On word…safety. Another reason, Proportional Response.
Let’s address safety. Can I always use my gun in a defensive situation? What about in a crowded parking lot? What about at a park with lots of children around, or in any other environment where I cannot fire without the risk of seriously injuring or killing an innocent person? What is behind my target, or attacker? What if my attacker has intent and opportunity but not the means to seriously injure or kill me?
For you to justify lethal force there must be Means, Opportunity, AND Intent. The key word is “and”. All three must be present for you to have a chance to justify using lethal force. Yes, this is a judgment you may have to make in an instant. But, you will probably have to explain it later.
Let’s break it down;
• Means, does the attacker(s) have the means to do you serious injury or kill you? Does he (or she) have a gun, a knife, another weapon of some kind, a significant size and / or weight advantage? Are they aiming for you with their car? They have the means.
• Opportunity, does the attacker(s) have the opportunity to get to you without you being able to elude them quickly? Are you out in the open? Can you get into a secure location, or behind a barrier? Are you in your car and able to drive away? Are they far enough away that you can run to safety? They must have the opportunity to get to you without your being able to escape.
• Intent, this is a big one. Did they say they were coming for you, or going to kill you? Was there a threatening gesture as they approached you? What did he or she or they do that made you believe you were in mortal danger?
I can’t shoot someone who is yelling in my face, but not posing a serious physical threat. Similarly I cannot justify lethal force against someone today who left a threat on my voice mail saying they are coming after me tomorrow.
I once found myself in a situation where I had asked a contractor to move their truck and trailer that were blocking about six parking spaces. I was in my car, the crew were all on foot. One of them was cussing at me while another reached into a bag and pulled out a tool that looked like a screwdriver or a narrow trowel. I drove off quickly and called the police (who arrived about 70 minutes later and didn’t even write down the license plate numbers I tried to give them). Yes, when seconds count…but in their thought process I had escaped the immediate threat and they were free to work me in as their time permitted. That was right, but it didn’t feel very good. Was there means? Yes! Was there Intent? I thought so. Was there opportunity? No, I was able to get away quickly without injury and call the police from a safe distance.
Now, what about the risk to innocents? What if you have Means, Opportunity, and Intent bearing down on you but innocent people surround you? Bullets can, and do go through a human being and into other things behind them, like other people. In stress, that tight grouping you have on the range may fail you and you might miss.
According to a 1992 article on the Police Policy Studies Council website regarding number of shots fired compared to missed, the numbers are sobering. “In nine of 21 solo shootings the officer missed the target entirely.” “… police fired a total of 186 shots and scored 112 hits - missing 40 percent of their shots.” These are people who carry a gun as part of their job, and they missed nearly half the time. What will you or I do under stress?
Does this mean I won’t shoot? No! But I am considering all the factors, and running “what if” scenarios in my head. What will I do if that person comes toward me, how will I respond if this convenience store is robbed? What will I do while standing at the ATM if someone approaches?
In some cases, I might believe the intent it to hurt me but not kill me. Or the intent is to rob but not injure. Would I pepper spray someone? No doubts! I have taken the SabreRed Pepper Spray (you can find classes in your area on their website) class and have a reasonable understanding of how to use it, what the affects are, and that some people are immune. I also carry it in my hand in parking lots or in transit between my car and a “safe” location. Pepper spray doesn’t help you in the bottom of your purse. No mugger is going to wait patiently while you dig for it.
It all comes down to the level of the threat and your response. If the threat is there but not lethal, you can’t justify a lethal response. You probably can justify a non-lethal response.
Remember, once they are down, try to get to a safe area as fast as possible, and CALL THE POLICE! You need to be the one to report the incident first. If the bad guy calls in an assault by you, the police may look at you differently than if you call in an attack and that you defended yourself.