When Is Drawing Your Weapon OK?
We’ve discussed previous scenarios and situations where drawing a firearm may (or may not) be appropriate to the situation. The very core of it rests in this: if you believe your life is in imminent danger, your first priority is to leave and your second is to use your firearm as the means of securing that exit.
This isn’t the time to prove yourself or to show your concept of “honor” or decency. Quite simply – the whole reason that firearm is on you is to secure your safety and protection.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s go over more gray areas. We’ve gotten a lot of strangely specific questions regarding the use of force in situations that don’t outright call for it. Some may. We’ll break down the situation and what we think is the best course of action.
Simple Disagreements: Family Get-Togethers
You’re at a family get together with your significant other’s family and they don’t know you a whole yet. You have the unfortunate occasion to meet drunk uncle Larry. Larry can’t handle his alcohol very well and loves to let you know what he thinks about you. He isn’t holding anything back. At one point, he theorizes openly what would happen if he decided to belt you right in your dumb mouth.
Be the hero Gotham deserves and leave. Don’t try to debate him or show him up. You have a concealed firearm on you. This is also not the time to go put your pistol in the car and go back out to let drunk uncle Larry know where the dog died. Straight up – leave. Maybe when he sobers up, your significant other’s family will force him to write a poorly worded apology note. Maybe it’s an open excuse for you to ditch out of further annoying family get-togethers. You be the judge but don’t draw your firearm to do so.
Someone Shoves You In Line
Lines, who doesn’t love them? We got this question on Facebook from a concealed carrier in line for a store opening in Austin, Texas. Let’s call him Paul. Paul is waiting with his girlfriend and some guy behind him decided to shove Paul in the back because he wasn’t moving fast enough. Worse yet, Paul may or may not have shot off some choice words. The situation has already escalated more than it needed to. More importantly, a shove can be construed as assault so it’s a darker shade of gray already. But because the scenario takes up from this spot, let’s hit the pause button.
Leave or stay. Those are the two basic choices in this scenario. You’ve already shot off your mouth and the other guy already put his hands on you. The situation is tense but it’s your responsibility as a mature adult to keep your firearm in its IWB holster and see it through to the correct conclusion.
Option one: Stay. If you judge that if you keep quiet and just keep plodding along in line, that’s okay. Whatever you do, don’t say another word. Nothing coming out of your mouth is going to make this guy respect you or think more highly of you. Keep cool and keep the line moving.
Option two: Leave. You’ve reasonably concluded that this behavior isn’t going to stop. The guy just keeps hurling invective crud your way. The first shove may have been a test – but is there more to this situation than meets the eye? Who’s to know? If you think there’s reasonable risk that this situation will escalate, you need to leave. If your girlfriend is cool to go with you, no problem. If she thinks you’re being silly, then maybe you can offer to meet up with her after the event. Does it put a dent in your plans? Sure. But if you’re reasonably certain this conflict isn’t going to go away – do the right thing first.
Someone Is Following You
We got this question from a regular female concealed carrier. Let’s call her Ashley. Ashley just had an encounter with a guy at a coffee shop and she’s going to her car. The conversation went great but she wants to go home. When she leaves the coffee shop, she sees a guy following her down the sidewalk. At first, she just figured he was leaving at the same time but two and a half blocks later, she’s not so certain. What should she do?
This one is more complicated. It’s super easy for this situation to escalate. We’re going with the conservative route and do conflict avoidance.
Step 1: Keep situational awareness at all times. You have one possible opponent behind you and an unknown number anywhere else.
Step 2: Keep distance between you and the person following you. If that distance closes past 25-30 feet, it’s self-defense.
Step 3: Find a safe place. Go into a well lit shop with security cameras, cross the street, stay visible.
If your pursuer follows you, this has become a self-defense situation and you’re clear to deal with it accordingly. Don’t be afraid to call that guy out in broad daylight but don’t brandish your gun. If he doesn’t get the picture at 25 feet and closing, you’re clear to interpret that as you see fit.
Situations like this are full of nuance and there’s no absolute recipe for success in any of them. What each scenario rests in is your ability to make reasonable judgments in securing your safety. Where that safety is at risk, it drifts quickly into self-defense. Make every reasonable effort to extricate yourself from an escalating situation.
While we don’t normally field questions, if you have any scenario-specific things you’d like us to address – be sure to comment in the comments section below and we’ll try to get to them!
James England is a former United States Marine Signals Intelligence Operator and defense contractor with over two tours spread over the Al Anbar province and two more operating across Helmand and Baghdis. He is presently a writer focused on Western foreign policy and maintains an avid interest in firearms. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he presently resides in New Hampshire – the “Live Free or Die” state. He is finishing up his first novel, “American Hubris”, which is set to hit shelves in Fall of 2015.