George Zimmerman’s life is ruined because he thought he was a sheepdog

Unless of course you’re talking about an actual dog that herds and/or protects sheep, stop using the word sheepdog. It’s stupid, and it encourages a toxic mindset that ruins lives. You think I’m kidding? You know who thought he was a sheepdog? George Zimmerman. How’d that work out? Sure, he was legally justified, but he ended up killing a guy who probably didn’t need killing, and has now had his life completely ruined. All because he was a “sheepdog.”

This is a sheep dog.
This is a sheep dog.

Now, let’s backtrack a little bit. Most of you are going to read that first paragraph and jump down to the comments section anyway, so I can take the next several hundred words to go into detail here. Last week I wrote a post called “Five reasons you’re carrying your EDC wrong” which included the following section:

3. You think you’re a sheepdog
You’re not a sheepdog. You’re just a dude. And there is literally nothing wrong with being “just a dude.” When you get this idea in your head that you’re carrying a gun to “protect your community” you’re going about it the wrong way. Carrying a gun should be a boring, mundane, thing. You get up, you put your pants on, your clip your knife in your pocket, you buckle on your gun. The same as buckling your seat belt. You don’t do it because you’re cool, you do it because you’re a responsible adult who takes care of his own safety.

Predictably, certain parts of the internet got rather hurt in the ass about that, specifically the gun related sections of Reddit and Dave Grossman fanboys (some crossover). People who think of themselves as sheepdogs. But before I can deconstruct this term, I want to look at what part of it people get so attached to. You can pretty much draw everyone’s romantic association with the term back to this paragraph by Grossman:

But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

That does sound rad, and it’s easy to see how people would get attached to that, because it does important things for the average CCW holder’s mind. Primarily, it feeds the ego. It makes you feel special, different. It sets you apart because you’re different in a good way. That kind of thinking is absolutely addictive, it’s like crack. Once you get a taste you can’t get enough. And the best part of it? No effort is required. You don’t have to join the military, be a cop, take any sort of training, you can just show up with your CCW and say “I’m a sheepdog” and think that makes you special.

It doesn’t. And in fact, that sort of mindset gets people killed. This is where we revisit the tragic case of George Zimmerman. And it is tragic, because a person is dead and another man’s life is ruined. Whenever this topic comes up, people who claim to be sheepdogs and defend the idea always have this idealized version of how things go down in their head. To these people, it’s always clear cut: you come across a masked man with a machete about to rape and murder a cute blonde girl or a little old lady. You whip out your CCW Badge, yell “SHEEPDOG! DROP THE KNIFE, SCUMBAG” and then when he turns to attack you, drop him with two well placed shots from your Kimber 1911. Always clean cut, always neat and tidy. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t really care about your sheepdog fantasy land.

This is where everything falls apart, and where my problem with the use of the term really begins. As humans, we excel at many things. Foremost on that list? Lying to ourselves. That really is the problem with the whole concept of “the sheepdog.” Because it feeds the ego and because there’s no effort required to become a sheepdog, it’s easy to slide ourselves into the idea that we’re better than all the people around us because we carry a gun. It creates a mental divide between citizens, where these self-appointed sheepdogs look down on people who choose not to carry. It’s so easy to slip into that. I fall prey to it all the time in small ways. What’s tremendously ironic is that the people who refer to themselves as sheepdogs are also frequently the most vocal critics of “militarized policing” – yet they’re guilty of the same “us vs. them” mindset that they criticize the police for having.

A concealed carry permit isn’t a junior G-man badge, and it’s not a license to go looking to get into someone else’s gunfight. I’m not saying don’t get involved, in fact I want to say the exact opposite. What’s most toxic about the way the term sheepdog is used today is just what I stated above, that it creates and feeds a culture of us vs. them. The truth is that we’re not protectors of our community, we’re not warrior-heroes walking the path of righteousness. Most of us, myself included, are just folk. I’m just a guy who carries a gun because I want to have the most effective tool available to defend my life, and the lives of my family members. I’m not saying don’t get involved, in fact I would encourage you to get more involved. If you claim to be a sheepdog but you don’t know your neighbor’s names, you’re just lying to yourself. If you really believe you should protect your community, don’t set yourself apart from it. Be a part of it. Get to know your neighbors, create relationships. If George Zimmerman had really been a part of his community, he wouldn’t have been patrolling the neighborhood alone after dark. Those are the actions of someone who has set himself apart from the people around him, someone who’s invested more in his own self-image than the actual safety and protection of his fellow citizens.

Here we are, 1000 words in. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for actually reading the article. I want you to take this one point away from this entire thing: there is nothing wrong with wanting to protect your community. There’s nothing wrong with carrying a gun, with getting training, and with being active and involved in your community. Why I hate the term sheepdog is simple. It allows people to mentally set themselves apart from the very same people they claim to be protecting. Don’t set yourself apart from the people around. Be a part of the community, get to your know your neighbors. I’d much rather be a neighbor than a sheepdog.


