That question came up on a Facebook group I’m a member of recently. In response, I referenced my Armed Citizen database. The question was asked about my methodology, which is a fair question. I’ll address it my forthcoming eBook about the Armed Citizen but I want to first post the Introduction, which addresses the journey I have made about the Armed Citizen and my analyses thereof.
This book is the result of the overlap of several very widely different topics and experiences. As is often the case, as more information comes to light over time, perceptions can change.
During my time in the Army, I held several different intelligence (S2) positions. These largely involved information collection and analysis duties, not ‘spyguy’ stuff. The purpose of Intelligence in the military and government is always to facilitate decision-making. Having to provide and defend a cogent analysis of not only the information collected but the conclusions I drew from it was a formative experience for me. Information collection was only the beginning. From there, it had to be processed and turned into a usable product that decisions could be based on.
As I wound down my military career and entered the civilian world, I got into the commercial real estate business. As a Research Director for several different real estate firms, my S2 training and manuals were very useful to me. At the same time, the transition from mini-computer (Wang) to PCs in the business world was beginning. My boss was an extremely astute businessman and recognized the value of databasing information early on. Being able to construct my own databases allowed me to do several projects that were particularly influential in the way I looked at information.
One of the projects was to database the contacts that the brokers in our office used to develop business. Our firm’s business model was territorial with each broker having an assigned property type and area. To see how well this worked, my boss had me collect each broker’s contacts by Zip Code and create a map of where the contacts were in relation to the broker’s chosen territory. This process was very similar to the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (now Battlespace) products I had prepared in the Army. The results were surprising to everyone involved. In almost no case were the majority of the broker’s contacts in his or her territory. Some were nearby, which was understandable, but in many cases, they were widely scattered and even far away. The brokers themselves couldn’t believe it until I showed them the actual maps.
What this showed me was how inaccurate conclusions based on data that isn’t properly disaggregated can be. Their information was written down in their Rolodexes with every contact date annotated. That system told them very well what the level of their contact activity was. What it didn’t provide was much information about how well they were following their business plan. Aggregating the data and then disaggregating it by location instead of contact name and date told a much different story.
Another database I had to create was of proposed and completed deals. Creating this database gave me a much better insight into the numerous factors that make up a transaction. Proposed rental rate, length of term, size of the space, etc. were all captured when the brokers proposed a transaction. Eventually we would enter whether the deal closed or died. That database gave our company a firm understanding of what the market was actually doing across the city and in the various submarkets. Instead of speculation about what actual rental rates and terms were, we had a very clear picture.
Training I took impacted my thoughts also. I took Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute I in 1991. Having a measured and structured component to training was an eye-opening experience. Similarly, when I started training with John Farnam of Defense Training International, I got a lot of good information, both formal and informal. John was kind enough to give me a copy of W. French Anderson’s book about the FBI Miami Massacre. The book provided a superlative example of an in depth analysis of an armed conflict.
The next leg of my experiences developed when I started shooting IDPA in 1998 and then started an IDPA club. A number of Match Directors and I were discussing how to develop stages every month for our matches. Stage development is a constant pressure for any Match Director to keep the matches fresh and interesting. Someone suggested that The Armed Citizen column of NRA’s American Rifleman magazine might be a good place to start. I had been tearing the columns out of the magazine for years but never paid close attention to them. So I dug them out and looked through them in greater detail. My response to the other MDs was that almost all of the incidents were less than five shots and a lot were only one or two. Many of them had no shooting in them at all. The general consensus was the round count wasn’t high enough and the situations weren’t complicated enough to make interesting scenario stages.
My conclusion was different though, so I started designing what I called Armed Citizen Scenarios for my matches. There were several ways to adapt the incidents into stages. One way was to put multiple strings into a stage. For instance, if a Citizen was wounded in the arm in an attack, I would have one string shot with both hands and a second string shot with the Dominant Hand Only. Or, when only one shot was fired at one criminal in the actual incident, I would specify a failure drill (two shots to the body and one to the head) on all the targets.
