You are walking down the street. A man rides his bike past you, and then stops and turns around. You are a woman and it is uncomfortable to be approached by homeless men. The stranger asks you for money. You say no and back away. He asks again, but this time he pulls a gun out of his pants and points it at you.
You run away and hide behind a dumpster. You draw your own gun and point it at your attacker. You shout for help and people from across the street see you. Your attacker rides away on his bike. You call 911.
You put your gun away and give a statement to the police. Officers interview the people at the gas station across the street. The police review security video from the gas station. The police arrest a suspect nearby. You identify him as your attacker. He is carrying a BB-gun and is arrested for intimidation.
You are arrested for carrying a firearm without a license. The new permitless-carry law in Indiana does not go into effect for another 60 days. You are released and not charged.
I couldn’t help but notice the things this armed defender did correctly. She moved away from her attacker which gave her time to react. She chose not to draw her firearm when her attacker already had his gun out and pointed at her. She ran to cover. She presented her firearm either on the run or when she was safely behind cover. She did not face a lethal and immediate threat once she was safely behind cover so she did not shoot her attacker. She called for help which alerted witnesses at the nearby gas station. She kept her gun out until the attacker rode away. The defender holstered her gun and stayed at the scene. She gave a report to the police.
The news report doesn’t give us all the details that we’d like to have. We don’t know the time of day when this attack took place. I read news reports that said the defender ran behind some trash cans while another report said she ducked behind a dumpster. Maybe both are true. We don’t know if the defender was at the gas station or across the street from it.
This defense is ordinary in that the attacker changed his plans when he recognized that his intended victim was armed. The attacker fled the scene rather than pressing his attack. The defender stopped the attack without having to fire her gun. That is what happens most of the time.
There are a number of additional things we’d like to do if we were assaulted on the street. The obvious advice is to avoid a criminal conviction for carrying a firearm without a license. In some states you don’t need a permit. Indiana recently passed permitless carry legislation, but that law hadn’t taken effect yet. Good guys obey the law when they can.
We want to stay inside the law in our state and in states we visit. It would be tragic if this defender were barred from legally carrying a firearm because she had a criminal conviction for carrying without a license. We have to learn the laws and how to carry responsibly. I suggest you take a class. I suggest you take a class even if you’ve carried for years. I learn something new every time I take a class.
The concealed carry class might not be legally necessary.
The information covered in the class remains essential.
Let’s look at one of the bad habits in the self defense community. The old saying used to be that you shouldn’t touch your gun unless you intended to shoot. I think that is wrong. Touching our gun, presenting our gun, pointing our gun at the intended attacker, and pressing the trigger are separate and distinct decisions.
We can touch our gun when we recognize a potentially lethal, immediate, and unavoidable threat of death or serious injury. Getting our firing hand on our concealed firearm cuts our draw time in half. Yes, we have to articulate why we touched our gun. Yes, we have to call the police.
Cover stops bullets, and being behind a metal dumpster is pretty good cover. In this story, the attackers bullets would have to go through at least two layers of metal. That safe position gives us time to draw our firearm.
The attacker who is 50 feet away is probably not an immediate and lethal threat. At that distance, we don’t have to “point in” and put our sights on him, but presenting our firearm to the low-ready position might be appropriate. I say “might” because the story doesn’t tell us what was behind the attacker. I was taught that the low-ready position lets us see the attacker’s hands. We might not want to point our gun that way if the attacker is standing in front of the glass windows at a gas station-convenience store. We have the right to defend ourselves but we don’t have the right to put other innocent individuals at risk.
As another practical matter, we don’t want to frighten potential witnesses by pointing our gun at them.
Our attacker demonstrated that he was a threat when he pointed his gun at us. We’re now safely behind cover and at a distance. We can present to the low-ready and call for help. Our situation can change in the blink of an eye and become a lethal attack if the attacker moves toward us. That is when we are justified in putting our sights on target and pressing the trigger. In contrast, pointing our gun at our attacker who is across the street might get us charged with aggravated assault. Those details matter.
You’ll include details like that in the report your lawyer helps you file, and in your brief statement to the police. The witnesses that turned when you shouted for help can report where your gun was pointed.
Shouting for help is important. It helps create ear witnesses and eye witnesses. In one case the ear witnesses can report that you shouted for the attacker to stop before he closed the distance and you had to shoot. In another case, the eye witnesses can testify that you presented your gun to the low-ready position and didn’t shoot as the attacker ran away.
The firearms community tends to focus on the gun and on marksmanship skills, but defensive skills should include when to run away. I was in a hand-to-hand class where the scenario showed a drunk dropping his gun on the floor in a shopping mall. In that scenario, I chose to walk out the back door and call the police rather than disarm a drunk in the middle of a mall.
Try to get classes that let you practice a full range of responses. That is important from the very start when we learn to present our firearm. We can change our mind at any time. We might present our firearm, aim at the attacker and touch the trigger, and then decide not to shoot. That is why we want to include presenting and not shooting as we practice our draw. We want to program both actions so we have them when we need them.
That gun handling practice lets us perform reliably when we are under stress. The witnesses from across the street would see us lower our gun as the attacker runs away. They see us stand up and look around. They see us slowly and safely holster our firearm now that the threat is gone. That controlled and practiced response leaves an impression. We are a trained defender.
As vague as those details of gun-handling sound, they can be critical. We’ve had reports of armed defenders and police seeing a person with a gun after an attack at a shopping mall. The defenders didn’t shoot the other armed individual because they recognized he was standing with his firearm at the close-contact-sul position so he didn’t look like a gang member or a terrorist. He looked like a trained defender.
We only get one chance to make a first impression. Then we call our lawyer to fill out a complete report.
-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.