You are watering the plants in your flower garden. It is after work on a weekday when a stranger runs up to you. He shouts at you to give him the keys to your car. He says he has a gun.
You pull the keys from your pocket and the robber grabs them. You hang on to your keys, but you also grab your firearm from its holster and press the trigger. Your attacker drops your keys and runs. You back away and call 911.
You give the police a description of your attacker. Police arrest him the next day. He is charged with attempted grand theft of a motor vehicle, robbery by sudden snatching with a firearm, false imprisonment and burglary with assault or battery. He is also wanted for outstanding warrants from two other counties. His bond is set at $200,000.
You are not charged with a crime.
You’ve heard it before that there are no safe places and no safe times. This bad guy threatened to shoot a female homeowner during the daytime while she was standing in her front yard with a watering hose in her hands. We see a lot of armed defense reports where the victim was near their home, usually arriving or leaving. I’m glad our defender was armed in this case.
I’m not certain what happened during the attack, but it sounds like our defender did something really smart. After she was threatened, our defender held onto the keys until her attacker used both hands to take the keys from her. That is important.
The attacker had threatened to shoot her. If the defender put her keys in her support hand, then the attacker had both of his hands on the keys and therefore not on his gun. Now our defender reached for her firearm while the bad guy was using both hands to grab her keys. Making the attacker use both hands gave the defender an advantage so she could shoot her attacker before he shot her.
I like that. Part of our defense is to fill our attackers hands. Yes, it is simple, but it works. In this story, it might have been chance, instinct, or simply been luck, but the more we plan and practice the luckier we get.
After the first shot, I suspect that the attacker was running away by the time the homeowner raised her gun. The attacker was no longer an immediate threat and the defender did not shoot at her attacker as he ran away. She didn’t chase her attacker down the street.
She stayed at the scene and called for help. Reading the police report, she gave a good description of her attacker.
There are other things we’d like to know that were not covered in the news. We know the defender fired a shot but we don’t know where it went. We can’t tell if it was a negligent discharge or if she missed her intended target.
Early in my firearms training, I was told that the average attack is within three yards, is over in three seconds, and the defender shoots three times. That isn’t what we see in this report. The attacker was within touching distance of the defender as they fought for the car keys. If we are in that situation, then we can’t raise our gun to use the sights as we usually do at the shooting range. To do so would be to hand our gun to our attacker.
This type of defense is called close-quarters shooting, close-quarters combat, or close-quarters battle. The basics are simple. The practice isn’t. In general, we keep our support hand up high to protect our heads. We present our firearm while keeping it close to our body. We don’t use the sights. We keep our gun back near our hip or our waist so that our attacker can’t grab it, and we keep our gun low so we don’t shoot our support hand. It sounds simple. It is not foolproof, at least at first.
Most shooting ranges won’t let us practice these techniques because it is easy to shoot into the ceiling or floor on accident. It is also very easy to inadvertently position our support hand so that we are at risk of shooting our hand. Imagine putting your support hand on the bad guy’s chest to push him away while you’re shooting him with your other hand. Your attacker falls and your hands move closer to each other. Better men than I have done exactly that and shot themselves.
Like anything else, we get better at close quarters shooting with a little practice. I like learning new things and that class was also one of the best ones I’ve taken. This is not a technique you want to learn on your own after watching instagram videos.
There are other techniques we want to learn. I’ve been at some target ranges that had turning targets. That is really useful because most of our self-defense encounters will end without us having to fire a shot. It is also good practice to have some targets that show someone’s back so we recognize them as a non-threat and don’t shoot them. The “practical shooting sports” have no-shoot targets all the time. There are always exceptions to the rule of not shooting someone in the back. The point here is that we want to build options into our behavior so we practice shooting and we practice not shooting.
Now we have to talk about the complications of civilian self-defense. Things don’t always go the way we planned. We’re very excited and we don’t know what to say to the police when they arrive. For example, the physical evidence might be consistent with shooting while the attacker was within touching distance. The evidence is also consistent with a defender shooting at the attacker as he ran away. The former may be legally justified. The latter is a crime.
We want to give a brief statement to the police and then call our lawyer who handles armed defense cases. He helps people fill out police reports for a living. He knows the essential points to cover in our report. He knows what to say and how to say it.
You might be thinking that you’re the victim and you shouldn’t need a lawyer because you did nothing wrong. I’m thinking that a person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. I use a prepaid plan so I have someone to call. I hope I never have to use it and it is still money well spent.
-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.