The Armed Citizen topic interested me enough to create a database all 482 of the incidents from the column for the period 1997-2001. The incidents were remarkably devoid of ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ and ‘face eating meth-heads.’ As I had done with the deal database, I broke out as many different characteristics (at home, in a business, number of shots fired, etc.) as I could. With the database populated, I ran a series of pivot tables and produced a short study of what the characteristics and outcomes of the incidents were. Although there were methodological issues with it, fifteen years later, it remains the only study of its type I am aware of. Like a vampire that won’t die, it continues to be widely referenced and reproduced on the Internet.
One of the criticisms of my 1997-2001 study was that the NRA ‘cherry-picks’ the incidents to portray the actions of Armed Citizens in the most favorable light. Although the nature of what the Citizens might have done wrong was never really specified, I accept that as a valid critique. Only Positive Outcomes are reported in the Armed Citizen.
Flash forward more than a decade to the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I am an annual presenter. My colleague Craig Douglas threw down a challenge to me. “You should do a presentation on ‘Bad Shootings’ next year.” It was a virgin topic and gave me an opportunity to counteract the ‘cherry-picking’ aspect of the Armed Citizen. I accepted the challenge and casually started gathering information.
Be careful of what you wish for. The broad array of what I came to call Negative Outcomes really surprised me. The categories I broke them out into are:
- Chasing after the end of a confrontation
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Intervention (Proverbs 26:17)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement, e.g., getting needlessly arrested
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots
The categories are far from being the lurid list of ‘gunfights lost’ that those who objected to the 1997-2001 study probably expected. Rather than being tactical failures, most are simply the result of poor gunhandling, lack of familiarity with the law, or out and out carelessness and negligence. My list of such incidents is shockingly long. The only really noticeable category of tactical failures was what my colleague Tom Givens calls ‘forfeits,’ i.e., not having your gun when you need it.
- There is a process to data collection and analysis.
- Information that isn’t written down and then analyzed in written form is prone to error. The human mind has a remarkable capacity for memory but that capacity can be disorderly and easily misinterpreted.
- Defensive Gun Uses by Armed Citizens tend to be uncomplicated affairs.
- Defensive Gun Uses have discrete characteristics that can be broken out for broad analysis.
- Negative Outcomes rarely consist of ‘gunfights lost’ but more often are negligence related Unintentional Shootings and Unjustifiable Use of Weapons. The exception to that rule being not having a gun when it’s needed.
While researching personal protection incidents in 2015 involving armed females, I came across a story that I found disturbing on several levels. The incident actually took place in October of 2014 but was featured in the Armed Citizen® column of the NRA Official Journals in January 2015.
The incident began when a woman discovered a man raping her pet pit bull one morning. The NRA synopsis is as follows:
Alice Woodruff heard noises outside her home around 10:30 a.m. When she went to investigate, she found a nude man attacking her dog in the backyard. Woodruff grabbed her pistol as a family member dialed 911. She then ran to her car to retrieve the gun’s magazine. She kept her distance from the man and warned him not to come toward her as he ranted about being with ISIS and having Ebola. He then claimed to be the anti-Christ. Woodruff held the man at gunpoint until police arrived shortly thereafter. After a nearly two-hour chase, the assailant was arrested and is expected to be charged after his release from psychiatric placement in a local hospital. (/Republican American/, Waterbury, CT, 10/24/14)
Let’s leave aside the issue of raping a dog, which is disturbing enough. A friend in the animal rescue community has informed me this is far more common than any sane person in the civilized world could believe. Several other more commonplace decisional issues are apparent.
First, in an interview with a local TV station, the woman stated:
I ran in, got my [.380 pistol] out of the bedroom, and realized as usual the ammunition is in my car locked in my glove box.
