Category Archives: Just Use of Force

The Just Use of Force

You might prefer ‘judicious’ or ‘justifiable.’ That is your prerogative. I sit awake and torture myself wondering whether I’ve done all I can and that is mine.

The gun is not justice, in and of itself, just as it is not evil or murder. The gun is a thing just as you are a person and the steel cannot bless your actions just as it cannot be cursed by those lawmakers who would ascrine intention to the inanimate.

The gun is a tool, in your hand as in mine, and it brings no righteousness to the works of those hands.

The use of lethal force is just in such cases as it prevents death or grievous bodily harm. It is wrong and generally illegal to use lethal force in the defense of property or pride. You may use the gun to harm only when you prevent greater harm from being done.

It is not right to shoot to kill. Having shot to stop a threat, it is not right to shoot to prevent badguy’s pending lawsuit. If badguy is incapacitated or immobilized, you must let him live, and call upon the services of modern medicine to save his life.

I understand the desire to kill the evildoer who has wronged you. I conprehend the call to kill the killer who can bring pain to your family, to prevent the theft of your property and things or to stop the sinister intent of the interloper. But my understanding is not force of law.

Please, if you carry a gun, learn to use it. Please, in your learning to use, learn also to have appropriate mercy upon those you might otherwise end. I beg you for the sake of the evildoer as well as the eternal right to keep arms and bear them in our own defense.

Only Carry Jacketed Hollow Point Ammunition

Ammo’s scarce. Good JHP (jacketed hollow point) ammo costs more. Carrying FMJ (full metal jacket) rounds seems awfully appealing. Despite this, you should only ever carry jacketed hollow point ammo in your self-defense pistol.

Given the same number of shots fired, FMJ is less likely to stop the threat. FMJ doesn’t expand and will therefore turn a vital hit into a miraculous near miss.

FMJ’s tendency to penetrate means that it presents a greater threat to things which are not your target than JHP would. There are important things behind badguy, and an unexpanded projectile may damage them after passing through his body.

FMJ will remain intact upon a ricochet against concrete, dumpsters, or brick walls, making it a threat to bystanders around badguy. JHP has a much reduced tendency to retain its kinetic energy, and is more apt to fragment into smaller and less dangerous pieces after striking a hard surface.

If you do manage to stop the threat with FMJ ammunition, you’ll have punched more holes in badguy than you would with JHP. Counterintuitively, this means that FMJ ammunition is more likely to kill badguy than JHP: a one-shot stop with JHP is one hole from which to bleed, while many holes punched by FMJ provide more avenues by which blood may be lost. For this reason, JHP ammunition is more humane than FMJ.

If you’re carrying a defensive handgun, load it with hollow points. Loading it with cheap walmart FMJ is irresponsible.

Self-Defense Training Heirarchy

If you accept that my self-defense heirarchy[1] is reasonably accurate, and that avoiding conflict is better than winning fights, I propose that this is the proper list of priorities for training.

  1. Situational Awareness (SA): situational self-preservation (staying out of trouble by always being in safe places) isn’t amenable to training. After that, SA is the most valuable self-defense asset, and among the most difficult to train. Therefore, you ought to work on it all the time, no matter what you’re doing. You’ve seen the TV show ‘Psych’? Be like young Shawn, and practice making observations and being aware of your surroundings. This will also happen naturally as you take conflict-oriented formal training.
  2. Will to Live: It is not enough to be situationally aware. In a trying situation, the power of will is required to keep you going when your animal instincts tell you it’s hopeless. This doesn’t just mean “don’t be suicidal,” it means having a willingness to place your own safety and the safety of your loved ones ahead of comfort or the safety of others, and a refusal to quit.
  3. Physical Fitness: getting the heck out of dodge is a whole lot easier if you can sprint more than 50 yards over uncertain terrain. It’s tough to escape and evade when your fastest movement is ‘waddle.’ A physically fit person can also develop better posture and is less likely to look like a target.
  4. Non-Weapon Skills: related to both Situational Awareness and Physical Fitness, these are the skills you will always carry with you, even if you are dropped naked from a helicopter into an unfamiliar desert. You may not always be armed, but you will always have your muscle memory, and cannot be robbed of Parkour or Krav Maga. I believe it’s healthy to focus this training on escape (Parkour and Gymnastics) and risk mitigation (First Aid, Psychology) before bothering with martial arts.
  5. Weapon Skills: these are less important than anything listed before. That does not mean they are unimportant in general. Physical fitness and athletic abilities are not an option for everyone, particularly if you are disabled, infirm, or afflicted with 20 years of office work and not enough exercise. Firearms are the great equalizer, and the skill to use them effectively makes it possible to take advantage of that. A single NRA Basic Pistol course is not enough.
  6. Weapon Choice: waaaaaay down here at the bottom, a forgotten footnote in any sane debate. I don’t care if it’s ugly or LOLOLOL or an outdated design. You’re more than welcome to engage in pissing matches on the internet as to why Glocks and Sigs are better than 1911s, but at the end of the day, even a black-powder revolver gets you most of the way to “gun advantage” territory. Besides, CZ-75s are the best.

