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The best defense is still not being there

The best defense is still not being there

A few weeks back I wrote an article on why I don’t entertain the notion of “what-if” scenarios. If you haven’t read it, you should.

On a somewhat related note, I also don’t entertain the notion of the foregone conclusion scenario. It’s the one that presupposes a specific outcome or a specific event in an effort to support a particular conclusion. For instance, I was going through my reading file last week and came across an article from a shooting instructor that told the readers they were going to be in a gunfight tomorrow, and asked whether they were ready for it.

That’s a lot of assumption just to sell a shooting class.

Don’t Panic

First, (and I know some people are really going to be disappointed about this), you are most likely not going to be in a gunfight tomorrow. I can say this with some confidence, because statistically very few people ever need to fire their gun in anger. This isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, of course, because it does, just that you’re unlikely to need to do so tomorrow.

You know what’s orders-of-magnitude more likely tomorrow? That you’ll be in an auto accident or be near someone who is having a heart attack. A gunfight, not so much.

Just because there’s a gun doesn’t make it a gunfight

The whole notion of a “gunfight” is also overblown. The connotation is that the people involved are in a running gun battle, just like in the movies, which lasts several minutes and involves shooting from behind cover and reloading their gun several times.

When called on it, most instructors will double down on their use of the word “gunfight”, insisting that any defensive gun use should be called a gunfight, because you’re in a fight with a gun. Take it from someone who crafts words for a living: we use words for the pictures they put in people’s minds. The image produced is intentional, to lead them to a specific conclusion. “Gunfight” is chosen because it puts people into a specific thought pattern which can then be manipulated.

The reality is that defensive gun uses are very short and are relatively simple. But that’s not nearly as exciting, is it? Of course not, which is why the word is used. It sells.

Avoidance is still your best option

Another problem with the idea of being in a gunfight tomorrow is the notion that it can’t be avoided. There is definite value in convincing prospective students that an event is inevitable; it makes the sales job easier.

I hate to keep bringing up reality, but a very large number of defensive gun uses are actually avoidable. I’ve talked about this many times over the years; John Farnam’s prescription for safe living (avoid doing stupid things, going to stupid places, and hanging out with stupid people) eliminates a surprising number of potential self defense scenarios.

So does learning to say “I’m sorry”, and mean it. So many cases of social violence come down to two people (almost always men) who can’t let something pass because neither has the cojones to admit that maybe they were wrong. Even if you’re not wrong, de-escalating by accepting the blame is often a very good way to defuse a tense situation.

Claude Werner has often said that most gun owners (most people in general, actually) would get far more value from a Dale Carnegie course, which teaches you how to get along with other people, than from a shooting class. I agree with his sentiment. Learning how to manage interpersonal conflict is a more difficult skill than pulling a trigger and thus generally less popular. 

Inevitability (“you ARE going to be in a gunfight tomorrow”) carries the implicit assumption that there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid it. There may be cases where that’s true, but for the most part not being a horses’ ass, avoiding “the stupids”, learning to swallow your pride, and not allowing yourself to be distracted in unsecured spaces will eliminate a surprisingly large percentage of gunfight scenarios.

Nothing is perfect

This idea of inevitability is also used to sell the instructor’s personal idea of the “ideal” defensive handgun. After all, if you know you’re going to be in a fight, wouldn’t you like to give yourself an edge by packing the right armament? 

What happens if tomorrow finds you in clothes which won’t conceal the ideal full-sized handgun positioned for the fastest draw? What happens if the problem you face requires something more than harsh words, but less than flying bullets? 

I guess you’re just out of luck, because everyone knows you can’t possibly defend yourself with a small gun, a low-capacity gun, or (heaven forbid) a tool other than a gun!

One-dimensional thinking

The biggest problem with this notion of inevitability is that it ties you to one way of looking at the world. Not all problems are shooting problems; most of them aren’t, in fact. By assuming that a gunfight is inevitable, even as a discussion topic, people are immediately locked into a shooting solution. 

Rather than considering and looking for alternatives, it promotes the notion that the only thing which can possibly keep you safe is a firearm. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes the lawfully wielded firearm is the right tool for the job, but honesty compels me to point out that those situations are few and far between.  Much more common is the situation that can be avoided, defused, or prevented.

From where I sit, if I knew that I was going to be in a gunfight tomorrow I’d simply make sure I wasn’t there. That seems to me to be the best idea.

I’m a big fan of reality

Yes, if you have it you should carry your firearm whenever you legally can. Yes, you should consider a long gun for use in your home or on your property. Yes, you should learn how to use those defensive firearms safely, responsibly, and efficiently. 

But you should also understand that they are an appropriate tool in a very small percentage of incidents. You should learn to be a gracious person, don’t do stupid things, don’t go to stupid places, and don’t associate with stupid people. You should learn how to politely defer to others and how read their body language. You should develop good habits, like not having your face buried in your smart phone’s screen when you’re in public areas. You should also learn how to stabilize a victim of severe trauma, how to do CPR, and the Heimlich Maneuver.

Mostly, though, don’t get sucked into the idea that anything is inevitable. Because the only things that are inevitable are death, taxes, and the book plug I make at the end of my blog posts.

– Grant

P.S.: I promised it, so here it is: check out all my great books on shooting, self defense, and preparedness. I’m sure there’s something in them that you can use — today — to realistically prepare to keep yourself and your family safe. Whether you like reading on an electronic device or holding good ol’ paper in your hands, you’re likely to find one of my titles useful in your life. Dare I say it’s…inevitable?

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  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On July 2, 2018