This is a serious problem of mindset and decision-making. Perhaps the woman is attempting to ensure there is no unauthorized access to a loaded weapon in her home. However, her protocol carries this rule to unreasonable extremes. Fortunately, the situation allowed her to “[keep] a picnic table between herself and the man as she opened the car to grab the magazine” Then:
I showed him the clip went in but I always kept the gun at my side while I was talking to him.
This is yet another decisional issue. She should have loaded the gun the moment she had accessed the magazine. Waiting to demonstrate to the man that she was loading the gun actually demonstrated to him that 1) she wasn’t ready to respond in the first place, and 2) she was not mentally prepared to shoot him.
The standoff with the man continued for several minutes as the man made numerous irrational statements. Although she warned him not to move toward her during the standoff, he eventually did. According to the story, the man was standing about 20 feet away from her. While the intent of the Tueller Principle has become heavily misconstrued in the training community, its applicability to a situation like this is clear. As a result of his moving:
Woodruff fired into the ground nearby when he moved toward her, though she said she wasn’t going to kill him.
The warning shot didn’t deter him. He tilted his head back, stretched his arms to his sides as if he was on a cross, and told her to shoot him, she recounted.
As more people own firearms for protection, it’s likely we will encounter an extrapolation of the ‘suicide by cop’ into ‘suicide by citizen.’ While I have said in the past ‘never say never’ about warning shots, we have to also consider that they may not work and a Plan B will be necessary.
But the single most inappropriate decision by this lady was to have a gun at all. A statement she made clearly indicates a firearm is not an appropriate tool for her to own.
And now I have to be the judge and jury and god for him? That’s not fair.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding you are not able to take another person’s life. We all have unique moral principles that guide us. This is why I never proselytize about gun ownership. Having a firearm for protection purposes is a deeply personal decision of the same magnitude as deciding to lose one’s virginity, get married, or have a child. However, someone who cannot bear the thought of taking another’s life in self-defense should not have a firearm as a protection tool. Pepper spray, a Taser, or some other alternative would be indicated.
Eventually, the authorities decided that the woman will not face any charges.
“She feared for her safety,” Deputy Police Chief Christopher Corbett said. “She fired a warning shot into the dirt.”
That warning shot was a reasonable thing to do given the circumstances, Corbett said.
“Every situation is unique,” the deputy chief said. “If you fear for your life, or if you fear for someone else’s life, you can use reasonable force to defend yourself.”
A consideration is that a warning shot may be no more legally justifiable than actually shooting someone. Gunowners do sometimes face criminal charges for firing warning shots.
This incident show a number of nuances to the decision process that we as gunowners should consider ahead of time. Although things worked out in this particular case, it had the potential to turn into a Negative Outcome in a number of ways.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When an Albuquerque couple caught a man burglarizing their garage, they asked him to stop.
When that didn’t work, they pulled out a rifle and a handgun, and held him at gunpoint until police officers arrived.
The above story is referenced in this month’s issue of The Armed Citizen®, published as part of the Official Journals of the National Rifle Association. It is also available in the online version of The American Rifleman magazine. A similar story is published at least weekly and available online at the American Rifleman.
The Armed Citizen® is very worthwhile reading because it describes actual incidents that armed Americans face when dealing with criminal predation. Reading the columns shows the difference between real life and the ludicrous ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ figbars of their imaginations that people frequently cook up.
For space and copyright reasons, The Armed Citizen® only publishes a summary of each incident, which the NRA does not copyright. The NRA summary of the above incident goes as follows:
Two New Mexico burglary victims used a rifle and a handgun to keep a thief under wraps until the police arrived. One of the Albuquerque residents came home and noticed a stranger loading items—including a generator the homeowner recognized as his—into a vehicle. He approached the alleged thief and asked him to stop, but the bad guy scoffed at him. The man went into his house, armed himself and his wife, and the two confronted the suspect, holding him at gunpoint until the police arrived. (Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, N.M., 11/21/15)
It’s useful to backtrack and find the original article. In many cases, there’s a lot more detail in the original story. Sometimes there is a wealth of information that we can learn from and think about our own situations ahead of time.
