You are walking across the grocery store parking lot. You look up when you hear shouts nearby. You see a car with the driver’s side door open and the car in motion. The car runs over someone. A woman is also hanging out of the car and is being dragged across the parking lot by the driver’s seat belt. Someone is in the driver’s seat. You present your firearm and point it at the driver. He stops and runs to a waiting SUV. The SUV drives away. You holster your gun and check on the victims. Everyone calls 911 to report what they saw.
You give a statement to the police when they arrive. EMS takes the female driver and the injured bystander to the hospital. Police find the three teenagers who were on a carjacking spree. Combined, they are charged with seven counts of aggravated robbery.
The surge in carjackings started after the local district attorney said he would not charge people for vehicle theft.
Let’s start with what we know and what we think we know. The defender was legally armed in public. Minnesota doesn’t have constitutional carry. That makes it sound like the defender was carrying concealed with a carry license. This is Minnesota in December, so he was probably carrying concealed under his coat or in a coat pocket.
The defender had his head up and he was alert. He could hear the victim’s calls for help. That let him take in the fact that something unusual was happening. A car was moving while the car door was open. People were yelling for the driver to stop. A bystander was hit by the moving car. The original driver, and we assume this was the car owner, was being dragged on the ground next to the car because she was tangled in the seatbelt.
That evidence made this look like a carjacking/robbery rather than a car that slipped into gear and was moving accidentally. The defender quickly recognized the situation so he’d probably thought about it earlier. Our defender presented his firearm and pointed it at the carjacker. The defender had distance so he was not in immediate danger. The robber stopped the car before the defender shot him.
Once the car was not in motion then there was not an immediate and unavoidable risk to the defender or other innocent parties. The defender recognized that the situation had changed and he didn’t press the trigger. The robber ran and the defender let him go. The defender holstered his firearm, then stayed at the scene and gave a statement to the police.
We don’t know if the armed defender yelled for the attacker to stop while the car was in motion. The moving car was a lethal weapon to the person who was run over and to the car owner who was being dragged alongside. The defender seemed to be justified in pressing the trigger and shooting the carjacker until the vehicle stopped moving. The teenage carjacker is lucky to be alive and uninjured. In one of these robberies, the same criminals threatened a car owner with a battery-powered electric drill that looked like a handgun.
As extraordinary as it seems for an armed bystander to stop a crime, this armed defense was quite ordinary in other ways. Though we don’t see it mentioned very often in the news, criminals usually run when they encounter an armed defender. Most incidents end without the defender pressing the trigger.
Let’s back up for a second. We win every fight we avoid. We’d like it if the car owner walked back to the store when she noticed four teenagers sitting in a car next to where she was parked. We wish she’d moved to safety when she saw four teenagers following her in the parking lot. If she made it into her car, then we want her to lock the doors and drive away immediately.
Yes, the grocery store parking lot is a dangerous place to check your texts and emails.
We’d like the car owner to be armed rather than depending on the protection of strangers. In a perfect world, the driver would also have some close-quarters hand-to-hand skills so she could fight her way out of her car, or fight to create the space to use her firearm.
Let’s step back from the victim both physically and mentally for a moment. The armed defender in this story was not legally obligated to intervene. He put himself at risk. Let me underline that. He increased his physical risk, his moral risk, his financial risk, and he was at emotional risk by getting involved. (Remember that the getaway driver was sitting in his car nearby.) Our defender decided that the lives of innocent victims were at risk and that their lives justified taking those risks. We want to evaluate those risks ahead of time because we won’t have time for that fine judgment during a robbery.
We want to mitigate those risks if we can. We reduce the risks by knowing the laws of self-defense in our state. That helps in a number of ways. It reduces how often we might make a mistake and it helps reduce the size of our mistakes. Knowing the laws also saves us time. It lets us recognize when we can and should act to defend ourselves and others. We can further reduce our risks if we have a pre-paid self-defense legal plan.
We can reduce our family’s risks if the adults and children know to keep their heads up as we cross the parking lot and then lock the car doors quickly.
There are several ways to develop practical skills for defense inside our car. Ask your local range if their instructors put on a vehicle-defense class. I’ve seen video simulators that included scenes from inside a car. I’ve also shot competition stages from inside a vehicle.
Defense of a third party and defense from inside your car are advanced skills. You need your carry permit and to know the laws in your state. That typically means you took a concealed carry class. Later, you learned how to present your firearm from a holster. You learned to present your firearm from concealment. You learned to move toward cover and to engage moving targets.
That may look like a mountain until you notice it is built like a staircase.. and we only need to climb one step at a time.
-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.