Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
You want to protect the people around you. If you teach self-defense, then you’ve had a few students who haven’t thought through what will happen after they act. If you’re a gun owner, now is the time to think about the use of lethal force in defense of our lives or others. We can do too much as well as too little. It is too late to make fine moral distinctions in the fleeting moment when your friends need help.
We won’t have perfect solutions. There are huge emotional costs if you do nothing, just as there will be emotional costs if you get involved. There are financial costs as well. You’re also going to lose a year of your life even if you never spend a second in jail. We seldom hear about those complications because the realities don’t make good headlines.
Think about it now.
There isn’t enough time to think if you have to use lethal force. It is nearly a definition. If you had enough time to think then you had enough time to avoid the situation, and therefore, lethal force wasn’t necessary. I really respect the people who defend the innocent, but we’ve seen what it costs.
During a self-defense encounter, you don’t have time to learn new skills. Self-defense is stressful and our logical brain isn’t available during times of stress. In the moment, you have to use the mental and physical skills of self-defense that you made routine. New gun owners don’t know what they don’t know. The more you learn, the more of your weaknesses you uncover.
What it is going to cost?
You could be hurt. Interjecting yourself into someone else’s fight can increase your risks rather than reduce them. Are you willing to take a bullet for a stranger?
You’re tangled with the law. Suppose you’re absolutely justified in defending an innocent victim. You’ve just thrown yourself into our legal system. It can take years before our legal system lets you go. Are you willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills for a stranger?
You’ll pay a psychological cost. Let’s assume that you did everything right when you used lethal force. Most of us are not used to that level of violence. There is an emotional cost as you work through your reactions. It takes time.
You can lose your freedom. Suppose you made mistakes during the conflict. On second thought, suppose you did everything correctly… but you live in a blue state where gun owners are assumed guilty until proven innocent. You could end up in jail until you post bond. You could end up under house arrest until a judge holds a hearing to sort out that you were the victim rather than the attacker. That doesn’t help your sanity, and it can cost you your job.
These costs are yours. You will pay them, not the person you saved. There are good reasons to risk everything you have, but you should explore that decision now. Heaven knows that you’ll doubt your decision in the best of circumstances.
Who do you love?
It sounds cold and calculating, but make a mental list of the people you’d protect. You’d protect your family. Given divorce and remarriage, you have to know your limitations.
What about defenseless strangers?
We have a wonderful desire to protect the innocent, like children and the elderly. We want to protect them because they can’t protect themselves.
Remember the fog of uncertainty
You will probably have seconds to size up a situation. If you see someone at risk, does the thief only want their wallet, or is this the beginning of a lethal abduction? Some situations are not as they appear. Your decisions will be slowly analyzed and criticized in the smallest detail by those who have all the time in the world. You have a lot to lose. If you get involved, then your family will suffer with you. You could do everything right and still be prosecuted.
The equal opportunity of self-defense
If the threatened victim is an adult, then they could have learned to protect themselves. Why is it your obligation to save them when they decided not to save themselves?
You can always be an advocate
There are other ways you can help people protect themselves. Take your friends shooting. Ask if they will join you when you take a training class. One kind of hero leads by example and is a disciple for the art of self-defense. You have choices.
Thank you to Jeff and Robyn Street for their contributions to this article. They teach at Step by Step Gun Training in Naples, Florida.