There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
The Albuquerque Journal article even includes video from the bodycam worn by the arresting officer.
What can we learn from the article and bodycam footage in this case? What questions are worthwhile to ask ourselves while we have the opportunity of cool reflection? Are there decisions we can make ahead of time to keep us out of trouble? Here are a few points to consider. There are probably more.
The couple has the alleged burglar at gunpoint. So far, so good. Let’s consider, however, that they were no longer on their own property at that point. Depending on the state you may be in, once you leave your own property, even by a few steps, the rules (Know the Rules) can change quite a bit. Let’s pose the question “What if the perp takes off running when the officer arrives?” Shooting him in the back at that point probably wouldn’t be a good decision, even in Texas. Remember that YOU have a good idea who the good guys and bad guys are, but the Officer has to sort that out. Don’t assume the Officer has all the pertinent information (Understand the Situation) or that he or she even believes the information given so far. It’s not like a false report has never been phoned in.
It appears on the bodycam footage that the Officer goes between the perp and the couple to handcuff the dude. The woman lowers her pistol as the Officer moves in; good for her. Unless you’re familiar with Contact and Cover procedures, how you’re going to react when the PoPo arrives is best thought of ahead of time. Given that it’s a physical skill, (Have Adequate Skills) maybe even a little practice is in order. Given the circumstances, the woman probably didn’t even have a holster on. What are you going to do with your heater at that point?
The perp was released on his own recognizance the same day and then arrested again a few hours later for armed robbery. What if instead of going after someone else, he came back to the house he burglarized? It’s not hard to tell he’s a nitwit. Keep in mind that criminals don’t think the way we do. What state of alertness and readiness are you going to be in, post-event? If an entryway to your home has been damaged, are you going to stay there? What if your weapons have been taken into evidence? Do you have backups, not necessarily at your home?
Peeing on the fence isn’t much of a strategy. We have a lot of information available that we can use to put together at least a rough plan for circumstances that are foreseeable. And it’s not like we have to make it into a heavy duty wargaming exercise. There are typically five or six incidents referenced in The Armed Citizen® each month. There’s one or two a week listed online. Five minutes thought per incident still works out to less than an hour per month.
The Armed Citizen® database of all incidents ever reported is available on the NRA-ILA website.
My colleague Grant Cunningham posed two interesting questions on his blog, which led to a lengthy Facebook discussion.
Question #1: “what are your biases or preconceptions?”
Question #2: “what have you changed your mind about in the last year?”
I gave a brief answer to #2 but I think they both deserve some elaboration.
Question #1: “what are your biases or preconceptions?”
I am very reluctant to design training for myself or others that is rooted purely in hypothesis or conjecture. I.e., I am very biased toward following the scientific method, as much as possible, when developing training paradigms.
The overall process of the scientific method involves making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions. — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
It’s important to note that testing is an inherent part of the scientific method. Testing implies some form of measurement. As a result, I believe that having performance standards is an important part of training. I think of training as ‘outcomes based’ rather than ‘input based.’
We have at our fingertips, via the Internet, an enormous amount of data available to us. At the top of this blog are links to a number of sources that I regularly read to gather information about armed encounters, shootings, gunfights, and gunbattles. I use each of those terms in a very defined way because I consider many terms used in the training community to be fuzzy and ill-defined. Fuzzy and ill-defined terminology does not fit particularly well in the scientific method.
One of the often parroted phrases I hear about gathering information from the Internet is “The plural of anecdote is not data.” I rebut this with the words of one of my accounting professors, “Accounting information is expensive to gather and is sometimes not worth it.” What he meant was that, at some point, you have to accept whatever information you have been able to collect and work with it to form an opinion.