  1. Very intelligent write up and spot on conclusion. Being a good neighbor and part of your community is often all our society needs.

  2. Thanks for the followup to your previous post. Although not necessary to explain yourself and intentions to the “neighbors” that received your first post with thoughtful acception. I think this was meant for the self proclaimed “sheepdogs” that didn’t get it the first time around. I don’t always agree with you on some subjects (lasers necessity), but you are spot on with this assumption of some CCW’s and their presence in society. Thanks again and be safe.

  3. Most useful gun post of the year.
    How much do people most people expect a justified DGU to cost them in legal fees? Zimmerman was legally vindicated but it cost him his life in that city. He had to move, get a new job, his family even had to move. Do you think he has paid all his legal fees yet? How do you think he paid his rent or mortgage when he was on trial? It may have protected his family more (socially) if he never had a gun in the first place and wasn’t patrolling the neighborhood.
    There is a time to get involved to help the helpless but MYOB is pretty good protection.

  4. As much of a douchebag as GZ has become, he was not ‘patrolling’ or ‘playing sheepdog’ that night. According to his own affidavit, which has not been questioned or disproven, he was on the way to the grocery store when he saw TM. According to the facts as accepted by the court, he had headed back to his car when TM jumped him.

    He wasn’t even “that guy” as the overactive Neighborhood Watch captain. 50 calls in eight years is about a call every other month; not too excessive for a NW captain in a community of collapsed real estate prices that had experienced over 400 police calls in the same period.

    And now, I need a shower for defending him. He’s a douche, but the GW-TM case really isn’t a great example of sheepdog gone bad.

    The rest of the article? Spot on. Want to sheepdog? Go get a career in law enforcement, if they’ll have you.

    1. WoodyTX, you are correct on every GZ comment. I live in the Orlando area and followed the case very closely and believe the facts as you stated them reinforce the point against a “Sheepdog” mentality. Before the incident, by almost any measure, GZ was a decent enough guy with a good life and a desire to help people. Today he’s a mess with no job and no family. A Sheepdog mind set can easily set you on the road to perdition, or worse.

    2. I was thinking this exact same thing. The facts of the story don’t match Caleb’s assertions about it. He needs to find another example to make his points with.

      1. Here is a fact: GZ got out of his truck to go follow Martin. Yes, he went back to his truck, which is where the shit went down. But he got out. Tell me how that’s not the perfect example of the wrong mindset. “HERP DERP BETTER FOLLOW THIS KID INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR THE COPS.”

        1. The case record indicates that GZ got out of his truck to keep an eye on TW so that he could provide direction to the police. There was no evidence presented that he ever attempted or intended to interdict or even approach TW.

          1. “Which, it’s worth noting, the cops said they didn’t need him to do that. ”

            Yup…and as soon as the dispatcher told him “we don’t need you to do that” GZ said “OK” and stopped doing that.

            Which boat are you in?

          2. Why NOT get out of the truck and try to see where the guy went? He should have been EXPECTING the suspicious person to be lying in wait for him and attack him?

            Is there something immoral, illegal or otherwise “wrong” with trying to keep the guy in sight after the 911 operator specifically told him “let us know if he does anything”?

            I wish we had more people like GZ that take some responsibility and try to look out for their neighborhoods and others. Perhaps it’s just my upbringing…I grew up in the country where everyone looked out for each other and we were expected to take action if we saw something untoward going on. Were you raised in the city? That would explain your “sit here in comfort and let someone else handle it” attitude. Different cultures.

          3. I was raised in the high desert, in the middle of nowhere. By a cop. I’m not too eager to get into someone else’s gunfight or play junior g-man. I am interested in being a part of my community, which if you’d read the post instead of cherry picking, you’d realize.

          4. “I’m not too eager to get into someone else’s gunfight or play junior g-man.”

            Which are exactly the types of mischaracterizations of GZ’s actions that cause you to be wrong in your evaluation of his behavior. He didn’t “get into someone else’s gunfight” he got into his own gunfight only after he was ambushed and brutally attacked. He wasn’t trying to play anything other than concerned citizen taking some responsibility for the well-being of his neighborhood.

            The only way you can even half-way convincingly decry the actions of GZ in this case is for you to completely misrepresent what they were and/or what you imagine his motivations for them may have been.

            “I am interested in being a part of my community,”

            As long as you don’t have to take any personal risks in the process apparently. Kind of a strange attitude for someone raised by a person who made his* living placing himself* in harm’s way for the benefit of others.

            Your original premise is sort of correct: yes, there are risks involved in taking action. It’s much safer just to sit in your truck and wait for someone else to handle things.

            Some people are willing to take those risks. Thank G_d for them.

            *I use “his” and “himself” here in the generic sense. The cop could have been your mother, you didn’t specify.

