Defensive Use of Firearms
Stephen P Wenger
Paladin Press ISBN: 978-1-58160-469-6 120 pages
Since we discussed a defensive-ish incident earlier in this issue, it seems a good time to talk about Defensive Use of Firearms, which was written by someone known to us. It also seemed a good time to discuss our view on use of guns, which will provide a background for the book.
Guns are wildly popular here in the United States. We have more guns than automobiles, more than half of all households have guns in them. Shooting sports are very popular, with more people engaging in shooting sports than in playing tennis. There are 17 Olympic shooting events, and a host of non- Olympic events available to competitors. Shooting sports – particularly handgun competitions – are growing popular among women, largely because shooting is fun, but also because it involves fine-motor skills, and, as a group, women generally have better fine-motor skills than men. Shooting also requires relatively little upper-body strength, and, as a group, women generally have upper-body strength than do men.
Guns are also widely used for self-defense in our more-violent-than-most culture, and we have seen convincing estimates of a defensive use every 13 seconds (in the overwhelming majority of cases, the gun never fired). In general, if a gun is needed for self-defense –that is to say if someone is actively trying to kill you – there exists no other emergency safety tool that will adequately stand in its place.
The downside to guns is, of course, gun homicide and accidental deaths, particularly the tragic accidental gun deaths of children. Astonishingly, these are so rare as not to be much of a statistically realistic concern. In the last year of record, out of 2,437,583 deaths in the U.S, there were a only 10,131 murders and non-negligent homicides involving firearms. There are about a thousand accidental gun deaths a year (mostly, it appears, involving hunters), of which roughly 110 deaths – two per state per year – are tragic accidental gun deaths of children. This is a figure so low as to not allow amelioration through social policy or law.
From a societal point of view, we believe the benefits of civilian gun ownership compensates for the firearms homicides and accidents. And that there is a benefit to having some number of people carrying guns concealed on their person, as it creates enough uncertainty in the minds of criminals as to cause them to move to property crimes rather than crimes against the person. But it only takes a small number of people owning guns and carrying concealed weapons to induce this uncertainty.
Do we ourselves keep and carry guns for self-protection? No. Do we have our protective people carry them? In general, other than in quasi-military situations, no, as we want agents to feel more like rabbits than lions, and make every effort to anticipate and avoid problems, and to run away from problems if they occur, taking the people under their care with them.
Should you own a gun for self-protection? That is a personal choice, and we frankly have no strong feeling about it one way or the other, assuming that there is no troubled teenager in the house who might be suicidal, or anyone else, for that matter, who might be suicidal, in which case we have a strong feeling against. While the absence of a gun will not reduce the likelihood of a suicide, it will markedly reduce the likelihood of a suicide with your gun!
If you do keep a gun for personal protection – if you have made the decision that, in certain circumstances, you would be willing to take the life of another human being – we feel very strongly that you should know how to use the gun responsibly and effectively.
Knowing how to use a gun has two parts. The first part is the general gun safety part and operating mechanics part, for which we think training is the best way to learn. Note that accident rates and rates of misuse of guns do not differ between states that have a mandatory requirement for training and those that do not. What we are looking for is not fulfillment of a meaningless legal requirement, but, rather, for a voluntary commitment to safety on the part of the gun owner who might need to take a life if there is no other option available.
The second part is training in use of the gun, which includes the mechanics of making the gun work effectively for the purpose of protection of life. This last part is the kicker: Training that works for one use may not transfer to another. Thus, we, ourselves, train for Olympic-style competitions, for police-style competitions, and for the kind of shooting one might need in the work we do professionally. None of the training we do for each of these specialties is necessarily related to the skills needed for the other specialties, and certainly not for defensive use by private citizens.
For those interested in self-defense, you need to build a sure knowledge of when and where you can and cannot use an emergency safety tool, as well as to develop both appropriate tactics and strategies that will allow you to survive. And, finally, you need to develop the ability to shoot under stress and actually hit whomever you are aiming at, and not anyone else.
Besides training, you will want to read a lot about self-defense in general and shooting in particular, as is appropriate for a commitment to take the life of another human being. Which brings us to Defensive Use of Firearms.
While not written for the beginning shooter, Defensive Use of Firearms has been put together by someone who has spent a lot of time studying shooting, and training in shooting, and teaching shooting. It covers a wide variety of subjects, starting with an excellent review of safety issues. For the experienced shooter interested in using a gun for self-defense, it gives another set of options to consider. For those new to defensive shooting, it gives some tips you might not have considered unless you are either well trained or spend a lot of time thinking about unlikely events.
As an example, many shooting classes talk about “double taps,” where you fire two rapid shots at the person you are trying to stop, or triple taps, where you fire two shots to center of mass and a third to the head. This is a good thing to do with a single opponent, as handgun bullets – even big ones – are pretty small, and two hits increase the likelihood of making someone who is trying to kill you stop. HOWEVER, if you are facing multiple opponents, double or triple taps are a very bad idea indeed, because by the time you finish with the first or second bad guy, the last in the row might well have shot you. So in this case you need to take one shot at each of your opponents (most people don’t like to be shot at, so this disconcerts them greatly), and when you are finished with the last of them you start back at the beginning.
Assimilating this sort of knowledge is important, because until you do a lot of when-then thinking (when this happens, then I will do that), you are likely to end up in a situation that you have not only not practiced-for, but never even thought about. And when you are in a situation for which you are unprepared, you are likely to do – nothing. This is why people in the business of staying alive when others are likely to try to kill them are always running when-then scenarios in their minds, thinking “When I am on a train and hear shooting in the next car, then I will…” or “When I open my front door and there is a bad guy standing there with a spanner, then I will…” or “When I pause before entering a store or office and bank, and see everyone frozen in place, then I will…” or “When I am sitting an a restaurant, squished in among my family on the banquette, and some crazy person bursts in and starts shooting, then I will…” or “When I am in a parking lot with my precious six year old daughter, and a robber holding a gun bursts out of a store and runs for his car, then I will…”
Defensive Use of Firearms is well organized and concise, with seven chapters:
Safety with Firearms (8 pages) Mental Awareness (4 Pages) Mental Preparedness (6 pages) Tactics (19 pages)
Skills (30 pages) Equipment (22 pages) Legal Issues (4 pages).
These seven touch on most of the areas you need to be thinking about if you contemplate using a gun for self-defense (it is lacking a chapter on how you, the defender, deal with the after-effects of a violent encounter). Each chapter has information of potential value to you, and each chapter will indicate areas in which you need to do additional research and reading.