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The Things Some People Say

Sometimes I can't help but wonder what people are thinking when they make comments about firearms and firearm related issues. Too often, their comments seem to be driven by emotionalism, ego or just bravado. Guns, of course, are inanimate objects and thus have none of these characteristics. As I have said many times, guns are simply tools. What elevates them to a higher level of concern from other tools is that they are dangerous, deadly and destructive, whether used for good or evil. Given the serious consequences inherent in firearms ownership and use, you'd think that people would, well, THINK before speaking. However, some of the things I hear people say just make me shake my head and wonder what is going on in the gray matter between their ears. I'd like to offer a few examples, hopefully to prepare you for when someone is asking you about guns.

Any gun is better than no gun.

This is true only in the broadest sense of the concept. If the gun in question is not capable of stopping an attack quickly and completely, then it simply is not enough gun. Certainly ANY gun can be dangerous or deadly. Many people have been killed by .22s, or .25s or .32s, just for example. None of those calibers can be relied upon to immediately stop an attack. Sure, the attacker may be hospitalized or even die a few hours or days later, but that does not mean that in the few seconds that really count, when the attack is actually in progress, that they will save your bacon. Any handgun cartridge is a compromise for the sake of convenience, portability and availability. Don't handicap yourself any further by selecting a weak or even marginal caliber and then rely on the psychological effect that being shot may have on the attacker. If the goal is to stop an attack, then it needs to be stopped immediately!

I don't want to spend a lot of money for a gun. I'll probably never use it anyway.

Let's hope you never do. We would all like to get through our entire lifetime without being in a deadly force situation. If it comes, having the least expensive gun you can buy will not help the odds of your survival. Either you are committed to protecting yourself with a firearm or you are not. If you are not willing to pay for a good quality gun, then don't buy one. Work instead on honing your skills at observation, anticipation and avoidance. A variation of this that I hear all too frequently goes like this: "I want a gun for my wife, but I don't want to spend a lot of money because she'll probably never use it anyway." I wonder if his wife knows how he feels about her well being. If she doesn't want a gun, or won't use it, don't buy one. If she wants a gun, make sure she is involved in the purchase and it is a gun she has confidence in. Aside from that, cheap guns usually are the most difficult to shoot well, as they often have poor sights, awkward grips and horrible triggers, or they are simply not reliable. Occasionally such a gun will show up at one of our classes, and the husband ends up on the receiving end of a look that says: "Why did you buy me this piece of crap?"

I don't want to kill anyone. I just want to scare them.

Then don't buy a gun. Get a hockey mask and a chain saw. You'll be the scariest person on your block and even the gang bangers will stay on the other side of the street. There is no way to use a potentially deadly weapon in a non-deadly way. Death may not result from someone being shot, but it is always a distinct possibility. If you are not prepared to deal with that, you should not own a gun for self protection. A gun is not some sort of magic talisman that can be waived around and evil people will shrink away in horror. They may well call your bluff. Also, if you were not justified in pulling the gun to begin with, you run the risk of escalating the situation and being responsible for the consequences.

I'll just shoot to wound.

This is variation on the above theme. If you are not justified in killing someone, you should not be shooting at them. Besides, none of us are that good of a shot, particularly under stress. The really disturbing part is that every so often, people seriously suggest that police should "shoot to wound" instead of "shooting to kill." It is hard enough to get effective central nervous system or cardiac complex hits when you are in a gunfight, now they expect you to be able to "just wing 'em" like in the movies? And if you do manage to just wound them, how does that guarantee that the attack will stop?

We all know of many cases where the bad guy was so pumped up on adrenaline, drugs or whatever, that they were bullet sponges. Too many good people have died because they thought the fight was going to be over with the first rounds fired. Any peripheral hits that occur in most gunfights are the result of stress, poor marksmanship, or sudden movements of the participants, not from deliberate attempts to be "non-lethal." This "shoot to wound movement" is particularly ironic because the people who think this is a good idea are usually the same people who don't have an ounce of respect for police officers in the first place, but suddenly, they have great confidence in their marksmanship. Or, maybe they are just looking for scapegoats.

If you can't get it done with 6...

...or seven or 10 or 17. Take your pick. People who say this have never studied the dynamics of gunfights and probably have never been in any. There is no such thing as too much ammunition. The amount we carry is, like our handguns, a compromise, but it is better to err on the side of too much than too little. "It's better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it." There is a reason why officers patrolling our southwestern border areas are now carrying double the customary pair of spare magazines for their duty pistols. I'll bet they would like to be carrying more than just four sometimes. The bad guys are working in teams now, and not just on the border.

Recently we had an armed robbery at a jewelry store here in our small, rural North Florida town. Three robbers entered the store and a fourth was the wheel man. They were all apprehended a short distance away while fleeing the area, but had there been a confrontation in the store, one magazine (or revolver cylinder) full may not have been enough. Another reason to have extra magazines is that you may have to remove one to clear a malfunction. If you only have the one in the gun, getting the gun cleared and back in the fight is much more difficult. A key element of street survival is being able to anticipate the various attacks that may be encountered. If a person has decided to attack you, they already have demonstrated that they are not good at making rational decisions. It will be up to you to make sure the attack ends quickly and in your favor.

These are only a few examples of the things that people say to me nearly every day. It is tempting to just shrug them off, except for the fact that someone's life may be profoundly altered by making decisions based on poor thinking. As the comedian Ron White says: "You can't fix stupid." Sometimes we have to try. The challenge is to turn a stupid comment into a smart decision.