Something I try to avoid is ‘cherry picking’ data that supports my hypotheses. Cherry picking is not always an intentional process, either; it can require a significant amount of intellectual rigor to avoid. I learned this years ago when I was Research Director of a large commercial real estate brokerage company. The brokers all worked specific geographical areas and the Vice President asked me to analyze the Zip Codes of their contact lists. As it turned out, only about 20 percent of the brokers actually had the majority of their contacts in their assigned areas, even though they thought they did. That was when I became a believer in writing things down and checking them periodically to eliminate unconscious errors. A while later, I created a database of five years of data from the Armed Citizen and found some patterns and trends I hadn’t anticipated.
To sum up my bias, I might say:
I’m not interested in conjecture. Tell me where your hypothesis originated, what data supports it, and how you measure the outcome(s) you expect your students to achieve as a result of this training.
Question #2: “what have you changed your mind about in the last year?”
My short answer to this question on Facebook was “The importance of manipulation skills vis–à–vis decision-making.”
I’ve been thinking about this for many years. In 2011, my presentation at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference was entitled The Myth of the Lone Gunman: Working with Family, Friends, and Significant Others.
At the Conference in 2014, my colleague Craig Douglas made the suggestion that I do a presentation about ‘Bad Shootings’ for the 2015 Conference. The results of my research changed me forever.
As many people know, I was part of the Rogers Shooting School for ten years, culminating with being Chief Instructor for five years. Rogers is the most elite and difficult shooting school in the world. Many police and military special units go there to train every year and get to eat a piece of Humble Pie every day of the five day Course. “We’re the best shooters in our Department, by far. Then we come here and find out we suck!” The Handgun Testing Program has no peer for difficulty in the entire training community. It is training on a level that only a select few shooters will ever get to experience. I am enormously proud of my association with the School and maintain a relationship to Bill and Ronnie to this day.
That being said, once I started doing my research on ‘Bad Shootings,’ which eventually morphed into ‘Negative Outcomes,’ I saw a vastly different set of priorities were important. Although I still believe performance standards are important, the level of those standards has changed in my mind. The NRA Defensive Pistol standards, probably at the Sharpshooter level, will suffice to solve almost every confrontation I have been able to find between an Armed Private Citizen and a marauding criminal. Truth be told, those standards would work for most police shootings also. The kicker about the NRA standards is twofold; 1) competence must be demonstrated repetitively and 2) the standard is 100 percent hits.
Once a person can shoot a pistol to a reasonable standard, it’s time to move on to thinking about the circumstances of personal protection and becoming proficient at decision making in that context. Decision making can be a very difficult task, especially when we are armed. Lack of proficiency, not just at marksmanship, but at gunhandling under stress, complicates this. Persons who are not Unconsciously Competent can easily become focused on the firearm rather the situation. Focusing on the wrong thing can lead to Bad Decisions, which in turn can result in Negative Outcomes.
These are the Negative Outcome categories I identified in my research. There are probably more.
- Chasing and shooting
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges
- Self-inflicted GSW
- Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement (arrests for non-shooting related incidents)
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings
- Warning shots
As an example of one category, Unintentional Shootings, here’s a screencap of some of the stories I have collected.
Bad decisions have serious consequences and end up being punished in a variety of ways, some legal and some social. The legal consequences are obvious; the shooter goes to court and sometimes thence to prison. The social consequences of Negative Outcomes are less obvious. If a person accidentally shoots a family member, whether the criminal justice system gets involved or not, I doubt that family relationship will ever be the same. The particular incident I am thinking of occurred when a police officer shot his daughter, thinking she was an intruder.
Decision making has many aspects to it that people don’t often consider. Where you point a gun anytime you handle it is a decision that has to be made. Consider that the next time you’re in a gun shop; where are you going to point the gun as you pick it up to ensure that you don’t muzzle anyone? This relates to another reason I am not fond of the overhand method of slide manipulation. During administrative gunhandling, which happens far more than shooting, the overhand method simply does not give the same level of muzzle control that the slingshot method does. I regularly have to correct students about muzzling themselves when using the overhand method. Using the slingshot technique, not at all.