          5. Calling the cops: good idea. Calling your neighbors: good idea. Getting out of your truck in the middle of the night to follow someone who isn’t breaking the law: bad idea. I have no problem with being part of the community. I have a problem when people want to defend bad tactical choices simply because they see GZ as nominally “on our side.” There are a lot of things GZ could have done that would have been just as effective and community oriented that wouldn’t have resulted in dropping a body. Which I’d like to think we can all agree is rarely the best solution.

    3. I’m not sure how GZ has ended up being a douchebag. His life was ruined and he has understandably struggled with that. The media has hounded him and made every speeding ticket and parking infraction seem like he’s the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper.

      Sure, he was ACCUSED of domestic violence twice…both times the charges were dropped when the accuser recanted. He was ACCUSED of a road rage incident, but the accuser refused to press charges which causes questions in my mind about the severity of the incident to begin with.

      I think he’s under a microscope and minor things that happen to people all the time are being blown out of proportion. Are these minor things happening to him more often than typical for an average, healthy, law abiding citizen? Yes, absolutely. It’s almost like he’s had something traumatic happen to him that may be causing him some emotional distress and instability.

      Can’t imagine what that might have been.

      I don’t know him personally…maybe he is just a douchebag. Considering what he’s been through though, I’m willing to cut him a little slack.

  5. Great article Caleb. I’m sick and tired of hearing “sheepdog” and all that it connotates. Thank you for putting the smackdown on it and setting the record straight.

    btw – I highly suggest CPR and First Aid training for everyone physically capable of rendering aid. You are far more likely to encounter a situation where medical aid is needed rather than a situation where you need to draw a gun. Having both lifesaving skills and weapon skills makes one that much more capable/useful in a dire situation.

  6. I appreciate the gist of the article. It seems to run along the same vein of criticism as those who take the ‘operators operating operationally’ lifestyle a bit (a lot?) too far and start pie-ing every room they enter while throwing in a couple dynamic somersaults once in a while.

    On the other hand, I think Caleb’s position as stated in his piece is a bit of the ‘criticize your cake but eat it too’ mentality. When he criticizes the hyper-vigilant proto-sheepdog… yeah, obviously. That same strain exists in all ideologies, hobbies and passions though. Whether you’re into guns, gardening, legos or cars there’s a level of interest and investment which tips you over from passion to fervor.

    I don’t know much about sheepdog mentality or what all constitutes sufficient sheepdoggedness to gain admittance to that specific club, but I also don’t know if it’s constructive to try and turn the whole term into a pejorative just because it, like anything else, can be taken too far.

    When it comes to it, each person has to decide what their bubble is, how far it extends, and how they are going to react when it pops… and all of those decisions should be made before they ever even think about arming themselves in public.

  7. Good stuff Caleb.

    Things like crazy domestic disputes and people doing really stupid things for YouTube videos make me extremely hesitant to ever launch a projectile or confront someone in the defense of anyone unless the situation was very, very clear to me.

    I carry a gun to protect me, not the public. Other folks can get carry permits too…

    I’d hate to sacrifice everything I worked for in a drawn out legal dispute for shooting some dumb kid trying to get views or some guy chasing his crack head wife who just took the kid.

  8. Excellent article, and I did not skip to the comments. Nothing much to add that has not already been said except, even the best of sheepdogs are no match for a pack of wolves.

  9. Excellent article! Just like the morbidly obese prepper you mentioned in your earlier post, how many self identified “Sheepdogs”:
    • Have CPR or other first aid training, and carry a FAK?
    • Have driven their elderly neighbors on errands, or picked things up for them?
    • Even know their elderly neighbors names, as you pointed out?
    • Carry a set of basic tools to help stranded motorists?
    • Are active participants in Big Brother/Big Sister programs?
    • Fixed and cleaned up that rusty playset in the public commons area that no one takes responsibility for?

    Any or all of these types of things should be prerequisites for your “Sheepdog” merit badge far and above CCW certification.

  10. Times I’ve used my handgun: zero.

    Times I’ve used my jumper cables or tire tools: at least five.

    Kids’ toys fixed at farmer’s market by Swiss Army Knife: one.

    That’s my preferred kind of ‘sheepdog’. Looking out for people.

    Maybe we need to start using “guard llama” as a term? (Google it!)

  11. I would argue that the problem with the analogy is that if you look at actual sheepdogs, that’s actually a lot of ground to cover. a great pyrenees, a border collie, and a Belgian Malinois are all classified as sheepdogs, they also all have different different approaches to how they protect their flock. A pyrenees will live among the sheep, a collie will guide them, and a malinois shreds anything it looks at.

    so does this make the analogy inapplicable? I would argue no as long as you understand a few points.
    1) know the size of your flock. A member of the armed forces takes on the responsibility over a nation’s worth of sheep. Your average ccw owner is responsible for the safety of his family. the issue becomes when one mixes up responsibility with the other. Know your lane of fire and stick to it.
    2) sheepdogs and wolfhounds are two separate breeds. To ward against evil and to actively seek it out are two different jobs. with many herding breeds, the most they ever do is bark loud, bark mean, and act as a deterrent. There’s no shame in that, but when the same dog goes into the woods, (as it could be argued Zimmerman did in the night in question, ) that’s where the issue arises.
    3) know who your shepherd is. If you’re going to take up responsibility for others, take up a moral code to go with it. I don’t care if it is legal, secular or religious, pick a set of guiding principles and stick with them.

