Don’t confuse the news with the truth. The corporate news media is in the business of delivering eyes and ears to their advertisers. That is how they earn their money. The assignment editors, reporters and the copyeditors are not against honesty and proportion, but cash comes first. That means they are biased in their reporting. They must ignore the common but important stories in order to leave room for the shock and outrage that keeps us watching and listening. I study armed defense. Ordinary citizens like us defend ourselves, our family, and innocent strangers every day. You wouldn’t know that from watching the news. This is why the corporate media does such a bad job of reporting.
To be fair, we have our own biases. Most of us think that armed defense looks like something from a John Wick movie or from the Matrix. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I have to describe what ordinary people do because most of us are not even familiar with the terms.
Armed defense is when the intended victim of a violent crime uses a firearm to deter or stop the criminal.
That includes something as simple as grandma shouting for an intruder to go away because she has a gun and that she called the police. The police might not classify it as a defensive gun use, but grandma thinks it was. She thinks the home-invasion robber changed his plans because she had her firearm. The criminal thinks grandma’s gun was important too.
Armed defense is when an armed mom is crossing the parking lot late at night. She tells her kids to get back in the car, she turns toward three young men, and puts her her hand into her purse. She yells “Stop!” and the three young men change direction. They get back into their car and drive away.
In these examples, the victim didn’t have to point their gun at the attacker. The significant thing that happened was that the armed defender didn’t look and act like the victim the attackers had in mind. The criminals moved on to find easier prey.
Some people would say this isn’t really armed defense, but the use of force comes in shades of grey. There is a continuum of force. It starts with turning toward your attacker, yelling “Stop”, backing away, grabbing your gun, presenting your firearm and pointing it at the attacker. It ends with pressing the trigger. Each of those are separate steps on the ladder of defense. We don’t want to climb higher than we have to.
The good news is that we are reluctant to use lethal force. It isn’t our job to close with, contact, subdue, and arrest our attacker. That is for the police. We just want the bad guy to move away and let us escape without being hurt. That is what we do.
In fact, the mere presence of a firearm is enough to make most bad guys turn away. That reaction isn’t as unusual as it seems. A police officer puts his hand on his gun many times but seldom has to present his firearm and shoot a criminal assailant. Criminals behave the same way around us. They don’t want to be shot at, and nobody wants to leak.
That isn’t speculation on my part. Scholars asked tens of thousands of ordinary adults if they ever used a firearm for armed defense. About one-adult-in-ten said yes. Only one-person-out-of-fifty had to actually press the trigger. That is significant, but it leads us to something even bigger.
The police might not take a report if you were armed but didn’t shoot the bad guy. Sure, we should call the police, but the police might not call it a defensive gun use unless the firearm was fired. Most armed defense is never recorded because of this quirk in the way the police take their reports.
Most of our armed defense isn’t reported by the press either. Just because our heart is beating fast after the bad guy ran away doesn’t mean our armed defense makes the news. Protecting our family is vitally important to us, but most armed defense doesn’t make good news copy. Assignment editors seldom wastes their ink on a story where there the bad guy ran away and there is no spilled blood. We aren’t always that lucky that the bad guy simply runs away.
A shooting is when someone presses the trigger and the gun goes bang. That doesn’t mean that the bad guy was wounded. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy was killed. A shooting means that bullets were flying in one direction.
The great news is that gun owners in the US are wonderfully reluctant to take a life. We stay within the law, and the law only allows us to use lethal force in very specific instances. We’re only allowed to use a gun when an innocent person faces an immediate and unavoidable threat of death or great bodily injury. Said another way, we’re only allowed to use lethal force when that is the safest thing to do.
That is a high bar to clear. Honest citizens don’t shoot people very often. When we do, the bad guy usually lives. The amazing news is that sometimes we don’t shoot people even when we have a legal justification for doing so. When we look at the record, we really use a gun as a last resort. That is a good thing.
The other great news is that we win. The news media is sure to tell us when a good guy gets disarmed by the bad guy. That makes the news because the event is so unusual. It is far more common for the good guy to take the criminal’s gun than the other way around.
We also win because we are on defense. Defenders have an easier job than attackers. The criminal is trying to get close to us and we are trying to hide and get away.
Our partner dials 911 as we are huddled behind the bed with our gun pointed at the bedroom door. The criminal breaks down the door and runs onto our gun. We shoot them. That isn’t a great feat of marksmanship. It doesn’t make great movie footage so that isn’t what we’re shown in the movies.
There are exceptions. Sometimes an honest gun owners has to shot an attacker at a distance. Sometimes those defensive stories are incredibly important because the defender stopped mass-murder. Honest citizens do a good job stopping mass murder, but most defensive uses of a gun are at close range.
A gun fight is when bullets are flying both ways. We really want to avoid that situation.
We want to defend ourselves from a physical position where we can shoot at the bad guys and the bad guy can’t shoot at us. If we’re attacked in a parking garage, we move behind a car or a column so we are harder to shoot. In our home, we hide behind a wall and peek around a corner so we are harder to see. That is the opposite of what we see in action movies.
The truth is that we are at risk if the criminal is shooting at us. No matter how skilled we are, there is a chance we could be injured in a gunfight. That is why self defense classes talk about avoiding these bad situations in the first place. We win every gunfight that we avoid.
You may be really proud that you saw the two guys standing behind the corner of a convenience store so you drove to another store to buy gas late at night. You made a great decision. People need to know about your actions so we learn to keep ourselves safe.
Unfortunately, what you did is important but not newsworthy.
Armed defense happens between four-thousand and six-thousand times a day. Most of the time, the good guys don’t have to shoot because the bad guys ran away. Sometimes we have to press the trigger, but the bad guy usually lives. That simply isn’t the kind of attention-grabbing story the news media is looking for.
That puts the burden on us. We have to find better sources of information if we want to learn the truth about armed defense. There are a few news shows that cover those stories. There are many websites, blogs and podcasts that talk about armed defense. Knowing the truth is good for all of us.
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News sources on armed defense-