I haven’t routinely carried a concealed firearm outside of my home in years. Violent crime is down and keeps dropping and let’s face it, I do not profile as a victim. I am quite large and present as physically capable. I am well-versed in unarmed combat and pretty confident. The odds of me being selected for a criminal attack, or even witnessing one, are pretty small.

I’ve spoken before about the fact that while the need for self-defense is in some ways less likely than ever that the scope of the problem had increased. I’ve talked about responding to a mass-shooting incident and a number of other topics around concealed carry. I do routinely carry a handgun while working in my shop, but I almost never carry in public. It hasn’t seemed all that necessary, but it seems that is changing.

Last week on a commuter train in Portland a man was abusing some Moslem women. He was shouting racist epithets and insults. When other riders confronted him about this he pulled a knife and apparently went berserk. Other people on the bus tried to stop him. Two of the good samaritans are now dead, one is critically injured and several more sustained less serious wounds. A knife is a terrifyingly destructive weapon in close quarters.

I do not know that having a gun would have helped in that situation; I wasn’t there and do not know the exact circumstances. I do not know that a handgun could have been used safely and effectively in the situation; things happened shockingly fast in an enclosed space full of people; deploying a gun might have actually caused a greater risk to more people. But it would have possibly provided more options, and might have helped.

I don’t usually ride public transit so I am not likely to encounter that exact situation, but it’s easy to see myself in a similar situation in any of a variety of public venues, and in such a situation I would almost certainly intervene.  Had I done so in Portland I would most likely be dead, seriously injured or even crippled. Having a handgun in such a situation would at very least introduce more options to reduce or eliminate the threat.

We cannot predict whether we might encounter such a situation- but to some degree we can predict our own actions. If I see someone abusing others I know that I am likely to intervene in some fashion, and will likely use physical force if it appears necessary to prevent injury to innocents.  But actions ranging from trying to disengage the victims from their abuser without confrontation to calling the authorities should be attempted before violence of any kind if circumstances allow. I am intimately aware that a gun is neither a magic wand nor a screw-for every nut. A gun is a tool that expands your options, not a solution, and it is strictly a tool of last resort.

In a confrontation you have to be aware of a lot of things- not the least of which is who the aggressor is, and it’s not always as clear-cut as the situation in Portland. You need to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. You also have to be aware that police responding to the scene don’t know who you are or what your place is in the situation- but if you’ve got a gun in your hand they aren’t likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in the first moments after their arrival.

In the firearms and self-defense communities we make a lot of the need to be mentally prepared to use lethal force, but it is equally important to be mentally prepared not to. If you are not sensible you will become part of the problem. Real-life is not a ‘hostage target.’ Out in the real-world there are things and people all around, and if you miss the bullets will hit something. Don’t get so tunneled in on the immediate situation the you are blind to innocent bystanders that many be harmed by your actions. Yes, there are SHTF scenarios where even hitting an innocent bystander is better than letting the subject continue his destructive actions, but such scenarios are vanishingly rare and improbable.

Give some thought to conditions where it will not be a good idea to deploy a weapon, and think about what constructive actions you can take when lethal force might not be a viable solution. A gun is just one of many options, not the only one.

In the meantime I think it’s time to expand my own options.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 May 2017.

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