    1. Anyone who thinks GZ acted like a sheepdog has never seen a Great Pyrenees at work. GZ got in trouble, not for acting like a sheepdog, but for not knowing how to be a sheepdog.

      The greater issue is not the sheepdog mentality. It is the fact that many of those who fancy themselves sheepdogs are too ignorant to effectively play the role.

    2. Good post, and well thought-out.

      Know your tools, and what they’re for. If someone’s life isn’t in danger, keep yourself safe, call it in or whatever you need to do, and stay out of it.

      if someone’s life IS in danger, well then you’ve got to decide how much risk you want to take on for a stranger and act accordingly, with the awareness that you probably do not have full knowledge of the situation and that the consequences for the wrong choice are substantial. It’s not easy, and I’d rather stay out of it if at all possible thankyouverymuch.

  12. > As humans, we excel at many things.
    > Foremost on that list? Lying to ourselves.

    “Humans are not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one”

    (attributed to Robert Heinlein and/or Leon Festinger).

    > it’s easy to slide ourselves into the idea that we’re
    > better than all the people around us because we carry a
    > gun. It creates a mental divide between citizens, where
    > these self-appointed sheepdogs look down on people who
    > choose not to carry. It’s so easy to slip into that.
    > I fall prey to it all the time in small ways.

    Oh yeah, I too was guilty of this in my younger days. “In small ways”, of course.

    From about 2010 – 2012, it appeared that the “gun culture” — however you want to define it — was becoming more rational about these type of things. Or maybe it was just me getting older. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote in the comments section here that

    “say the only reason you carry a gun and shoot a gun is to defend your life in a violent encounter.”

    For us middle-class, middle-age, white guys, a good exercise program (and diet) is more likely to extend our life-spans than carrying a gun.

    More of us are going to die from things like heart disease than violent crime.

    which was hardly an original observation on my part. There were a lot of folks, including yourself, who had been saying things like this for the past 5 years or so.

    There was a school of thought that gun-owner control was dead politically. Oh sure, there were partisans and ideologues that hate us in the same way that, say, Republicans hate gays. It’s a “permitted prejudice” of the Left. But it looked like the Democrat Party had given up on gun-owner control, and we could breathe a sigh of collective relief. In many ways, it was a Golden Era for gun owners. Not only were a lot of cool products coming out, but we could stop being paranoid (while remaining vigilant).

    Then the Sandy Hook shooting happened just a few weeks afterPresident Obama was re-elected in 2012, and the mask came off of the Democrats and their allies in the main-stream media, exposing the pure, raw, unfiltered hate they have for us. As a result, the paranoia among gun owners re-surfaced (justifiably so), and “we” felt the need to publicly rationalize why we own guns. Some of the reasons are valid, some are not, and some are absolutely retarded.

    The bottom line — which many of us don’t want to admit — is that: Guns are neat, we like owning them, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But that won’t fly politically, especially since our opponents portray gun ownership as a deviant activity that needs to be discouraged if it can’t be banned * , rather than an explicitly-enumurated constitutional right ** to be exercised and protected. ***

    So gun owners end up clutching at straws and coming up with stupid talking points like “sheepdog” and “defending liberty”. I think a lot of it is in reaction (over-reaction?) to the fact that we have done a really crappy job in the P.R. department of explaining gun ownership to the public-at-large whenever our rights have been under attack. I saw a lot of the same thing during the 1990s and early 2000s.

    * As Rachel Maddow has observed, “Why bother making it illegal if you can just make it impossible to get?” (June 1, 2009).

    ** As Nadine Strossen said when she was president of the ACLU, “I don’t want to dwell on constitutional analysis, because our view has never been that civil liberties are necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights. Conversely, I guess the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty” (October 1994).

    *** See “Second Amendment Penumbras” (2012) and “The Second Amendment as Ordinary Constitutional Law” (2014), both by Glenn Reynolds.

    PS — It’s not just gun owners who are guilty of believing that they are better than the population in large. I see this in other groups, across the political spectrum. But that’s beyond the scope of this comment, which has already gone on too long. On a related note, I recommend reading David Brin’s letter about addiction to self-righteous indignation:

    I want to zoom down to a particular emotional and psychological pathology. The phenomenon known as self-righteous indignation.

    We all know self-righteous people. (And, if we are honest, many of us will admit having wallowed in this state ourselves, either occasionally or in frequent rhythm.) It is a familiar and rather normal human condition, supported — even promulgated — by messages in mass media.

    While there are many drawbacks, self-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even… well… addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.

    Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. Moreover, as Westin have found, this trait crosses all boundaries of ideology. (I discuss this general effect in The Transparent Society.)

    Indeed, one could look at our present-day political landscape and argue that a relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism and an inability to negotiate pragmatic solutions to a myriad modern problems. It may be the ultimate propellant behind the current “culture war.”

  13. I’ve also always hated that term because a real sheepdog doesn’t work for the sheep or protect them for the sake of the sheep community. It’s one and only master is the owner, who has other plans for the sheep. The sheepdog is there to protect someone his property. I want no part in that.

  14. I dont think the term Sheepdog was ever ment to apply to concealed carry.It was more of the citizens against the corrupt government.The sheep are the people who just go with the flow and then complain about what they have lost.Sheepdog was applied to the American who stands for all the things the U.S. has stood for in the past,freedom,liberty,relegion and all the otrher freedoms that Americans have enjoyed in the past but are loosing every day now.The sheep are the ones who are asleep and wont get involved to protect and do what they can to change things that have all gone downhill in the past 6 years under obama.He and our corrupt government are the wolves,you must either be a sheep or a sheepdog,thats your choice!

      1. But, is the comment inaccurate? Can you honestly state that point of view is completely incorrect or 100% misguided?

  15. Awesome article

    It’s the age old debate of “Do I get all up in somebody else’s shit?”

    My answer is no. I do not involve myself in the troubles of my neighbors. At least not life threatening ones. I have a life of my own, a family of my own, and a job of my own, and I will not endanger all three by this culture of knight-errant asshattery and sheepdogliness.

    These sheep-whatever’s have this mindset that, in the medical community, would be akin to a nurse (like me) performing emergency surgery…untrained (or trained by myself without supervision of a surgeon, but I saw a youtube video about this), unprepared (But I got all the tools at Bubba’s Surgical Supply bro), inexperienced (But sum-bro I never wrote something not about me, that says the right mindset and moral certitude will ensure success)

    Willing to put other people’s life on the line? “Sure, whatever bro, I read about this on the internet…let’s do this.”

    My opinion on GZ is this: George Zimmerman’s life was ruined, likely because he overestimated his capabilities and felt the crushing need that some men feel to stand above his peers, if for no other reason, than to be able to look down upon them.

    Wanna be special? Go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Hardly anybody does that, and you’d likely be saving lives in your community. Wanna shoot smelly badguys in the face, well then get out your running paws, get your fluffy sheepdogly tail in shape and go hitch up with a service.

    Just don’t assume that because you have a chest tube insertion tray, you can insert chest tube. There’s a few differences. Experience, skill, and qualification being the main differences.

  16. Without disagreeing with your premise that too many people confuse themselves as Guardians of the Galaxy, I will note that in your world the only way to defend public order is with a government-approval stamp. I have fit your definition of the word, but never considered myself special because of my governmental associations.

    It seems in your world, the only true way to be exceptional is to be under color of governmental authority.

    I’ve never liked the term sheepdog, but I like it even less the way you define it…



    1. Let me edit something…I was wrong to post that “the only way” you think we could defend public order was under government authority. You did not say that, and I did not meant to post that (made a mistake mangling two sentences together). Sorry ’bout that.

      In furtherance of the discourse, my points on your requirement that to be the philosophical “sheepdog”, you must have government (or even quasi-government) authority, remain.

  17. Caleb,
    I always read your postings, mostly agree with them.
    I absolutely agree with this one.
    Frank W. James once discussed that if he was armed he would protect his family or friends that were with him. Others were on their own or waiting for LEO’s.
    I thought that was somewhat of indifferent attitude, but as I have aged and after the Zimmerman event I agree.
    Thanks Caleb,
    Tom B

  18. I lol’ed @ Kimber 1911. Obviously open carried into chipotle along with the AR, sheepdoggin the 2A of course!!

  19. Just one problem Caleb: George Z wasn’t patrolling, he was on his way to the store and saw someone suspicious. When the 911 operator told him to break off – he did. He was on his way back to his truck when TM jumped him. This is all in the court testimony and why he was found NOT Guilty. His life is not ruined because of what he did. It’s ruined by media types who think like you and set about to destroy an innocent victim who defended his life.

    1. The thing is, he got out of his truck, and went behind the houses when he saw TM.
      Better to stay in the godam boat, er, vehicle and wait for the cops- those guys we pay, the ones with the qualified immunity and union provided lawyers and stuff- wait for them and let them do things.

  20. I have never considered myself a sheepdog, I just don’t ever want to be in the position to not be able to protect my family, and have to say “I couldn’t do anything”

  21. Police have something armed citizens don’t: qualified immunity. Because of their duty to pursue and apprehend,they are indemnified from certain (but not all) bad outcomes deriving from their actions in furtherance of that duty. Armed citizens have no such duty, and no qualified immunity.
    I often read, “If I did that, I’d go to jail, but because he has a badge, he gets away with it.” Yep (see above).
    You’re paying for 911 service, and when you use it the guy who comes can legally do things you can’t. Use that to your advantage.

