You are helping your parents at their pizza shop. It is 9:30 on a weeknight when three strangers run into the store. One of the strangers says he has a gun and tells your parents to hand over their money. The story isn’t clear if the money the robbers took was from the cash register or from the pockets of the store owners. Your mom says she can’t open the cash register without a security code. The robber tries to take the cash register and your mom grabs it. That is when the stranger grabs your mom’s throat and starts shaking her and strangling her. She tries to yell for help.
You grab the gun that your family keeps under the checkout counter. You struggle to get the pistol out of its holster. Finally you get the gun free. You raise the gun toward the attacker’s head and press the trigger. Now the attacker lets go of your mom and she can breathe. You stop shooting and all three attackers run away.
You are 14 years old. Your parents call 911 and ask for help for your mom. Police arrive a few minutes later since they were already in the area. Your attackers robbed a pharmacy down the block only a minute earlier.
Police follow the trail of blood from your store. They find your attacker inside the local subway station. The police also find some of your family’s money in the robber’s pockets. Emergency medical services take the robber to the hospital where he is listed in critical condition.
These small business owners recognized that they were at risk long before the three robbers ran into their pizza shop. Murder and other violent crimes spiked in Philadelphia this year. Their business also handled cash. Robbers could easily run out the front door, blend into the crowd, and disappear. Other businesses in the area had been robbed. Although we’re more likely to be attacked at home, robbers know we’re less likely to be armed at work.
These store owners chose to buy a firearm. They kept their handgun on the premises under the counter next to the cash register and they showed the firearm to their son. The youngster recognized a threat when the robber grabbed his mom. The young man was the only possible defender who was near his mom and who had his hands free. He saw an opportunity to save his mom by using the family gun.
The young defender made a headshot on a robber who was within arms reach of his mother. Our defender stopped shooting when the attackers let go of his mom and ran away. The family stayed inside the shop and did not chase the robbers. The parents gave a statement to the police. They also gave the security video of the robbery to the police.
That is a significant defense. There are other things we’d like to do that were not mentioned in the news report. As inconsequential as it sounds, we want to post a sign that says the store is under video surveillance. That assumes that the robbers are both capable of reading and in some condition to be influenced by a posted sign. The robbers may be acting on instinct, but the surveillance sign might deter those who are not.
The advantage of having a firearm near the cash register is that the gun will probably be near you when you are being robbed. The disadvantage is that it will probably be out of reach and your hands might be busy as happened in this case. After being robbed, these store owners probably want to carry their firearm on the body and at waist level. That may or may not have helped the female store owner who was going hand to hand with the robber that day.
Let’s put ourselves in the store owners’ place. You want to protect yourself, your family, your employees, and your customers. You have a gun, but that is only the beginning of your defense. Now you have to ask yourself how you will defend yourself and defend them. You want to fill out the many details of your defensive plan.
There were three robbers who threatened the store owners. It is only fair if we arm the adult store owners and adult employees. We also want all the adult employees to be armed because they are often moving from place to place in a small store like this one. Almost any of the employees might be behind the counter at any given moment.
All of us have been to small restaurants. It is common to see multiple employees working behind the counter. One of them is probably behind the cash register and the other is working nearby. The second employee is putting orders together, rolling napkins around silverware, wiping glasses, or performing other tasks like folding pizza boxes. The person who is away from the cash register can act as the designated defender.
If you are at the far end of the counter as you are being robbed then you’re almost invisible to your attackers. That gives you some advantages and some options. You can let the robbers have the money and they might run away. Sometimes the robbers run away and sometimes they don’t. The robbers, in this case, said they had a gun, so you, your employees, and your customers face a lethal threat and immediate threat.
You want to avoid a fast draw contest where your attacker already has their hand on a gun. We know that our eyes are drawn to rapid movement. From the end of the counter, you might turn so your firearm is out of sight. You might hold a pizza box in front of you or you might drop down behind the counter. Now you can move your hand to your gun and not be seen. That saves time as you draw. In fact, starting with your hand on your gun cuts your draw time in half. If the robbers are looking at the cash register, then you have all the time you want to draw your firearm.
You have other advantages as well if you are not standing next to the cash register. From the side, you can shoot your attackers while they are standing in front of each other. From that position, it is harder for them to shoot you without shooting each other.
I don’t know the details of where you work, but you do.
Defensive tactics like these are seldom covered in a concealed carry class. That class is usually busy fulfilling the state requirements. Then again, students usually ask questions and we all learn as we discuss the answers.
Whatever options you choose for your store or your home, you want to talk through them and walk through them. You need to practice drawing your firearm before you are being robbed. If the gun is under the counter in a holster, then you need to practice getting that firearm free of the holster. In this story, it looks like the firearm was stored in a retention holster and the young man had not practiced removing the gun. That could have cost his life and his mom’s life. Please practice your defensive plan.
There is more to do after you stop the threat. Once the robbers have run, then ask everyone in the store if they are hurt. Lock the doors and ask everyone to call 911. That gives the police an electronic log of the witnesses inside the store.
One of the reasons I think these store owners changed their security plan after this attack is that their 14-year-old son had to shoot someone. Yes, that was better than seeing his mom injured or killed. Better still is to have an adult nearby to stop the attack. Armed defense is easier when it is clearly justified as in this case, but it is not going to be easy to shoot someone.
You might not be bleeding on the outside, but your mind and body are suffering from a chemical injury from the surge of hormones after the attack. That changes how your body feels and how your mind works for the next few days. A professional counselor can guide you through the recovery. That is not my area of expertise, but I’ve heard that the more you think through your defense ahead of time the quicker you’ll recover after the attack.
Let’s talk about legal insurance. Some kinds of business insurance seem to promote lawsuits. That is because the injured party sees that you have insurance money that might pay them. I have not seen self-defense insurance work that way. On the contrary, the better your self-defense legal insurance the less likely you are to be sued or charged.
We’ve seen prosecutors abuse their authority and bring unjustified cases to court. High-quality legal insurance makes it less likely that the local district attorney will decide to destroy you in order to build a name for himself.
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-Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.