General George Patton, unquestionably one of the greatest American military commanders of all time, said (I’m paraphrasing):
You don’t win wars by dying for your country. You win wars by making the other poor bastard die for his.
Who are you? What is your obligation as an American citizen to your nation? To yourself? To your family? To your fellow Americans?
Is fighting the war on terror a matter left only to our military under whatever bizarre rules of engagement allowed them by our political class? This has been the case until jihadists have carried the battle to our soil, and have even beheaded an American at her workplace in Oklahoma in 2014. Always politically correct, and despite the fact that her killer was a newly radicalized Muslim convert, the FBI claimed there was no linkage to terrorism.
Even now our military are being murdered by domestic Islamists at their Continental US duty stations, but this too has been going on for years.
The premise of this series of articles is that we no longer have the luxury of leaving this fight to our military, a military that isn’t allowed to fight back and destroy our deadly enemy even when they are allowed to be armed. Within our borders, our troops are even less able to protect their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans than the average American citizen. Despite various high-ranking officers and elite politicians making noises about arming our troops, that will never occur in any useful, significant way under Barack Obama or any Democrat president. It’s doubtful it will occur under a Republican.
I’ve explored this issue in the first two articles in this series:
What does American citizenship mean? Does it have value, or do we ascribe to the views of our elite political class who would gladly sell it cheaply indeed? The benefits of citizenship are many and so wonderful many citizens of every other nation, regardless of how they denigrate America and Americans on their home soil, would do almost anything to live here and to enjoy the benefits of residence. But what of the responsibilities?
Regardless of the views of Barack Obama, Americans are an exceptional people, unique in all the world, because their courage, sacrifice and stubbornness in the cause of liberty have transformed not only America, but the world. Under Mr. Obama, we–and the world–have had a glimpse of what a world without America looks like, and it is a cold, violent and barbaric place where the strong rule and violate the weak in every vile imaginable way and many too terrible to imagine.
Who and what shall we be? The war is here, now, and it will worsen until we once again gain a national spine and the will to obliterate our enemies wherever they hide. Evil respects and fears only overwhelming force and steely resolve.
Let us say that you have decided you’ll be an American. If you have taken the time and trouble to obtain a concealed carry license, you’re already on that path. If you regularly train, if you work on situational awareness, if you have resolved to protect not only yourself, but those you love and even your fellow citizens, you are worthy of being called an American.
Who, having the means and opportunity to save another from serious bodily harm or death, turns away, or merely passively watches, can call himself a man? Can such a wretched creature profess to have any dignity, any self-respect, any honor? Of course we feel fear under such conditions. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to carry on regardless. The Bible is right: there is no greater love than the willingness to lay down one’s life for another, and no greater expression of American patriotism and spirit. Americans have done just that for centuries, and western civilization brought to its current pinnacle is the result. We can now see, in America and around the world, what a lack of that courage and selfless love encourages and allows.
Situational awareness may be thought of as a heightened sense of awareness of one’s surroundings. Most of us wander around utterly self-absorbed, unaware of anything outside arm’s reach. With the advent of smart phones, even that pitifully short distance has been shortened yet again, and the Internet is rife with videos of people falling into fountains and walking into fixed objects, so intent are they on their phones. People texting while driving kill and injure thousands.
But it’s even worse than we imagine:
In 2013, on a commuter train in San Francisco, a man with a .45 caliber handgun drew his weapon and pointed it at people–-3-4 times–before finally choosing a victim and killing him. No one noticed because they were all face down in their smart phones. The security video is chilling.
In the fourth article of my rationale for gun ownership series, I explore in some depth situational awareness and Col. Jeff Cooper’s awareness levels. It’s definitely something everyone should read. For the purpose of this article, consider that developing situational awareness is not difficult, but it takes concentration and regular practice.
The first step is to understand, to really accept, that there are people out there that want to hurt, even kill each and every one of us. I’m speaking of the fact that there are petty criminals, professional criminals, and sociopaths, who, if given the chance will beat, rape, rob, mutilate and murder anyone who happens to cross their path. That person could be any one of us at any time. It could happen when we walk to the curb in the morning to drop off the garbage. It could happen when we stop at a stop sign. It could happen in the middle of a movie at our local theater.
It doesn’t matter that we are nice, thoughtful, caring, decent people. In fact, our non-violent aspect may actually attract such people who see in us an easy mark, particularly if we are not aware of our surroundings. Bad things do happen to good people. They happen all the time.
Accepting this as actually applying to us, we can begin to try to think like those that would harm us. What would they be thinking? What, if they want to harm us, in any situation, at any place, would they need to do? Where would they need to be? When would the attack most likely occur? From which direction? The basic principle is no more difficult than keeping one’s head on a swivel, looking around, being aware of one’s surroundings, and listening to our intuition when we feel uncomfortable. There may be something to it, and if not, what’s the harm of paying attention?
