You Can Shoot But Can You Defend Yourself?
There is a lot of talk in gun culture about the features of this gun or that gun, the benefits of different barrel twist rates, how some accessory is advantageous in some certain scenario, or how to set up your plate carrier. Those are all fine and dandy, however the expenditure of time and energy that people invest into configuring their load-out for every contingency is largely disproportionate to the practical matters of self and community defense. Bottom line, conflict will rarely escalate to a level that justifies a lethal means of defending yourself. You need to have the skills to scale effective interventions during escalating situations.
Now I’m certainly not implying that certain demographics don’t incur more instances of targeted violence than others or to wholesale forgo preparation for armed encounters. However, let me ask you this: Are you more likely to have to confront an unarmed aggressive individual at work or to get into a firefight with multiple threats?
Take your Ego out of the Fight
From a legal and moral standpoint, you can’t simply reach for a knife or a gun just because someone slapped you or called you a derogatory slur. If you want to avoid the legal wrappings that will put you through a meat grinder after a critical incident, it is absolutely vital that you scale your response in accordance with the changing situation at hand. In fact, in North Carolina it’s written into the law. That means not pulling a gun because someone tailgates you or shouts “bitch!” from across the road (you’d be surprised how often this occurs).
It’s important for folks of vulnerable and targeted demographics to consider the unpleasant fact that you will undergo more scrutiny by law enforcement, the judicial system, and society at large, than white male counterparts in the aftermath of a defensive shooting. This is all the more reason to have scalable interventions. You give yourself more options to avoid having to use a firearm altogether and establish a more solid defense in the eyes of onlookers because you attempted de-escalation.
In my opinion, weapons are NOT scalable to the vast majority of situations, and that is precisely what is so disgusting about modern America’s popular gun culture. To the detriment of folks everywhere, people are very ready to go from 0 to 100 chiefly due to their own egos and pride. They lust for it. For many, owning a firearm has become part of their identity, something that they are proud of and boast about. Which hey, by all means, be proud of who you are and your hobbies. But for you dear reader, don’t mistake a tool as a replacement to common sense and simple human decency. Blood lust and aggression have no place in the world of self defense.
Though there is no requirement to retreat in North Carolina, if you can safely disengage from an aggressive person, folks who are carrying should make a genuine effort to do so. Someone bumped you in the shoulder and called you a p*ssy? Apologize and walk away. Is there a homophobic asshat shouting in your face? If you’re armed, it’s wise not to engage to the extent possible. Is there’s a kid breaking into your unoccupied car in the driveway? Don’t take human life over your possessions. The only justifiable use of your firearm is when you are in genuine fear of serious injury or in fear for your life.
Shooting in self defense is something you are forced into. Its a form of subjugation. That level of violence is an immediate oppression on your body. It takes away your choice, devalues your life, and threatens your health. It’s a very real trauma being inflicted on you, maybe motivated by inflated ego, or toxic misogyny, or racial hatred, or any number of oppressive ‘isms we are trying to fight – but your life matters and you shouldn’t allow people to run your life into the ground without putting up a fight. Conjure the spirit of “queer as in fuck you.”
The point I’m making here is that an intelligent and strategic self defender that can balance between being a compassionate loving human being and a capable individual that will staunchly, even violently, defend their life, will ALWAYS be more effective than an aggressive, callus, and egotistical one. Only after you have exhausted all the tools at your disposal to avoid a conflict, THEN it’s go time. Sometimes that decision has to be made extremely quick, other times there is breathing room for principled disengagement. It’s incumbent to every armed self defender to be capable of basic de-escalation tactics.
What do you REALLY need for your everyday survival?
The everyday reality is that you are far more likely to have to manage a situation than to fire a shot. Even so, if you’re carrying you are still armed, and that takes some thoughtful consideration. If you are serious about defending yourself, you should be developing skills and general awareness outside the use of a firearm.
On a practical level, knowing empty hand concepts, verbal/non-verbal de-escalation, pre-attack indicators, and threat assessment are the skills that will keep you safe. None of those involve range time.
Furthermore, if you have to enter non-permissive environments you will not have a gun on your person and must lean on the skills mentioned above. These settings come in all shapes and sizes: religious centers, schools, government buildings, airports, demonstrations, maybe your workplace. In those circumstances, your best tools are sound judgement, situational awareness, a clear exit, and good communication to prevent potential conflicts from erupting.
Try as hard as you’d like, there are just times when your firearm won’t be within immediate reach for one reason or another. Better to sharpen the tools that you can carry with you anywhere rather than the ones you can only wield in select environments and extreme circumstances.
In my four years working on a homeless outreach and mental health crisis team, I have seen a good share of violence and intervened in several situations. Some instances included deadly weapons such as knives and the presence of firearms. Despite the threats, I can say in hindsight that having a gun on my person would not have given me a distinct advantage in handling those particular situations. In fact, I never had a firearm on me while conducting that work. The need for a firearm did not materialize because I was able to effectively intervene before things escalated to that level.
In addition to firearm skills, those unarmed skills I used to control my environment as things escalated, are capabilities I want to translate to the students of Armed Margins. The skills I depended on the most were almost entirely centered on managing space between individuals, directing the environment and onlookers, verbal and non-verbal communication, simple clear directives, and observing the body language of agitated persons. I’m not encouraging you not to carry as often as possible, but I want to make clear that you are severely selling yourself short if you think shooting fast and accurate is the penultimate of self defense. 10 times out of 10 I would choose to work alongside a person of moderate shooting skill, solid judgement, and the ability to scale interventions, than an excellent shooter who is aggressive, has no ability to scale, and is escalatory.
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