The good news is this appalling incident is less likely to happen much more in the future, because it occurred in Wisconsin, which last month passed a law allowing its citizens to get concealed weapon permits.
But the bad news is that it happened at all. I don’t know if it is a passing craze, or a new media focus, or whatever, but my sense is there are a growing number of ‘flash mob’ type mini-riots occurring in the country these days, situations where a group of people suddenly congregate and go wild for no apparent reason, attacking ordinary peaceful other citizens in a location that you’d not normally consider an at-risk location.
Here is a report of this particular flash-mob that formed at the exit to the Wisconsin state fairgrounds. You’ll note that the police were less than effective, and some police, a mere block or two away, busied themselves with directing traffic rather than going to assist at all! Although some police did get into the middle of things, and were even injured, they were woefully outnumbered and unable to protect and prevent lawful citizens leaving the fairgrounds from being victimized, terrified, and assaulted.
Once again, we’re reminded that the only people we can count on to defend us in an emergency is our own selves – us personally and hopefully the loved ones and close friends with us.
Note also the muted reporting on the subject of whether it was black people selectively attacking white people only. On the other hand, this report quotes people with obviously vested interests as saying it was only black people fighting other black people. Ordinary citizens saw black people selectively attacking white people, but public officials did not. Hmmmm……
What Would You Do?
This sort of situation raises a very difficult question. What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of such a mob, and a group of youths attacked you? (Assume, for the sake of this discussion, that you were carrying a pistol with you, as hopefully you always do.)
The significant outcome of most of these flash mob attacks is that no-one has been killed, or even gravely/critically wounded. Sure, people have been punched up, kicked down, and generally injured, but is it really a situation where you can truly say you feared for your life; is it truly a situation that warrants the use of deadly force?
On the other hand, it may well be that you had no ability to retreat. If your state has a ‘stand your ground’ law, why should you either try ineffectively to run away, or passively accept a beating? And just because few people have been critically injured or killed, that’s no guarantee that you might not be less fortunate.
Let’s think what would happen if you did resort to your gun. When you pull it out, if you don’t start shooting immediately, one of three things will happen. Either the flash mob will run away screaming, or it will taunt you and get closer to you (and they may already be way too close for comfort), forcing you to either use your gun or lose it, or, option three, someone in the flash mob also has a gun, and he (or they if more than one) will draw it and shoot you first.
If the flash mob runs away screaming without you needing to fire a single shot, then good job, well done. But how likely is that?
Let’s think about scenario #2. They crush in towards you, leaving you no choice but either to surrender your gun (and risk having it used against you) or to start shooting. Even if you managed to disable the weapon before it was taken from you (at the very least, releasing the magazine and kicking it away) you’ve raised the odds and probably increased the severity of the beating you’ll get.
Maybe you fire a warning shot in the air (not really advised by most experts). Perhaps they’ll now turn around and run away screaming, but even if they wanted to, maybe – if there is a crush of others behind them, they can’t. Do you then start shooting for real, or do you surrender your weapon and hope for the best?
And what if you start shooting? You’ll have half a dozen people all crowding in on you, and more behind them. How to fight them all off with only one gun and however many rounds in its magazine?
The answers to these questions fall into two parts – legal issues to do with the justifiability of you shooting at these attackers, and the tactical issues of how best to get a positive outcome from your situation.
I asked a respected attorney who specializes in gun law issues for his opinion on the situation. Unfortunately, his opinion is only valid in the one state he practices law in, and each state has different legislation (and customary practice) in terms of what is acceptable use of deadly force and what is not.
Based on the laws of his state, he believes that shooting at your attackers would probably be justified in his state – a state that says there is no obligation to retreat, and which allows you to shoot in self defense if you have a reasonable fear of imminent danger to yourself or loved ones and if such an action is what a reasonable person could be expected to do.
But your state laws may be very different, and no matter what your laws are, there is also this very vague standard of what a ‘reasonable’ person would do. Maybe your state law allows for use of deadly force in terms of the theory of the legislation, but maybe the practice of how the case law has modified and interpreted the words of the law is such that what you think is a permissive empowerment to defend yourself is actually no such thing.
Maybe a ‘reasonable’ person in your state might think it more reasonable to submit to a beating than to kill one or many attackers? Surely you’ve heard people say ‘nothing ever justifies taking a human life’ – maybe they say this in opposition to capital punishment, even for the most depraved mass murderers, and often they say it when explaining why they think no-one should be allowed to own guns. Normally you might just roll your eyes when hearing this and move on, recognizing a viewpoint that you have nothing in common with and are unlikely to change. But what would you do if you were faced with a jury of people who all subscribed to that point of view – all viewing your actions as ‘unreasonable’ by their fervently held viewpoints?
So the legal issues are murky. Let’s all pray you don’t find yourself becoming a test case in your state. If you have a genuine concern, you should consult a good attorney in your state who specializes in firearms and self defense law, and if you get a written opinion with him, please share it with us so we can share it with everyone else.
Okay, so if you find yourself where you are forced to shoot, what is the best way to solve the problem you are confronted with, causing minimum loss of life and ensuring your own safety?
I asked two people, both with a huge amount of real world experience, what they would recommend. One is a former Marine, and a former LAPD officer in some of the worst neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and is a massively credentialed firearms trainer. The other is a former Navy officer and sworn member of one of the Justice Department’s many branches, and again a well credentialed firearms trainer.
They both agreed that the thing to do is to assertively point your weapon at the person who seems to be ringleader, simultaneously look him straight in the eye, and tell him ‘Back Off! Or you’ll be the first person I shoot!’ Then point it at a second person and say ‘You’ll be second! Back Off!’ and perhaps give the same warning to a third person.
Then, if they continue to advance, and particularly if they are getting to ten feet or so of you, and they have ignored your warnings, you’re going to need to start shooting. One of these two people said ‘If there are other people behind them (and there probably will be) consider dropping down on one knee and then shooting up at the person’s head so that the round doesn’t pass through their body and into additional people behind them’.
I understand the good sense of that advice, but you’re sacrificing dexterity and maneuverability in doing so, and head shots are more difficult to take at the best of times. Do you really want to put yourself at much greater risk so as to make it safer for the person behind the first bad guy – a person who is far from being labeled as an ‘innocent bystander’? Furthermore, by dropping down to this position, you’re less authoritative – although it could be argued that the gun in your hand that starts shooting compensates for that!
If you’re comfortable with your ability to drop to a one knee position and still command the situation, shoot accurately, and fight effectively, by all means do so. But right now, your highest priority is your personal survival, not protecting the people who you may well be forced to shoot in a few seconds time.
A Force Multiplier
Lastly, a thought that you need to get front and center into your mind, always. Try and encourage the people who go places and do things with you to also be armed. This will not only enhance their own personal safety, but yours too.
Which would you rather experience? A deadly threat from multiple attackers where you have to simultaneously protect you and a second, defenseless person; or a deadly threat where you have a partner alongside you, also armed and skilled at the use of their firearm?
Friends don’t let friends be unarmed.
One last thought. You are less likely to need to use your guns if there are two of you and both armed, because you’re a much stronger adversary and you can probably defuse the situation without needing to resort to lethal force. Which is an interesting concept to tell a friend who is not sure about carrying – ‘If you have a gun, too; then we’re less likely to need to use them than if I am the only one armed’.
We’ll return to the topic of encouraging your friends to become armed citizens in a subsequent post. It is a very important topic, deserving of its own standalone post.