Note that the Decision Making Process starts long before an incident. For instance, having a flashlight and then practicing with it is a decision. Not having one and/or not practicing with it is a Bad Decision. There are many other possibilities too. Failing to devise emergency plans and then discuss them with your family is a Bad Decision.
Look at the list of Negative Outcomes. The category ‘Downrange Failures’ is the only one that is marksmanship driven. All the rest relate to Decision Making and gunhandling. That’s why I changed my mind.
There’s a lot to being a grey man. Many worthwhile observations in this post.
Amidst all the media attention surrounding my Babywearing and Carrying class was a call from CBS’s show, “The Doctors.” They thought my class was interesting and wanted to fly me out to California to talk about it. It took me a few days to get to the place where I decided to take the trip. I said yes on Tuesday, had a travel itinerary on Wednesday night and was on a plane on Thursday.
This is the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time to a destination that doesn’t include rendezvousing with friends or family or a firearms class.
No lie, the idea of two days in Hollywood by myself was very appealing though the reminders to be careful started in earnest along with concerns of, “Aren’t you nervous to be traveling by yourself?”
I don’t subscribe to that kind of worry and fear. Lots of people…
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A writer from Gun Digest contacted me about the Five Year Armed Citizen study TAC 5 year w tables I did a while back. He asked if I would give him a quote about it, so this was my reply.
“Analyzing incidents involving Armed Private Citizens, rather than LE/MIL situations, leads to different conclusions. Common discussion topics among Armed Private Citizens, such as equipment and caliber issues, rarely are the cause of Negative Outcomes. Negative Outcomes result from 1) lack of conceptual understanding leading to poor decision-making, and 2) lack of appropriate and necessary skills, techniques, and tactics.
Carrying and being capable of using a small gun adequately will yield much better results than owning a large pistol that isn’t carried or shot well. More criminals have been planted in the ground by .22s that hit than by .45s that miss.”
Periodically, I am asked to opine about the various plans available to cover the expenses of a legal defense after a personal protection incident. This article by Marty Hayes covers it in much better detail than I could explain.
The [plans] can be categorized into four types:
2) Insurance backed
3) Pre-paid legal services
4) The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc., a membership organization.
Fair disclaimer: I am a member of ACLDN and have a relationship with them.
Taurus Manufacturing has officially released the Curve, a small, polymer .380 pistol with a distinct curved frame, meant to comfortably wrap around your hip or thigh when carrying inside the waistband or in a pocket, respectively.
Here’s my gripe about ‘range tests’:
First, some quick range notes: After handling and firing the Curve I can straight away can [sic] tell you that the 100 or so rounds I fired through the gun fed well and the empty cases ejected perfectly. The long trigger was decently smooth and the recoil, while sharp, was manageable. And not only was the gun a reliable shooter, it also hit where I aimed, thanks in part to its integrated light and laser.
How much meaningful information does that convey? What distance, what was the target, what speed, what anything? How about putting a trigger pull gauge and ruler to it? Then we might know what ‘long’ means, in a couple of dimensions.
I’m actually interested in doing a comparative test of the Curve. Anything that has generated so much hate without even being seen, handled, or fired deserves a second look. Perhaps I’ll do something even slightly scientific, such as firing it on the same course of fire as a full size gun or perhaps a competitive gun, e.g., an LCP.
If they’re going to fire 100 rounds anyway, why not do something meaningful with it? For example, “I fired the XX State weapons carry qualification course with the Curve and an LCP. With the Curve, I was able to make a score of XX in a time of XX. The LCP gave me a score of XX in XX seconds. So, XX produced better results, for me, than the XX. Then I fired the same course with a Glock 17, which produced XX results. So the smaller guns gave up XX percentage of performance.”
Larry Potterfield, of MidwayUSA, even developed his own analysis protocol for testing handguns. His procedure is not what I would use but I give him credit for doing something original, measured, and somewhat informative.
C’mon guys, this isn’t that hard if you think about it just a bit. You don’t have to put on a Top Gear show to provide some kind of meaningful information for people to use in decision-making.
