Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Second Rule of Gun Fighting

The First Rule of a Gun Fight is 'Have a gun.' What is the Second Rule?

There are four possible outcomes of any gun fight:
  • No one gets shot (showing a gun gets compliance).

    Now, this may be a 'win' and it may not be. If you point a gun at a bad guy and he goes face down on the ground until the police arrive to haul him away, score it a win. If the bad guy makes you comply, e.g., steals your wallet, rapes you, ties you up and throws you in the trunk of his car, you lose... and the scenario dictates how much you lose.


  • You shoot the bad guy.

    He loses. You may or may not win, depending on whether shooting him was the correct thing to do.


  • The bad guy shoots you.

    You lose.


  • You both get shot.

    You still lose, even if the bad guy loses worse.
  • So, the Second Rule of a Gun Fight is 'Don't get shot!' because winning a gun fight isn't strictly a matter of shooting the bad guy, it's surviving the encounter intact. It seems obvious, but a quick perusal through the 'Lessons Learned' archives of this site alone shows that most gun fights are lost because the good guys fail to faithfully follow the Second Rule.

    Let's look at the Miami Burger King shootout that happened today. The bad guy walks in complete with ski mask (thanks for the target identifier, buddy!) and holds up the place. A good guy, complete with concealed carry license, pulls his gun and confronts the bad guy. The bullets start flying, and when it's over the bad guy is dead and the good guy is seriously wounded. Ask yourself, did the good guy really win?

    Let's see... he won a trip to the emergency room, several hours of emergency surgery, months of painful convalescence, and perhaps some permanent disability... if he survives. Doesn't sound like much of a win to me.

    I'm not saying good guys should never fight back. Quite the contrary. What I want to emphasize here is to keep the goal in mind. The goal is not to protect Burger King's till. It is to protect your life, the lives of your loved ones, and the lives of innocents... in that order. Don't place one day's sales of a small business above your life and the well-being of a family that depends upon you.

    Before getting involved in a gun fight, ask yourself is this necessary? As Clint Smith is fond of saying, life will give you plenty of chances to show your heroism, so don't volunteer unnecessarily. Sometimes, however, there are no good choices. Sometimes you will have to get involved, because the cost of not engaging is too high. If you find yourself in such a situation, then remember the Second Rule of a Gun Fight: Don't Get Shot!

    Remember also that weapons are merely tools that we use to accomplish a task. Strategy and tactics are really what ensures success with the tool at hand. Have a plan, and develop the skills necessary to carry your plan out to a successful conclusion. In the case of the Miami Burger King shootout, the good guy had the initiative, and he had a gun. But did he have a sound strategy, a plan that would ensure success? No.

    From reading the news reports, it appears that the good guy pulled his gun and confronted the armed robber. At this point, the good guy has thrown away every advantage he has, and given the advantage to the bad guy! The lesson here: don't confront armed bad guys, shoot them... or don't get involved! If I was in a similar life-threatening situation where deadly force was warranted and felt I had to intervene in order to save my life or the life of others, rather than confront the bad guy I'd get behind cover if at all possible... something that would have a good chance to stop a bullet, like a counter or a booth partition. However, once I made the decision to shoot, I'd pull my gun out and aim it at the bad guy, and then I'd shoot him until I was absolutely positively sure he no longer posed a valid threat. No challenge, no "Drop your weapon!" or "Freeze!" I am not going to give any bad guy a chance to shoot me if I can help it.

    I understand that sometimes you can't seek cover, because there isn't time. Sometimes all the choices stink. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the very real possibility that you will get shot, but the alternative of doing nothing and getting shot, raped, or killed is much worse. Your strategy doesn't change. Once you've made the decision that deadly force is warranted, then don't hesitate. Draw and shoot, and keep shooting until there is no longer a threat. Putting the bad guy down, now, is your best chance of minimizing harm to yourself and other innocents. It may be your only chance for survival. At the Burger King today, the first shot from the good guy could have ended it all. Make that first shot on your time, with all deliberate speed ("take your time, fast" as Bill Jordan wrote), and make it count because it may be the only shot you get.

    He who hesitates is lost. Don't hesitate. Make your decision, and then carry out your plan vigorously.

    3 comments:

    Pascal [P-04referent] said...

    What's this? A pro-guns American who THINKS instead of viewing life like a cheap action movie?
    Hey, maybe I had you Republicans figured out all wrong. ;-)

    Seriously now, every time I see my core belief confirmed, that "it's not the label, it's the person that counts", it makes me happy for the day.
    And your here post might contribute to saving lives and avoiding absurd dramas, that's always good.

    There are two things I equally loathe:
    - violence, and
    - yielding to the violent.

    Like you say, sometimes, there are only choices less bad than others. Pacifism is a luxury for those who enjoy safety.
    I should know...

    John Clifford said...

    Pascal, your confusion is because you buy into the stereotype of Republicans that the Democrat-controlled media puts out. Kinda like how most Americans view Middle Easterners.

    If you liked that post, then read this one, where I describe how big a fan I am of violence. Warning: not for the intellectually weak.

    Pascal [P-04referent] said...

    Confused, meeeee?
    Let me guess: you haven't checked my profile yet, have you? :-)

    I was making fun of stereotypes, precisely. It takes only three seconds to press [Ctrl + F] and verify that the word "God" appears in the current posts of your main page about... zero times, hinting that you're not exactly a caricatural Bible thumper.

    The thing is, everybody preaches stereotypes. It's a natural human tendancy, to simplify the world into convenient categories, and this tendancy is highly enhanced when precisely the stereotypical (or the extremists) are always the ones most vocal and most prominently noticed. Even though such people -the living stereotypes- are notoriously a minority.

    Almost my whole education was based on stereotypes. Alas for my well-meaning teachers, I was a very poor learner, always wanting to do that ill-advised fancy stuff called "thinking".
    Using your critical brain is part of truly growing up. For those who ever DO grow up, that is. Given how rare those are in the world, I'm always happy to meet one, no matter how different some of our conclusions might be.

    We may have "irreconcilable differences" on politics [more when my comment on this thread is ready], but if there's no strife to reconcile about at the start, we can always agree to disagree. :-)

    It is in fact normal (and a healthy thing!) that not everybody thinks the same, especially among the sensible people. Diversity is a treasure.
    And you're lucky to enjoy such a treasure. Your main worry in the USA ("Land of the Free" indeed!) is having an incompetent President who makes lousy politics. In Lebanon, we just WISH there was some hope for a leadership that's not entirely corrupt!
    The most daring utopists among us even dream about freedom of speech.

    A challenge to my intellectual fortitude? You're on, yankee! I'll read your post, and betting I won't even flinch! ;-)

    Meanwhile, if you want to know how a very non-typical Lebanese may think, you're welcome to visit my blog.
    "English spoken. On parle Fran├žais."

    Bear in mind that there are many things I cannot mention or speak too openly about. I regularly stretch my luck thin.
    I hope you "dekadent kapitalists" are aware of how privileged you are. Even with Obama. :-P