It is an accepted article of faith among people who carry guns for personal defense that there are bad people in this world, and sometimes the paths of those people intersect with ours. We also accept violence as a solution, and while we hope that we’re never placed in a position where violence is our only recourse, we all know it could happen. But one of the things that’s been on my mind lately is “shoot/no-shoot” situations, and how a lot of times we focus only on the gun as a tool of self-defense, often at the avoidance of other more useful skills.
One of the most useful skills that we frequently ignore is threat assessment and managing unknown contacts. To get into detail on that, I want to talk about the three broad categories of “bad guys.” Not everyone requires the same level of force/response, right? So understanding what you’re dealing with is important.
Decent folk who messed up
This covers a lot of people, because decent folk make mistakes. A great example of this is someone with a DUI – not a habitual drunk driver, but someone who once got behind the wheel of a car and made a mistake. They’re not what you’d generally think of as a bad person, but they did something wrong and paid the consequence for it. This can even apply to folks who have done other sorts of crimes. Sometimes good people get desperate, or sometimes people who’ve come up through bad circumstances make a mistake, and turn their lives around.
Probably the biggest category of them all. Knuckleheads are not smart people, and they do crimes and other dumb things because they’re not really smart enough to find a better way of life. They’re not really deliberately violent – a knucklehead doesn’t get out of bed thinking about hurting people, but sometimes they do because “consequences” are difficult for them to grasp. Knuckleheads often like drugs, and frequently end up in jail for dumb, petty stuff. They can be unpredictable as well; generally when I’m in a MUC scenario and someone on the street is, for example, aggressively asking me for a cigarette I assume they’re probably a knucklehead and handle it appropriately. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve drawn my gun in genuine fear for my life, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “hey, stop right there” or “no, I can’t help you, but I’ll call a tow truck for you.” Knucklehands can absolutely be dangerous, and sometimes you will need to use actual force to stop them, but often the best tool for managing people in this class is to simply be smarter than they are.
Actual Bad People
The 1% of criminals are actual, genuine bad people, and they actually make up much more than 1% of the criminal population. That guy you saw on the internet who walks up behind a stranger and sucker punches them in the head? That’s a bad guy. These are people who are aware of the consequences of their actions and don’t care. They want your TV or your life or your money and they don’t really care what happens to you during the process. If you get killed or injured or if you surrender, none of it matters. They’re obviously the most dangerous type of person, because when they got up that morning they already knew that they were going to be fighting someone today.
Obviously this doesn’t take in to account people who are mentally ill, because mental illness is hard to quantify in terms of behavior, so I’ll (conveniently) for this post not get into that.
If you follow CCW/self-defense oriented content, the majority of preparation for self defense focuses around dealing with genuine bad people. The armed robber who breaks into your house at 2am, or the guy who walks into a gas station and shoots the cashier the same way you’d step on an ant. It’s well to be prepared for this sort of violence, because frequently (and sadly) the only appropriate answer to it is more violence. RH wasn’t kidding when he wrote that naked force has solved more problems than anything else.
But what about everyone else? That’s where the often neglected skills of threat assessment and managing unknown contacts come in to play. I don’t need to shoot a knucklehead if I’m smart enough to recognize a come-on when I see it, and I know how to get out of it. It’s why, on the advice of smart people, I strongly recommend Craig Douglas’ Managing Unknown Contacts class, of if you’re in the PNW InSight Training Center’s Street and Vehicle Tactics. I’ve taken the latter and it was excellent.
What I’m driving at here is simple: yes, carry your guns. But don’t let you self-defense training focus become so myopic on “shooting stuff” that you neglect to train areas that will be far more useful in every day life than being able to shoot a sub 2.00 second bill drill. I guarantee that most people will be put in far more situations that they should manage with verbal judo than they will ever need to manage with a gun.