  22. Let’s hope the author or the author’s loved ones NEVER need one of the sheepdogs in society.

    Zimmerman’s life has been ruined for a number of reasons.
    1. Martin’s death was politically advantageous to certain race baiters like Jackson, Holder, and Sharpeton.
    2. The Liberal Media pushed a very specific race-based agenda. [White man guns down young Black child]
    3. Zimmerman was found not guilty by the courts and yet was convicted in the court of public opinion.
    4. The issues between Zimmerman and his ex-Wife. Who knew a pissed off woman might be a problem?
    5. Zimmerman didn’t just disappear he kept popping up in the news. Saving a family in a car crash, speeding tickets, possible domestic abuse.
    6. Zimmerman seemingly needs to work on his temper and be careful of the company he keeps.

    Zimmerman wasn’t then and surely isn’t now an angel but he is also NOT a demon for killing to defend his own life. All that being said, I would have just stayed in the damn truck and talked to the Cops on the phone.

    1. Zimmerman should have stayed in his truck after calling the police. Then his life would be fine.

      And if my loved ones or I ever need a sheepdog, we’re pretty capable of taking care of ourselves. Beyond that, we’ll call the people with badges, guns, and qualified immunity.

  23. Very thoughtful commentary here. I too wrote about the questionable applicability of the sheepdog concept to concealed carry back in March of 14 ( Of note is that my comments were based on his “Bulletproof Mind” seminar — the DVDs for which are produced and marketed in association with the US Concealed Carry association — suggesting that Grossman definitely WANTS to apply the concept to concealed carry.

    The concept has gotten so out of control that even at a FIRST SHOTS class I attended, the person teaching the class used the sheep-wolves-sheepdogs analogy.

    I think there is a deeper problem here as relates to concealed carry by ordinary citizens which is that we have ALOT of people involved in the gun training industry who come out of military and LEO backgrounds. People who have spent part of their life caring for “the flock” as part of their jobs. But is that background the best for civilian self-defense training? I wonder.

    I always took to heart Massad Ayoob’s point in his MAG-40 class that you don’t have to be a sheepdog — you can be a lamb with a .38 special.

    And since the Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference has just wrapped up, it is worth recalling a sign up in Tom Givens’ classroom that read (in part): “Any use of force in defense of a third party subjects you to physical and financial risks.”

    To me that is much better advice for the ordinary armed citizen.

  24. GZ killed a guy that attacked and beat him. Period. If it had happened a decade or two ago, or in the 1950s, you and I wouldn’t even know about it because it wouldn’t have even been in the news.

  25. Here’s the cold reality.

    People dont buy guns to defend themselves.

    Dont believe me? California’s one of the top 4 states in 2012 for NICS point of sale background checks.So was Illinois. Neither place is known for being gun rights friendly or especially safe, least of all from deluded handgun owners.

    People buy guns to enhance their rep at the gun range, and as a hobby.Neither activity is itself harmful, until The Guy With the Forty Five starts mouthing off about how many bad guys hes gonna kill with his chrome PT1911. Truth is, when you carry a gun you are morally obligated to “stay in the fucking truck”, to quote a certain Top Shot competitor.

    See some woman being assaulted in front of you? Call 911, and roll off.
    See bad guys robbing the bank from your spot in the parking lot? Call 911. Leave the John McClaine bravado at the gun shop counter.
    Someone calls your spouse out of her name on the street? Take it like a wuss and walk. Or you can be a sheepdog badass, potentially die or be crippled, and almost certainly sued and villified by the press.

    As someone who has had to reach for his gun in an unavoidable way and earnestly hopes he never has to again, ill bow out by quoting Keanu Reeves : “This thing you think you want, you DONT WANT!”.

    1. There is a strange, a historical belief that being able to freely shoot miscreants will solve the problem of crime, liberalism, uppity females, wussy men, and other of society’s ills. Yeah, no, it doesn’t work like that. Take a good look at the Cartel controlled areas of Mexico, or Somalia, American inner cities, or other areas of the world lacking in the rule of law.
      What do you get? Vendettas, revenge killings, and other nasty/ brutish bits of human behavior.

  26. Training includes careful consideration of in what circumstances you would get involved. As a non-LEO I would want to protect:
    1. Myself.
    2. Loved ones
    3. Uniformed LEO
    4. Children
    5. CLOSE friends
    Otherwise, anyone else could have gotten training, a permit, etc.

  27. Number one lesson from the Zimmerman case? Your community is not worth it. Use your guns to defend yourself and your family. Everyone else should take care of themselves.