Self-Defense Heirarchy

  1. Situational self-preservation: some areas are more dangerous than others. You’re more likely to be shot at in a war zone than at the company softball game. Staying out of dangerous places reduces danger.
  2. Situational awareness: you’re in danger, either because you were in a dangerous place or because a safe place became dangerous. If you notice this fact, you can avoid or escape the danger before it becomes imminent.
  3. Escape and evasion: you didn’t notice the threat before it became imminent. Your adversary is a direct threat to your well-being; he has a weapon out or is simply very goddamn big and scary. If you can run, he can’t hurt you. Still requires situational awareness.
  4. Intimidation via body language: This falls at about the same level as escape. If he thinks you’re bigger and scarier than he is, he leaves. Properly done, this doesn’t involve verbal threats; it’s more about how you carry yourself. You wouldn’t mug the Terminator or Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, right? Still requires situational awareness and a willingness to escape.
  5. Threat engagement: all other avenues of threat mitigation have failed. Visigoth raiders are assaulting your six-year-old’s birthday party in the suburbs. You’re aware of them, and of the situation, but you can’t abandon the first graders to the slavering horde. They’ve seen your best John Wayne impression and don’t care. It’s time to engage the threat.

Threat engagement doesn’t mean quick-draw and shooting. As soon as you draw your gun or reach for an improvised weapon or simply shout “STOP,” you’ve engaged the threat. There’s no turning back from that point, and it is not a threshold to be crossed lightly.

Effective threat engagement requires the willpower to do your adversary harm, the situational awareness to recognize the threat in time, the skill to engage him effectively, the equipment to neutralize the threat quickly, and a willingness to escape, confer with law enforcement, and properly handle bystanders or other victims afterward.

Of the possible responses, threat engagement is the least desirable and most dangerous. To engage the threat means that your efforts to mitigate that threat have failed several times. There is no pride in killing or gravely harming another human being. It is far, far better to avoid the problem beforehand. Prevention is much better than treatment.

I get to step 4 far more often than is necessary or comfortable, because 4 makes me feel good about myself. This is a sign of weakness, not of strength, and is not to be imitated.

The Judicious use of Self-Defense in Light of the Zimmerman Verdict

I[1] have written[2] about self-defense[3] in the past[4] , but the message bears repeating, particularly in light of the Zimmerman verdict. /u/Omnifox [+13][5] has given me approval to post this, but he’s also warned that he’ll be heavy-handed in his moderation of the comments.

Carrying a gun does not make you a righteous bastion of moral purity. It does not make you badder, harder, bigger and stronger than the others around you. It does not grant you authority. It provides its user with a means to equalize a potential disparity in lethal force, and morally, that’s all it does.

The gun is not a license to go to dangerous places, do dangerous things, or create dangerous situations, just because you might have a better chance to survive them. You should still use caution and maintain situational awareness to avoid violence. You should back down from the swaggering bravado of other men and act more timidly and kindly than your caveman instincts would normally encourage you to. Rather than carrying a gun through the bad part of town at 3am, it’s better to structure your day so that a trip through the bad part of town at 3am is not on the agenda.

Zimmerman was legally justified to shoot Martin at the moment he took the shot, as was just proven in a court of law. But Zimmerman, Martin, and society as a whole would’ve been better served if Zimmerman had not followed Martin, or at least had not followed Martin as long as he did.

Now, we’d have been equally well-served if Martin had reached his father’s residence and simply stayed inside rather than swaggering out to confront the much smaller man who’d trailed him home. Martin acted just as Zimmerman did and just as we should not: he assumed that because he possessed superior access to lethal force, he could ignore social decorum and safety and march into what would otherwise be a dangerous situation. And regardless of what happened between the end of the phone call and the end of the altercation, he paid for his masculine pride with his life.

If you’re going to carry a gun, be educated, trained, and practiced. Carry safely in a holster. Carry jacketed hollow point ammunition. And do not treat the gun as a license to be stupid. Carrying a gun means the opposite: it means you have a duty to be cautious and to be smart.