Here’s your sign.

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This story made the rounds of social media last week. For those who haven’t seen it (or the graphic video shot by the girlfriend of the man who was eventually killed in the confrontation), the story boils down to neighbors having an ongoing disagreement over trash between their domiciles. 

The argument had apparently escalated over time, to the point that one party showed up to the alley with a baseball bat, and his two antagonists showed up with a pistol and a shotgun. Like the game of rock-paper-scissors, shotgun beats baseball bat. One man is dead, and the other two are being charged with murder.

Pay attention to the sign…

There are lots of lessons to be taken from this event, but there’s one which seems to evade most commentators: if you feel a need to take a weapon to a particular place or event, the feeling itself is a sign that you should heed.

This notion is lost on too many gun people. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard some variation of “I don’t go there unless I’m armed”, or “I’ll only go there if I can carry my gun”, I’d be able to buy a nice Caribbean island and not have to listen to such nonsense any more. 

Defiance of common sense is seen by too many as a virtue, and the firearm as an excuse to do so. 

…the sign of danger

Here’s a different way of looking at it: If someplace is so dangerous that you’ll only go there when armed, it’s too dangerous to go there. Period. 

Risk is not reduced by the presence of your firearm; the only thing the firearm does is give you a tool to extricate yourself should the danger visit you.

In this case, both parties saw the need to be armed when confronting their neighbor. That should have been a sign to all involved that maybe they shouldn’t be confronting them in the first place.

No choice? Maybe not.

I get the point that sometimes circumstances force you to go somewhere dangerous. I understand, for instance, that you might work for a company that’s located in a bad part of town, one in which your risk of violent attack is such that you may actually need your personal firearm to protect yourself. You may have a job that forces you to interact with unknowns who pose a certain level of uncertainty and therefore risk.

Most of the time, though, you have far more discretion in these things than you believe you do. You don’t need to go to that trendy restaurant in the worst part of town, where the danger is part of the experience. You really don’t need to associate with people who do stupid things, like engaging in circumstantially inappropriate behavior. 

You certainly don’t need to confront an antagonistic neighbor; that’s what the police are for.

You either acknowledge reality and use it to your advantage…

The rejoinder of the stubborn is “I should be able to go anywhere I want, do anything I want, and hang around with whoever I want.” Yes, you should. If the world were a perfect place, you’d be able to and I’d support the idea.

But the reality is that when you do things you know are stupid, things you know are risky, sometimes the world doesn’t respect your right to do those things.

Be very clear: I’m not saying you shouldn’t be armed as a normal state of affairs, or that you should in any way consider this an argument for not carrying a defensive firearm. 

I am saying that you shouldn’t use your armed status as a pass to do things you wouldn’t do if you weren’t armed. 

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

…or it will automatically work against you

The first rule of winning a fight is to not be there when it happens. Intentionally putting yourself into jeopardy when you don’t need to, just because you have a firearm, is a loser’s bet — because in any incident there is always a greater-than-zero chance you won’t come out of it alive. 

Or without a jail sentence.

If you feel a special need to be armed in a specific place, or at a specific time, or for a specific activity, maybe that’s a clue you shouldn’t be there at all. Pay attention to that sign, because it might be the last one you get.

– Grant

P.S.: I discussed this case, and several others, with self defense instructor Andy Loeffler of Compass Defense Group on last week’s Training Talk. You can watch the replay at this link.

Listen to this blog – and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking this link!

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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