Asking “what if?” is a good way to think of the process. What if the car at the stop sign behind me runs into my bumper and the driver gets out and approaches me? What if the guy that has been watching me from across the mall food court follows as I leave? What is that nervous guy standing on the corner ahead, with no apparent reason to be there, planning? What do I do? Where do I go? What’s my first move? Having a first move could easily be the difference between serious injury or death and survival.
Avoiding trouble, particularly when we’re talking about a deadly force situation, is the smartest thing to do. Seeing three guys lounging on the trunk of your car as you approach from across a parking garage, the smartest thing is to simply walk out of danger. Walking across a street to avoid a potential criminal is smart. Of course, if you’re not practicing situational awareness, you’ll probably not have the time and distance necessary to recognize potential danger and to avoid it.
But what about courage? Isn’t it cowardly to walk away from a confrontation? Don’t mistake false bravado with courage. Don’t mistake foolish and unnecessary risks with reasonable and necessary responses to unavoidable danger. While it’s true that in many states, the law does not require one to run away before using force against an attacker, it is always best to avoid a confrontation if at all possible. Courage isn’t involved; intelligence is. In every case where the use of force is necessary, you want to be able to demonstrate that you were the innocent party, that you did all you reasonably could under the circumstances to avoid having to use force. On TV and in the movies, cops shoot people on a regular basis and are back on duty minutes later, ready to shoot more bad guys. Reality is nothing like that for the police, and it’s even less like that for citizens.
Keep in mind I’m primarily talking about common crimes here. A terrorist attack involves other dynamics.
Courage, honor and dignity are not defaced by doing one’s best to avoid trouble. They are soiled when, faced with unavoidable trouble, one meekly submits or through inaction, allows others to be harmed when they could have been saved.
Keep in mind that as we discuss these matters, its imperative that you, gentle readers, acquaint yourself with the laws of your state regarding the carrying of concealed weapons and the use of force at all levels. I can provide general information, but your actions will be judged by the laws in effect where you live. Know them well.
There are a great many sources for information on how to choose an appropriate daily carry handgun, including article five of my rationale series, where I wrote:
The choice of a personal, defensive handgun must take into account many factors, but ultimately one should choose a handgun that is powerful, concealable, reliable, that they can shoot well, and with which they are comfortable. Ultimately, the most effective handgun is one with which one regularly practices and that one is willing and able to carry each and every day. That said, the choice is simpler, and more difficult, than many imagine.
A very large, heavy, high capacity handgun that fires a large and powerful cartridge is a wonderful thing, but far less effective than a smaller less powerful handgun that one carries every day. If you choose to carry a concealed handgun at all, why would you choose to carry it only part of the time? We carry not because we can predict when we will need a handgun, but for all the times we cannot, which is all of the time.
Ultimately we must choose a handgun that is comfortable to carry, and concealable within the parameters of our clothing necessities. “Concealed” means exactly that. No one should know that we are carrying a handgun–we don’t talk about it–which is one of concealed carry’s advantages: criminals can’t know who is carrying, so they must behave as if everyone is. Totally lacking self-awareness or behaving like a bird with an injured wing will encourage most criminals to think you unarmed and an easy target.
Having chosen that handgun, and a comfortable, reliable means of carrying it–that too is addressed in the aforementioned series–the next issue is regular practice. Drawing and accurately shooting must be as natural, effortless and comfortable as looking at one’s watch.
Absolutely necessary is knowledge of one’s abilities with that specific handgun. With greater distance, more time is required for accuracy. Shooting is always a matter of balancing the need for accuracy with speed. The more often one practices, correctly practices, the smoother one may become, because smooth is fast. The fastest draw in the world is meaningless if the shot misses or strikes a non-disabling area. Smoothness reflects practice, skill and confidence.
Keep in mind that virtually all gunfights take place at seven feet or less. Also keep in mind that it is not unusual for people to empty their weapons at each other at that range and entirely miss.
This doesn’t mean you’re destined to miss, fail and die. It means you must regularly practice, because shooting accurately is a learned, physical skill, a skill that must be maintained and honed, just like any other physical skill.
One last thing before we pause before next week’s article: choose one handgun and stick with it. Do not change handguns like socks. It’s great fun to own and shoot a variety of guns, and it’s entirely normal to go through a few guns and holsters and other accessories before settling on one that really works for you. But the point is to develop confidence, knowledge and skill that will allow you to know at which distance, and under which circumstances, you probably won’t be able to reliably hit your target. As Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan in Magnum Force said:
A man’s got to know his limitations.
Next week we’ll analyze an active, terrorist shooter situation in a public space, and discuss the issues we must consider, not only before and during the event, but most importantly, afterward. I hope to see you there.