Last year I attended the excellent Rangemaster Tactical Conference held in the Memphis Police Department’s academy and range facility. As I wandered around the facility looking for the men’s room, I encountered the poster pictured above.
While aimed at guiding police officers in how they should approach their behavior off-duty, I think it has just as much application to the average citizen carrying a firearm for personal defense. The Washington Times published a story in July of last year reporting the results of a study that has tracked the incredible increase in concealed carry permits across the nation.
“Since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25 percent drop, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center…And the number of permits issued is increasing faster every year. Over 1.7 million new permits were issued last year — a 15.4 percent increase over 2013, the largest such single-year jump ever”
I see this trend in my own personal experience. I’ve written multiple times in this space about people who have come out of the woodwork asking me about buying a firearm and getting a permit. In the last couple of weeks in totally non gun related conversations in a professional settings three people have volunteered to me that they’ve recently obtained a permit…people I would never have expected to have one or to be remotely interested in guns. In truth they aren’t really interested in guns as much as they are self defense and there’s no better implement of personal defense than a firearm.
As concealed carry becomes more common the challenge we face is ensuring that those who want to use a firearm for personal protection have reasonable guidance and access to solid information that will hopefully keep them from having to use the weapon they are carrying, or at the very least keep them from becoming a cautionary tale if they are forced to use it. Bad acts by people with permits create bad optics for the rest of us.
Greg Ellifritz penned a very thoughtful article that I think everyone should read and digest covering a relatively new NYPD officer who accidentally killed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. Greg makes the point that one of the largest police agencies in the world certified the convicted officer as being good-to-go with a firearm and issued him one to carry every day, but clearly did not train him adequately for that responsibility. (Most police training, as Greg and countless others will readily tell you, is woefully inadequate) The fact that the state gave him the stamp of approval to carry a gun didn’t matter worth a hill of beans when he screwed up and put a bullet into the wrong person. In other words, the fact that the government says you can carry a gun doesn’t mean that the government won’t go after you with gusto if you make a mistake with that gun. If you have the gun in your hand, you have the responsibility that goes along with it whether you’ve been adequately prepared for that responsibility or not. You are well and truly on your own.
You will find that your chances of a bad outcome diminish greatly with proper training and a sensible approach to the whole problem. The MPD’s off-duty credo provides excellent guidance to that effect.
“I will not seek a fight, and if at all possible I will avoid one…”
Having a permit doesn’t make everything your problem. Two dudes get into a shoving match in a Burger King? Not your problem. A couple of people cursing each other out in Wal-Mart? Not your problem. A couple in a screaming match in the parking lot of the Macaroni Grill? Not your problem. Minding one’s own business and not participating in other people’s drama significantly lowers your exposure to potential violence. If for some reason you are targeted by some idiot who indicates some willingness to do you harm, finding a way to leave the situation altogether is much less risky than any form of fighting.
“…but if one is forced upon me, I will do whatever it takes to survive.”
I’m the world’s biggest fan of de-escalation and avoidance strategies. I’ve employed them many times and plan to use them whenever possible in the future because I would really like to go through the rest of my life without having to do any level of harm to anybody. But the other guy gets a vote. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” because ultimately we have control over only half of the equation in a conflict. I can control my reactions and behavior, but I have little say in what the other guy(s) chooses to do. They could be eminently reasonable, or they could decide that they will attack me until one of us is dead. If somebody insists on playing for keeps, if they are determined to make it him or me…well…he’s gotta go. You don’t have to be seeking a fight to have one forced upon you. If someone does force one upon you, odds are it’s one you cannot afford to lose.
“My sidearm is neither a status symbol nor an emotional crutch. I will not reach for it unless out of dire necessity…”
I’m not reaching for my gun because I want to put the other guy in his place. I’m not reaching for my gun because I feel a sensation of fear, unease, or intimidation about a situation. If I’m reaching for my gun it is to prevent or stop a serious act of criminal violence against me or an innocent third party. That’s it.
“…but if I must use deadly force to preserve my life or that of an innocent person, I will use it skillfully and without hesitation.”
Skillfully, and without hesitation. Do you know how that happens? Training. Investing the time and effort to bring your skill set and the judgement you operate on up to the level of the responsibility you adopt when you decide to carry the gun. When you have taken the time and effort to prepare yourself, it infuses your bearing and demeanor. You can make good decisions at speed even when looking down the barrel of a gun. You’ve worked against a timer and other shooters to develop the ability to deliver accuracy at life-or-death speed. You’ve taken the time to seriously visualize multiple bad scenarios and how you can potentially handle them. You’ve done enough homework to recognize a lethal assault in its early stages and can react immediately instead of standing there wondering what is going on.
If the other guy insists on a fight, insists on playing for keeps…he’s made the worst mistake of his life. You have spent a great deal of time preparing for the day when this joker insists on ruining your life. He, on the other hand, expects a victim. Not a trained opponent intent on doing whatever it takes to win. You have prepared to meet him, but he has never in his worst nightmares foreseen anything like you.
It’s your responsibility to ensure that you use your firearm responsibly. If you take that responsibility seriously and through training and discipline seek to bring your skill up to the level of that responsibility it has the lovely added benefit of making you much harder to injure or kill.
I’m all for the increase in concealed carry permits, and I hope that the number of people who make the choice to protect themselves continues to break records. It is on us who have been at this a while, though, to encourage a high standard of personal conduct and development of relevant skill sets to those who are making the choice…for their sake and for our own.
UPDATE – I have since learned that the credo pictured above was generated by Tom Givens. Apparently firearms instructors from Memphis PD went to Rangemaster for some training, saw posters Tom had in the place with this credo on it and liked it so much that they decided to put it up at their academy.