  28. Another side to the sheepdog thing:
    Some time ago I read an article on someone’s blog (I wish my CRS hadn’t kicked in). The blogger was an instructor who had run several students through a Nairobi-shopping-mall scenario. You had two alternatives: You could engage the bad guys and save the other shoppers, or you could shoot your way to the exits and get out.
    The instructor stated that one of his best shooters chose Door #2. When asked why, the student said, “My gun is for me. Everybody in that mall had the same opportunity I did to get the equipment and training to save their own lives. They chose to watch TV.”
    Cold, but hard to argue with.

  29. ‘Sheepdogs’ as you call them are going to turn society on the 2A, and because all gun owners are going to get put into the same category the only way for government to control things is to infringe on the 2A. Open carry guys walking around Target in the suburbs are not protecting me, they are showing off. I really agree with this article, if you want to be a sheepdog then learn CPR and do all the mundane things that good neighbors and helpful people do.

  30. Terrorist scenarios like Nairobi require a team to competently deal with those kind of numbers. One mass killer in a mall would be a totally different animal. Not comparable situations at all.

    BTW, an ad-hock group of IPSC shooters were involved in clearing that Nairobi mall. They were having a shoot at a nearby range when some of them (cops of some sort) got paged about the mall. The other shooters asked if they could help, and got an invite. They went to the roof via the parking structure, and started clearing from the top down, as opposed to the army types that started at the ground level. I’ve seen photos of them in their “shoot-me vests”, complete with IPSC emblems, working their way around inside the mall. No info has been officially released, as far as I can find regarding numbers involved, etc. I got the impression that they were very effective, though.

  31. As a young Deputy many years ago I saw Grossman speak and it was eye opening to me. He gave me a real sense of why I put on a uniform, to help my community. He really helped me to to see my community in a different way. Not in the us vs them but more the “we” Even if some of “we” don’t like you. He used the sheepdog analogy and it worked for me. His lecture targeted LEO and MIL and he is a very engaging speaker. He made us feel good about our choice to work in law enforcement when many made you feel bad about it. Sadly the analogy of the sheepdog has changed over the last 10 – 15 years and I agree with you Caleb. I will tell you that I will be a sheepdog in uniform and the best witness possible when out of it. Don’t get me wrong, if its me or a family member business will be taken care of. Keep up the best observations Caleb.

  32. Caleb and Friends:

    24 February 2005, Tyler , Texas

    Looking from the window of his downtown apartment across the street from the Smith County courthouse, Mark Wilson, a Texas CHL holder, observes a man with an AK rifle shoot a woman, a youth and two sheriff’s deputies. The attacker, enraged by his ex-wife, has resolved to kill her, their son, and anyone else who comes within range. Wilson grabs his sidearm and charges down stairs and across the street to intervene. As the shooter stands over his already wounded son, preparing to shoot again, Wilson fires three rounds which strike the murderer in the back. Apparently unharmed , the shooter turns and fires at Wilson, missing. The shooter and Wilson then circle a vehicle exchanging shots. Each round Wilson fires strikes its target, but there is no effect- the shooter is wearing body armor.

    Wilson is finally hit and falls; he is murdered with several shots to the head. After wounding a Tyler police officer, the killer escapes in a hail of gunfire. Pursuing officers wreck his vehicle on a rural highway; in the final gun battle he is killed. The son and the wounded lawmen survive; the ex-wife is dead.

    Wilson saved at least two lives that day, sadly at the cost of his own. He was honored by a Resolution of the Texas House of Representatives ( HR 740) and there is now a marker honoring his memory at the Smith County Courthouse.

    Wilson saved innocent lives that day. Was he a “sheepdog”? Was Wilson an “operator operatin’ operationally”? A “junior G-man”?

    Regardless of the use of Grossman’s term, Wilson was a hero; what he did was moral, right and just at the risk of his own life. Would the world be better if he had just observed and waited for the professionals?

    I suggest that he was a public – spirited citizen, rushing to aid a neighbor in distress. The fact that his tactics were not up to the task that day does not change the heroic aspect of his actions.

    Intervening can get you killed; I think everyone here understands that

  33. Interesting article. The sheepdog mentality leads to the “I’m the only one” mentality of bullies. But I think saying that Trayvon shouldn’t have been shot is the same as saying that Zimmerman should have been convicted. Zimmerman should not have been attacked. Trayvon was a person with agency, and “Grave bodily harm” is in the law for a reason. Being so sheepdoggy, it’s surprising Zimmerman showed so much restraint -he didn’t brandish. His justifiable self-defense also reduces the total number of Trayvon’s victims.
    Heck, this whole scandal was created just to use racism to challenge “stand your ground” anyway. Zimmerman was not a cop. If he had been, then we’d have never heard of him. Gun grabbers don’t think he’s allowed to be a sheepdog.
    Thanks for the thought provoking article!

  34. I think you need to re-think “Sheepdog”. The last sheep dog I met, other than some city dwellers “Australian Shepherd” that had never seen a sheep in its life, was a half-Pyrenees that lived with the flock. They moved, she moved. They slept, she slept. Just another member of the flock. The week before I met her the owner had paid a visit to the flock and found two dead coyotes. He also found all his sheep.

