U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- We start with this local news story out of Carmichael, California covered by the Sacramento Bee newspaper.
You are sitting in your travel trailer when you and your friend hear a noise outside. You are parked in a store parking lot and it is 9 in the morning when your friend steps outside to investigate the noise. A few seconds after your friend leaves, you hear shouts and gunshots. You run outside to see your friend fighting with an armed man.
You’re armed. You present your firearm and shoot the attacker. Now the stranger lets go of your friend. You check on your friend and call 911.
The police were already on the way. Before he attacked your friend in front of your trailer, your attacker drove his car on the sidewalk and deliberately ran over two pedestrians. The attacker then crashed his car into another vehicle, pushed the damaged car a hundred yards, and attacked the driver with a pry bar.
EMS takes your attacker to the hospital for treatment. Medics also transport your friend.
You are not charged.
We read in the news that the defender came out of his trailer and shot the armed man attacking his friend. That description raises more questions than it answers. Here are a few things we know.
The defender was armed when he came out of his trailer. He identified an immediate, lethal, and unavoidable threat to his friend. Our defender shot the attacker until the threat stopped. Our defender then stopped shooting. He checked on his friend and called for help. The defender stayed at the scene. He gave a statement to the police when they arrived.
We don’t know when we will need to defend ourselves or our friends. We will usually need our gun immediately by the time we recognize that we need it at all. That is why so many of us carry a gun on our body. If you carry your gun off-body, like in a purse or a bag, will you remember to go get your purse if you hear screams for help outside? If you keep your unloaded gun in a “safe place” will you remember to get it before you go to help your friends?
I don’t want to tell my wounded friend that I couldn’t help him because I was busy loading my gun. Nobody does.
So, you carry your loaded firearm in a holster. That is a good first step. Now you step outside to see your friend wrestling with an armed man. What do you do next?
Unfortunately, we don’t have security video of this event. The story doesn’t say if our friend was rolling on the ground with the bad guy or if he was running across the parking lot with the bad guy chasing him. We often see the bad guy close to the person we want to defend, and both of them are moving. Fortunately, a firearm works at a distance. That is good because we want to be as far away from the attacker as we can be while still having the required speed and accuracy to make an effective shot.
I encourage you to try shooting competitions that have moving targets. Visit some gun stores or shooting ranges that have video displays you shoot with a laser pistol. Learn how much time you need so you don’t shoot the people you want to protect. Distance is usually to our advantage, but not always. Maybe the only way you can get the accuracy you need is if you grab the attacker and press the gun barrel against the spot you intend to shoot. I had to do that in a force-on-force class when the attacker was in a crowd. Choose the solution that fits the problem you face.
I can’t tell you how many times you should shoot the bad guy. A lethal threat is an essential part of the justification for using lethal force in defense. Lots of things are going to happen quickly. Later, your lawyer will have to explain why you started shooting and why you stopped.
- Did the threat end when you pointed your gun at the attacker?
- Did the threat end because you fired a shot?
- Did the attacker let go of the victim?
- Did the threat end when the victim was able to step away from the attacker?
- Was it when the attacker fell to the ground,
- ..or was it only when the attacker dropped his firearm?
Now you know why the police are shouting “Let me see your hands. Let me see your hands!” You might be perfectly justified to shoot a man who is lying on the ground.. or not. I want you to know the laws so you recognize when you have to stop shooting.
We want to grab our friend and get out of there. We shoot so we can stop the threat and move to safety. We only need enough time to escape.
We are not the police. We don’t need to disarm the attacker, but we might choose to do so. If our friend is too injured to be moved to safety, then maybe grabbing the attacker’s gun from the pavement might be the easiest way to make sure our innocent friend is safe.
Now that we want to give our friend a hand, that brings us back to something we talked about earlier. A holster is a very convenient place to put your gun when you don’t want your gun in your hands any longer. If you carry your gun in a purse, do you still have your purse with you so you can re-holster your gun, or did you drop your purse so you could have two hands on your gun?
It is likely that your friend can move at least a little way. It is probably easier to move to safety than to hold the attacker at gunpoint. Criminals often have more than one weapon. At short distances, a knife can be as fast as a firearm. Remember that this attacker had tried to hit someone with a pry bar a few seconds before he attacked your friend. Once you and your friend have a row or two of parked cars between you and the attacker, now you can ask if your friend needs medical attention. That gives you the information you need to call 911.
Location, location, location.
Tell 911 where you are. Play this game as you drive with a friend; ask them to describe where you are as if they needed help. I’m not very good at it.
Setting windshield games aside, we have a lot to do after a gunfight. We might have a bleeding friend, a gun in our hand, and a call for help we want to make. Unfortunately, we only have two hands. The general rule is that we put our gun away when the threat is gone. We evaluate the injured before we call 911. We treat the injured after help is on the way.
Use the strangers in the parking lot as a resource. Why not shout for help so other people call 911 and can help you stop the bleeding.
Yes, there are armed citizens in California. Some can carry in public because you can get your concealed carry permit in some California counties. One of them is Sacramento County where this attack took place.
In this case, our defender saved his friend. It is better for us if both we and our friends are armed. We’re here to help them and they can also protect us.
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, join USCCA.