This is the second installment of my Negative Outcomes series. I’ve already been taken to task for commenting about imprecise language and I understand where he’s coming from. The fact of the matter is, however, that we, in the instructional community, take a lot of our subject matter knowledge for granted.
Frequently, I hear comments to the effect that NRA courses go too much into depth about things like the individual components of ammunition, etc. I disagree with that completely. The influx of new gunowners requires that we educate them thoroughly. Many of the new owners have never operated any hand held device more complicated than an electric toothbrush.
As I commented to a student last night, I previously had a student in a class who was using a Sig pistol. He had owned and been shooting it regularly for almost two years. When I told him to ‘decock,’ he looked at me and said “What does that mean?” He had never used the decocking lever before and didn’t understand what its function was. He was actually a good shot, too. But elements of the pistol’s manual of arms had never been explained to him.
When dealing with deadly weapons, we can leave nothing to chance, including our vocabulary and students’ understanding thereof.
There are so many times in a day when you have to let people into your space. I think we have to accept it. My tolerance changes radically when I’m in transitional areas like parking lots etc.
It’s important to take context into account when speaking about SAP. There’s been some commentary about my post that I must not live in a big city or ever take the subway. Since I grew up in Chicargo and live in Atlanta, that’s not true. I ride public transportation quite often, even when I don’t have to.
The comment about transitional areas is on point. Rarely are we concerned about being robbed or beaten up in line at Starbucks. The video of the dude getting mugged in NOLA recently is more our concern and representative of the positioning I’m getting at.
While public places, e.g., the coffee shop in Lakewood WA, and crowds are not totally risk free, I think my colleague William Aprill would say our risk profile for violent crime is lower there than in transitional areas or when we are alone. The criminal incidents that I personally have had to deal with all fell in those two categories. Either positioning or awareness, along with will, allowed me to control those situations. Controlling the situations allowed them to conclude without anyone getting shot or stabbed, which is my desired outcome.
In fact, one of my encounters took place at a MARTA train station in Atlanta at 9 a.m. I was alone and midway through the station on my way to work, so both criteria (alone and in transition) were met. It was what I call an “opportunistic meeting engagement.” Three individuals coming from another direction apparently liked the fact I was on crutches and in a boot from a recent surgery. It was the first time in my life I experienced Clint Smith’s saying “Predators look at you like you’re food.” But I saw their look, change of demeanor, and change of direction from the full width of the upper platform while they were still about 15 yards away. That immediately put me into Condition Orange and I initiated my reaction. Because I had seen them so far away, I had time to react on my terms, rather than theirs. There was no escape for me since I could barely hobble on my crutches. So I faced them, put my hand in my overcoat pocket on my snub revolver and said to myself “Guys, this isn’t going to turn out the way you think it is.” I don’t believe I said it out loud and no words were exchanged between us. At the moment I thought it though, the Marine Corps Drill Team could not have done a better Right Flank, March than those guys did, in unison. Clearly, this was not their first rodeo.
What happened was that they targeted me in an obvious fashion. When a sketchy character, or three of them, changes direction and begins to close with you, it’s an indicator that an incident is developing. As a police officer friend says “Nothing good is coming of that.” However, I failed to act in the way I was supposed to. In John Farnam’s vernacular, I ‘failed the interview.’ Most criminal predations on the street begin with an evaluation by the predator as to whether it has the potential for being a successful victimization, as opposed to turning into a fight. Economic predators are not generally interested in a fight. They know all too well that there is an element of chance in every violent encounter. That is not to say they won’t fight, but rather given the choice between a victimization and a fight, they will pick the victimization.
So our object is to see them early enough and understand what is happening such that we can set ourselves up to fail the interview. The criminal then moves on to find another victim. I would prefer that they pick an undercover police officer and then get dealt with.
However, what happens afterward is not my problem. I am not a police officer; my weapons and tactics are for protecting me and mine, not society at large. That’s the way our legal system is structured; I understand it and abide by it.