    I think that before ANYONE comments on Zimmerman they should go read all of the Zimmerman related posts at Legal Insurrection* ( ) so they have a little understanding of what actually happend.

    Is he a saint? Perfect? Right about everything? No! But he was doing nothing wrong** and was 100% justified in defending himself against Travon Martin.

    *Start here ( ) and scroll down to the beginning.

    ** Upping his situational awareness a little might have been a good idea. I suspect he came within a second or two of becoming a basket case.

  35. Wow,your post is one that has really made me think. It’s funny I have never carried to be a sheepdog to others. I have just never wanted to be in the position where I couldn’t help my family, either by having to shoot, or being able to run away, or live to see another day

  36. I am surprised no one has commented on my remarks and questions about Mark Alan Wilson.
    We’re his actions commendable, necessary and useful?
    Was he an immature cop wanna be?

    Should he have merely observed from across the street and let the paid agents of authority deal with the murderous mad man?

    1. An honest evaluation of Wilson’s actions would point out that what he did was noble, heroic, and completely unsuccessful as he got himself killed and failed to stop the fight.

      1. Caleb

        I think your comment is spot on, and I think it is totally irrelevant.

        I asked ” should Wilson have merely observed the mayhem from across the street”?

        I have already agreed he wound up dead.

        1) You point out that Wilson failed to stop the fight. You are right. Ultimately it took more than 20 Tyler police officers, the bulk of the deputies of the Smith County Sheriff’s office , every Texas DPS trooper in the county, plus officers from the Constable’s office, adjoining counties and the local Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden to finish the fight.

        Leonidas didn’t win at Thermopylae; the Finns “lost” the Winter War against the Soviets. The Alamo defenders and the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto lost, too. Is ultimate success the measure of whether or not a heroic act is “worth it”?

        2) Wilson’s tactics were unsuccessful. I have granted that. He did not expect an armored opponent, but the LAPD didn’t expect armored bad guys during the North Hollywood shootout either. They won because ultimately they had more good guys and ammo than Phillips and company.

        3) Wilson was credited by responsible authority-the Sheriff and the Tyler Police Chief, with saving at least two lives; two people would have likely been dead had he not become involved. Would it be better if he had called 911, made a report of a ” crazy man shooting people at the courthouse” and then returned to his morning toast and coffee?

        Kitty Genovese was mortally wounded before anyone came downstairs to help. Is that a better solution?

        I’m not looking for box scores.

        Did Wilson do the right thing? Should we as responsible citizens emulate or decry his actions?



        1. You are comparing apples to oranges. Wilson involved himself in a gunfight. He was clearly attempting to defend the innocent. Zimmerman created the confrontation when he got out of his truck. Whether I agree or disagree with either mans actions is irrelevant. Your argument is flawed.

        2. I think neither. I think that there are lessons, both tactical and moral to be taken from the Wilson situation; and the most important lesson is that if you go getting yourself into gunfights, you might lose.

  37. Mitchell

    I apologize for creating some confusion-let me try again-

    1) I have made no argument. Wilson has been designated as a hero and I have no quarrel with that and apparently no one else here does either. What I have done is I have asked for an opinion on the appropriateness of Wilsons actions.

    Should Wilson be emulated and held up as an example?

    2) As for Zimmerman – I have not mentioned Zimmerman at all, because I was seeking a broader statement of principle or morality. Where better to seek such discussion than among the thoughtful people who visit here?

    Summing many opinions posted here, there seems to be two basic positions a) Zimmerman was at fault because he did not leave the scene while waiting for police; his failure to leave created a nexus for conflict and resulted in a life threatening struggle, or b) Zimmerman was attacked while he was surely in a place he had a legal right to be, was breaking no law and was merely acting as concerned member of the community.

    There is endless discussion that can be derived from these opinions and their progeny, but I am asking what I believe is the most important question in this “sheepdog” discussion – what is the right thing to do?

    I hope you understand now.


  38. Caleb

    I recognized ” you can lose” from the git-go. That is not controversial.

    Was hoping for some more meat.


  39. Greg,

    From the thoughtfulness of your response I’m sure you realize that there is no “right thing to do”. There is only what would I do. In Zimmerman’s case, I would have stayed in the truck. While I agree that he had every right to do what he did in exiting his vehicle, while I agree he had every right to defend himself, it’s not what I would have done. Without an imminent threat I’d have called the police and left it at that.

    As for Wilson, I don’t know what I would have done in his situation. I don’t particularly want to find out. I carry a gun to protect myself and my family. I teach concealed carry to help others do the same. I enjoy the teaching. I want to help others. Does my compassion for my fellow man extend to total strangers? I honestly don’t know.

    I can critique Wilson’s tactics and attempt to learn from his mistakes. I can honor his sacrifice and recognize him as a hero. He felt it was the right thing to do. I can hope I don’t do any worse if the time comes.

    What else is there to say?

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