranger. I’d want to do it as soon as I saw a lethal, unavoidable, and immediate threat. That is why we carry a firearm on our body. Perhaps the victim would not have been stabbed or would have been stabbed fewer times, if the defender had his gun, his defensive tool, at hand.
We have to give the defender a great deal of credit. He recognized that things had changed by the time he came back with his gun. The immediate threat was passed even though there was now a wounded man who needed attention. We have to be able to articulate why we needed to press the trigger. Fortunately, the threat had passed.. sort of.
We still have a man with a knife and a bleeding victim on the floor. That poses a huge dilemma. The man with the knife is still a threat, though not an immediate lethal one. Also, a person with a knife can move a considerable distance before we can stop him with a firearm. The attacker might die from a gunshot wound, but we might die from a knife wound as well. No one wins a tie. We want to be far enough away from the attacker that we can stop the threat before he reaches us. Fortunately, a firearm works at a distance.
Time is working against us, and there is a lot to do. Shout for the customers watching from outside the shop to call the police. If the physical situation allows it, you’d like someone to treat the wounded man while you wait for the police and EMTs. You don’t want the people applying first aid to be hurt by the attacker. Nor do you want the victim do die due to lack of treatment. There are arguments on both sides. Now is a good time to think about what you should do.. and have some sympathy for law enforcement officers who face this situation more often than we do.
The EMTs won’t advance to treat the injured until they are sure the scene is safe. Nor should you. Ideally, you can separate the attacker and the victim. Then, someone else can get the victim to a position where he can receive first aid. Lots of us have trauma supplies in our cars and trucks. If you were one of the bystanders outside the sandwich shop, then you could lend a hand until EMTs arrive. We are more likely to use our trauma treatment training than our firearms training.
Now, let’s worry about you. You are standing there with a gun in your hand and the police are about to arrive. The person talking to the dispatcher should tell you when to put away the gun, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
There are a few great reasons to have your carry permit. The first is that you can have your gun, your defensive tool, with you when you need it. The second reason is that your holster gives you a place to put your gun as the police arrive. Then again, if the police say to drop your gun, then open your hands and let it hit the floor. As they sort things out, the police usually recognize that a guy or gal wearing a holster and carrying a concealed carry permit is one of the good guys. Stay still and give them the time they need.
I bet you know when you had your last firearms training course. When was the last time you practiced trauma care?
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.