It is just after noon and you’re playing a video game at the corner market. Two men wearing hoodies and masks enter the store. One news story says the two men tried to rob the cashier. Another news story says they tried to rob you. Both of the robbers are armed with handguns.
You own a gun too. Unlike the robbers, you have your Pennsylvania license to carry a firearm. Today you are legally carrying concealed in public. The news stories don’t explain how you did it, but you shoot the robber closest to you. Again, one story says the attacker was shot twice, and another article says your attacker was shot twice in the abdomen and twice in the chest. You stop shooting when the attacker drops his gun and falls down. The other robber runs from the store. You and the store clerk retreat and stay at the store. The news story didn’t report which one of you called 911.
Police recover the attacker’s firearm. They also take your firearm as evidence. Emergency medical personnel transport your attacker to a nearby hospital.
You give a statement to the police. You show them your identification and your carry permit. The store clerk also makes a statement.
Later, you found out that your attacker died in the hospital. You are not charged with a crime.
You may have noticed more stories like this one in the news. Crime has surged in Philadelphia. Homicide is up by 19 percent. Carjacking is up three-fold year to year. The increase in robbery and shoplifting is frightening. Unfortunately, the real rate of crime is masked by the District Attorney’s catch-and-release program that results in many crimes going unreported and unprosecuted. Concealed carry applications have gone up six-fold, and armed defense has increased four-fold, year to year. More of us are going armed and we’ve had to use our firearms to protect ourselves and others. Against that backdrop, our defender decided he also needed to go armed for his defense.
That is a process rather than a single step. The defender had already taken a training class and bought a gun. He had applied for and received his carry permit. He learned how to carry his personal firearm concealed on his body in public. He also learned how to defend himself.
Defense is more than what we do with our hands. This defender was aware of what was happening around him even though he was playing a video game. In today’s covid environment, masks and hoodies don’t necessarily indicate a threat, but when the defender saw the two men try to rob the store, he recognized an immediate threat. He recognized when he was legally justified in using lethal force.
The armed defender used his firearm to stop that immediate and unavoidable threat. He also stopped shooting when his attacker was no longer a threat. The defender either contacted 911 or made sure that emergency services were contacted. He stayed at the scene and he gave a brief statement to the police. Those are some of the many factors that lead to his successful defense.
Again, let’s look how this fits in a larger pattern. About half of assaults take place away from our home, but most of our armed defense takes place in or near our home. That discrepancy is because most of us don’t have a permit to carry in public.
You need a permit in Pennsylvania, but in many states, you don’t. Legalities aside, you also need to feel comfortable and competent before you’ll carry on the street every day. It takes more than a holster to support the moral and psychological weight of the gun. It takes time, training, and practice.
More of us should take training classes with our concealed carry handguns, our holsters, and our everyday clothing. That is the path to feel comfortable and confident when we carry in public. That way they will be ready to defend themselves just like this defender did.
We may be legally justified to defend ourselves if we are threatened. In some circumstances, we may also use lethal force to defend someone else. We may use force because the other victim would be justified in using force in their own defense. In this case, the store clerk is an innocent party faced with deadly force, so there is justification to using deadly force in his defense. It’s important to know the laws of your state.
I wish there was a security video because I want to know how the armed victims defended themselves. The robbers come with a plan. Innocent victims start at a disadvantage because we need a moment to recognize that we’ve been invited to an armed robbery. Robbers depend on our confusion to give them time.
Our body can’t go where our mind hasn’t been. Thank you for reading articles like this so you know that these situations happen and that you can respond to them. If dry practice trains our hands to recognize the gun, then reading stories like this one trains our minds to recognize a dangerous situation.
One of the advantages of carrying concealed is that our attacker doesn’t know that we’re armed. Typically a robber will enter a store with the tunnel vision of the cash register and not take time to study all of the potential threats around him. Carrying concealed gives us the element of surprise. When combined with basic tactics, the element of surprise improves our odds of a successful escape or defense. We learn about this in our first concealed carry class and in each succeeding armed defense class.
So how do we keep from getting shot given that the attackers already have their guns in their hands? If the attacker is focused on us, then we have to act even more judiciously. Drop your phone and back up. Drop your wallet and back up. Drop your keys and back up. We want to wait for a moment when the attacker isn’t looking at us and hopefully, his hands are full. If we’re not cheating then we’re not trying hard enough.
That is our opportunity to run or to defend. If we choose to defend ourselves, then we move, present our firearm, and shoot until the threat stops.
When I first learned armed defense I thought that we could win by being faster than the bad guy. The older I get, the more I think about distraction and surprise to survive.
This isn’t playing a game or being lucky; it’s about being smarter than the other guy, being better skilled and equipped than the other guy. We have the good fortune of video camera documentation and analysis of gunfights similar to this one so we know what we need to do. That is a lot to take in if you are reading this for the first time.
Even if we read carefully, these ideas about defense are not available when we are being attacked and we are about to panic. Not yet.
We have to practice before the skills are available when we need them. Time and again, we think about what to do, and then we do it. Learning to be a responsibly armed citizen is only partly about marksmanship, but also about mindset and mental rehearsal. We want to use photorealistic targets rather than bullseye targets. Yes, we’ll take classes, but even dry practice to a realistic target will train our minds on what to do when we can’t think.
-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.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, 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.